The Web Analytics Canon: Essential Reading for the Digital Intelligence Practitioner

When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes. —Erasmus

In our field, things change so fast, the most up to date resources are usually online, but there are also some must-read books out there that are really worth checking out.

Over the years, I’ve put together a decent collection of books on web analytics, digital marketing, and related topics. There are a number of blog posts out there with different reading lists and favorites. This is not “the” list, it’s my canon - the books in my permanent collection that have been very useful in various related areas. YMMV.

I have not read every word in all of them. Some I have read cover to cover, and more than once. Some I just use for reference and quick lookups. You might think some of these aren’t essential for a career in digital analytics or digital marketing and you’re probably right. But these are some of my favorites, and anyone starting out in this field would defintely benefit from reading any of them.

If one of your favorites is missing, either I don’t own it, or I haven’t read it, or I forgot to include it. Please let me know if there’s something you think is a “must read”, I’d love an excuse to place more orders at Amazon.

Table of Contents / Topics:

Web Analytics

  • Measuring the Success of Your Website: A Customer-Centric Approach to Website Management by Hurol Inan, 1st edition - January 18, 2002
  • Web Metrics: Proven Methods for Measuring Web Site Success by Jim Sterne, 1st edition - June 15, 2002 amazon
  • Web Analytics Demystified: A Marketer’s Guide to Understanding How Your Web Site Affects Your Business by Eric Peterson, 1st edition - March 2004 amazon
  • The Big Book of Key Performance Indicators by Eric Peterson, 1st edition - slideshare
  • Actionable Web Analytics: Using Data to Make Smart Business Decisions by Jason Burby and Shane Atchison, 1st edition - May 29, 2007 amazon
  • Web Analytics: An Hour a Day by Avinash Kaushik, 1st edition - June 5, 2007 amazon
  • Complete Web Monitoring: Watching your visitors, performance, communities, and competitors by Alistair Croll and Sean Power, 1st edition - June 29, 2009 amazon
  • Web Analytics 2.0 by Avinash Kaushik, 1st edition - October 26, 2009 amazon
  • Social Media Metrics: How to Measure and Optimize Your Marketing Investment by Jim Sterne, 1st edition - April, 5, 2010 amazon
  • Search Analytics for Your Site: Conversations with Your Customers by Louis Rosenfeld, 1st edition - July 6, 2011 amazon
  • Social Media Metrics Secrets by John Lovett, 1st edition - August 9, 2011 amazon
  • Web Analytics Action Hero: Using Analysis to Gain Insight and Optimize Your Business by Brent Dykes, 1st edition - December 16, 2011 amazon

Analytics & Critical Thinking

  • Turning Numbers into Knowledge: Mastering the Art of Problem Solving by Jonathan G. Koomey PhD, John P. Holdren, 2nd edition - April 28, 2008 amazon
  • Keeping Up with the Quants: Your Guide to Understanding and Using Analytics by Thomas H. Davenport, 1st edition - June 11, 2013 amazon
  • Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking by M. Neil Browne, Stuart M. Keeley, 11th edition - January 6, 2014 amazon
  • Thinking with Data: How to Turn Information into Insights by Max Shron, 1st edition - February 3, 2014 amazon
  • How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business by Douglas W. Hubbard, 3rd edition - March 17, 2014 amazon


  • Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results by Bryan Eisenberg, 1st edition - October 3, 2006 amazon
  • Web Design for ROI: Turning Browsers into Buyers & Prospects into Leads by Lance Loveday, Sandra Niehaus, 1st edition - October 27, 2007 amazon
  • Multichannel Marketing: Metrics and Methods for On and Offline Success by Akin Arikan, 1st edition - April 11, 2008 amazon
  • Marketing Metrics: The Definitive Guide to Measuring Marketing Performance by Paul Farris, Neil Bendle, 2nd edition - February 13, 2010 amazon
  • The Art of SEO (Theory in Practice) by Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, Jessie Stricchiola, Rand Fishkin, 2nd edition - March 24, 2012 amazon
  • Landing Page Optimization: The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversions by Tim Ash, Maura Ginty, Rich Page, 2nd edition - April 24, 2012 amazon

Usability, Design, Information Architecture

  • Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: Designing Large-Scale Web Sites by Peter Morville, Louis Rosenfeld, 3rd edition - December 7, 2006 amazon
  • Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior by Indi Young, 1st edition - February 15, 2008 amazon
  • Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web by Christina Wodtke, Austin Govella, 2nd edition - February 1, 2009 amazon
  • Designing with Web Standards by Jeffrey Zeldman, 3rd edition - October 25, 2009 amazon
  • Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems by Steve Krug, 1st edition - December 18, 2009 amazon
  • InterACT with Web Standards: A holistic approach to web design by Erin Anderson, Virginia DeBolt, et al., 1st edition - May 26, 2010 amazon
  • Mobile First by Luke Wroblewski, 1st edition - January 1, 2011 amazon
  • Designing for Emotion by Aaron Walter, 1st edition - January 1, 2011 amazon
  • Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug, 3rd edition - January 3, 2014 amazon

Presentations & Visualization

  • The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward R. Tufte, 2nd edition - May 2001 amazon
  • Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath, Dan Heath, 1st edition - January 2, 2007 amazon
  • slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte, 1st edition - August 12, 2008 amazon
  • Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte, 1st edition - September 28, 2010 amazon
  • Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds, 2nd edition - December 15, 2011 amazon
  • Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten by Stephen Few, 2nd edition - June 1, 2012 amazon


  • Google Analytics by Justin Cutroni, 1st edition - September 3, 2010 amazon
  • Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics by Brian Clifton, 3rd edition - April 3, 2012 amazon
  • Google Analytics Integrations: Centralizing Digital Marketing by Daniel Waisberg, Kindle edition - October 14, 2012 amazon
  • The Adobe SiteCatalyst Handbook: An Insider’s Guide by Adam Greco, 1st edition - October 24, 2012 amazon
  • Adobe Analytics with SiteCatalyst Classroom in a Book by Vidya Subramanian, 1st edition - June 2, 2013 amazon

Statistics and Data

  • How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff, Irving Geis, Reissue edition - October 17, 1993 amazon
  • Head First Statistics by Dawn Griffiths, 1st edition - September 5, 2008 amazon
  • Head First Data Analysis: A learner’s guide to big numbers, statistics, and good decisions by Michael Milton, 1st edition - August 7, 2009 amazon
  • Statistics in Plain English by Timothy C. Urdan, 3rd edition - May 25, 2010 amazon
  • Data Smart: Using Data Science to Transform Information into Insight by John W. Foreman, 1st edition - November 4, 2013 amazon


  • Cascading Style Sheets: Designing for the Web by Hakon Wium Lie, Bert Bos, 3rd edition - May 5, 2005 amazon
  • High Performance Web Sites: Essential Knowledge for Front-End Engineers by Steve Souders, 1st edition - September 18, 2007 amazon
  • Learning SQL by Alan Beaulieu, 2nd edition - April 30, 2009 amazon
  • Even Faster Web Sites: Performance Best Practices for Web Developers by Steve Souders, 1st edition - June 20, 2009 amazon
  • Responsive Web Design by Ethan Marcotte, 1st edition - January 1, 2011 amazon
  • JavaScript: The Definitive Guide: Activate Your Web Pages by David Flanagan, 6th edition - May 13, 2011 amazon
  • Professional JavaScript for Web Developers by Nicholas C. Zakas, 3rd edition - January 18, 2012 amazon
  • Introducing Regular Expressions by Michael Fitzgerald, 1st edition - August 3, 2012 amazon

Useful Links 09-29-14

I click. A lot. These are some useful things I found recently.

The Ultimate Guide to iPhone Screen Resolutions
From 2G all the way through 6 Plus, covers rendered pixels, physical pixels, and physical device measurments. Very handy.
Cheat Sheets for Python, Node, jQuery, JavaScript, CSS, HTML, Git, etc., etc. TONS of useful content here. A must-bookmark.
A Scalable CSS Reading List
Nice curated list of articles focused on issues when scaling CSS in large and growing projects.
cd to
Very cool little Mac tool - Finder Toolbar app to open the current directory in Terminal, iTerm2, x11, etc. Jump from Finder to your terminal of choice quickly.
Sync folders Using Dropbox,
even if they’re not in the Dropbox folder.
iOS App Store Marketing Guidelines
To correctly promote your affiliation with the App Store in all marketing communications. The guidelines include information on using the App Store badge and Apple product images, as well as app marketing best practices.

Numbers Too Big to Make Sense

I was at the ACCELERATE conference in Atlanta yesterday, the classy Web analytics conference run by the (rapidly growing) Web Analytics Demystified team. The presenters and content were top-shelf across the board, as you would expect from such a talented and experienced group. Josh West, Partner at Demystified and Adobe Analytics expert extraordinaire dropped this bomb during Q&A:

More mobile devices are activated each day than there are babies being born.

Huh? Say again? What the? I don’t think I heard anything else for the next 10 or 15 minutes as my brain tried to get some kind of handle on this data-point grenade. How many mobile devices is that, really?

“In the first decade of the 21st century, the number of people connected to the internet worldwide increased from 350 million to more than 2 billion. In the same period, the number of mobile-phone subscribers rose from 750 million to well over 5 billion (it is now [2013] over 6 billion).”1

UNICEF estimates that an average of 353,000 babies are born each day around the world. The CIA World Factbook puts the number at 367,576. Even if we round way up, and say 375,000, just the number of Android devices activated each day is 1,500,000.2

So, at least 4 times the number of babies being born - JUST for Android devices. Whoa.

Motorola DynaTac
Photo: Rene Walter

There are (roughly) 7.2 billion people on the planet. That number includes lots of little ones in diapers. OK, yes, some older ones in diapers too. Let’s just call them outliers or non cell phone users. In May of this year, the International Telecommunication Union estimated3 there were nearly 7 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide. “This is equivalent to 95.5 percent of the world population.”

“Ericsson have forecast that global mobile internet subscriptions will reach 4.5 billion by the end of 2018, with the mobile phone remaining the most frequently used access device”.4 So more than half the planet will have mobile internet subscriptions? The Web in their pocket. We’re gonna need more cat pictures.

Mary Meeker points out there’s still A LOT of upside potential in smartphone growth as a percentage of total mobile subscribers, as only about 30% of mobile is smartphones today, but as smartphones continue to get cheaper, that accelerating growth rate should continue to follow the steep growth trend of the recent past.

These numbers are freaking me out a bit. How much traffic is running over the tubes through all these pocket computers? Cisco5 says that in 2013, global mobile data traffic grew more than 81 percent, year over year, to 1.5 exabytes per month.

Exabytes? I work on the Web all day long and I can’t guess how many bits and bytes that is. Apparently, that’s the storage capacity of 250 million DVDs. Two hundred and fifty million DVDs worth of cat pictures, animated GIFs, Snapchats, Insta-flickr-book-face photos, Vines, and who knows what else going through CELL PHONES. Every month. Really?

If Kevin Kelly6 is right (again) and “the internet is still at the beginning of its beginning”, we still have some time to work out all of those mobile strategies we keep hearing we need to fix, and pivot, and execute. Numbers like these make me think “mobile first” should really think long and hard about the “mobile only” generation, which appears to be coming up in the rearview really freakin fast. Like a multi-exabyte tidal wave. Better clench up, Legolas.

  1. Schmidt, Eric, and Jared Cohen. [The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business]( S.l.: John Murray, 2013.

  2. “Eric Schmidt: Google now at 1.5 million Android activations per day”, Engadget,

  3. “Global mobile statistics 2014 Part A: Mobile subscribers; handset market share; mobile operators”, mobiThinking,

  4. Mobile/Smartphones, ETC Digital Portal,

  5. “Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast, 2013–2018”,,

  6. “You Are Not Late”, Medium,