An Interview: John Lovett on the Web Analytics Association’s Certification Program

John Lovett is a Senior Partner at Web Analytics Demystified, a consulting firm focused on digital measurement strategy. He has over a decade of experience analyzing and evaluating web technologies. Since joining Web Analytics Demystified in December of 2009, Mr. Lovett has declared his quest to become a change agent for web analytics by questioning the status quo of vendor measurement practices; challenging clients to fully develop their strategic vision for measurement; and driving the industry to collectively embark on advancement.

Prior to joining Web Analytics Demystified, Mr. Lovett was a Senior Analyst at Forrester research, where he conducted research on web analytics, testing and optimization technologies. He is widely recognized as an expert on measurement technologies. Currently, Mr. Lovett sits on the Board of Directors for the Web Analytics Association and is an active member of the Research and Standards Committees.

About WAA Certification
The Web Analytics Association (WAA) Web Analyst Certification ProgramTM is a voluntary certification program. The purpose of the program is to provide a mechanism for individuals to obtain professional recognition after demonstrating their knowledge of and competency within the web analytics industry. Certification will be issued to each qualified person upon meeting WAA’s required education, experience, and examination requirements.

The WAA Web Analyst Certification ProgramTM is designed to identify not only analysts with broad domain knowledge, but also, and more importantly, analysts demonstrating a high level of analytical and problem solving ability across the entire web business spectrum. The certification exam covers the following key areas:

  1. Web Analytics for Site Optimization
  2. Measuring Marketing Campaigns Online
  3. Creating and Managing the Analytical Business Culture

1.   You have taken a role in promoting and developing the Web Analytics Association’s Certification Program. Why do you think this is important?

First off, thanks to you Corry for taking the time to pose such thoughtful questions and allow me the opportunity to share my experience with your audience.

I’m happy to respond because I am a big advocate of the WAA certification and believe that it’s important. There’s really no other distinction (beyond vendor certifications) within the web analytics industry that signifies experience in the field. It’s a credential that you don’t achieve by taking a class or by attending a conference. Rather it’s a true measure of expertise and problem solving abilities specific to web analytics.

2.   I know that you took the test at the last eMetrics in San Jose (the official kickoff of the certification program). Firstly, did you pass??? Assuming that the answer is yes, what did you think? Was it as hard as it looks? Any surprises?

I did pass. But I will tell you that it was by the skin of my teeth. In my opinion, the test was very hard. I applied a typical multiple choice test-taking methodology by eliminating answers that I knew were incorrect. That typically got me down to two options and from there I was running on intuition and faith. I’d say that the test is a real challenge of knowledge of analytics and overall digital marketing. And the practical problem solving questions were no cake walk either.

I wouldn’t say that anything on the test really surprised me…much of the info contained within the WAA’s Knowledge Required to take the test document was spot on and that helped to properly set my expectations.

3.   I have said in the past that certification has to be a designation of expertise… of excellence in the space. Otherwise it is not valuable. Many of our clients still do not know a qualified web analyst when they see one. Some do not even know enough about web analytics to put together a working test / exercise for candidates.

Many of these companies came in late but made big investments in tools and technologies. Now they are under a lot of pressure to deliver insights.

Do you think it is a designation of expertise? Or is it unreasonable to expect that when a certified web analyst walks through their door, you know that this person has the skills and experience do deliver on the promise of web analytics…

I’ll start by stating that I do feel that this test is a true test of expertise. You can’t fake this stuff or BS your way through this test. It’s designed in such a way that you have to know the fundamentals of web analytics. This includes knowing what to track and how to get the data you need, but more so how to do analysis. That’s the true distinction of this test is that it requires an understanding of analysis which is the key ingredient in web analytics that no tool can solve. You cannot throw money at a web analytics tool and expect analysis, you have to get that from your people and this test separates the real deal from the phonies.

I can tell you that I was wary of taking the test because I’ve never been a true practitioner of web analytics. I wasn’t sure I would pass, but I wanted to test myself to see if I really had the skills and I put my money where my mouth is. So I challenged myself. My role for years was that of industry analyst and consultant to analytics strategists. I’ve watched the industry very closely for years and have had the opportunity to become indoctrinated with the tools in the context of demos and comparative testing to review vendors and provide recommendations to clients. But I’m no expert in terms of using specific tools.

Where I do excel is in the way to think about analytics: how you need to ask the right questions of the technologies and where to look for those answers; how to communicate your findings to executives who could care less about visits and page views; and how to distill massive amounts of data into strategic recommendations. These things require years of thinking about data, web sites and creative ways to solve problems using analytics.

Thus, in my opinion the WAA Certification test is doing the industry a huge service by not testing knowledge of specific tools or user interfaces (that’s a trait that can be learned), instead it tests a candidates’ ability to think critically and apply an analytical mindset to solving business problems. If I was hiring, those are the candidates I’d want to talk to.

4.   If/when the corporate world and the web analytics community realize the value of WAA Certification, what does that mean for vendor-specific certifications? Do they become less relevant? Less desirable?

I don’t think that vendor certifications become any less valuable. They still have merit and are a great way for users to learn the nuances of a tool and demonstrate their knowledge. But again the intricacies of any user interface can be learned. The skills that are tested in the WAA Certification test are a better reflection of experience and problem solving skills.

5.   Is Eric going to get certified?????

Hmmmm… that question you’ll have to ask him.

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