An interview with Tom Betts, Head of Web Analytics at

By Mar.29, 2011

After completing the Search and Social Media Marketing course late last year I got involved in the Analysis Exchange – a free initiative to connect non-profit projects with SEO analyst experts and students.

Via the project I work on – Plings (about Places to Go and Things to Do for kids) – I was lucky enough to work with Tom Betts, Head of web analytics at

Financial Times

Along with Stewart, our Analysis Exchange student, we really benefited from some great insight and compelling actions to implement. So, with this in mind, I asked Tom a few questions for the Search and Social Media Marketing course blog:

As head of the web analytics team at the Financial Times, what is your main role and task?

“I am responsible for the use of data to make decisions at Unlike many businesses, online is our entire business at, meaning that we provide services to a wide internal client-base. My team and I get stuck in to analytics projects for:

  • Editorial (identifying which content is popular with what audience and why)
  • Marketing (figuring out how to sell online subscriptions to access our content, attract new audiences, how do we effectively spend marketing budgets etc)
  • IT (determining site problems, capacity planning and the like)
  • Advertising (to understand who our readers are, what interests them and how we can paint a better picture of our audience back to advertisers)
  • Finance (to analyse the profitability of our products and services)

…and the list goes on.

It is an extremely diverse role which spans everything from just telling people what is happening on site, what is performing well / not so well, to developing analytical models to predict future behaviour (what topics of content interest people who go on to subscribe?) and measuring the ROI of search engine marketing spend. Our executive team are heavily reliant on our insights to make product changes.”

Why did you get involved in the Analysis Exchange?

“I already manage an analytics team but wanted to see how I could help a wider selection of students to move their analytics skills up a level. As an industry, web analytics is a little bit chicken-and-egg. There seem to be endless roles for analysts, but only for people with relevant experience. It’s tough to gain that experience and Analysis Exchange is the best way I know of to obtain experience with real data on real-life projects.

Additionally, I spend most of my day thinking of the best way to use analytics for profit and felt I wanted to help some non-profit making organisations.”

What helped you make a success of your first Analytics Exchange project?

“Being on top of student and organiser to ensure that we were sticking to time and scope. I tried to tie the scope down as much as possible from the outset since the single largest reason I see projects delivering late is due to scope creep.”

Crystal ball time – but what is your analytics thing-to-watch for 2011?!

“I have two for this:

  1. Predictive web analytics – the area of ‘predictive analytics’ is already mature in many fields, but not yet in web analytics. Using web data to predict what a user might be interested in or what they might buy next is still quite pioneering in our industry. But not for much longer.
  2. Multichannel analytics – we’re seeing a huge and rapid shift in consumption from desktop PCs to access content to a wide variety of mobile devices. The development of apps, where the user experience is far more native to the device, poses big challenges but exciting opportunities for web analytics. All of a sudden, you are measuring much more than just the web.”

Finally, what tips would you give those studying on the #SSMM course?

“Find some real data and get stuck in! The Analysis Exchange is a great place to start and some experience there would land you in good stead for any digital marketing, SEO or analytics role.

Read around, and definitely check out the work of Avinash Kaushik. Simply by reading and understanding his ‘An hour a day‘ book, you’ll be well ahead of many practitioners in our field!”

Tom will also be speaking at the forthcoming SAScon 2011 conference in Manchester.

SASCon 2011 Search Analytics and Social Conference Manchester