Hiring a web analyst: in-house vs. agency

Web Analytics - in-house vs. agency
Once you decide you need the help of a web analyst, it may be difficult to conclude whether to hire in-house or outsource. In this post I go through the pros and cons, and take a deep dive into cost, scope, skills and more. I also offer one practical tip to get it right.

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So you’re thinking you might need help from a web analyst… (and if you’re undecided, why not check my guide on when to hire a web analyst)

They will help you configure and derive insights from your data, which in turn will result in bigger profits or reduced costs. The next question on your mind is likely: “How do I go about it?”.

You have two choices:

Your business may be at a point where you’re thinking of hiring in-house and building up a specialised team.

Alternatively, you may be considering outsourcing your web analysis to a specialised web analytic agency with proven success.

Each option has its merits, depending on your unique business needs, budgets, time scales and more. Great web analysts use a complex set of skills and tools to achieve their results, and it is important that you get access to expertise you can trust.  

In essence, making your choice depends on:

  • Your budget,
  • The size of your company,
  • Your short and long term goals.

This choice will impact your bottom line, so it’s important to consider your approach to hiring. Here I’ll go through all the considerations to help you decide.

Web analytics agency pros and cons

How much web analytics work do you need to get done?

Are you looking for a one-off data-clean-up project? That’s easy: an agency will be your best bet. The set of skills required for data housekeeping is different to those for drawing insights – so if you need to make sure your data is ready for future analysis, outsourcing will get the job done.

Examples of situations where this is relevant are:

  • If you’ve never audited your configuration before – you simply don’t know what inaccuracies are lurking in there,
  • If you’ve done a major redesign or introduced new web analytics structures or components – it’s important that the new elements are tracked correctly,
  • If you’ve migrated your website to a new platform – even if your site looks the same visually, tracking may be broken or missing: I know that ensuring tracking works may not even be on a developer’s agenda.

If you’re tired of postponing cleaning up your web analytics data and are not sure where to start, I’ll be happy to explain how my Google Analytics solution design and implementation services can help. Book a free consultation here.

For ongoing data maintenance or analysis, your options are more open.

If you’re doing few regular website changes or developments, you’ll probably need to audit your data once every few months and draw insights every few weeks. This amount of work doesn’t warrant a full-time analyst, so outsourcing will likely be a better option. Still, involving your outsourced web analyst in the work that you do will help avoid data issues, so it’s best to have a close relationship.

Companies that develop and change their website regularly can achieve great results in terms of finding data insights with both in-house and outsourced analysts. If that’s you, keep reading to find out about the extra considerations you could take into account.

How quickly do you need your web analytics jobs done?

In-house web analysts can respond quickly to ad-hoc needs and work dynamically within your company. But tasks and testing can face bottlenecks due to internal demands and management time. Many companies have an agile development workflow and it’s great to include your web analyst as part of your scum team so they can contribute to new features early on.

You should also be considerate with time if you choose to hire a junior web analyst. If they don’t have experience solving your specific problems, they will take longer to do implementation and analysis. They will be learning everything on the job and this, naturally, takes more time.

When working with an agency, timelines can vary:

If it’s a new project, they may need to scope it out accordingly and secure the right resource first. This may be delayed if they are working with multiple clients that are all asking for ad-hoc services at the same time. Once you’re booked in, though, work should go quickly. An agency with the right skills and frameworks will know how to tackle projects in the most time-efficient way.

The situation looks even more optimistic when you and your agency work on a retainer basis. Your contract should include a service level agreement that you would have both agreed on. This means you can be confident about response times and deadlines.

To make your workflow extra smooth when working with an agency, you could work out a way to include one of their consultants in your own agile process. That way, you get an experienced web analyst working with you and managing all analytics activities so that they can be delivered quickly and to a high standard.

How much can you afford to spend when hiring a web analyst?

The cost of web analytics

Very often your budget will be a key factor when choosing whether to hire in-house or outsource.

It may seem cheaper to hire, but the wider costs can be hidden. Here are some examples of what could inflate your costs:

  • Junior hires will be learning on the job and even if their hourly rate works out cheaper, they will get less done,
  • On-boarding and ongoing management will eat at your own time, costing you without even noticing,
  • It can take months before your employee becomes fully productive so at the beginning you might be paying but not seeing much outcomes,
  • Web analytics is a highly in-demand job so you have to create a great environment for your employees to make sure they stay – this could involve cost-free incentives like remote and flexible working but also paid ones, e.g. free training, conferences, team activities and other perks,
  • Whenever your in-house employee leaves, you need to invest extra resources to hire a new person.

Building a team requires a large initial and ongoing investment, and you need to figure out your own ways of working to make sure communication channels are open and everyone can do their job. All this can lead to long-term savings though as the team develops its expertise.

If you hire an agency, hourly costs will work out higher. However, you will save yourself the hassle of managing team members and allocating resources. They will still need to get to know your company and team, but having had more experience with a variety of businesses, they will have their own frameworks for working quickly and efficiently. They can also be in a position where they are able to suggest improvements to your own workflow, generating you more savings.

To sum up, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to build a team, hiring in-house will be more cost effective. But if you’d rather that a web analyst swooned in and did their job, you’ll save more money outsourcing.

How much expertise should your new web analyst have?

The expertise level of your in-house talent will depend on your investment.

You may be able to get away with hiring a junior executive and asking them to complete free training from Google but with no other in-house expertise and mentoring, they are likely to struggle. If you hire junior staff, you’ll need to spend time and money training them up. 

Hire an experienced pro and they will be quick to start and deliver the goods. Experienced staff bring value fast, but there is a risk they may leave the role if it isn’t engaging or challenging enough. 

The cutting-edge expertise provided by outsourced web analysts provides a competitive advantage. A transparent and productive client/agency relationship will also lead to valuable knowledge being transferred to your team.

The top tip is to figure out which analytics tasks exactly your web analyst will be expected to complete – and to hire according to that spec.

Will your web analyst be trustworthy and reliable?

Web analytics consultant trust

Happy in-house employees can be trusted to work towards the same level of success for your business as you. To make sure this happens, you need to keep them engaged. They will have a more singular focus on your firm and this could make them a reliable asset.

Web analyst freelancers or agencies will have proven success in their field with previous case studies, certifications and awards. Check their credentials by reviewing testimonials and finding out what types of projects they were involved with before. Signing an NDA will give you an extra piece of mind that your data will not be misused.

How closely do you want to manage your web analyst?

An in-house data analyst comes with a large time and cost investment in terms of recruitment, onboarding, training and management. To make the most of your relationship, you should expect to put in the effort.

When working with an agency, you still need to provide practical information when needed, but less time and effort is required when maintaining an agency relationship. A good agency will be a partner that will work closely with you and set the expectations for themselves and for you in terms of communication and work delivery. They should do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to management.

Conclusions

In short, hiring in-house is ideal for those seeking the ongoing development of an internal web analytics resource.

Agencies are flexible: available for one-off projects as well as ongoing tasks. They can also scale up and manage projects dynamically – changing focus from month to month, or even week to week.

If you’ve concluded that hiring in-house is your best choice, I hope this guide has provided you with some value on what to expect. You can also check out my guide on the 10 qualities to look for when hiring a web analyst. It will help you prepare the right job description and more.

If you’re still undecided, engaging with an agency on a one-time project is a low-risk approach to outsourcing web analysis. Get in touch if you’d like to share your project idea to see if Business Ahead could be the right fit for you.

How confident are you about your Google Analytics data?

Most Google Analytics accounts have faulty or incomplete set-ups – make sure yours isn’t one of them. Discover how far you are from a CRO‑ready configuration. 

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