Are you an expert?

Guru. Ninja. Rockstar. Expert. These descriptions are all over the place. (*cough* Twitter bios *cough cough*)

Done learning. This is what I hear.

Here’s the deal. Calling yourself an expert sounds like you think you’ve got nothing left to learn. How can you be an expert in web analytics, or social media? These fields have been around for all of about forty-five seconds. (And they’ve changed twenty-seven times since then!)

My $0.015:  Don’t ever call yourself an expert, a guru, a rockstar. (And don’t just replace it with samurai or swami. You get my point.) Someone else may call you that, but let’s be honest, even then you should shrug it off.

The most appealing trait is a desire to learn, improve, to continue honing your skills. Focus on that. Let your work and development prove yourself. Not a self-appointed noun.

A month of fun with ClickTale

As a self-confessed geek, when I hear about a new tool and there’s a free option I can play with, I naturally implement it right away. After hearing the Beyond Web Analytics podcast discussed ClickTale, I took the opportunity to implement it on my blog for a little “new analytics tool fun”.

After a month playing around with this tool, here are some of my impressions:

Unique value

It is not merely repeating with what your Google Analytics, Omniture, WebTrends, etc tracking tells you. There is a definitely unique value. Think of the standard web analytics tools as telling you visitor’s behaviour between pages (e.g. visitors go from page X to page Y, exit at page Z.) ClickTale tells you what they do within a page (how far down do they scroll? Do they start filling in your form? What do they click? Where does their mouse move?)

Recordings of a site visit

One of the original offerings of the ClickTale was simply recordings of your visitors’ behaviour on your site. You literally watch users scroll up and down, click a link, go to another page, etc. It’s like sitting over their shoulder, or user testing without the option to ask them why they did something. However, no one can possibly watch all the videos, especially on a large site. The real value of the tool is what ClickTale added next: the aggregation of all of those videos into heat maps.

Aggregated heat maps

You can view an aggregated heat map of:

  • Mouse moves
  • Clicks
  • Scroll reach
  • Attention (via mouse attention)

The scroll reach is pretty interesting, especially on a blog, since normally the main page is a six-mile-long history of previous blog posts, and it’s interesting to see how far down people scroll.

ClickTale uses mouse over attention to estimate eye tracking (due to the correlation between the two) but are pretty clear that they don’t intend this to be a perfect replacement of eye tracking, merely an affordable way to get close to that kind of information.

Example heat maps:

So as you’ll see, the value of the heat maps is:

  1. Not having to troll through multiple videos for insights. That’s just not possible with a site with millions of visitors.
  2. In-page information that definitely complements what is provided by your standard web analytics tool.

For a blog specifically, the heatmaps can also be a way to see what of your content people are reading. If a visitor clicks to read a specific post, obviously you know they took this action even in a standard web analytics tool. However, where they read a blog post on the main page, ClickTale can fill in the gaps of what they read via scrolling and attention. This is a great insight missing from a standard tool.

A concern for frequently updated sites (such as blogs) might be the impacts of a site changing throughout the day, via adding new posts. Never fear, that has been taken care of: you can choose which version of a page you want to view the heatmaps for, if there are multiple versions throughout a timeframe.

Some other nifty features:

Form analytics

I only saw a demo of this, as my site isn’t really form-heavy, but to be honest, this thing rocks. Who starts filling in a field then stops? Who has to refill in a form? How much time do they take to fill in each field? What is form engagement vs form submission? This information is much richer than a “X number saw the page that had the form on it, then Y% saw the thank you page.” It’s pretty awesome. Check out this demo of it on ClickTale’s site:

Page and Site Analytics

ClickTale will also tell you which of your pages are the:

  • Most engaging
  • Most clicked
  • Most errored
  • Least scrolling
  • Slowest loading

The engagement time is pretty sweet also. In a world of tabbed browsing, a visitors may come to your site, read your post, but not close the page. (“Tick, tick, tick” goes Google Analytics time on site.) I myself tend to have multiple browser tabs open with links I’ve clicked from Twitter. ClickTale measures the time they actually spend engaged with the page, via mouse moves etc. It’s a richer metric than time on site.


I’ve only mentioned some of the functionality of ClickTale that I enjoyed. There are also options to search, find and watch videos matching certain criteria (e.g. videos from visitors coming in through search, or seeing a certain page – great for watching playback of site errors.) There is also an option for Omniture integration, which I didn’t try (as my blog doesn’t use Omniture) but is nice knowing it’s there for enterprise use.

All in all, my conclusion: ClickTale doesn’t replace a standard web analytics tool (nor do they claim it does, or should) but it’s a great supplement to give you more in-depth information about what people do on a page. I believe a clear competitor for this product is TeaLeaf, which I have seen a demo of, but not been in a position to use. The main thing that sways me towards ClickTale, even on an enterprise basis, is the price tag. TeaLeaf definitely seems a more costly solution. Now, it’s completely possible that TeaLeaf’s price tag is justified by the functionality; I haven’t used it so I can’t speak to the differences. But unfortunately, the reason I haven’t used TeaLeaf is because I couldn’t get past the price tag …

The best part?

Very easy to implement: Two lines of code (I could implement it. ‘Nuff said.) And seriously – all of this with only two lines of code. No special click tracking or form tracking. It’s as easy as implementing Google Analytics.

FREE! They have a free version that you can use on small volume sites. Plenty for us web analytics geeks to play around with! Now, there’s some functionality you miss out on with the free version, but it’s plenty to get you into the tool and allow you to evaluate whether the insights may be worth a small investment.


I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to use ClickTale on my blog at an enterprise level access (thank you, ClickTale and Shmuli Goldberg!) Some of the features may only be available via paid subscriptions, and not in the free version, but the free version is definitely of value and worth checking out.

However, also keep in mind I used it on my blog, not on a larger corporate website. There may be some functionality that I’d like to have on a larger site that I didn’t notice was missing, just because of the size of the site I was looking at. I don’t claim this tool is the magic cure for any of your analytics ills, but it’s definitely worth looking at, to see if it might help answer some of the questions left open by your standard analytics tool.

Plus? It’s fun!

The Web Analytics Community

Like many web analysts, I pretty much “fell” into this field. Coming from Law and Psychology degrees, it certainly wasn’t a clear path. At the time, I happened to be an assistant, and the web analytics team happened to need “temporary” help. Five years later, here I am: incredibly grateful to have fallen into a field that is fascinating, in high demand, and full of smart, engaged people.

Here’s a great example: the Analysis Exchange. This program brings together “students” of web analytics, mentors to support them, and non-profit organisations needing analytics assistance. (Note: I say “student” because you don’t need to be an actual student.) There are currently 1,000 members, and no open projects. As many needs as there are out there, the analytics community is rushing to fill them.

The fascinating thing about the Analysis Exchange is the skill level of some (probably most!) of the “students”. My first project (and currently only project – see above, no open projects!) went a little like this: Wow, my student is smart. I hope there’s even anything I can help him with! (He later said there was. I hope he wasn’t humouring me…!)

In fact, as Analysis Exchange mentor Jason Thompson commented on Twitter recently, many of the people we look up to in the analytics community are offering their services as students! When I myself first signed up, I was torn between student and mentor. Yes, I currently manage a team of analysts. However, would I be knowledgeable enough in a completely different setting and business model? Not to mention,  any good analyst can always use more hands-on experience! So I won’t lie – going in as a student definitely crossed my mind. The basis for my eventual decision to be a mentor was that I wanted to leave the full-on student experience for those interested in web analytics, who may not have access to data or real life examples.

So here’s how our community works. You have a group of people who are in high demand, flat-out at their “real jobs”, with a real life outside of work. Despite this, they volunteer their time for 1) their own continued education and development and 2) to assist others in their growth. Most of these people never really think they’re ready to be a mentor, because no one considers themselves to be an “expert”. We think there’s always more to know, more to learn.

Web Analytics is developing fast. But with these people in our community, there is no worry that we won’t keep up. In fact, we’ll keep pushing, and moving our field even further forward.

PS. You know you’re addicted to Twitter when you have to consciously write “the web analytics community” rather than the “#measure community”.