Interviews in Search: Avinash Kaushik

One of the things I like the most is to ask questions. Yes, I was one of those unsupportable little kids always asking “Why? What? When?” questions to their parents. And that need to learn new things from others is still there, alive.

That is why in the past weeks I have started an interviews’ series in my blog I Love SEO, with interviews to Rand Fishkin and Will Critchlow and more in production.

The next one would have to be to Avinash Kaushik, maybe the most thoughtful leader about Analytics (sorry, I cannot call him “evangelist”… images of saints are too related to that word in my mind). But, due to the answers he gave me, I believe that is more useful for the SEO community to publish it here.

If I would have to define Avinash just with one word, I would use one he loves and uses a lot: “awesome”.

Let me tell you: Avinash Kaushik is not just a great Analytics evangelist (ok, I used “evangelist”), but he is a great mind, a wonderful speaker, a generous man and a funny guy.

As many of us, I discovered Avinash thanks to his blog Occam’s Razor and his books: Web Analytics an Hour a Day and Web Analytics 2.0. But Avinash gives the best of himself as speaker in conferences, and I had the luck to see him “in action” at Be-Wizard 2011 in San Marino and at MozCon in Seattle in July. His passion when speaking is such, that it is not strange that the tweet stream #mozcon, for instance, was filled with praises to Avinash by all the attendees. And it is not strange that he has an huge number of people following him on Twitter, ready to share every single tweet he publishes.

Gianluca: I am one of your 55K (and growing) followers on Twitter, which means more people than a European middle town has. Have you ever felt the weight of the responsibility of having such a huge number of people pending on your tweets?

Avinash: The number of people have never been material to me, I’ve felt the weight from day one.

I am deliberative about my social presence, in any channel, and give a lot of thought to how, and critically if, I should participate in it. My hope from day one is to provide something “incredible, relevant, of value.” My tweets and Google Plus posts reflect my varied interests in design, politics, marketing, people and more.

But before I hit Submit or Post I pass it through this filter: “Will my audience find this to be incredible, relevant, of value”, if it does it makes it through and I feel I’ve done my part to carry that weight with some responsibility.

Gianluca: I have to admit that your tweets I like the most are the off-topic ones, which you often catalog with #creative and #awesome. How much this search of the awesomeness in everything is essential in your work as an Analyst?

Avinash: I’ve always believed that people stop learning once they get out of school or college. The challenge with that is that we live in a world that is changing by the minute. So my quest to search for “awesomeness” is simply a reflection of the amount of reading I do, on diverse topics, as a part of my quest to learn something new. Hopefully every day.

And I have to admit that life is too small not to always look for exceptional things.

Gianluca: How much is it essential for businesses to understand the value of a well implemented Analytic figure in their structure? I am thinking especially of the small and medium enterprises, which usually tend to underestimate its strategic importance.

Avinash: A well implemented analytics data collection mechanism is an important price of entry. Without it you are coming to play the football game naked. You look embarrassing, and you are going to lose.

My hope though is that small and medium sized businesses will come to appreciate the value that actually using the data will have on their business. In as much I’ve pushed companies, of all sizes, to adopt the Digital Marketing & Measurement Model. That provides them with a very structured five step process to follow, ask the most important questions before they touch the data.

The end result is a better understanding of why it is that you need data, and once you get it how do you focus your efforts to ensure you are answering the right questions. With that comes an appreciation of why an investment in data is critical.

Gianluca: My blog is entitled I love SEO and SEOmoz, is surely one of the most important SEO community online. What do you like of this discipline from your personal perspective? Do you agree with me saying that no SEO can call himself so if he does not own a profound knowledge of Analytics?

Avinash: I love SEO. It is such a fascinating science and the rewards are awesome. The thing that appeals to me personally is that there are a, mostly, clear set of logical things we have to do in order to rank high for relevant keywords. It is fun to do those things at a system or marketing level.

It would not surprise you to learn that what is a lot of fun about SEO is the enormous amount of data available to understand your current situation, understand what it will take to get to the next step, and, my favorite, quantify the business impact of our SEO efforts. Without analytics it is impossible to even be 10% effective at doing SEO. And that is great! 🙂

Gianluca: Finally, what is the newest challenge of the Analytics science? Are maybe the Social metrics the new western frontier of Analytics?

Avinash: Social is just one more thing to think about, I am not sure that it is a “challenge” all by itself.

In terms of challenges I think there are a couple of very sophisticated ones.

First one is that consumer experience is evolving at such a fragmented rate that most places where we need data from are places where we don’t have, to put it crudely, our analytics tools’ analytics tags. That means that more and more of the data we need to be smart sits outside our immediate purview. Our ability to use APIs, scrapers, multiple tools is going to be super critical.

The second problem, perhaps even harder, is how to deal with this multiplicity from a data analysis perspective. Much of this data is missing primary keys, it is often incomplete, and sometimes even incorrect. And it is rich with information we can turn into actionable insight. Yet from a human capital perspective we don’t have enough people with the right skills.

Time will solve both these problem. But I hope that current and future Analysts / Marketers appreciate this problem and start to invest the seeds of what it will take to solve them in the long term.

And now let me propose you something common to all my Interviews in Search: the Proust questionnaire.

What is your favorite word?

What is your least favorite word?

What turns you on?

What turns you off?
Passive aggressiveness.

What sound do you love?
My kids expressing joy and delight.

What sound do you hate?
Hate is such a strong word.

What is your favorite curse word?

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
Pilot, fighter jets.

What profession would you not like to do?
Any I don’t want to do.

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
“You were wrong Avinash, I do exist!”


photo credits:
Avinash at MozCon: Thomas Ballantyne
Avinash at MozCon with Rand Fishkin: Dana Lookadoo
Avinash “snowball battle” in San Marino: Everywhereist

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button