Getting % New Visit Trend in SiteCatalyst

Not exactly cutting-edge SiteCatalyst manipulation, but a basic yet not-so-obvious technique that may be helpful, particularly to new users migrating from something like Google Analytics.

Percent new visits

[Wow, long time no blog post. Good to be back at it…all part of the New Year plan!]

Once of the most basic segmentation dimensions in web analytics the differentiation between new and return visits. Understanding the different types of behaviour of new vs return visitors can be critical in understanding how people are interacting with your site and then taking steps to optimize accordingly, based on your objectives. As always, different web analytics tools deal with new vs return visitor metrics in different ways. SiteCatalyst, for one, does not make it easy to tell at a glance your % of new/return visits.

With Google Analytics, % new visits is right there in the default dashboard. In GA v5, it even gets its own pie chart, in addition to spark line, right out of the box:

Percent New Visits - GA

% New Visits on Google Analytics dashboard

Meanwhile, in SiteCatalyst (at least up to v14), things are not as clear. This is not to say information on new vs return visits is not available: indeed, there are a slew of reports in the ‘Visitor Retention’ section, such as Return Frequency, Return Visits, Daily Return Visits, and Visit number that provide some great, detailed insight into visitor behaviour. But these suffer from lack of context or unnecessary level of granularity if I’m just trying to gauge the overall balance of site traffic in order to decide where to prioritize my efforts.

Probably the best option is the getNewRepeat plug-in that Omniture offers (search for ‘getnewrepeat’ in the Omniture Knowledge Base), but this requires additional implementation and may not be feasible.

So here is a little tip to demonstrate how to fiddle with SiteCatalyst just a bit to get an easy-access report on % New Visits:

1. Go to ‘Visitor Retention’>’Visit Number‘ – select ‘Visits (Report Specific)’ as your metric (of course this same process could be used for Revenue or other metric). If you select ‘Percent’ in the Graph options, you can see right away that x% of visits are ‘1st Visit’: i.e. NEW visits/visitors. But this is just a snapshot for the selected period, and it is usually more informative to see the trend over time.

Percent new visit ranked

% Visits ranked by Visit Number in SiteCatalyst (1st Visit = New Visits)

2. Using the ‘Trended / Ranked’ option, select ‘Trended’ – now you can see how the % 1st Visit (NEW visits) is changing over time and take action accordingly.

Percent New Visit Trend

% Visits by Visit Number Trend in SiteCatalyst

3. Add to bookmark or dashboard for quick access in future and ‘Bob’s your uncle’.

A couple other related things:

  • as bonus info, by default SiteCatalyst shows the % of visits for each of the top 5 visit numbers; you can use ‘Select Item’ on the ‘Report’ tab to filter on ‘1st Visit’ only if you want to focus attention, but having the higher visit numbers visible can signal where the increases/decreases in the % New Visits is coming from/going to.
  • if you want to look beyond visits to outcomes (which of course we do!), it is simply a matter of selecting another metric using ‘Add Metrics’ and you can see what % of revenue, for example, came from new visits vs 2nd visits, etc.

So What?

So now that we are able to quickly monitor our % new visits, the big question becomes: what to do about it? Depending on your goals, starting point, and context of other metrics, the interesting pattern shown in the chart above may be good or bad. If you are prioritizing acquisition of new customers, a declining trend in % new visits may indicate lack of success in your efforts. If you are focused on developing relationships with customers and bringing them back to your site, a decrease in % new visits may be a reason to pat yourself on the back, and continue your visitor retention efforts. It’s all about balance, though: the trend toward the end may be a signal to keep an eye on this metric and watch for the point where it makes sense to step up the visitor acquisition initiatives to fuel longer-term growth.

A company I know was focused on attracting new visitors, and the trends for both new visits and overall visits were up up up. But a quick look at the % New Visits report showing near 80% New Visits highlighted the fact that few of these new visitors were returning: time to re-balance efforts to ensure that new visitors are finding content that will keep them coming back.

So being able to track your % New Visits can be quite useful, and in case you didn’t know how to do this easily within SiteCatalyst, now you do. 🙂

Rise and Fall of the Yahoo! Web Analytics Forum

The Web Analytics Forum on Yahoo! Groups was started back in 2004 by one of the giants of the web analytics industry, Eric Peterson. Since then, it has been a major hub for web analytics community news, events, and discussion – so much so that Avinash Kaushik was included “You have not only heard of the Yahoo! Web Analytics group, but 20 minutes of each day is spent reading all the posts”  as item #9 in his Top Ten: Signs You are a Great Analyst.

After being out of the loop of the Web Analytics Forum for a while due to some email changes, I was recently reminded of the relevance of this forum and subscribed again for daily updates. While doing so, I noticed some interesting stats on message history that are shown at the bottom of the home page. Being the type of person who processes data much better when it is visually represented, rather than being shown as numbers in a table (as I believe most of us are), I dropped the data into Excel and created the quick chart shown above.

I was disheartened to see that although message volume on the forum grew fairly steadily from inception in 2004 up until April, 2008, it has trended down since then. I have to admit that I have never posted a message to the forum, so I am as much a part of the problem as anybody, but from a community member perspective it is disappointing to see this resource waning. No doubt it is at least partly a result of the rise of social media and the resulting fragmentation of communications, but the Web Analytics Forum has a valuable role to play, in my opinion, as a central repository of current – and historical – information related to the practice of web analytics.

So I will continue following the Web Analytics Forum, looking for opportunities to jump in when I have something useful to add, and I hope others will do the same.

And to the forum founder Eric Peterson, as well as all those who have followed in his footsteps and contributed valuable information and insights to the Web Analytics forum in the past, present, and future…THANK YOU!

Using PadiTrack to Measure Site Navigation

PadiTrack is an easy to use, free tool that enables you to extend Google Analytics with more flexible goal funnels and other navigation path tracking.

PadiTrack offers several advantages over Google Analytics for setting up goal funnels:

1. Historical data – with Google Analytics, setting up a goal funnel means the data is reported starting the day the funnel is set up, so no historical data is available. With PadiTrack, you can set the date range as far back as your Google Analytics data goes.

2. Segmentation – advanced segments can’t be applied to funnels in Google Analytics, but PadiTrack provides the opportunity to apply segments, including custom advanced segments that you have set up in your Google Analytics profile! (Late-breaking: the *new* Google Analytics now in beta allows for segmentation of goal funnels – but it’s not fully rolled out yet.)

These strengths make PadiTrack a powerful tool for monitoring progress down the goal funnel, but also make it very useful for understanding navigation from one page to another.  This especially applies if you have a dynamic site and want to understand the movement of visitors from one page ‘type’ to another. For example, you may have ‘product category‘ pages with URLs like ‘www.site.com/category.php?cat_id=111‘ and ‘product detail‘ pages that have URLs like ‘www.site.com/product.php?prod_id=123‘. If you want to know frequently visitors go from category to product pages, you have several options:

  1. Simple calculation: If the only way a visitor can get to a product detail page is via a category page, the calculation is straightforward, based on unique pageviews of each type in the Content Report. But modern sites are rarely so strictly laid out, since we usually want prospects/customers to be able to get to product detail pages via search (off-site or on-site) or other convenient means.
  2. Set up a Google Analytics Goal Funnel either with with product detail pages as end goal, or as part of larger goal. Sensible approach, but doesn’t help if you want to see last month’s results in order to make a decision on testing priorities. Also, only the first step can be set as required, so it is not uncommon to see leakages in to the funnel steps from pages that are not previous steps. And you can’t segment the funnel data – at least not until you have access to the new features currently in Beta.
  3. Use the ‘Navigation Summary’ report, which is helpful in getting a sense of flow through a given page. But it only applies to individual pages (including previous and next), is based only on clicks, and only shows a limited number of pages in the ‘next’ list. The ‘class’ of pages we want to measure may be dispersed over a large number of individual pages.
  4. Use ‘In Page Analytics’: again, only one page at a time and, while it can be a helpful visualization, tends to be an unreliable data source.
  5. PadiTrack gets around all these issues! You can use various match type options or regular expressions to identify page types by URL or Page Title (bonus!), select your desired date range, and *boom* dat’s it. For more granularity, you can filter by top referrer or top keyword or apply GA advanced segments.
Paditrack select page

Example: setting up first step in PadiTrack

Once you set up your steps – as few as 2 or as many as 5 – PadiTrack will create the funnel on the fly for your chosen date range:

PadiTrack conversion funnel

PadiTrack Funnel/Navigation Path

So we can see in this case that about 15% of those visiting a category page went on to a product detail page during their visit. Depending on our expectations/goals, this may warrant testing changes to the category page design in order to improve flow-through to product details. Or you can extend the funnel by adding more steps (up to a total of 5) to assess further progress toward the end goal. Or you may compare this to other key navigation steps on your site to prioritize testing efforts. All easy to do, with results available in minutes.

Care to share any thoughts or experience with PadiTrack or other conversion funnel/navigation tools? Please do!

Google Analytics: Rewriting Page URLs to include ‘WWW’

Avoid disaggregating page data in Google Analytics by applying a filter to force all ‘www’ domains to be displayed in Content reports as ‘www’ version (http://www.mysite.com/page.html as opposed to mysite.com/page.html).

Out of the box, Google Analytics displays URLs in Content reports without using the domain name (‘page1.html’ instead of ‘http://www.mysite.com/page1.html‘) . This makes sense in most cases, since it is redundant and you probably know what your domain name is. However, there are a variety of situations where you may want to display the full domain name, most commonly when your site is spread across multiple subdomains. (http://www.mysite.com, store.mysite.com, blog.mysite.com, etc.)

It is easy enough to add a filter to your profile that will cause the full domain/subdomain to show up in your Content reports. (And, of course, if you want to track across multiple domains and subdomains, you’ll need to modify your GA tracking code to accommodate this.)

Potential Issue: Page Data Split Between Two Versions

All well and good, but there is an issue that arises when the full URLs are displayed in Content reports on sites where visitors can access the site at both ‘www.mysite.com’ and ‘mysite.com‘. As a result of these two versions of  the domain, the same page may be reported on separately, in the ‘www’ and ‘non-www’ versions:

Page data split between www and non-www

In the example above, the same page is shown in two separate versions, one with 16 pageviews and one with 6 pageviews. Not cool.

For search engine optimization,  this causes canonicalization issues and is best dealt with via 301 redirect. However, this may not always be possible – at least in the near term, particularly if you don’t have access to your server settings – and you may want to have your data as accurate and relevant as possible NOW.

Solution

By applying an additional filter ahead of the filter that adds the domain to the adds the domain to the URI, we can force Google Analtyics to include the ‘www’ at the beginning of the domain in cases where it is not already present. The desired result:

Page data consolidate as 'www'

Here we can see that the data for ‘default.aspx’, previously split between two ‘pages’ in the report, is now consolidated to give us a more relevant picture of what is happening with visitors to the site: 22 pageviews of this page (16 + 6). Aaahh…that feels better!

Two Filters Used: one to add ‘www’, one to show full URL

This solution was reached by applying two straightforward filters to the GA profile:

1. A filter to recognize situations where the hostname starts with the ‘raw’ domain without ‘www’ (‘fig4.com’ in this example) and then adds ‘www’ at the beginning of the hostname in these situations. This filter will not add ‘www’ in cases where it is already present, nor will it add ‘www’ in cases where the page is on a subdomain. It does assume that you have a single domain, so it would have to be modified in the case of cross-domain traffic. It also assumes that you want to add ‘www’ to all URLs, as opposed to removing ‘www’ from all URLs. If you prefer no ‘www’, just flip the fields around.

Filter 1: Add the WWW

2. The usual filter for displaying the full URL including domain. I have included a leading ‘/’ in the Output To -> Constructor – this is not typically recommended in official documentation, but I did see it recommended somewhere by one of the big names in the field, so I figured I should try it and have seen no adverse affects.

Filter 2 - included domain

That’s all there is to it. Works for me and I hope it will work for you, but let me know if you have any feedback.

This post goes out to my friends at www.CIGNA.com (or CIGNA.com if you prefer 🙂 ).


#Fail:

One approach that I had high hopes for didn’t pan out. Not sure why:

Filter attempt with search and relpace that didn't work

Web Analytics Usage: Recent Data on Tools & Tagging

Web analytics landscape: Audience poll in a recent webinar shows Google Analytics at 75% market share, while another webinar highlights the prevalence of sites with multiple analytics tools implemented.

Web Analytics Tool Usage

Mediative (formerly Enquiro) recently presented a webinar called ‘Analytics and Reporting – How to Define Metrics…‘ as part of its B2B Expert Series.  Insightful presentation, as always. During the broadcast, viewers were offered the opportunity to complete a poll and indicate the analytics platform they are using. Here are the results, from January 25, 2011:

Mediative Webinar Web Analytics Market Share

Source: Mediative webinar 'Analytics and Reporting'; Jan. 25, 2011

Not surprisingly, Google Analytics is the dominator, being a widely known and freely available solution. The result is a 75% market share for Google Analytics with this audience. The major paid solutions fall into line pretty much as expected, with Adobe’s Omniture at 10%, Webtrends and 4%, and IBM’s Coremetrics on less that 1% of the sites polled. Red-headed step-child Yahoo! Web Analytics was not offered as an option in the poll, but presumably comprises some portion of the 4% in the ‘Other’ category, along with Unica and…others. A little disturbing to see in this day and age that 6% of the sites of the participants in the poll have no web analytics.

I don’t know the size or composition of this audience, so it’s hard to say how representative this data is. Mediative webinars usually attract an audience in the hundreds, from a fairly broad cross-section of industries and company sizes, so this is probably not too far off the mark for North American business sites in general.

One thing poll respondents weren’t offered was the chance to indicate more than one analytics solution. Would be interesting to see how that option would change results – I suspect it would skew the results even more toward Google Analytics, since it is not unusual for sites with a paid solution in place to use GA as a back-up/alternative.  The ‘Other’ category would probably get a boost as well, especially if people included things like voice of customer or audience measurement tools.

Site Tagging for Web Analytics

Coincidentally, in another webinar on the very same day, Eric Peterson (Web Analytics Demystified) referenced data on the number of sets of tracking tags that companies nowadays typically carry on their sites. This was in a presentation called ‘The Myth of the Universal Tag’, hosted by Josh Manion of Ensighten and also featuring Brandon Bunker (Sony). Lots of thought-provoking info on the value of tag management systems, but the data in question showed that almost 1/2 of the top 100 internet retailers have 3 or more sets of web analytics tags on their sites, and 85% have 2 or more sets. Since these are large, presumably sophisticated sites, they may be expected to have more tracking tags placed on their pages, but the overwhelming extent to which this is happening suggests that it is likely common on smaller sites, as well, which is supported by observation.

ObservePoint, Web Analytics Tagging, Top 100 Internet Retailers

Source: Whitepaper 'When More is Not Better: Page Tags' by Eric Peterson, sponsored by ObservePoint

This data originated from ObservePoint and was previously published in a paper called ‘When More Is Not Better: Page Tags’, written by Eric Peterson and sponsored by ObservePoint.

Conclusion

So a couple of snapshots of the current state of the web analytics landscape: lots of solutions in play, and lots of sites leveraging multiple solutions. No doubt further consolidation will proceed in the industry, although it is likely that new tools will also emerge, so it will be interesting to see how the market share relationships change over time.  Tagging of sites with multiple tools will no doubt continue and possibly expand, so it will be interesting to see how the use of tag management solutions evolves to deal with this proliferation.