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SES – Issues In Analytics

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In this final day session, search engine experts discussed on important issues related to Analytics.

Moderator:

  • Alex Bennert, Beyond Link

Speakers:

  • Eric Enge, Stone Temple Consulting
  • John Marshall, Market Motive
  • Avinash Kaushik, Occam’s Razor Blog
  • Jonah Stein, Alchemist Media

In the beginning of the session, Alex Bennert, reveals that she has changed the name of the panel from, ‘Analyzing the Analytics Partners’ to ‘Issues in Analytics’.

Speaker, John Marshall was the first one to highlight his point of views. He made the listeners walk through the anatomy of a click. Many technical information were put forward by him to let people know why the data they get from the tools never matches the real number of clicks.

Assumptions:

  • Everyone is using PPC ads with tracking parameters.
  • Have a functional Web site
  • Use of modern Web analytics tools

With these above mentioned assumptions, he started his explanation to make users understand why the numbers don’t match. John Marshall made it clear that he is not going to discuss anything on cover breakage in ROI, cookies and cookie deletion. His main focus is nothing behind the single, solitary, lone first click – the click that gets users into the site.

He explains that when you click on an ad, that click is sent to Google so that they can record it. The click is not immediately sent to the destination URL. The server then responds to the browser and redirects to the destination URL of the site. This gives users a 1 percent error right there, as the browsers would drop the redirect. Next, the browser executes the redirect. There is also a DNS lookup, as there can be a probability that the user might not have visited the site before. There are also some sites that redirects to hide tracking URLs, so that users can view a pretty site. When you do that the browsers responds by giving users just the home page. This may work well if one is using Apache. John Marshall doesn’t recommend it and he says that if one is using IE6 or JavaScript, one will not be able to track, as the URL that appears in the address bar is the thing they’re tracking against. Moreover, if one strips off the query string, he get nothing. So, it advisable not to do that.

As the browser always request for landing page, the log file based solution with around 5 percent error will sometimes be cached. Now the browser renders the landing page. It grabs all the elements, including the JavaScript. There is a possibility, that one can fail on JavaScript about 10 percent of the time, as the JavaScript have many round trips it has to do across the Internet, so if any one of those fails, one loses the data. John Marshall says the main reason for why the tracking never matches is a complex one. It is basically due to the fact that the more moving parts you have, the higher the number of errors you’ll get. One does not have to worry much for numbers not matching up. He pointed out that Logs and JavaScript are equally inaccurate. Logs are better for catching click fraud. Largest contribute to error is implementation of JavaScript. Watch for redirection. It’s not always a good thing.

Eric Enge was the next one to speak on the occasion. He starts by posing a hypothetical:

There is a Company A that gets $1,000/day in PPC revenue. They want to use analytics to find the best converting keywords and prune poor converting words. The analytics package reports $800 in PPC revenue. Can they trust the data?

Company A is buying another Company B, who says they have 50k uniques a day. Company A earns $.25 uniques and projects they’ll earn 12.5K a day from the acquisition. The acquisition closes and A puts their analytics on B sites. A’s packages shows only 40K a day.

Eric Enge after citing his hypothesis, came up with some questions, like:

  • What do you do about this?
  • You want to cross check and calibrate.
  • You don’t want to use your analytics package to tell you what your total revenue is. Put a parameter on the URL for PPC visitors.
  • And for the situation above, you want to put your analytics on their site so you know what you’re getting.

He explains his point of view to the audiences with the help of a recent analytics report, that he ahs compiled with the help of SEOmoz. Sources of data variance:

- Bad or ambiguous data.

  • Some data is thrown out.
  • Packages make judgment calls

- Session tracking timeout.

  • Industry standard is 30 minutes/ some use 15 minutes
  • New search engine visit starts a new session?

- Too many judgment calls.

Important sources of error include implementation problems, misunderstanding the terminology and JavaScript placement. The main issue that has to be understand is the delay before execution – users may move on before the JavaScript has time to execute. 1.4 second delay equals 2-4%. The best practice is to put your JavaScript at the bottom of page.

For, Eric Enge the recipe for success are accept that analytics comes with errors, know that trend analysis works, eliminate the implementation error, learn the terminology of your vendor, focus on the strengths, pick actionable KPIs, measure errors, cross check and calibrate and use judgment.

Jonah Stein was the next speaker to speak on the occasion. For him the main objective of analytics is to provide a rational basis for decision making so that one can easily maximize the ability to obtain campaign objectives.

He made it very clear in the beginning that the prices range from "zero" to "a lot" and integration, testing and deployment ranges from "hours" to "lots of hours". The Analytics packages contain many assumptions that always affect results. You have to find the right one. To do so, you can set up all the packages on your site and compare the results. This is a time consuming process and it requires a lot of implementation. To came up with the right thing to compare is not the only solution for the problem. There were some questions put forwarded by him like:

  • How are you going to compare them?
  • What is the baseline you are comparing against?
  • Visits?
  • Unique Visitors?
  • Page Views?

For most of the people, what happens is that the only thing that they want to compare is conversions. Jonah Stein pointed that if you’re planning to compare tools, always make sure they are starting at the same time, otherwise you’ll be looking at different samples. He cited the examples of IndexTools and ClickTracks that still show sales with no revenue. Google has stopped doing this and ClickTracks only captures revenue for the first transaction in a session.

For Auditing Conversions:

  • Make sure you have a unique identifier for each order.
  • Create two tables, one for each tool.
  • Join all the invoices that match.
  • Add all invoices unique to table one.
  • Add all invoices with number two.

For PPC conversion auditing:

  • Join tables at the keyword level.
  • Invoice the invoices at the keyword level.
  • Google analytics will not give you keyword level invoice Ids.
  • Overall results are fairly close.
  • Analytics systems need to be tuned and refined to capture ROI.
  • Follow the warning level.
  • Analytics vendors do too much.
  • Analytics should not be relied on for ROI calculation.

Best way to measure ROI, according to Jonah Stein are:

  • AdWords Conversion Track captures the most conversions with a 30 day cookie.
  • Capture campaign & Keyword to your own cookie.
  • Bring the data into your CRM database.
  • Save marketing data at the earliest touch.
  • Incentives to determine source at every touch.

All of these tools are the best ways to bring data into your customer management system.

The last one to speak was Avinash Kaushik. He started with “logging” and the reason people moved away from Web logs. He pointed that it is mostly due to the fact that marketers don’t want to look at stats so they move to a tag world.

There are some other ways to collect data – packet sniffers. This is a decent way to collect data but they haven’t caught on, as they require a lot of IT involvement. People like hybrid forms of collecting data. Still, it is really hard to pull off as it is not easy to put everything together and try to get something that’s readable. Avinash Kaushik made it clear that on paper, hybrids sound like a good idea but they’re hard to implement.

Current players in Web analytics are Google, WebTrends, Omniture, Coremetrics, Indextools, Webside story, Unica, Microsoft, etc. In this tough competition, even though one have many Web analytics vendors, it’s getting harder to monetize. It is becoming hard to make money as an analytics provider due to silos. As, most companies are approaching Web analytics like it is God gift and they don’t care about doing anything with the data. They don’t even want to know how to analyze the information they’re getting. It’s causing a challenge in the field. This is a very early stage of Web analytics, and the evolution is not yet complete.

Avinash Kaushik lists the best parts related to the Web analytics programs out there, like:

  • Omniture: One of the big companies in the space. They’re moving beyond clickstream analysis. Automated action “taking”.
  • WebTrends: Marketing optimization. Give us your search spend.
  • WebSideStory/Visual Sciences: HBX plugin: Custom Excel reports. Visual Science is God’s gift to analysis.
  • CoreMetrics: Got retail? Lifetime Individual Visitor Experience.
  • IndexTools: Custom reporting, anything by anything. Enterprise for the cost of little.
  • ClickTracks: Ease of use. Unleashing the power of segmentation.
  • Microsoft: Visual, Free. Demographic Segmentation.
  • Google Analytics: Data democracy. Best of breed search analytics.

Quite an interesting session.

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SES – Issues In Analytics
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About Navneet Kaushal
Nav is the founder and CEO of PageTraffic, a premier search engine company known for its assured SEO service, web design and development, copywriting and full time SEO professionals.

Navneet has wide experience in natural search engine optimization, internet marketing and PPC campaigns. He is a prolific writer and his articles can be found in the "Best Articles" section of many websites and article banks. As a search engine analyst , he has over 9 years of experience and his knowledge is in application here. WebProNews Writer
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