Analysis of online data puts South Side firm on the map
By Jason Cato
Published: Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
What started as a favor to repay those who helped Robbin Steif to find the next chapter in her career today is a growing web analytics firm, still putting final touches on its new South Side digs.
“I have no idea how I even knew there were web analytics, but I did,” said Steif, CEO of LunaMetrics, which she incorporated in 2004 and started up the following year to help companies glean the most from their website traffic data. Since then, the firm has expanded into search engine optimization, social media and pay-per-click advertising.
LunaMetrics doubled sales in 2012 to about $1.5 million, Steif said.
The firm is the only Google Analytics Certified Partner in Western Pennsylvania and teaches classes on the East Coast to help companies get the most out of the search engine's free service, which provides detailed data and statistics generated from website visits.
Kevin Stecko hired LunaMetrics as a consultant in early 2012 to help with 80sTees.com, his web-based business in Mt. Pleasant, Westmoreland County.
“I like that they are local. That's why I started with them and had heard of them,” Stecko said. “As a small company, it's easier for me to pay someone who knows how to use (Google Analytics) than for me to hire someone.”
Each month, Stecko is able to get detailed information on any single customer or a broader look at about all visitors to his website, such as where they originated online, what products they looked at on his site and what they bought, if anything.
“One thing it does not tell you is why, but having all of that information helps you formulate reasons as for why,” Stecko said. “If we're spending money to get people to the site, we want to show them what they want and increase the chances of them making a purchase.”
In addition to help with Google Analytics, Stecko said he has used LunaMetrics for Facebook advertising and might start using them for search-engine optimization, a service designed to boost the visibility of a company's website.
This month, LunaMetrics is expanding its Google Analytics course to include more advanced training in Application Programming Interface, or API. It will beta test the new training during a five-day session starting on Monday in Pittsburgh.
This year, LunaMetrics is focused on growing its role as a Google Analytics premium authorized reseller, government sales and in predictive data, Steif said.
Its staff doubled to 13 last year, forcing its move into new offices on South 18th Street in September. Steif said she is looking to fill three new positions in paid search, analytics and sales.
She couldn't have envisioned such growth just a few years ago. “Now, I can easily imagine having 30,” said Steif of Squirrel Hill.
The Harvard business school graduate moved to Pittsburgh in 1986 from New York, where she worked for IBM's direct response group.
She was chief financial officer for a Downtown technology design firm and innovation lab and later started Send Me No Flowers, which sold gifts by direct mail and e-commerce. She sold the business in 2001.
Looking to get back into the financial world, Steif sought help in networking circles. In return for people taking the time to offer advice and guidance, Steif offered her expertise to help their businesses through her knowledge of the budding world of web analytics.
It then dawned on her that this thank-you gesture actually could be a career.
“It was sort of the ‘Internet winter,' ” Steif said, referring to the slowdown in e-commerce as a result of the dot-com bust, Y2K and 9/11. “(The Internet) wasn't the go-go place it was in 1999 or the place it is today. It was in a lull. But it wasn't going away.”
Steif started LunaMetrics in 2004 and landed her first client, an indoor-outdoor lighting company, in 2005.
Growth was slow in the beginning, Steif said, because of challenges many new companies confront: no sales, no search-engine ranking and no reputation.
“No one knew who we were, and I didn't have a sales force,” she said. “I didn't have much of an Internet presence even though we were an Internet business.”
In 2005, Google purchased Urchin on Demand web analytics software and released its own brand later that year.
While the data was good, the documentation telling people how to use the service wasn't, Steif said. She and other users around the world discussed Google Analytics issues online, and Steif even wrote an e-book about how to use it.
“That's one of the ways I came to their attention,” she said.
At an eMetrics Summit conference in Washington in 2006, Steif was seated at a table with several people from Google Analytics. They quickly asked if she would be interested in becoming a certified partner. Steif didn't hesitate.
Within weeks, LunaMetrics' slow times were over.
“That was our big break,” Steif said. “It started raining business.”
The deal with Google gave LunaMetrics legitimacy and drove business its way.
“It was amazing going from virtually no business to having a lot,” she said.
Today, LunaMetrics has 40 or more customers at any given time. In addition to 80sTees.com, other current and former clients include Heartland Homes, GNC and Duke Power.
“My biggest challenge now is hiring,” Steif said.
Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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