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Web Analytics Tool Evaluation

By Gary Angel

Tracking People not Behaviors

The language of web analytics is driven, to a large extent, by the tool vendors. When you use a tool, you are naturally going to adopt the language of the tool - to do anything else would be cumbersome and probably ridiculous. But that language hasn't always served the community well. In the post on Segment Reporting, for example, I noted how misleading and confusing the concept of time-period uniques (daily uniques, weekly uniques, etc.) is. There is a similar, though slightly less damaging confusion around visitor segmentation - one that obscures a serious deficiency in most analytic tools.

In the common language of web analytic tools, a visitor segment is taken to be the set of visitors who meet certain behavioral criteria (the segment definition). But this isn't quite the way visitor segments are actually implemented. It would be more precise to say that a visitor segment in a web analytics tool is a set of filter criteria that can be attached to a report (possibly any report) to remove any visitors not matching the filter set. Is there a difference between these two definitions?

I think there is - and here's why.

Suppose you want to track the behavior on the SEMphonic web site of visitors who viewed the webinar I did with Paul Bruemmer on SEO measurement and Process. Let's say the link to the webinar was posted on the site in November and, presumably, will remain there for at least a few months. In January of next year, you sit down and build a segment of visitors who clicked on the link to view the webinar. You want to see their behavior before they viewed the webinar and you want to see their behavior after - and your main interest is in seeing if the webinar drove online lead generation and your secondary interest is in understanding how viewing the webinar changed visitor's behavior.

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This seems like a classic web analysis problem. It's the type of problem web analysts' are asked to study over and over again - with the only real changes being the qualifying behavior and the conversion behavior. And it seems like the kind of problem that visitor segmentation is going to solve.

Seemingly, all you have to do is a setup a visitor segment where the qualifying behavior is "viewed the webinar." Start your segment in October (so you get behavior prior to the webinar) and either run it forward to whenever you're doing the analysis or pick some "close" date like the end of January (behavior after the webinar). With that segment in hand, you can run a report of site usage for the segment. That gives you a profile of "webinar users" behavior. You compare that to overall site usage and you've got your comparison of "webinar" vs. "non-webinar" users. If lots of visitors view the webinar, you can create a negative segment of visitors with the qualifying behavior "did not view the webinar" to get a cleaner contrast. You can also compare how many of the webinar visitors generated a lead (a conversion event) vs. either all users or the "non-viewed" segment. That gives you a measure of how effective the webinar was in driving lead conversion. So it seems like you're done.

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About the Author:
Gary Angel is the author of the "SEMAngel blog - Web Analytics and Search Engine Marketing practices and perspectives from a 10-year experienced guru.

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