Building Online Community

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Building Online Community

A How-to Guide: Using webstats to build online community

Build and measure community: Strategies to attract visitors
‘Customer loyalty’ – getting visitors to return
Target audience behavior: Understand your clients and community
Visualize your website as a store
Learn from traffic patterns
Content management based on traffic statistics

Building (and measuring) a community of visitors to your site

One secret of sites like Facebook, Amazon, ebay, Twitter, and Yahoo is ‘customer loyalty’, which means a community of returning visitors. These sites have generated trust.

To begin replicating this process for your own site, benchmark your traffic community based on the variables outlined below.

This is the point of tracking: evaluate your marketing strategy (i.e. site content) based on performance in terms of what your visitors do on your most important pages. What do they do just before they convert from visitors to clients?

Click here for an in-depth analysis of how to Use Statistics for Decision-making.

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Customer loyalty and returning visitors

Some sites we measure have a very good returning visitor ratio of 30-40%. This group of visitors is their customer client-base, the community. So, if a community has 100,000 members, over a given period of time, two months for example, then you have the population of a small city coming to your site and returning. This means that people are actively using the info in some way. The useful aspect of this information could not be deduced from ‘pageviews’ alone, but is only interesting when the pageviews are correlated to unique visitors. This will tell you, for example, how many pages the average visitor views.

Understand target audience behavior

There are road signs to tell you how a community is behaving. A community comprised of first-time visitors has few variables. All you know at this stage is that your campaign generates first-time visitors. The best investment is to try and build a community of returning visitors and study their behavior. We have a community at opentracker that returns on a regular basis. If this community starts to visit our site less frequently and for shorter periods of time, using less information, we will take a look at the indicators and evaluate why such changes are taking place.

Visualize your website as a store with real people coming in & out

Visualizing a store and actual humans is a good way to measure the performance of your site, and to try & visualize what people are actually doing in your store. The trick here is to remember that the numbers are generated by people. Are these people doing what your site is designed for? What is the ultimate conversion goal that you have set for your site? From which page on your site do the most people ‘convert’ as you want them to? Is there a banner or link that is most frequently clicked on? This single piece of information is tremendously valuable. Click here to read more about Website Visitor Conversion Activity.

Learn from traffic patterns

One statistic that can give you an idea of what people are doing is the list that tells you which pages are being looked at most. This tells you which part of your store is most popular. Imagine pages as shelves or sections of your store. Do you have ‘staff’ or help resources to help people make decisions? The pages that are heavily trafficked should receive the most of your attention when you manage your content. Keep in mind, also, that while certain pages do have a lot of pageviews, they are perhaps viewed by a minority of people. It is therefore not smart to focus on these pages, simply because they have a lot of pageviews. For instance we measure numerous sites with forums & chat pages that continually refresh, thus generating many pageviews from relatively few people. These pages do not need attention in the way of marketing optimisation.

Content management based on statistics

The most interesting statistics tell what is happening on your pages: how long people stay. Average viewing time above 20 seconds is very good. Most people click away in less that 10 seconds. Therefore, if people are reading & returning, then you know that the site is being used, people are continually coming back to check for information or research / make purchases. You know which information is the most important, generating more interest. A newspaper has no way of knowing how much time its readers spend on a page, this is a wonderful comparative advantage for a website. The goal is to take your stats & use them to improve your marketing strategies.
  1. Identify important pages.
  2. Evaluate their performance based on statistics.
Further reading: Here is an article we wrote on How to Make Statistics Work for you.

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Traffic Conversion: Return on Investment (ROI)

Traffic Conversion: Return on Investment (ROI)

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Summary overview

In this article, you will find information about:

  • What is a conversion rate?
  • How to improve your conversion rate
  • Conversion rates for pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
  • Conversion as a measurement of ROI
  • ‘Desired actions’ and ‘shortened paths to actions’
  • Drop-off points and leaks

Return on Investment (ROI)

Just like a brick-and-mortar business, a website needs careful management to ensure commercial success. Content management decisions should be based on web metrics, not guesswork. Setting measurable business goals and monitoring progress will help you to build a website that generates revenue.

Your website conversion rate tells you how many of your visitors are being ‘converted’ from visitors into clients, customers, leads, or subscribers.

If you purchase your traffic through a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertisingcampaign, or invest money into website management, then a visitor who has been converted into a client, or completed a purchase (an action known as a ‘desired outcome’) is a return on your investment.

A well built PPC advertising campaign with optimized search terms can bring you visitors at an acquisition cost of pennies-per-click.

Once visitors are on your site, optimized navigability is necessary to ensure that the traffic you worked so hard to drive to your website also finds what they want (provided that you have it).

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An important feature of Opentracker that will assist you in this process is clickstream analysis. How many clicks stand between your visitors and the outcome that you desire? Are there obvious drop-off points between ‘add-to-cart’ events and checkout? A drop-off point, or a leak, is a place where visitors leave your site, but are not intended to do so. In some cases eliminating a click, leak, or drop-off place will lead to a substantial increase in conversion rate.

The idea is to identify bottlenecks and shorten the path to desired actions.

Steps to Improve Conversion Rate:

  • Reduce the number of clicks to your desired action
  • Identify drop-off points and eliminate them
  • Identify bottlenecks and improve traffic flow

Learn about your Conversion Rate:

  • What percentage of your visitors are converted?
  • What is your best source of converted visitors?

Learn about Visitors who Converted:

  • Study the visitors who complete specified actions and become clients
  • Do they come from a specific advertisement or search engine
  • Do they return?
  • Learn what your ‘model visitor’ looks like

Making informed business and content management decisions can make your webiste a profitable enterprise. In essence, conversion metrics are about finding out what works and putting your advertising dollars there. Use your statistics to track your progress over time. Measure a campaign from start to finish, evaluate, update your site, and measure again.

Glossary:
ROI
Goal
Conversion
Source

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Website Market Position

Website Market Position

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Understanding your website and business environment

In part one of Change Creates Growth we promised practical tips for increasing traffic in current internet conditions (characterized as Web 2.0).

To provide tips specific to your website we have developed a worksheet: a series of questions you need to ask. The answers will help determine your needs and choices.

Article navigation

Executive summary
Web 2.0 – new business models
Study your market sector
Trendwatch: why do big companies buy small companies?
Staying competitive

Executive summary: in a nutshell

The goal of this article is to stimulate growth and change on your website.

In Web 2.0 spirit we compiled a list of the best resources we found on subjects covered here. The resource list is located in the worksheet linked below.

You will also find a list of links to websites that provide insight to these issues.
Click here to proceed directly to the worksheet.

General introduction: Your internet market sector

Study statistics for your sector of the internet. An analysis of your environment will help you plan, for example where to advertise :: go where people are. Ask why people are going where they go and determine if there is overlap with what your website does. Incorporate information about your environment into your strategy. How does your website fit in your market sector? How do you stack up to the competition?

Example. Do you have a yoga studio or sell yoga products? Are there social networking sites or forums about yoga? Where do players in your field advertise? The way people exchange and obtain information is evolving. Evolve with it.

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Industry trends: Why do big companies buy the interesting new sites?

Why should you be interested in where people go and what they do there?

Why do large companies such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo buy the popular networking and social sites? These companies are interested in where people are going in order to control what happens there, ie advertising and content management, to be close to where the action is. Statistics and tracking are used in order to understand and influence what is happening. These companies want to sell ads; they need traffic in order to do this. Advertising is central to all these activities and in determining acquisitions. The big players must control traffic in order to fulfill business goals.

How Can Small Companies Compete In This Environment?

Use your understanding of the environment to make decisions – where to advertise, how to participate, how to find overlap between your website mission and current trends. One current trend is social networking sites – facebook, myspace, linkedIn, last.fm, etc. What are people doing on these sites and how can webmasters strategise and react to the new ways people are using the internet?

Bottom line: How can information about what is changing be useful to you? Research and learn where and how traffic moves, for free (Alexa) or paid (Hitwise). Large companies use this information to make decisions. Information about what is working and what is not working is important to the industry.

Are you located in the best environment? Your environment will determine your success. Note that Quality remains very important. See, for example, recent interviews with Google CEO Eric Schmidt who emphasizes that Google are still seeing higher conversion rates and larger revenue when focusing on quality, as opposed to quantity. It is still important to bring traffic to your site, however it is equally if not more important to draw these visitors from the right part of the internet.

Ask questions: answers will provide direction

Click here for the worksheet Website Marketing Questions with related links.

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Tracking vs log analyzers

Tracking vs log analyzers

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Summarized overview

In this article you will find technical definitions of:

  • Unique visitor tracking
  • Log analysis
  • Human events

You will also find information about:

  • The difference between unique visitor tracking and log analysis
  • Why log analyzers show higher numbers
  • The difference between browser events and server events
  • Tracking unique visitors from behind corporate firewalls and ISPs
  • Advantages of using cookies to track unique visitors
  • Measuring page views instead of hits
  • Tracking spiders and bots
  • Opentracker specialization in human events and unique visitor behavior

Human events versus server activity

Why do tracking services show a lower number of visitors than statistics recorded by log analyzers? The answer lies in the difference between unique visitor tracking and log analyzing. Log analyzers record all measurable activity, whereas tracking services distinguish between human activity and server activity.

Tracking service stats will show lower numbers than log analyzer stats. This is not because tracking services record fewer visitors. The reason is that tracking services are stricter in their definitions of a visitor. A tracking service should do its best to ensure that no visitor is recorded twice, and that only human clicks are counted as visits.

The reason that tracking services will report lower traffic numbers than log files is because good tracking services do not recognize the following factors as unique visits or human events:

  • repeat unique visitors (after 24 hours)
  • hits
  • robot and spider traffic
  • rotating IP numbers (i.e. AOL)

Equally important is the ability to distinguish how many unique visitors are visiting from either:

  • the same ISP (Earthlink, At&t, Comcast, Cox, etc.)
  • corporate firewalls, large organizations (Microsoft, IBM, Apple, etc.)

Otherwise all these users will be counted as the same visitor. This is a differentiation which can only be made by tracking cookies.

Where possible, tracking systems should only measure human events.

For years now, the standard measurement of website traffic on the internet has been ‘hits’. Hits are not a reliable indicator of website traffic. A hit is a single request from a browser to a server. When a visitor looks at a single page, many hits can be generated, both for the request itself, and for each component of the page.

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Opentracker measures page views, not hits

Opentracker tracks page views. A page view is a single human event. A page view is also known as an impression. Each impression, or page view, represents an actual person who has viewed a specific web page. In this way, Opentracker differentiates between human events, and server-browser dialogues.

Opentracker specializes in human events and visitor behavior.

Opentracker tracks visitors over the long-term, and has the ability to recognize if a visitor has been at a site before. Opentracker uses browser cookies to track unique visitors over long periods of time. Examining a unique visitor’s clickstream, for example, can tell you how quickly new users adjust to site layout.

Drawbacks: we can miss visitors, in the event that a visitor clicks too quickly, i.e. does not wait for a page to load.

Case study

Example of a discrepancy between Opentracker and log analyzer

Log analyzers do not distinguish between humans, and spiders or bots. Spiders and bots are the devices sent out by search engines to scour and document all pages on the internet. This means that a log analyzer might record an extra several hundred visits for a given period, depending on the popularity of your site. The more popular that your site is, the more often it will be visited by search engine robots. This is especially true if your content is frequently updated.

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Using Statistics for Website Management

Using Statistics for Website Management

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How to get the most out of Opentracker

The question raised an interesting point: the purpose of a website tracking system. The point of using a visitor tracking and website stats program is to aid in the process of website management and decision-making. A good web metrics program should help you to manage and make decisions on a daily basis.

Q: “So I’ve added my 4 week trial to our web store pages now how do I get the most out of it? Any help would be greatly appreciated.”

A: To get the most out of your trial, and out of a site statistics and tracking program, you need to ask questions. The answers will provide you with a plan of action for your website management and help you to make decisions. The process of asking and answering questions is valuable and informative.

Ask yourself some basic questions about your website. The 3 most important answers will tell you:

  • who your visitors are
  • how they find you
  • what they are doing on your site

The answers will help you to make sure that your visitors find what they want when they arrive. Most importantly, the answers will tell you how to manage your content. Accountability and Decision-Making in Website Management

Since the ‘bubble burst’, IT budgets have been shrinking. It is no longer acceptable to simply put up a website and leave it there. Daily management is necessary. As the old maxim prescribes: ‘prevention is better than cure’. In this case it is better to utilize visitor tracking to anticipate traffic trends and be pro-active, instead of just reacting.

Accountability is important, as measuring results and effectiveness has become commonplace. “Show me the money” has become a part of webmaster vocabulary. The point is that decision-making needs to occur on a daily basis. Decisions need to be based upon what is known, not upon guessing. Updating your site, search engine optimization, and implementing a search engine marketing strategy are continuous activities that require micro-management.

Equally important is accountability from your Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising campaigns. Make sure that you are getting what you pay for. If your advertising campaign does not work, look at your data and change your management strategy.

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Important questions visitor tracking can answer

Below, we have drawn up a list of what we feel to be 10 important questions that you can answer using your website statistics. The answers will help you to make website content management decisions.

  1. Where do your visitors come from, where do they go, what do they look at, and what pages do they exit from? What do the clickstreams tell you?
  2. Where do people start and stop viewing, where do they lose interest?
  3. How sticky is your site? Overall site and page stickiness is important. Do you have problematic leaks or drop-off points?
  4. In other words, how good is your site navigability and usability?
  5. Which referrers and PPC advertising campaigns are the most effective? Are you paying for ineffective traffic? Are you using the best search terms possible? Determine which advertising campaigns are most effective and concentrate your investment strategy there.
  6. What are your conversion and retention rates?
  7. When you make changes to your site, what is the effect? If you are trying to get people’s attention, it is good to know how they react.
  8. What is the best time of week to start an email campaign or newsletter.
  9. Are your visitors looking for something you don’t sell? Perhaps you should consider selling it!
  10. Are your customers as satisfied as they can be?

Use your statistics for site management and decision-making

Your statistics are not only numbers. They are numbers that should help you to make actual site management decisions. Make changes to your website where necessary based on what your visitors are doing. If everybody leaves from one page, ask yourself why. If visitors are not surfing to the page you want them to see, make better links.

In conclusion, and to repeat the essential point of this article: the best way to make use of the data is to ask yourself questions about your statistics reports and to answer them. This process itself is valuable because it will tell you what information is being collected and lead you to ask important questions about

a) why the information is collected, and
b) what to do with it

To orient yourself to Opentracker, we recommend taking a look at the documentation.

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Clickstream or clickpath analysis

Clickstream or clickpath analysis

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Summarized overview

In this article you will find discussion and technical definitions of:

  • Clickstream analysis
  • Interactive clickstream graphing

And information about:

  • What a clickstream will tell you
  • How to use clickstream analysis to improve your site
  • Why analyze clickstreams
  • Questions that clickstream analysis can answer
  • Opentracker clickstream tool
  • Tracking individual clickstreams
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What is clickstream analysis?

Clickstreams, also known as clickpaths, are the route that visitors choose when clicking or navigating through a site.

A clickstream is a list of all the pages viewed by a visitor, presented in the order the pages were viewed, also defined as the ‘succession of mouse clicks’ that each visitor makes.

A clickstream will show you when and where a person came in to a site, all the pages viewed, the time spent on each page, and when and where they left.

Taken all together, as aggregated statistics, clickstream info will tell you, on average, how long people spend on your site, and how often they return. It will also tell you which pages are the most frequently viewed.

An interactive clickstream is a graphic representation of a clickstream; a list of pages seen in the order in which they were visited. The graphic allows you to click on the pages, and see what the visitor saw, hence the label ‘interactive’.

The most obvious reason for examining clickstreams is to extract specific information about what people are doing on your site. Examining individual clickstreams will give you the information you need to make content-related decisions without guessing.

There is a wealth of information to be analyzed, you can examine visitor clickstreams in conjunction with any of the information provided by a good stats program: visit durations, search terms, ISPs, countries, browsers, etc. The process will give you insight into what your visitors are thinking.

Examples of questions answered by clickstream analysis:

Q: What are people who enter my site with specific search terms doing when they get there?

A: Clickstream analysis will answer this question, and give you the opportunity to identify the search terms that are the most valuable for your site, by actually telling you how they perform. For example, if you sell widgets, and notice that a lot of people type in ‘blue widgets’ but leave without buying any, then you need to figure out why. Clickstream analysis will tell you where they come in, what they look at, and where they leave. It is up to you to figure out why they leave (also known as ‘shopping cart abandonment’). Maybe it’s because you don’t sell the particular model of widget they are after, which you may be able to see from the search term they entered.

You might also find, for example, notice that the visitors who are leaving all have screen resolutions of 800 x 600. Therefore, if you re-design your product display page, your visitors will be able to see the product pictures more easily.

Q: Why is my site not giving me the results I expect?

A: Perhaps you have a newsletter, and you would like your visitors to sign up, but nobody is signing up. Clickstream analysis will allow you to re-enact visitor click-streams. This ability to see exactly what your visitors see, and the order in which they see it, is great way to trouble shoot. You might notice for example, that most visitors only spend a few seconds on the newsletter sign-up page, or the page before it. The information that nobody spends any time on a page tells you that an update is necessary. It tells you whether or not you are including the correct amount of information on your pages. This is a crucial aspect of any website.

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Opentracker’s clickstream analysis tool.

Our clickstream analysis gives you access to visitor clickstreams live, in real-time, while they are happening. If you login to our demo now, you will be able to see your own clickstream through our site (as you read this!) by going to visitors online.

We have built an interactive tool that lets you see all the visitors on your site in real-time, those both online and offline. Every visitor is represented by an icon. If you click on any visitor’s icon, you will see a graphic representation of their clickstream. You will also see that visitor’s profile, which consists of their country of origin, their ISP, technical specs, the frequency of visits they have made to your site, the search engine and search terms that they might have used. You will also know if they are a first-time visitor, and view the details of their visit, i.e. the times they entered and left.

From all this information, it is possible to extrapolate any number of conclusions and understandings of what visitors are doing.

Glossary:
Clickstream

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Buying Traffic – PPC Ad campaigns

Buying Traffic – PPC Ad campaigns

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Perhaps not a surprise, but our research has led us to believe that PPC is the “safest” way to get targeted traffic, as you have a high level of control and accountability.

Part 2 PPC Pay-per-Click ad campaigns

This is the revolution created by the internet – that you only pay for visitors who actually click through to your site. This remains a very attractive way of generating leads, due to the accountability factor. You build your own campaign, target your visitors with keywords, and budget yourself by bidding on keywords. We started with a wide range of campaigns spread out over a range of companies; findwhat, kanoodle, epilot, enhance, looksmart, etc., and ended up narrowing our focus to one or two well-honed campaigns. We are now back with the few sources that have consistently brought us well targeted traffic, i.e. Google, & Yahoo or Bing. We have written about this subject in another article located here.

Our site statistics are open to the public, so you can login and take a look for yourself.

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The strategy we use is to identify successful keywords, using our statistics reports to show which words bring us the most visitors, and what these visitors do. We bid on these words, and drop the lesser-performing words. Google and Overture have well-built administration systems that allow you to manage campaigns. Both systems allow you to customize the URLs, meaning that you can see exactly who comes in on each individual advertisement. Both systems also show you:

a) how many times each specific keyword ad was clicked, and
b) how many times each ad was seen (impressions)

These are the two most important variables.

We would recommend that you periodically review your campaigns. In other words, don’t just set them up and forget about them. They need regular updating. The two part strategy involves using the PPC campaign to get traffic, and a statistics or tracking program to see what the traffic does.

next: Part 3 Purchasing bulk leads / traffic / clicks
previous: Part 1 Buying Traffic – paid newsletter inclusion

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Paid Adwords & free Google traffic

Paid Adwords & free Google traffic

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Executive Summary and Article Navigation

Everyday your site gets traffic from Google. The problem is how to tell whether the visits are paid adwords clicks or referred from free organic results.

Here are some sample questions:

“How can we tell if google traffic is adwords paid traffic or free organic?”

“Is there a way to split google adwords from google organic traffic and see which visitors clicked on which ads?”

“We would like to separate our statistics to see which customers come from adwords and which from organic results.”

Why measure Google Adwords versus Google organic traffic?

Why would you want to measure adwords against organic traffic?
Because part of the traffic is paid, and part is free. A comparison is necessary, to see how the paid traffic is performing, and if its worth paying for. Are you paying too much, should you invest more money in paid traffic?
Will it really matter if you reduce your budget by $1000 for a month? Keep track of budgets by calculating how they perform.

The quality of traffic is also important. Is there quality difference in paid vs. free traffic?
The quality of paid traffic can be influenced by ad text and search terms. Additional control is available in the form of bids and pricing.
For further reading see article on Choosing Search Terms.

How can I see the difference between paid & organic traffic?

The question is: How much should I be paying for paid traffic?
The answer is that you can see the difference between paid and organic traffic with Opentracker.

With Conversion and ROI reporting all your traffic is automatically sorted by referrer. This is done using URLs.

In Google Adwords when you create an ad you should fill in a Destination URL.
By looking at this Destination URL Opentracker can automatically identify whether the click was paid or organic.

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Traffic sources automatically filtered

The conversion sources are automated – a lot of paid and organic traffic is already filtered in Opentracker automatically. We call referrers “sources” because they are traffic sources.
if you would like ROI information per goal, you can add this by creating goals.

Click here to read about seeing All Your Online Advertising in One Report.

Here is an article explaining Conversion and ROI reporting.

Goal measurement – who came to what page

Goal measurement: we can generate a report for any page on your website that shows you all traffic sources per page and the total return-on-investment for any traffic conversion goal.

How do we do this? We combine several pieces of information. If you use Destination URLs we get the cost per click from the URL. Define the pages you want to be conversion goals in the report. Place a line of code in each goal page and Opentracker will do the rest.

How do visitors from different sources behave?

You can see the difference in two ways:
1. By using Conversion goals, you can compare how many people convert from paid adwords traffic versus how many people convert from organic traffic.
2. Individual behavior: because Opentracker is a clickstream analysis software, you can look at the clickstreams of all individual visitors and see how traffic from different sources behaves.

Unbiased 3rd-party verification

What is also good about using Opentracker is that we are an unbiased 3rd-party. That offers two advantages over the adwords and google analytics solutions:
1. You can see traffic sources and roi from all your traffic sources – not just Google
2. As a 3rd-party who does not sell traffic, Opentracker is neutral, i.e, no desired outcome

Traffic sources automatically filtered

The conversion sources are automated – a lot of paid and organic traffic is already filtered in Opentracker automatically. We call referrers “sources” because they are traffic sources.
if you would like ROI information per goal, you can add this by creating goals.

Click here to read about seeing All Your Online Advertising in One Report.

Here is an article explaining Conversion and ROI reporting.

Goal measurement – who came to what page

Goal measurement: we can generate a report for any page on your website that shows you all traffic sources per page and the total return-on-investment for any traffic conversion goal.

How do we do this? We combine several pieces of information. If you use Destination URLs we get the cost per click from the URL. Define the pages you want to be conversion goals in the report. Place a line of code in each goal page and Opentracker will do the rest.

How do visitors from different sources behave?

You can see the difference in two ways:
1. By using Conversion goals, you can compare how many people convert from paid adwords traffic versus how many people convert from organic traffic.
2. Individual behavior: because Opentracker is a clickstream analysis software, you can look at the clickstreams of all individual visitors and see how traffic from different sources behaves.

Unbiased 3rd-party verification

What is also good about using Opentracker is that we are an unbiased 3rd-party. That offers two advantages over the adwords and google analytics solutions:
1. You can see traffic sources and roi from all your traffic sources – not just Google
2. As a 3rd-party who does not sell traffic, Opentracker is neutral, i.e, no desired outcome

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Web Metrics 101

Web Metrics 101

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Executive Summary and Article Navigation

In this article you will find discussion and definitions of:

You will also find information about:

If you are looking for information about how to improve your site with stats, please see our article Making Stats Work For You.

What are they, and why measure them?

There are various terms used to describe the science of recording and interpreting website statistics. Web metrics, web analytics, web stats and site stats are examples. ‘E-metrics’ refers to analysis of electronic businesses.

Web Metrics

The ‘metrics’ of web metrics refers to measurement, the science of measuring websites. Specifically, measuring website events, and extracting trends. For Opentracker, those events are human clicks.

Web Analytics

Web Analytics is the act of distinguishing categories within recorded stats, and analyzing for patterns. The process of analytics means, literally, taking apart the whole of something in order to study its component parts.

Website Statistics

Statistics are a scientific application. The goal is to form actions, for example website content management, based on the data which are recorded.

Apply statistics in order to reduce guesswork. Simple questions can be answered, for example, something very basic; are there more or less people coming to your site this week than last week? Is your site doing better or worse this week?

What should your stats tell you? They will inform you about numerous aspects of your traffic; the number of (returning) visitors, and how visitors surf through your pages. This information tells you about the content of your site and how visitors use it. Your traffic statistics are an indicator of website performance. Thus applied, stats can be effectively used to make updates.

Comparing different types of measurement is very useful

When comparing different types of measurement, the classic scenario of “the difference between apples and oranges” often arises. In the same way, different website statistics programmes have unique ways of measuring important variables such as pageviews, unique visitors, and visits.

Therefore it is not always easy to compare the results generated by two statistics programmes to track one site. The process itself can be very useful, in terms of thinking through the differences in results and determining what is actually being measured. We encourage the use of numerous programmes, for example, combining a tracking service with log analysis.

If the method of measurement stays the same through time, then the results will be perfect for purposes of comparison. Therefore, choosing the method of measurement is important. Scientifically speaking, changing the method of measurement during an experiment invalidates the process.

If you compare results from two types of measurement you will find differences in numbers. For example, measuring pageviews vs. unique visitors, or the whole site vs. specific pages. If you compare the same statistics over time, you are not changing the method of measurement. This is the most accurate way of recording statistics. This will allow you to find patterns and definitive answers, for instance if traffic is growing or diminishing. Is your “Generate new leads” campaign working, are visitors returning over time? Do your efforts to bring targeted traffic through a PPC campaign lead to conversions? Do returning visitors generate more revenue than the first-time visitors?

Statistics and determining what to measure

In any statistical endeavour, the first step is to define what is being measured. In website cookie tracking, the common denominator is human events, clicks on a website, which are defined as pageviews.

Specifically, the statistics discussed here are a translation from raw data, clicks, and server-browser dialogues, into a user interface from which patterns can be discerned. The goal of web metrics is to extract patterns which tell you what is happening. The next step is to create actions, i.e. what to do about your traffic patterns.

Web metrics and analytics is an exciting field at this moment, because there are not many patterns being sought. An example might be comparing ‘bounce rate for first time visitors’ with ‘bounce rate for returning visitors’, which has not become a standard of analysis (aggregate bounce rate stats tell you how far into your site visitors are clicking).

How to use realtime stats: ongoing fine-tuning

For a practical guide, please see our article Making Stats Work For You.

Note: nothing can be measured with 100% accuracy. The skill lies in trying to keep measurements useful, despite the inability to reach 100% accuracy. An acceptable margin of inaccuracy within the scientific discipline of statistics is 5%. That does not make the world an uncertain place – it means that you have to be specific in knowing what is important. For example, trends, are trends rising or declining over time?

The process of determining what to measure involves the creation of definitions. There are always elements being under- or over-measured. That is why the system requires constant calibration, in terms of what people really want to know, which in turn determines what should be measured. An example would be the question “what constitutes a search engine?” Should the Yellow Pages and White Pages be included? There are new search engines & portals appearing every day. What criteria should be used to classify search engines? Our list of officially recognised search engine list, located on our forum, requires constant calibration.

Marketing strategy: it is important to focus on the the most important variables for you, and locate an application that provides these measurements in a clear format. For example, measuring the performance of specific keywords that you purchase for your Pay-Per-Click campaigns (PPCs).

Statistical needs vary depending on site size. Therefore it is up to statistics programmes to present the statistics in a way that is useful for webmasters of different sized sites.

Large sites, for example, are more interested in trends. Larger sites generate higher volumes of data, in which clickstreams may not be very interesting, unless usability is being improved. As there are too many clickstreams (e.g. sites which receive several thousand visitors a day), for large sites, often aggregates are more helpful, while smaller sites are interested in discreet data.

Trends are aggregate statistics. For example, a site’s bounce rate is an aggregate statistic. Bounce rate are stats designed for the purpose of identifying patterns which are hidden within the stats.

Discreet stats such as clickstreams, will tell you what individual people are doing on your site. Discreet stats are not aggregates, as you are actually seeing what the data is “built” of.

This type of information (clickstream analysis) is very useful for development purposes and understanding user reaction (aka usability). If you are designing a new site, knowing how first-time visitors navigate will help to determine how successful the site is, and what changes need to be made.

Opentracker and statistical accuracy

Opentracker is a best-of-breed solution. We offer a high degree of statistical accuracy because we use cookies to measure unique visitors. Human events, in the form of page views, are used to generate the statistics we present. One click is equal to one page view, a one-to-one correlation.

We do not sample or extrapolate: We count unique visitors

Website traffic data presented in Google Analytics is sampled.

To illustrate some of the difficulties associated with counting and measuring, consider a statistic that tells you how many people voted in an election. Counting votes is a difficult process and re-counts are often undertaken and it’s not unusual to reach different totals every time.

When polls are released, the number presented is an extrapolation, based on a percentage of people contacted by phone, or asked at the door for whom they voted.

Opentracker presents trends derived from actual clicks. This is how we narrow the margin of error. We use optimization techniques based on cookies and visitors to improve accuracy.

When the trends presented are derived from actual clicks, the margin of error is narrowed. Traffic measurement techniques based on cookies improve accuracy.

Our point is that data, (i.e. statistics) are numbers created by people. Therefore it is important to understand how these numbers are defined and generated.

The data collected with cookies gives insight into site visitors over time, the traffic is deduced from unique visitors and there is minimal ‘double-counting’ of visitors. We often asked why Opentracker’s traffic numbers are often lower than those recorded by log files and this is why.

We believe Opentracker to be at least 30% (and probably much higher) more accurate than standard web tracking and statistics solutions currently available.

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Big Data Orientation

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Big Data Orientation

Ownership of data
Some helpful terminology:
3V’s: volume, velocity and variety.
4S’s: source, size, speed, and structure.
Why are we talking about this & what questions should I be asking?
Where is all the data coming from?
Conclusion: and the winner is…

Ownership of data

This is especially an issue for larger, more traditional companies, for whom data is something that is always kept on-site. Using IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-service) means letting somebody else host, store, and manage your data, so that they can generate reports. It is possible to resolve this in different ways, although it’s probably more cost-efficient to let an IaaS manage the server park. Data ownership can be stipulated in a contract, so that while Company A owns their data, Company B hosts and manages the data. Access to the source code of the software used to manage the data can also be an issue. This can be resolved by placing the code in escrow or using open source software.

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Some helpful terminology:

3V’s: volume, velocity and variety.

3V’s: volume (lots of gigabytes or terabytes), velocity (coming in quickly, faster than normal methonds can handle, coming in too quickly to process), and variety (unstructured – multiple sources too many for pre-defined tables). For example, in terms of variety, Opentracker collects urls, countries, ip info, user-tagging, conversion, tech specs, OS, and custom events, meaning any piece of information that can be defined and sent). This information comes from a variety of sources: location databases, carriers, browsers, device specs, cookies, javascript, social networks, networking sites, user profiles, company databases, etc.

4S’s: source, size, speed, and structure.

IaaS: Infrastructure-as-a-service. An Infrastructure-as-a-Service provider typically delivers a combination of hosting, hardware, provisioning and basic services needed to operate a cloud. To quote wiki (again): In the most basic cloud-service model, providers of IaaS offer computers – physical or (more often) virtual machines – and other resources… Cloud providers typically bill IaaS services on a utility computing basis: cost reflects the amount of resources allocated and consumed.

 

Why are we talking about this &
what questions should I be asking?

The point of all this data is to enable decision-making. That means that an answer is needed in time to make a decision, not two weeks later. What’s interesting is that there is a trend from looking over our shoulders towards looking ahead >> we used to study data from the past >> real-time processing >> predictive analysis.
So it’s a bit like a camera which starts by panning backwards towards where we came from, then swings around to show the runner, and finally swings to show the path disappearing towards the horizon.

From a corporate perspective, you may hear questions like these:

Am I going to set up data-processing infrastructure?
Do I want to own the data?
Do I want to put data in the cloud? (hint: Answer: if it absolutely needs to stay PRIVATE don’t put it in the cloud)
How do I get the data into my own company’s infrastructure?

There are a few household names that have become experts at handling large flows of data; Twitter, Google, Facebook, Amazon. They’ve solved the big data problem for their own organizations. The next step is how to make those solutions available to all the other enterprises that exist today.

 

Where is all the data coming from?

It used to be coming (only) from people. Now its coming from both people and machines (sensors). For example the temperature of a room, which if processed, comes from a sensor in a room, but there is no person sending a signal.

At the moment, data is being generated by people, through clicks, swipes, and taps. Increasingly in the future, servers and sensors (non-people) will be generating the data. Smartphones, android, iphone, self-service ticketing machines, card transactions etc, almost everything we do and touch is generating data.

This data is increasingly unstructured, but still needs to be processed. The fact that it is unstructured is what led Charles Fan to name it crap (create, replicate, append, process) – when referring to the mind-boggling amount of data which is created / stored / generated and often left for roadkill. Why left for roadkill? Because the amount of know-how and resources needed to derive meaningful conclusions from all the data collected is prohibitive.

This leads to the great challenge we are facing: not just to collect and store all the data coming in, but to organize it. Nobody cares about deleting it or updating it (hence the crap description), and so whoever designs a new data center for crap will be the winner.

 

Conclusion: and the winner is…

So the goal is to give enterprises access to data storage & management. Enterprises, which tend to be larger and more traditional organizations, require flexibility in terms of infrastructure location, they may not want their data in the cloud.
From the point of view of companies who provide Big Data solutions, the winner will be the one who structures their service in a way that is accessible for more traditional organizations.

From the point of view of business and retail, the winners, simply put, will be the businesses and companies who learn how to apply Big Data (read: innovative data analysis, or connecting the dots) analysis techniques to the data they possess about their clients, or market conditions.

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