How Freelance Help enables Better Analytics Engineering

Better Analytics Engineering

Analytics Engineering opens new kind of conversation. In these 3 articles I’ll explain how. In this article we’ll explore how freelance help can be a good model for many.

Some will immediately object that external help is expensive. It costs more than internal resource. I want to explore how the wider benefits of expert help should be part of a proper cost benefit analysis.

Let’s tackle costs of external help up front.

Freelancers vs longer term commitment

Freelance help is a very effective way of getting someone who is expert in the area you want. Your agency doesn’t have to find work to fill the expert’s week. Nor pay the expert rate for that “lesser” work. You pay as you go.

So the investment depends on the size and scope of the project.

Ongoing Relationship

Some will be concerned about commercial confidentiality.

However commercial confidentiality and reputational risk make external experts risk averse. The junior employee may be much more cavalier.

Independent small businesses and agencies both understand that business development requires investment. So both may invest time to win an opportunity.

Greater Skill Levels

The other issue is the skill level. Freelance help gives you access to the bits of expert help you want.

Developing clear reports is the aim. But manipulating the more arcane areas of Analytics is often required to clean up the mess. Regular expressions, Google Analytics filters and views aren’t designed for enthusiastic novices.

Particularly when there are subtle consequences of these.

Expert Analytics Engineering isn’t about the buttons. It’s about how the website interacts with other web systems to achieve a result.

Using Google TagManager is very similar. It’s a bit like keyhole surgery. You’ve got a small keyhole through which you want access to everything going on the website. The task is to implement reporting. Using Google TagManager itself isn’t hard. The challenge is understanding what systems you’re accessing. And deducing which triggers will be effective.

Expert Freelance Help shouldn’t be cheap. Experts Aren’t.

Recruiting an expert Analytics Engineer as an employee would require a considerable salary.

Chances are you’re comparing apples with pears. A qualified Google Analytics Individual isn’t similar to the freelance Analytics Engineer. For some tasks – the GA skills alone will be fine. But as the complexity increases it stops being about pure Google Analytics.

For instance I’ve seen comprehensive reporting that failed. Because the developer’s point of view was treated as paramount. And understanding the Google Analytics Reports relied on coding concepts!

At that point one needs the experience to stand back. One must consider what clear reporting to fit with marketing goals should look like. But the analytics engineer needs to understand the internals. Together these can enable a workable compromise.

Wider value

Expert analytics engineering is much wider than pure Analytics. Three of the other ‘non marketing’ skills that many agencies need are:

  • Technical facilitation in multi faceted projects
  • Liaising with a range of experts from multiple companies involved.
  • Reading code and instructing programmers.

For instance a marketing agency trying to sort out the shopping cart for the client may have to liaise with:

  • Website Developers
  • Shopping cart providers
  • Client Marketeers

Freelance Help with Technical Facilitation

The agency has the marketing skills. But the need to deal with CTOs, and other agencies is often a real challenge. The latter may feel they own the site. They may feel confident enough to ‘worry out loud’ that something won’t work. And lapse into jargon to confuse both client and other stakeholders.

Analytics Engineering can find a way round problems that vex many marketing agencies. Part consultant, part technical project manager, part geek. The marketing agency and client often want to know if the advice given is reliable.

Technical facilitation helps the client resolve the logjam when multiple interests conflict. Or when the common language that would resolve matters is lacking.

There’s a long list of skills and plenty of jargon – including:

  • HTML
  • AJAX
  • Network Protocols
  • TagManager
  • Analytics
  • Web Server configuration
  • Domains, subdomains
  • cookies

Analytics Engineering can bring along a range of skills. Skills which are extremely useful in unblocking projects.

Ask yourself – what if you had not only analytics skills but a wider range of technical skills. Wouldn’t your agency find easier to unblock important projects. Wouldn’t it be more confident about expanding into new areas?

Solving Integration Challenges

Modern developments often rely on complex system interconnections. The analytics engineer will understand how clearly the business requirements have been defined.

Some challenges will exist for good reasons. Some will exist for poor reasons. Clarifying the reporting is often challenging. It can be one of the more intricate parts of the solution. Particularly if one wants to avoid dramatic change to the website or infrastructure.

Diagnosing deep seated problems

As an example.

  • I had to step through the customer journey.
  • I inspected the raw HTML, and javascript to work out what was happening.
  • I used network monitoring software to confirm what data was being sent. And to which server.
  • I then had detailed conversation with the software system provider technical support.

We were clarifying and resolving problems such as:

  • Complex Page Naming
  • Many subdomains
  • Caching
  • Multiple devices
  • Timing & Performance

Conclusion – Freelance help

So using freelancers enables you to get the help you need. You can dip your toe in the water and find out how the relationship works. All the agencies I’ve worked with come back for more.

Now smart viewers will use this article as a checklist. Many may claim to be expert in Analytics. But many of these spend much more time working with some other aspect of web marketing (e.g. SEO) than with Analytics. And they haven’t the wider technical background to back up the analytics. In short they aren’t analytics engineers.

In the next article I’ll explain how you Analytics Engineering can help you grow your agency.

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