For Ellen Pao, former CEO of Reddit, one of the largest active social media platforms, confirming that web analytics are “bogus” raises serious questions. But what prompted Pao to make this statement on Twitter in the first place? And is it really true? Are all web analytics fake?
CMSWire, along with leading experts and practitioners, are investigating.
The reasons for Ellen Pao’s statement
Pao’s comments on Twitter emerged in response to a tweet from Aram Zucker-Schariff from the Washington Post who shared a segment of a New York Magazine article discussing the authenticity of web analytics. Metrics should be the most real thing on the internet: They are countable, traceable, and verifiable, and their existence underpins the advertising activity that drives our largest social and search platforms. Yet even Facebook, the world’s largest data collection organization, doesn’t seem able to produce real numbers.
The article then referred to a number of lawsuits filed against Facebook for overestimating the amount of time users spent watching videos on the social media platform.
Upon seeing the message, Ellen Pao responded by tweeting, âEverything is true: everything is wrong. Moreover, the number of mobile users is wrong. No one figured out how to count disconnected mobile users, as I learned on Reddit. Every time someone changes cell towers, it looks like a different user and inflates business user metrics. “
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So, is all web analytics data fake?
Amy Vernon, vice president of community at Rivetz Corp, said, âI tend to agree with Ellen Pao’s statement on web analytics. The problem isn’t the data itself, it’s the way all platforms share and label data. In their rush to make their platforms as busy as possible, they [tend] to use the most bloated definition of pageviews, video views, unique, active visitors and more. “
However, on the other side of the debate, Andy Gibson, chief information and media officer at InfoTrust, disagrees with Pao’s comments. “[Pao] bases its argument on the fact that Silicon Valley companies like Facebook have in the past misled or outright lied about web and video metrics. This does not mean that the web analytics data is fake. This means there are bad actors presenting fake analytics data, âGibson said. Gibson added that companies that over-inflate their web analytics data are a reflection of their poor core values ââand culture, not web analytics tools or the industry as a whole.
Referring to the challenge of tracking “disconnected” mobile users mentioned by Pao, Alan Santillan, Marketing Specialist at G2Crowd, said this was “well understood” in the analytics industry and was “no secret” at all. âLooking at the actual quote, what Ellen Pao learned while working at Reddit is that web analytics data is extremely difficult to track,â Santillan said. “The numbers aren’t wrong, nor are they a completely accurate representation of the current metrics we are tracking because of the way users are represented and tracked.”
Santillan said, âThere are ways to track people across multiple devices that can alleviate the problem of ‘disconnected’ users, which Pao fails to mention. Marketers will still be able to justify data points like demographics and data. ‘other more technical aspects available through platforms like Google Analytics.
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More transparency is coming
Although it appears that a lack of trust in web analytics platforms has emerged from some Silicon Valley giants misusing their data, web analytics brands or companies that rely on Web analytics solutions for their customers must now focus their efforts on transparency to regain consumer confidence.
Steve Weiss, CEO of MuteSix, explained how his company is open and honest with its customers about analytics. âAs an advertiser, we insist our customers know what they are paying for,â Weiss said. âIt’s critical to break down internal silos, be more open with partners when it comes to metrics of success, and have those much needed conversations about investing in technology. ”
There are a number of variables that can influence how well an ad performs or how well your website performs each month. All of these variables must be communicated to the client. âCollaboration and transparency between customers is what we’ll see more digital marketers heading towards. We expect agencies to include more useful tools that connect client to actions, which will instill confidence in the process, âWeiss said.