avinash kaushik, coremetrics hitbox, DC Storm, Omniture, Pageview, Unique Visitor, Web Analytics, Websidestory

Confessions of a Web Analytics Manager

1. Its a mess out here.
2. Numbers don’t add up and therefore the numbers are not accurate
3. Where do I belong? I’m having an identity crisis, I don’t know if I ‘m in marketing or technology
4. What is a visit & a pageview.? How is this different from a unique visitor?
5. How important is a click?
6. Why do I have to make the same reports again and again
7. What is my contribution to the business?
8. Am I a cost center or a profit center?
9. Should I switch over to a new Web Analytic vendor, i think the existing one is not good?
10.Should I pay or get free Web Analytic software?

There are many unanswered question for an budding webanalytics manager. The usual problems in his life will center around The server logs not matching the web analytic
results. He would frequently have to encounter Tech complains that the web analytic
codes are increasing the pagedownload time (There may be javascript error due to these measurement codes). And best of all, the support center may follow US timings and resolution is at least 24 hours away! What ever may be the reason, the position is not very easy, answer lies in the cliche- persistence and determination.

Simply put, a Web Analytics is a set of measurement software tools or hosted online service that records and measures the actions of visitors to a website. The existence of this tool lies in the fact that if you can measure, you can therefore improve. It emanates from the fact that since internet is highly measurable, so there should be a tool. And there is also the flaw- since there are no standard definitions and hence there are multiple interpretations. Case in point, the online publisher might give you a set of numbers affecting your marketing campaign, however, the web analytic tool might give you another picture and these numbers won’t be necessarily same. The server side logs will indicate figures for a download, which might be 25% in sync with the Pageview report from the web analytic solution. This is not just the end of woes, there are hardly any marketing matrix available that can provide benchmarks eg how many pageviews are required to increase the visitations of the website by 10%. The Web Analytics manager will swing betweeen the Yin and Yang and discover the true dualities of this existential world.

The truth and lets be honest- most of us don’t understand Web Analytics and it is still to be ingrained in the planning process in India at least. I have hardly come across people who judicious use this platform to define goal and not just for number reporting and diagnostics.

The origin of Web Analytics, dates a few years back, when the server side logs were used to identify the call made (and hence the relative popularity) to the server, which is called the log file analysis. This coined the word ‘Hits’ or the number of times call was made to the server. However of you had 4 images, stored on the server, you will get 4 hits on the website (and hence not accurate)which will be equivalent to a page download in the current context. An improvement on that was the server side web analyser, a good number of these tools is available on the net. One had to run these logs as a batch file in the analyser and you would get the relevant details. There is huge amount of data in these logs and has to be analysed periodically to check the web analytics data accuracy. The only limitation of these logs is that, you can conclusively track an event (defined as a goal) and study the possible cause for this event. There is also proxy/caching inaccuracies.

The method which is gaining popularity is the client side data collection systems, which involves coding each page on the site, which is usually a single snippet (tag) of the code referencing a separate JavaScript file. This is cookie based and data is collected from visitors web browsers. There are tins of advantages in using this method…

1. More accurate session tracking
2. More accurate information of the browser (what type, screen resolution, javascript version, windows platform etc)
3. Can track events (say payment and its entry page along with acquisition source) and hence a great tool for eCommerce
4. Real Time data, no procession of the information required.

The limitations is due to the cookie and its privacy (first party/third party). Most of the popular Web Analytic tool, like Omniture, Corematrics, Webtrends & Websidestory (now a part of Omniture) use this method. Omniture is far superior tool, but is cost effective only for large websites. Webtrends is great for content sites and Hitbox (a product of Websidestory and now a part of Omniture stable) is great for eCommerce business.

By and large the features offered are the same. The criterion that you should use for choosing a web analytic tool should be
1. Cost per event (you buy a block of events)
2. Service agreements, it is very critical, as all the support system is sitting in US.
3. Education and consultancy. You should make this a part of the contract, as it will a good platform for the management and stakeholders who sample the report
4. Implementation, 80% of the success of WA tool rests on thorough implementation and
testing.

The cost should range from 4-6 cents CPM (please negotiate hard before finalising the true Indian way with the firangies). Before anything, you should be ready with the standard Webanalytic definitions. WAA, has a a document which is available at http://www.webanalyticsassociation.org. It is a great site with a number of articles, but few chosen articles are only for paid member subscription.

There are a number of Web Analytics Solutions available in the market place today.

1. Omniture: (Clearly the leader in the market place). They have recently acquired Websidestory. In India, Futurebazaar is using the flagship product- Site Catalyst.

2. Corematrics: Have JC penny and circuitcity.com as one of their clients.

3. Webtrends: Though their site mentions Microsoft as one of of their clients, I still have to come across widespread use of Webtrends. It is a great product and is quite popular.

4. Visual Sciences (erstwhile Websidestory and now a part of Omniture): Airtel, MakeMyTrip and ICICIBank is using the flagship product, Hitbox (which is now Site Catalyst).

5. DC Storm: This is DGM’s main technology platform. Please connect with them if you are considering DC Storm.

6. Clicktracs: Tribal Fusion Network and Pioneer use this for Web Analytics.

If you want to check out the web analytics platform for the website you are visiting, you can use this great tool. All you have to do is to submit the url into the browser and it will find the Web Analytic application.

There are other free tool available in the marketplace, the most popular is Google Analytics. It is a great tool, however, the data is not available realtime. There are other few products also…

1. AWstats: awstats.sourceforge.net
2. W3Perl: www.w3perl.com
3. Webalizer: www.mrunix.net/webalizer/

These analyse logs and are processed batchwise to give results.

Web Analytics have to go a long way in India. Though Omniture has opened shops, it is still to get aggressive with business development. The support center sits out of Hongkong and US. Like I said earlier, one critical stumbling block is the implementation and support, which will determine the success of this tool.

This is vast and interesting subject and very new in Indian context. Though we at Makemytrip have been using web analytics in India in some way through PPC and Impression and click tracking, however, the real utility is when Web Analytics will be seen when it is able to establish itself as a strategic tool. I hope I can share more on this subject in the near future ;).

Till then you can always look up Avinash Kaushik’s blog. He’s an institution on webanalytics and is the writer of Web Analytics an Hour a day. Currently, he’s Analytics Evangelist for Google.

Believe me Web analytics is that simple. Just requires an hour a day!!

Cheers!

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Clicktracks, DGM, Digital Marketing, GroupM, Hitbox, Internet Marketing, Omniture, Optimisation, Pay Per Click, Quasar, SEM, SEO, Webchutney, Websidestory, Webtrends

The First Step

What is the first prerogative of an eMarketeer? (Part 1)

A. Online: which includes SEM (which now includes SEO & PPC), Display/Banner advertising, E-Mail Marketing, Affiliate Marketing & Social Media

B. Offline: which includes TV, Print, PR Outdoor and BTL activities.

I belong to a small world of e-commerce, where the business survives on a website. The distribution is through the internet, which is also the first source for reach. Our first point of contact is our website and also it is the final consummation point. The consumers are also limited- a high ticket item, which can be bought only through a credit card (estimated to be 15 Mln in India). We have limited budgets (unlike FMCG/Consumer Durables), and being a start up ROI, every quarter is very important.

So what is the first step toward establishing that revenue generating website? Where should we put the monies, how should we measure the mediums? Please note that this is not a research paper with theta & Deltas, and might not have substantial data points for “Hence proved” formula. These are observations, which can act as handy reference points.

Step 0: Select a good Webanalytic tool
Before you proceed on strategy and define number that you will measure and which will define your ROI, select a measuring tool. You can better your website/campaign only if you can measure it. There are a number of tools available- Websidestory (now takenover by Omniture) is a great tool for eCommerce platforms and offer a wide range of products, right from Site Measurement to marketing performance (to measure SEM, Affiliate and other marketing campaigns). Omniture is a much superior platform, which allows you to measure the Social Media activities (RSS & Blogs) and has very simple dashbaords. They too offer suites for marketing campaigns & SEM, however the price is very steep. One good platform for content platform is Webtrends (we had the trial version of this software and was a good way to start appreciating Web Analytics). All these are real time softwares. There are a number of free tools also available- Google urchin is the most popular (You can use this too and evaluate it against the other platforms). However, the only hindrance is the privacy of data (and more so because I feel Google representatives can access the information. Now that they have vertical specialisation, it becomes even more scary. Clicktracs is another one. DGM also has its analytic tool and claims it to be good called DC Storm. Their affiliate and PPC is through this dashboard, and can be used for site Analytics as well.

Webanalytics will help to…
1. Estimate the daily traffic (and hence the popularity of the site) and the time spent (quite critical parameter for a content site)
2. Estimate the sources of traffic (where are they coming from, which websites) and hence the quality (basis what they do on the site, like on an ecommerce site, conversion is paramount)
3. Understand the navigation (and hence do website optimization)
4. Measure conversion and hence define goals for marketing campaign and site ROIs.

There is tons of data and webanalytics needs to sync in with the business goals if it has to make sense. The implementation of the platform is critical, as before we start relying on its results, we need to be very sure about the numbers that we see on the dashboard. More importantly pick and choose Key Performance Indicators (KPI) which will drive the business. This is not a one time affair, it needs to accessed daily and refined to suit business needs. You might want to check out Avinash Kaushik’s “Web Analytics- An Hour a day”

If you want to know how is your website performance ( and need a second reference point) you can look at audience measurement tools like comScore and Nielson Netrating (not available in India as yet). These are panel based data and works on similar logic as TAM (television Audience Measurement). It will you to corroborate WebAnalytic data for your traffic sources and navigation beyond your site. Hitwise is another superior tool, but like other has no services for India.

Step 1: Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

SEM might have been confused with Pay Per Click about a year back, but now for all practical purposes includes SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). The above is the image from Eye tracking study which reemphasizes, the focus on natural listing (The first image is for Google, second for Yahoo and last one is MSN’s).

SEO is the cornerstone of internet marketing. If your company’s ROI depends on your website, this is the first step towards making it a revenue churning machine. For new to this term, SEO relates to left hand side section (minus the top highlighted portion) on Google and other Search Engine interface. The click on this link is free, and there is not one rule to get to the top. Experiment and try, learn and experiment again. Writing Metatags, having site maps and building links through link exchange is not enough, as Google algorithmis never consistent. You would have to consistently look at numbers and take action accordingly.

You would need to invest in resources and have a special team, comprising of content writers, tech, website designs and a SEO specialist. There is no shortcut, and no blackhat SEO technique (read as spam) that will give you results. Best way is to learn this trick yourself, even the result itself take a long time to come (in some cases more than 3 months). One great resource is John Bettelle’s book “The Search” and his blog http://battellemedia.com


SEO is basis a simple funda- your (read as site) is worth basis how many recommendations (read as backlinks) that you get. In the sphere of social media, getting the site recommendations will gain precedence over the work done by “Google Bots”. Hence if you are looking at SEO, start dirtying you hands with Social Media as well. Gain and nurture well wishers and advocates for your site who will get you that relevant ranking on search engines.

Pay Per Click, is what made Google what it is and changed the way we look at internet marketing. It is measurable, it is very instant and very powerful. Here you can bid the price that you want to pay if a guy clicks on the Google ad, arriving at this price is very scientific and a combination of the part of net return that you can put on table vs your competition and the demand for that product. Invest in identifying these keywords, the moment you start your business. These would almost be like a portfolio of keywords that can act as drivers for your business. If you are regular at this game, you will soon realise how to target the mindset of your TG (by looking at the keyword). But mind you, this is only 20% of the clicks (traffic) rest 80% is free as SEO.

There are good number of agencies which help in Pay Per click campaigns- Webchutney (highly recommended), Quasar and also GroupM (more for brand campaign). If you have crossed 15 lacs as the total spends on Google SEM, you should be looking at an automated solution- Efficient Frontier (highly recommended) and DGM work on these lines. I had also come across on other agency called Net Elixer, which had a similar model. All these platforms have unique optimisation algorithms, which optimise towards a goal. For an ecommerce platform, it is easy, as we are only looking at conversions/products sold. However for a brand advertiser, the goal will be different.

SEO and SEM should work in tandem. Though initially you will have to focus on SEM, as the results come faster and it is fun to see the numbers increase every day. SEO on the other hand will pick up slowly, but very high on conversions (double of what you will get through SEM). SEO and SEM combination works the best. For High conversion keywords, one needs to be present on both natural as well as paid listing. As your SEO campaign starts picking up, you would have to move lower converting SEM keywords into SEO. Over a period of time you will get the best mix which gives the best ROI.


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