Tracking Santa’s Web Analytics

    December 9, 2008
    Chris Crum

The North American Aerospace Defense Command, otherwise known as NORAD is tracking Santa Claus’s rounds this year, keeping up a tradition that has been going on for 53 years. Mike Sachoff explains:

The tradition of tracking Santa began as an accident in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. ad for children to call Santa misprinted the phone number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in Chief’s operations "hotline." The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check radar for Santa making his way south from the North Pole.

They’ve been tracking the fat jolly guy ever since, and over the last couple years, they’ve begun working with Google by way of Google Maps and Google Earth, but Google has now announced that NORAD relies on Google Analytics as well. A post at the Google Analytics Blog says:

Initially, the Santa Tracking team at NORAD implemented Google Analytics last year because they simply wanted to see how many visitors came to the site. But they got a lot more out of it. We spoke with Major Stacia Reddish, NORAD Tracks Santa Program Manager, after Christmas last year. "For us, 2007 was a benchmark because we didn’t have analytics data before. It will be really interesting and useful to compare last year’s statistics to this year’s." Last year, the website was featured in 6 languages and it literally got traffic from all over the world, which NORAD learned from Google Analytics. "In 2007 we had visitors from 212 countries and territories with the majority of traffic from the US, UK, and Canada," Major Reddish told us. "We logged almost 11 million visits!"

Major Reddish said that Google Analytics has been invaluable for planning and evolving the site. For instance, last year, the team made a goal to translate the site into at least one additional language for this year. But which language would be most helpful to visitors? Google Analytics reported that visitors from China spent twice as long on site as the average. So Chinese was chosen as the additional language option for 2008.


Last year’s visits to NORAD’s Santa Tracking site came from
every country on the planet, denoted by areas in green

Google is all about the holidays this year. They’ve been offering a ton of tips on different products, like Google Mobile (including video tips, which they’ve been tailoring specifically toward holiday situations). They’ve released holiday-themed templates for Google Docs, and of course the NORAD thing. Google’s never been one to shy away from the holidays, but it’s almost as if they’re looking to become tradition, like the Santa Claus Coke cans, Budweiser Clydesdales, and marathons of a Christmas Story.