Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Are Form Validations Invalidating Your Conversions?

Form validations are a great way to ensure that the data you collect from your users is clean and in the right format. However form validations can also frequently lead to lost conversions. CAPTCHA is one such type of validation.

Some validation put unnecessary formatting burden on your customer/visitor leading them to abandon your forms and go to your competitors. A lot of data formatting can be done via client side JavaScript or backend processing without putting the customer through a lot of pain. I am not suggesting to remove all required data and data formatting requirement, all I am saying is that be if you can handled formatting with scripts/code then do not make your customer do it. Let the users finish the form.

Your analytics tool will show you the abandonment rate of your forms. What it won’t tell you is how many of those abandonments were a result of form validations. Most of the analyst/optimization specialist will suggest reducing the number of fields and/or conducting A/B testing with a different layout to decrease abandonment. But if you validations are a problem then A/B testing will not help you. You need to get your validations correct first before your jump into changing the number of fields, layouts etc.

Below are some examples of the fields that might require special formatting and are generally the cause of data validation errors:
  • Social Security Number – If you do collect social security then do not force the user to add the data in XXX-XX-XXXX format, i.e. do not force them to enter “-“ between the numbers. If you do provide one box for entry then either let them enter the numbers in free format or provide 3 input boxes with character limit of 3,2, and 4 receptively.
  • Phone Number – Do not force the users to enter “(“ , “)”, “-“, or spaces between the numbers just because that’s the format you want to store the data in. You can do all the formatting in the backend or front end code before the data gets submitted to your database.
  • Account Numbers – I recently came across a site that manages my new 401K plan. The form asked me to enter the company account number, which was provided to me by our payroll department. I entered the account number into the appropriate field, clicked on the “Submit” button and got an error that something was wrong with my social security, last name or account number. It did not tell me which exact field was the problem field. I checked everything and tried it again and then again. Finally I got frustrated with and called their toll free number. It turns out that I was required to enter “-“ after the 2nd digit. What a waste of time and cause of frustration that was. Since it was my 401K plan I had no choice but to call the phone number, if this were a shopping cart form I would have quit immediately.
  • Email Addresses – Email address format is universal and most of the customers/visitors know that they have to enter an “@” and a “.” Enforcing such a formatting rule in the form validation is expected. However one validation that I recently came across was totally unexpected. My business email address has a “.us” extension and not a “.com”, but a not so “” rejected the “.us” domain. According to them “There are some e-mail domains and patterns that, in our experience, are more difficult to communicate with than others.” Apparently “.us” domain falls under one of those blocked emails domains. Really??? You got to be kidding me. “Wisemarkter” lost a valid conversion.

Showing the Error Messages

People do miss required fields or enter data in the wrong formats leading to errors. If an error occurs it is the site owner’s responsibility to make sure that the proper error messages are shown to the users. Two things that you need to keep in mind when showing error messages to the users (or visitors or customers):
  1. Clearly state the error message – Make sure to highlight the fields in error and let the visitors know exactly what is required. Cryptic or generic error message is not going to help. Be sure to provide “prescriptive guidance”. Wisemarketer does not make the error clear, users have to click on the “Why” link to see the description of the error message.
  2. Show the error message where the customers can see them – What’s the point of showing an error message if the visitors can’t see them. Many sites forget this simple principal. If an error occurs automatically scroll to the error message so that the visitor can see the error message. One of the offenders of this is mighty “Google”. The following form on “Google Website Optimizer” has an error but it is hard to see that error message on the screen.

The error occurs when you miss filling data in one of the fields and then click on the “Continue” button. The error occurs but the page does not scroll to where the error message is displayed. To the user it looks like that nothing happened, no error and no form submission. The user has to scroll to the top of the page to see the error message.

Have you come across a form validation that drove you nuts? Send me the link. Comments?

Looking to fill your Web Analytics or Online Marketing position?

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Web Analytics, Search Marketing and Social Media Analytics Jobs

I have few open positions in Web Analytics, Search Marketing (Organic and Paid) and Social Media Analytics.

Job Requirements
One of the following
  • Web Analytics Tools Implementation: Omniture, WebTrends, Coremetrics, Google Analytics, Yahoo! Web Analytics etc.? Any one tool experience is good.
  • Analysis: Do you have experience making sense of the data collected by the web analytics tool? It does not matter which tool.
  • Optimization – Do you have experience with A/B , Muti-variate testing or targeting? Experience with Google Website Optimizer, Test&Target, Widemile, Optimost etc?
  • Search Engine Optimization – Do you have experience doing search engine optimization? Are you passionate about it? Show me some examples? Show me your process.
  • Paid Search – Have you run campaigns on Google Adwords? Bing or Yahoo? What has been the outcome?
  • Social Media Analytics – Do you have experiencing analyzing and making recommendations based on social media conversation? Do you have experience using tools like Radian6, SM2, and Visible Technologies etc.? Do you have passion for social media?

If you answer is YES to one or more of the above bullet items then send me your resume. Even if you are not actively looking for a job this won’t hurt.

Job Responsibilities:

Our ultimate goal is to help customer get the biggest bang for their buck.
Work in a fast paced environment and do some cool stuff.
Send me your resume and we will take it from there.

Full Time or Contract?

Either will work. If the fit is there we can make either happen.

Why isn’t there more information?

Well because I don’t want you box yourself based on what I want and provide you a laundry list of experiences. I want you to tell me what you are looking for and see if there is an immediate match, if not then there will be more opportunities. I also know some other organizations that are looking for people maybe I can hook you up with them.

How to contact me?
Twitter: @anilbatra
Email: batraonline at gmail(dot) com

Sunday, October 04, 2009

7 Ways Of Handling 404 Error Messages

Last week I wrote about 404 errors and how to track them in your web analytics tool. In this post I am going to look at how various sites are dealing with 404 error messages and provide your 7 ways of handling 404 pages on your site.

The best way to handle the 404 error messages is to not have any by properly setting redirects in case of a redesign, proper sitemaps etc. But despite your best efforts there will be cases when your visitors will get the 404 errors so you just have to be prepared. This post will show you how other sites are doing it so that you can decide what will work for you.

I looked at few of the top converting online retailers and few others random sites to see how they are handling 404 error messages.

Here is what I found

  1., the site with the best conversion rate, notifies the visitors that the page does not exist and then provides a link back to the home page. It also keeps the top navigation intact on the 404 page so that the visitors can easily navigate to the other pages on the site.
  2., does a nice job of providing products recommendations to the visitors on the 404 custom error page. It also shows the top and left navigation on the error page for easy navigation.

    Proflowers redirects the visitors to the home page of the site. In some cases it displays a message notifying the visitors that the page was not found but in other cases it just redirects the visitors to the home page. Lack of an error message might confuse the visitors who intended to go to a particular page and not the page they were redirected to (home page).

    Coke adds little humor on the 404 error message page. You can’t avoid reading the page.
  5. Microsoft

    Microsoft makes an attempt to understand where the user intended to go. It parses out the “Not found” url and then runs the internal site search to show relevant results. Good attempt by Microsoft on, however I did not see the similar attempts at Bing or MSN sites.
  6. Google

    The company that tries to understand user intents on it’s search engine makes no attempt to understand what the visitor is trying to do. It could have used something like “Did you mean…..” but it does not.
  7. WebTrends

    Webtrends does a nice job of providing a site map on the 404 error page. Omniture does similar thing on their 404 error page.
  8. Adobe

    Adobe even asks the visitors to send them feedback on the broken link. Like many other site it provides several links back to other content on the site.
  9. RedEnvelope

    RedEnvelope goes one step further and provides an error message, product recommendations and a 10% off coupon for the inconvenience that a missing page might have caused.
    Go ahead and try it and get 10% off on
I also checked Roamans, QVC and Coldwater Creek, few of the other sites listed in the top conversion rate list and did not find any custom error pages.

7 ways of handling 404 error messages

Let’s recap and look at the various ways you can handle 404 error messages.
  1. Redirect the visitors to the home page. Make sure it is clear to the visitors that the page was not found and so they are being redirected to the home page. (
  2. Have a basic custom error page that notifies the visitors that the page was not found and then provides a link back to the home page. Make sure you have your navigational elements on the page. (
  3. Add humor in your 404 message just like
  4. Show the sitemap (links to various sections and pages on the page for easy navigation. (WebTrends)
  5. Make products recommendations. Recommendation could be targeted based on what you know about the visitors (past purchases, current browsing behavior etc.) or simply show the best sellers list. (
  6. Interpret what a visitor might be looking for and show the possible results/links. You can use the internal search similar to what Microsoft does. (You have to be very careful with this solution as there is always a possibility of misinterpretation).
  7. Provide a coupon for instant conversion. (RedEnvelop)

Do you have any other example to share? Send them to me.


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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Web Analytics For 404 Errors

404 errors are a fact of life on the internet. 404 error is a message returned by a server in response to a request for a page that does not exist on the server (http 404 error code).

Let me illustrate this with an example:

A visitor comes to a site, bookmarks a page and then leaves the site.
Next week the owner of the site decides to launch a new site completely replacing the old pages with the new pages (urls were different).
Next month the visitor comes back to the site via the bookmark but the page she bookmarked does not exist as it was removed during the site redesign.
She will get a 404 error message from the server.

Reasons for 404 Errors

404 errors can occur due to numerous reasons:

  1. Misspelled links – A misspelled URL in a hyperlink on the site can causing a broken link and hence a 404 error message.
  2. Bad Site Map – A site map is an xml file containing a list of all the pages on the site. It is usually meant for the search engines to index the pages on a site. A misspelling in a site map can cause the search engines to look for the pages that do exist on the server. Generally theses pages (broken links) won’t be visible to the visitors but they will show up in the search engines indexing report such as the Google webmaster tools. Some sites also show the site maps to the visitors as a form of site navigation; in those cases the visitors will see the 404 errors.
  3. Site Redesign – Site redesigns are a leading cause of the missing pages. Site owners redesign the sites, completely replacing the old pages without thoroughly thinking about the pages that might have been linked all over the web, indexed by the search engines, bookmarked by the visitors etc. Visitors who clicks on old links, bookmark etc. are greeted with the 404 error messages when they click on those links to arrive on the site.
  4. Sever Unavailable – 404 error messages can also occur when the server is unavailable.

Below is an example of a standard 404 error message

If standard 404 error page is the first page that a visitor sees when she arrive on a site, what will her reaction? As shown in the picture above, you can’t even tell which site this page belongs to. It is a dead end. Visitors don’t know where to go. What would a visitor do in this situation? She will most likely leave the site. She will go back to where she came from. The site has just failed to engage her.

Let’s imagine a similar situation in the offline world. Think about how you would feel if you enter a local supermarket looking for a toothbrush and are immediately taken to the location in the store where the toothbrushes aisle is suppose to be. When you arrive at that location, not only that you don’t find the aisle because the supermarket recently rearranged the store and move the aisle but also that the whole supermarket goes dark and all you see is the exit door. You will, for sure, run towards the exit door. That’s what a standard 404 error pages does, the site goes dark and the only thing a visitors sees is the back button or the close button on the browser.

Custom 404 Error Pages

Now imagine that instead of the store going dark, the customer sees a friendly associate who politely says “Sorry, we recently rearranged our store and the aisle you are looking for have been moved. May I show you the new location of the aisle” (or some flavor of it). Friendly associate on the web in this situation is called “Custom 404 error page (message)”, which will say “Sorry the page you are looking for does not exists anymore or has been moved, here are few links that might help you” (or some flavor of it).
A custom 404 error page allows the site to provide a message other than a generic server error message (Figure 1). A custom 404 is an opportunity for the sites to engage the visitors whom they might have lost otherwise.

How do you create a custom 404 error page?

Create a page with a message that you want your visitors to see when they encounter 404 error messages and save it as 404.html (you can use other names and the page extensions as well). Web servers have a setting which allows you to set the page that you want the visitors to see when they encounter the 404 errors. In this case you might set it to 404.html. (Contact your IT department or hosting companies to get further details).

Here is an example of a custom 404 error page

There are several ways to customize your 404 error page. Be creative when designing the 404 page, this is your last chance to reengage a visitors. (I will show you some more examples in a future post)

Web Analytics and 404 error page

Another benefit of creating a custom 404 page is that you can put your web analytics tag on the page to report and analyze the 404 pages. Web Analytics reports can show you the pages (links) that are causing 404 error messages on your site. You can also find out which pages have the bad links, what keywords, external links etc. are driving users to those non-existent pages.

Tracking 404 pages in Web Analytics

Here is an example of Google Analytics Code to track the 404 pages

This code appends “404:” in front of the page name that triggers the 404 error so that it is easy for me to filter the Google Analytics reports for the 404 error pages.

The same concept can be used in the other web analytics tools such as Omniture, Webtrends, Unica, Coremetrics etc.

There are two reports that I frequently use to analyze the 404 pages
  1. Top Content

    Since I prefixed my 404 pages with “404:”, I can easily filter out the 404 pages in this report. This report gives me all the pages that are triggering 404 error messages. This report also shows me how big the problem is and if I am losing visitors on these pages or not.
    If your custom 404 page is unable to engage the visitors (high exit rate or bounce rate) then you should consider changing the content/design etc. of the page. (I am looking into how you can conduct A/B testing on a 404 page).

    You can also drill down into each of the page and do further navigational analysis to see the pages that the visitors saw before they got the 404 error page.

    This leads you to the pages that have old/misspelled links. To track down the external links and sources, that have bad links to your site, you will need to look at the top landing pages report.
  2. Top Landing Pages

    A filter on “404:” in this report will show you the landing pages that result in the 404 errors. Use this report to drill down to the external sources of errors e.g. the external links, keywords etc. Below is an example of a report that shows that most of the 404 for a page on this site occurred from links in the emails.

    Further analysis of the emails led me to the malfunction links.
Do you have 404 error messages stories, examples to share? Send them to me.

Questions? Comments?


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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Are You Wasting Your Advertising?

I hope you have heard the famous words of John Wanamaker "I know half of my advertising is wasted, I just don't know which half."

Today the phrase should be something like “Half my Advertising is wasted because I do not advertise responsibly” or “Half of my advertising is wasted; I can stop that but I fail to use the data”.

Yes that is correct. We have an abundance of data today to help us save the wastage. There is no shortage of tools that will collect all sorts of data. Yet many marketers fail to act responsibly and use this data to stop advertising waste and also save customers from unwanted ads.

Here are some examples that will show you what I mean

  • Newsletter – Nordstrom - In my blog post on email and relevance, I showed an example of an email from Nordstrom that had irrelevant offers. As result of this, not only did Nordstrom waste time, effort and money but also lost a subscriber. Advertising was wasted.
  • Newsletter – – Same as Nordstrom. Not only did Drugstore lose a subscriber, but a high profile marketing guru “Seth Godin” wrote about this on his blog. Adverting was wasted and resulted in negative publicity.
  • Paid Search – I searched for ‘iPhone Charger” on Google and saw an ad from “Walmart” titled “iPhone”.

    I could take one of the following two actions
    1. Ignore this ad as it does not have relevant copy, which results in lower CTR on the ad and hence higher CPC that Walmart will end up paying in future. (Google punishes you if you don’t have high performing ads).
    2. I click on it and Walmart pays for the click.
    I chose to click on the ad and landed on a page that showed me results for “ipod” instead of “iPhone chargers”. Wow!!! What a mismatch. Net result: My time was wasted with irrelevant results, Walmart wasted its money by paying for click that did not generate any value. Advertising was wasted.

    Here is another example: Search Pay Per Click Tip : A Simple Way to Increase Profit.
  • Offline Advertising – Netflix recently sent me two snail mail pieces on the same day.
    1. Offer to join Netflix and get first month free – Great, I like it, I think I should join Netflix. Wait…I am already a member and receive my movies from them all the time. So should I cancel my subscription and join again to avail this offer? Netflix is known for movie recommendations it makes to its customer based on their past history. Can’t they tie their database to see who is already a member so that they don’t send junk mail to that subscriber? Advertising was wasted.
    2. Offer to recommend Netflix to my friends – They have done it several times now. I have never referred any of my friends as most of them are already subscriber plus who has time to save a print coupon and give it to a friend. The web is full of coupons and they can get it from there. Netflix should have looked at my referral history, I have never referred anybody. Stop sending junk mail and avoid wastage.
  • Display Advertising – We all know the web is full of irrelevant ads. An example is an ad from Air Linus of for flights from New York to Ireland. I think this works for those who are in New York, but not for me. I live in Seattle. Just because I am browsing does not mean I live in New York or interested in going to Ireland. Advertising waste could have been avoided by just checking my Geo location. Money Wasted. Advertising was wasted.

Are you advertising responsibly? Are you using data to make sure you are not wasting your adverting?

Looking to fill your Web Analytics or Online Marketing position?
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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Why Did Adobe Buy Omniture?

The news of Omniture Acquisition by Adobe came as a big surprise to me. I was not surprised that Omniture got acquired just the fact the Adobe acquired them.

I always thought that Omniture would be a good fit for Oracle as an extension to their CRM tools. Adobe was not even on my radar as a company who could potentially acquire Omniture. I was also surprised at the valuation Omniture got. 1.86 billions for a company that is still in red and had 335.5 Million in sales in last 12 month (source: MSN Money) is way too much in my opinion.

So why did Adobe pay such a premium to acquire Omniture? What does it bring to Adobe? I am not entirely sure what Adobe has in mind. Following are the ways that I think Adobe might use Omniture:
  • Measurement Ready Interactive Media – Flash, PDF, Adobe Air application will all come ready with Omniture tags for measurement and optimization.
  • Self optimizing flash widgets/ads – Designers will be able to put all assets (copy, images, etc.) in a flash file/Adobe Air application and the application will automatically arrange them on the fly based on customer’s interest, intent, day part etc. This will be driven by both Site catalyst and Test&Target. However designers might have a hard time dealing with this concept.
  • Self optimizing landing pages – Same as above but will be more on site. Flash on the landing page will change based on who the customer is.
  • Self guiding PDF – Ability to modify/adjust the pdf content on the fly based on who the customer is, what have they done in past on site or with other content etc. Think about A/B testing or Targeting within a PDF document.
  • PDF Tracking – Creators of pdf content will not only be able to see how many people downloaded a particular piece of content but they will also be
    • Find out about the circulation of the content. Did a person who downloaded the paper sent it to others?
    • Find out, how far did the reader go through the file?
    • Find out, if reader searched for something in the pdf? What were the keywords?
    • Tie the content analytics with site analytics to optimize and target the site side experience as well as arm the sales force with the information.
  • Adobe products as SaaS- Omniture brings SaaS expertise to Adobe which adobe might be able to leverage to sell their products as SaaS.

Other Players in Web Analytics

Coremetrics and Webtrends are the only two large Web Analytics companies that are still independent. The whole industry is talking about when and who will acquire them.

I have long speculated that Webtrends will be acquired by Microsoft. I still believe that it is possible. Given that Microsoft and Adobe have a few competing products, why would MSFT continue to use Omniture on their web properties and provide that information to Adobe? Microsoft might decide to part ways with Omniture and once again seriously consider other options e.g. buy Webtrends.

Some of the other possible candidates to acquire Web Analytics companies are
Big Interactive Agencies
Ad Networks

I think Webtrends will be acquired in less than a year, possibly in next 6 months. Coremetrics might remain independent for a while.

What do you think?

Few other blogs that you might want to read:
Looking to fill your Web Analytics or Online Marketing position?

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

7 Ways to Create Relevancy in Emails

People are bombarded with hundreds of email messages each day. However a majority of the emails end up in the trash because of their irrelevance to the recipients.

On Oct 30th, 2008 I write a blog post on relevancy and emails. To state my point I showed an example of an email that John Song received from Nordstrom. John, who had never purchased any women products from Nordstrom, was receiving emails promoting women products.

During our conversation John said that he was a big fan of Nordstrom and was ok with receiving and ignoring irrelevant emails but he wished that they would send him relevant products/offers though.

No matter how big a fan a person is of brand, eventually the patience runs out. Guess what happened recently? John got so tired of the irrelevant emails that he finally hit the small “unsubscribe” link on the email he recently received. Done. Gone. Here is what John wrote on his Facebook status (came via his Twitter update).

Companies work very hard to get people to come to their sites and then to subscribe to their emails. But it appears that not many of them work hard enough to keep these subscribers. Someone (subscriber) who took time to fill a form on the site to subscribe to the email is ready to open his wallet. It is the job of a business to help that person open that wallet and spend that hard earned cash. But it can only happen if the business sells the customer what a customer wants and not what the business needs or wants to sell. Unfortunately, most of the emails consumer get today contain the products that business wants to sell and not necessarily what a customer wants to buy. Below are 7 ways that you can use to create relevancy in your emails and standout from the crowd.

7 ways to create relevancy in the emails
  • Browsing History - Use the subscriber’s onsite browsing history to find out what products he looked at but has not bought yet. This list should give you an idea of his interest. Based on this learning determine what products you should offer in your emails.
  • Email Click Through - Use his past email click-though behavior to determine what peaks his interest. If a customer has shown interests in certain products/contents/offers in past then they are very likely to be interested in similar products/offers/content. Someone who only clicks on discounted is most likely to open an email that says so and also click on a product that is on discount. Use that information to target.
  • Shopping Cart Abandonment - Use the shopping cart abandonment history to determine what products he is interested in. Use the time triggered email to encourage him to come back and finish the process. You can also send offers but be careful (check out Targeting Cart Abandonment by Email.
  • Purchase History - Use his past purchase history to determine what he buys. Use not only online data but also offline, phone order and catalog order data. Make recommendations in the email based on past purchases. E.g. if you know that he buys blue shirts then recommend new blue shirts. Depending on what products your sell you might also send complementary items.
  • Frequency and Recency - How often does the customer come to your site and when was the last time you saw him. Frequency and recency of visit is a strong indicator of a customer’s likelihood of buying from a site. The longer the customer takes to return to your site the more are the chances that you will loose him as a customer. Timing your email message can bring that customer back into buying mode. Use frequency and recency to determine if you need to send a coupon or some other promotion to bring the customer back to the site before it is too late.
  • Help Them Help You – If you do feel you have to send something unrelated to persons interest (e.g. provide him an opportunity to see what else you sell maybe lure him into buying something he might not have considered) then send it along with something relevant to him. E.g. send discount on women apparel along with some discount for men stuff.
  • No Email - If you don’t have anything relevant to send to a customer then please don’t send an email. As mentioned before people are bombarded with irrelevant emails every day, you need to stand out of the crowd and make your email count so don’t send any email if you don’t have anything to offer.
Hope these tips help. Email me if you need help finding the right analytics and email solution.

Questions? Comments?

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

3 Roles in Web Analytics

Despite slow economy many companies are hiring web analysts. A quick search on, a site that powers the Web Analytics job board on my blog, shows that there are currently 2,007 open positions and, another job sites shows over 4800 open positions. That is a huge number.

However, many job seekers I have talked to feel frustrated because most of the jobs have a laundry list of requirements and they don’t feel that they are a right fit for most of these open positions. A lot of “Web Analytics” job openings ask for many of the following:

  • Experience in online marketing

  • Experience in Web Analytics

  • Experience in – Google analytics, Omniture, Webtrends, Coremetrics etc.

  • Experience in implementing Omniture, Google Analytics, WebTrends etc.

  • Experience in A/B and Multivariate testing

  • Experience in Search engine optimization

  • Experience in search engine marketing

  • Experience with SQL

  • Experience in email marketing

  • Experience in Social media

The mismatch in what a company really needs and what they are asking in the job requirements is a cause of frustration on both ends. The issue really stems from lack of understanding of what web analytics is and what role a web analyst need to play in the organization.

Most of the companies looking for a “web analysts” are in one of the following three stages of web analytics staffing

  1. They don’t have any tool but they realize the need and are looking for someone who can help them with “web analytics”.

  2. They just installed Google Analytics or were sold one of the other paid tool but are not getting much value from their web analytics tool. They need an analyst to help them do “web analytics”.

  3. They already have a web analytics tool installed and have a web analytics team. Since the company is now using web analytics to made business decision they need to hire one or more analysts to support the growing demand.

Companies falling in the third stage know what they are doing and usually narrow down the requirements. They are usually clear on what kind of person they are looking for.

Companies who fall in stage 1 and 2 above are the ones who are usually not clear on the role of a “web analyst” and hence create this laundry list of skills. Hiring manger looks at few job openings posted by other to get an idea of what a “web analyst’ should do. She then includes all the buzzwords and sends the requirements to HR or the recruiting company. HR screens the resume and if the keywords shown above do not appear on the resume the resume is rejected. As a result, companies loose several good candidates while candidates loose many good job opportunities.

3 Roles in Web Analytics

If you are a hiring manager, you need to understand and thoroughly evaluate your need before opening the job req. This will help you remove the noise from requirements and find the best candidate for the job. To make your job easier I have categories web analytics work into 3 job roles.

  1. Implementation Specialist/Engineer – If you are looking to implement a web analytics tool then you will need an Implementation Engineer. Implementation Engineer is usually the one who manages implementation of the web analytics tool and/or maintains ongoing implementation changes. This is a technical role. For this role you will need a person who has experience in implementation of the web analytics tool of you choice (Note: Tool Selection is a complex process and you should hire a 3rd party consulting company to help you with it if you have not already selected the tool). An implementation engineer generally takes the business requirements and converts them into technical requirements for the web development team to implement the code on the pages. Implementation Engineer works closely with “Web Analyst” (described below) web development and QA to ensure that correct data is collected. The right candidate for this role understands how internet technologies work. She needs to have a good grasp of JavaScript (most of the web analytics implementations require JavaScript tagging). She might also need to understand how to integrate various data sources together. For many companies, once the tool is implemented there might not be a daily need to make changes to the tool so it might make more sense to outsource this function to a web analytics vendor, agency building/maintaining your site or a web analytics consulting company instead of hiring a fulltime person.

  2. Reporting Analyst – If you are looking for someone to pull the data from your web analytics tools or other reporting application then you need to hire a reporting analysts. A lot of the companies confuse “web reporting” with “web analytics”(See my blog post titled Are you doing web reporting or web analytics). Reporting analysts usually understands the interface of the various tools and can pull the data that is required by other stakeholder. A reporting analyst might need to have SQL skills to pull the data from databases. Some organizations might need a person who can make pretty scorecard and charts. For this role, it is good to have a person who has experience with the tools of your choice but don’t make it a deal breaker. If the candidate has worked on any of the web analytics tools then she can usually get trained in other web analytics tools. Determine what other tools do you have and what skills might be required to pull the data from all these tools, that you might need for you reporting and then write the job requirements.

  3. Web Analyst – This is more of a business role and truly a web analyst’s role. This is a person who can make sense of the web data and drive insights to impact the bottom line. She will provide business requirements to the Implementation Engineer to work on and will use reporting analyst to get the data for analysis. Web analysts are inquisitive and analytical, they question the data to come up with the story that the data is telling. Web Analyst has the ability to understand and analyze various data pieces such as competitive, qualitative, web analytics, social media, financial etc and drive business changes. Web Analyst should also be able to run A/B and Multivariate tests to improve website performance. Depending on the size of your organization and A Web Analysts will not be afraid to stand in front of executives to explain and defend their findings. If you are looking to get actionable recommendation and drive business changes based on web analytics data then you need a Web Analyst.

Hope this will help you in properly wording your job requirements and avoid the frustration of not filling the position.

Comments? Questions?

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Is CAPTCHA Eating Up Your Conversions?

CAPTCHA acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart” is a way for sites to block spam. According to Wikipedia it is
“A CAPTCHA or Captcha (pronounced /ˈkæptʃə/) is a type of challenge-response test used in computing to ensure that the response is not generated by a computer. The process usually involves one computer (a server) asking a user to complete a simple test which the computer is able to generate and grade. Because other computers are unable to solve the CAPTCHA, any user entering a correct solution is presumed to be human. Thus, it is sometimes described as a reverse Turing test, because it is administered by a machine and targeted to a human, in contrast to the standard Turing test that is typically administered by a human and targeted to a machine. A common type of CAPTCHA requires that the user type letters or digits from a distorted image that appears on the screen.”

Below is an example of a CAPTCHA on craigslist.

Though CAPTCHA is a great tool for blocking spam it could be coming in the way of user experience and resulting in a lower conversion than you would have had without it.

I have come across many sites where CAPTCHAs are totally illegible. Such CAPTCHAs not only deter SPAM but also valid human visitors. Even if the CAPTCHA is totally legible it adds one extra step between a visitor and the conversion. Sometimes it takes few refreshes of the CAPTCHA before a visitors gets it right, resulting in a very frustrating experience.

You can spend all your time doing A/B and Multivariate testing the form layout, images, text etc. but probably won’t move the needle if your CAPTCHA is the culprit.

If you have CAPTCHA on your site then I suggest following 5 checks to ensure you have a good CAPTCHA on your site.

  • Clear - Is it clear to your visitors that you have to enter the CAPTCHA before the form can be submitted? Some sites don’t make it clear and leave visitors wondering why their form is not getting submitted. Make sure there is help available on CAPTCH if the visitors get stuck. Also make sure that there is a refresh button to refresh the CAPTCHA image incase visitors can't read it.

  • Readbility - Check all your CAPTCHA images. Can you read them? Will you visitors be able to figure out what your CAPTCHA reads?

  • Accessibility - Visually impaired visitors should be able to fill the form else you will loose them at CAPTCHA.

  • Time – How fast is your CAPTCHA? If it is slow to load or validate you might be loosing conversions.

  • Protection - Do you have a huge SPAM problem (that you need a CAPTCHA or did you put it because everybody else is putting them too? Keep in mind that event a CAPTCHA might not completely protect you from SPAM.

Is CAPTCHA hurting your conversions?

I suggest you conduct A/B testing to understand how CAPTCHA might be affecting your conversions. Create a version of the page that does not have CAPTCHA and test it against the control version (your current version with CAPTCHA).

Analyze the results. You should analyze the conversions you get from each version. Deduct any SPAM when calculating the conversion. Calculate true conversions per month/year from both versions. Make sure your results are statistically significant. Most likely you will see lower conversion from the version with CAPTCHA and higher SPAM from the version without CAPTCHA. Considering the impact of SPAM on your form, determine if the efficiency (clean data) gained by having CAPTCHA on your form outweighs the gain of extra conversion when you remove CAPTCHA. If CAPTCHA is doing more harm than good then remove it.

Examples of CAPTCHA

This CAPTCHA is hard to read but has help and accessibility built into it

This CAPTCHA is hard to read and does not have accessibility

This CAPTCHA is easy to read and has help and accessibility built into it

Have you seen a bad CAPTCHA that caused you to leave the site? Send me the link.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

URL Shortener: What and Why

About two months ago I got involved in developing a URL shortener called This service was inspired by the Twitter Google Analytics URL Builder that I had on my site.

Since then few people have asked me about the URL Shortner and the benefit of using them. This blog post is to answer those two questions.

What is a URL Shortener

URL shortener is a service/tool that takes any URL (long version) and converts into a short version with fewer characters compared to the original version. When someone clicks on the short version they are redirected to the actual URL (long version).

Long Version of URL:
Short URL:

Anyone clicking on will be redirected to

Why do you need a URL Shortener

There are several reasons why you might want to use a URL shortener, some of which are:
  1. Twitter – On Twitter you get only 40 characters to write your message. If you have to post a link in your message then you might need a short URL to maximize the use of those140 characters. Either you shorten it up with your choice of URL shortener or Twitter will do it for you with it’s choice of URL shortener.

  2. Emails – When you paste a very long URLs in the email, they are likely to be wrapped within email body leading them to break. Anyone clicking on those broken links will likely get an error. In order to avoid such mishap you might want to shorten the URL so that it does not break in the emails.

  3. Phone Call – Every now and then customer service reps need to give out URLs to customer, prospects etc. on the other end of the line. It is not an easy task to spell out a very long URLs. This is where a short urls might come in very handy. It is much easier to give the short version shown above over the phone than the long version.

  4. Adding Campaign Tracking Variables – If you want to append few query strings to the URLs so that you can track them as campaigns then it is much easier to hide them in a short url. For example, you might want to track the user who called the call center and got a link from customer support. In this case append the campaign variables to the URL, shorten them and then provide it to the customer support for their use. When the user views the url , you will be able to track the onsite behavior of people who called the call center.

Challenges with URL Shorteners

  1. Service - URL Shortener services are generally free and do not have any SLA (service level agreement) with the end users. If the service goes down then anybody clicking on the short URLs created by that URL shortening service will get an error message. Your only option at that point might be to just wait and hope that the service comes back up soon.

  2. Branding – Since the URL Shorteners have their domain name in the URL you loose any branding impact of posting the URLs. The user will not see your domain until they have clicked on the short url. e.g in the example above user will see instead of as the URL domain, they won’t know that the URL belongs to unless they click on it. (Note does allow you to have your own domain in the shortened urls, contact if you need more information or need to get it setup for your domain).

  3. SEO – Depending on how the URL shortening service redirects to your site, you might loose the Search Engine Optimization benefits when someone links to your site but uses a short URL instead of the full URL. In the example above someone might link to instead of

  4. SPAM – As spammers start using the short URLs to hide the actual URLs the user and applications will start distrusting the short URLs (a lot of them already are very wary of short URLs, some sites have even banned the posting of Short URLs). To combat such issues many URL shorteners such as let user preview a link before redirecting them to the actual URL.

There are over 100 URL shorteners today. Mashable has a list of several of the URL shorteners (Note: This list is old and does not list several newcomers such as

The two most common URL shorteners are and My personal favorite is

More on make it easy for you to append campaign tracking variables within the shortened urls. It also provides a dashboard which shows the total clicks by date, referrers, twitter mentions (delayed by 30 mins) and geo locations of the clicks. Now also allows you to have your own domain for the short URLs.


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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Individual Visitors Tracking v/s Aggregate Data

Should web analytics tool track visitors as unique individuals or at the aggregate level? John Squire, Chief Strategy Office of Coremetrics says that tracking at Individual level is the way to go and this is how his company is differentiating itself (from Google analytics). Brian Clifton, former heard of Google Analytics in EMEA, responded by saying that aggregation is the way to go.

In my opinion both of them are right. Which route to go really depends on what you want from the web analytics tool?

Aggregate Data

If you are new to web analytics or you just want to track and analyze the overall health of your website, aggregated data will work for you. If you want to know how your marketing efforts are performing in terms of driving traffic or online conversions than aggregate data will just work fine for you. If you want to know which pages of your site are bleeding and then conduct A/B testing or Multivariate testing to improve them then aggregate data will work for you.

Individual Visitor Tracking

However as companies mature in their use of web analytics data they will need individual level tracking.

A company which is ready to do personalization will need to understand each individual browsing/purchase behavior to put the right offers/products in front of her. That is not possible with aggregated data.

It sounds perfectly ok to know that 75% of visitors abandoned the shopping cart but won’t it be nice to know who those 75% are or a way to convert at least some of those 75%? This is where individual tracking will come in handy. If visitors, who abandoned the shopping cart, leave an email during the process then you can send them a targeted email based on how far along they were in the shopping process, what products they had looked at, what product they had in shopping cart, etc. You don’t need to analyze every single data point but you can have business rules that can trigger those emails. However, to do so you will need to track at individual level. Even if you don’t want to send an email if you know the cookie id of the visitors you can put a personalized offer in front of them when they return back to your site and this will require tracking at individual level.

Individual tracking also comes in handy when the sales people call the lead that they just got from the website. Knowing what the person, who filled the contact us form, did on the website could provide a lot of information to sales person who can then tailor their conversation based on this information.

There are several more scenarios where aggregate data just won’t work. You will need individual level tracking.

I agree that tracking individual has privacy implication that need be properly addressed before tracking each person. However privacy issues also exist when you anonymously track visitors at aggregate level and those need to be addressed too.

So should you choose a tool that aggregates the visitor data or the one that tracks them individually? It all depends on what you want to do with that data. If you need help in figuring out what tool will work best for you feel free to email me at batraonline at


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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Two Twitter Surveys That Need 2 Minutes Of Your Time

I am sure that you all have heard about Twitter and many of you have a Twitter account. But do you think all the twittering is worth the effort?

I have designed two Surveys to understand how people measure the success on Twitter. I will make the results available on this blog and also Tweet about it (@anilbatra)

Survey 1: The intent of this short survey is to understand if and how people track URLs they post on Twitter.

Survey 2: The intent of this survey is to understand the Click-Through Rate on Twitter URLs

If you can please twitter about this survey or post it on your blog that will be a great help.

Tweet This

Comments? Questions?
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Free Social Media Monitoring Tools for Small Businesses

One of my blog reader sent me the following question in response to my blog post, Social Media Analytics Part I

Anil, are there any free tools for social media monitoring (twitter) that you can recommend? Tools, that a small business can use until they can justify the budget for one of the mainstream tools?

Short answer is "Yes, there are free tools for Social Media Monitoring". Below are two of the tools that I suggest.

1. Google Alerts

Google Alerts is one of the best free tool for monitoring the social media. Google Alert is an email alert service from Google that monitors news, blogs, twitter, sites, youtube etc. and sends you an email whenever a keyword, specified by you, appears in those places.

You can access Google Alerts at

Google Alerts provides 6 types of alerts - 'News', 'Web', 'Blogs', 'Comprehensive', 'Video' and 'Groups'. According to Google Alerts FAQ

A 'News' alert is an email aggregate of the latest news articles that contain the search terms of your choice and appear in the top ten results of your Google News search.
A 'Web' alert is an email aggregate of the latest web pages that contain the search terms of your choice and appear in the top twenty results of your Google Web search.
A 'Blogs' alert is an email aggregate of the latest blog posts that contain the search terms of your choice and appear in the top ten results of your Google Blog search.
A 'Comprehensive' alert is an aggregate of the latest results from multiple sources (News, Web and Blogs) into a single email to provide maximum coverage on
the topic of your choice.
A 'Video' alert is an email aggregate of the latest videos that contain the search terms of your choice and appear in the top ten results of your Google Video search.
A 'Groups' alert is an email aggregate of new posts that contain the search terms of your choice and appear in the top fifty results of your Google Groups search.

I always use comprehensive so that it can cover all the sources. (Note: Recently Google has also started to cover Twitter feeds)

Alert Signup Page

An alert in my inbox

Google Alerts allows you to set the frequency of the alert notifications. There are three options
1. "once a day"
2. "once a week",
3. "as it happens"

I suggest starting with “as-it-happens” option and if you find yourself drowning in too many emails then scale it down to “once a day” or “once a week”.

2. SM2 – SM2 from Techrigy

SM2 has a free version. It is limited to 5 keywords that you can search on and only shows 1000 results but that should be enough for a Small Business.

There are few other tools that are under $15 a month. I will write about them after I have reviewed them.

Screenshot of SM2

If you need help with setting up any of these services please feel free to email me.

Comments? Questions?
Looking to fill your Web Analytics or Online Marketing position? Post your open jobs on
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Monday, July 13, 2009

Upcoming Conferences and Events

I will be participating in following events this month. If you are attending any of these conferences we should meet. Send me an email at batraonline at

  1. Web Analytics Wednesday - July 15th
    POP will be sponsoring WAW in Seattle. I will be doing a short presentation on Social Media Analytics

    This is a great opportunity to network with other Web Analytics, Optimization and Online Marketing professionals from Seattle area in a very informal and fun setting.

    Please RSVP at Web Analytics Wednesday site or send me a note at batraonline at (or @anilbatra on Twitter) so that they we know how many people to expect.


    1326 5th Ave, Suite 800
    Seattle, WA 98101

    Date: July 15th Wednesday
    Time: 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

  2. Moderator for Making Social Media Behave at OMMA Behavioral – July 30th

    The social media explosion has flooded the Internet with a mosh pit of user attitudes, preferences, and billions and billions of un-monetized page views. How can behavioral tracking and targeting technologies best leverage the social graph? Is behavioral targeting into social media inventory moving the needle for that segment’s notoriously low CPMs and ad effectiveness? Have any of the new data companies cracked the code in their attempts to leverage knowledge about social networking in places where these users really do pay attention to marketers? And have marketers really found effective and scalable ways of weaving their brands into online social activity? For years, behavioral technologies have promised many ways to solve the social media problem. What’s working?
    OMMA Behavioral

  3. On the panel of The "Ins and Outs" of Measuring Social Media at OMMA Metrics & Measurements – July 31st

    It isn’t just about how many times your brand is talked about, but what exactly is being said. Social Media has opened up multiple channels for customers to speak their mind, ask for help and make decisions. Each word, action and comment that they make could be helping you or hurting you. This panel will explore how to measure and monitor your Social Media vibe in the online world by listening and measuring what your customers are saying to you or about you.
    OMMA Metrics & Measurement
Looking to fill your Web Analytics or Online Marketing position?
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Latest Job: Senior Web Analyst at Vml (Kansas City, MO)
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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Web Analytics Wednesday in Seattle

After a long hiatus, Web Analytics Wednesday (WAW) is back in Seattle with a POP.

This is a great opportunity to network with other Web Analytics, Optimization and Online Marketing professionals from Seattle area in a very informal and fun setting.

Do we have a speaker or any presentation? Nothing planned yet but if you are interested in speaking then please send me your proposal for a 30 min presentation.

Do you have topic that you would like to discuss with fellow analysts? If yes, send me your thoughts as well.

Need another reason to attend? How about Free Beer and snacks.

Please RSVP at Web Analytics Wednesday site or send me a note at batraonline at (or @anilbatra on Twitter) so that they we know how many people to expect.


1326 5th Ave, Suite 800
Seattle, WA 98101

Date: July 15th Wednesday
Time: 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Tweet This

Looking to fill your Web Analytics or Online Marketing position? Post your open jobs on
Latest Job: Senior Web Analyst at Vml (Kansas City, MO)
Have you used a URL shortner with real time analytics?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Social Media Analytics Part I

What is Social Media?

There are so many ways people define social media and some even argue that it is not really media. According to Wikipedia, Social media is content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies. Simply put, social media refers to all the conversation and engagement that happen on networks and sites like facbook, myspace, twitter, blogspehere, youtube, flicke, messageboard, forums etc..

Since these conversations can have a big impact on your brand it becomes critical for a marketer to understand what people are talking about their brand/products etc. so that they can take appropriate actions and help in creating and fostering a positive chatter (conversation) about their brand. Social Media analytics is about measuring and analyzing Social media (content generated by people throughout the web).

Broadly, Social media measurements comes in two flavors
  1. Measuring the conversation about your brand in social media

  2. Measuring the impact your own social media efforts (e.g. the facebook widget that you spent tons of money on or links that you posted on twitter etc.)

In this post I will talk about the first point, "Measuring what conversation are happening about your brand". I will have second post to discuss about second post.

Challenge with Social Media Measurement

Social Media measurement is very different from measuring your own web site (this is what most of the web analytics tool measure). You own your own website. You can (should) measure interaction of your visitors with your website. Social Media happens with our without your active participation. It mostly happens outside the realms of your website such as conversation on twitter, blogs, forums, facebook etc. Since you don’t have any web analytics tool installed on these places it is hard to find out what’s happening. Even if you had a web analytics tool installed you won’t know what people are talking about. Which is what you would like to know? This sort of information is not available from traditional web analytics tools like Omniture Site Catalysts, WebTrends or Google Analytics.

Social Media Analytics Tools

There are new breed of tools that help you monitor the social buzz. These tools let you “listen” into the conversation about your brand
In these tools you specify a set of keywords that define your brand or are associated with your brand and then the tools do the rest. They crawl the social media networks/sites and find all the mentions of the specified keywords and bring them back to you in nicely formatted reports.
The setup in most of these tools is a very manual process. Once the data is back you will needs a human to go through and analyze the data (not any different from your web analytics tool).

What kind of information do these tools provide?

Most of these tools bring some flavor of the following information (and much more)
  • Brand Mentions - Conversation about your brand/competitor/industry (as specified by keywords). You get total mentions by day/week/month and also the ability to drill down to a specific conversations.

  • Brand Sentiment – What is the consumer sentiment towards your brand? Are they positive, negative, neutral on your brand?

  • Influencers - Who is talking about you? How influential are they and how many times have they talked about your brand.

Some of the Social Media Analytics Tools

Below are the screen shots from Radian6 and SM2. Representatives from both these companies were very helpful in responding to my tweet and providing me the screenshot of their tools (see below).



In part II I will talk about how you can measure the impact your own social media efforts (e.g. the facebook widget that you spent tons of money on or links that you posted on twitter etc.).

I might also write reviews of some of the tools mentioned above, if you are a vendor of social media analytics tool and would like me to do a review please contact me.

Looking to fill your Web Analytics or Online Marketing position?
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Latest Job: Senior Web Analyst at Vml (Kansas City, MO)
Site: AnilBatra.comTwitter:
Have you used a URL shortner with real time analytics?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Widemile Optimize: A/B and Multivariate Tool

In my post titled “A/B and Multivariate Testing Landscape”, I reported on a variety of tools that marketers and analytics professionals were using for A/B and multivariate testing. As I’ve predicted the interest in testing and targeting/segmentation continues to grow. This was also validated by the Web Analytics Association’s “Outlook 2009: Survey Report”.

I just got through a good discussion and demo of the newest release of Widemile Optimize with Bob Garcia, VP Business Development for Widemile. I’m impressed with the new release of Widemile Optimization product that he demoed; this is the first Widemile release for corporate users. Widemile had released an Agency Edition of the solution last fall and the new release includes advanced segmentation and a refined user interface.

You might be wondering who Widemile is as they don’t have the same brand recognition as Optimost or Omniture Test&Target. Widemile has been around for several years and was one of the vendors listed in “A/B and Multivariate Testing Landscape” survey at eMetrics. I started working with them last year as they were rolling out their platform for agencies.

Widemile’s new release should help more marketers get started with testing as they’ve focused on simplifying the process while still offering more advanced users a lot of flexibility. Their new segmentation wizard makes it easy to create and manage visitor segments based on visitors browser information, Geo information etc. Bob showed me how you can clone a test run and set up a new test against specific segments in less than 5 minutes without any tagging changes.

Widemile uses fractional factorial methodology which allows for tests that use a subset of the combinations used in full factorial tests. Using a fractional factorial methodology allows the tool such as Widemile to reduce the amount of time required to get statistically significant test results.

Widemile must have read my A/B and Multivariate Testing Landscape post I mentioned earlier, which cited lack of budget as an impediment to doing testing, as they also announced an aggressive promotion (up to 50% off) for the first 20 customers that sign on. In closing, if you’re investigating your options for a professional testing solution Widemile should be on your short list.

Feel free to email me if you need help to figure out which testing solution will work best for you or need help in getting your testing going.

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Latest Job: Senior Web Analyst at Vml (Kansas City, MO)
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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hits, Page Views, Visitors and Visits Demystified

This article is an introductory level and the intention of this article is to clarify few terms that you constantly hear in Web Analytics. Why am I writing this article? I hear some confusion about these terms from people new to field, so I thought I will write this blog post to clarify some of the common terms.

I am going to explain, Hits, Page Views, Visitors and Visits in this blog post.


Back in the early Internet days, Hits was a term commonly used to measure websites traffic. This term was mainly used by IT folks, early users of web analytics tools, to get an idea of the load on the server. As Web Analytics has moved into marketing and we have move to JavaScript based solutions, this term does not hold much meaning today as terms such as Page Views, Visits and Visitors have taken over.

So what is a Hit anyway? Let’s take an example of a simple web page shown below

This page is an html file with one image embedded in it.

When a person browses to this page (in her internet browser), she is requesting this page from the server to be downloaded to her internet browser. She views this page as one entity. In return browser is actually requesting 2 items from the server
  1. The actual HTML page

  2. The image embedded in it

When server returns these items, the browser assembles them and makes them look like one page to the person browsing this page.

This is what the log file of the server might look like (I have removed several items to make it simple) - - [16/Jun/2007:11:17:55 -0400] "GET /samplepage.html HTTP/1.1" 200 3225 "" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT XP; en-US; rv: Gecko/20070914 Firefox/" - [16/Jun/2007:11:17:55 -0400] "GET /batman.jpg HTTP/1.1" 200 3225 "" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows XP; en-US; rv: Gecko/20070914 Firefox/"

That means there were 2 hits on the server, one for the html page and one for the image. So with one page request there are 2 HITS (in this example)

All the above items will show up in your analytics reports if
  1. You use log file based solution

  2. You do not filter them out when setting up your reports

If you use a JavaScript solution then the only thing which is tagged (contains the JavaScript code) is the HTML page and that’s the only thing which will show up in the Web Analytics report.

Now let’s take a look at this sample again but this time we will look at the source to make sure there are no items hidden behind the HTML code. Sometimes (read most of the time) there are files that are not visible to the individual but still need to be downloaded from server and count towards the hits.

Here is what the source code looks like:

You will see there are two more files that are embedded in the page. One is a style sheet (stylesheet.css) and the other is a JavaScript (myjavascript.js) file.

So when a user requests this page, a total of 4 files are being requested from the server
  • The actual html page

  • The image embedded in it.

  • The .css file (stylesheet)

  • The .js (JavaScript File)

This is how the log file will look like - - [16/Jun/2007:11:17:55 -0400] "GET /samplepage.html HTTP/1.1" 200 3225 "" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT XP; en-US; rv: Gecko/20070914 Firefox/" - [16/Jun/2007:11:17:55 -0400] "GET /batman.jpg HTTP/1.1" 200 3225 "" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows XP; en-US; rv: Gecko/20070914 Firefox/" - [16/Jun/2007:11:17:55 -0400] "GET /stylesheet.css HTTP/1.1" 200 3225 "" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows XP; en-US; rv: Gecko/20070914 Firefox/" - [16/Jun/2007:11:17:55 -0400] "GET /myjavascript.js HTTP/1.1" 200 3225 "" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows XP; en-US; rv: Gecko/20070914 Firefox/"

If you are counting the Hits then there are 4 Hits on the server. It is evident it does not make a lot of sense to count Hits. Let’s look at what make sense (at least for now).

Page Views

According to Web Analytics Association Standards, “Page is an analyst definable unit of content”. Page Views is the number of times a page (an analyst-definable unit of content) was viewed.

So what does it mean? It means you can define type of file, Module, Flash interaction, PDF etc as a page and when a user views them they can be counted as Page Views.

Let’s use the above example and define a valid page as the files with .html extension only. When using a log file solution we configure the tool to filter out the other types of requests and only count pages with .html extension as valid pages. In a JavaScript based solution, all other types of files mentioned above (except .html in this case, if it has the JavaScript tag) will be automatically excluded from the Page View count.

So how many pages will the analytics report show? One, as there is only one html page. (You can configure your JavaScript based web analytics tool to track other forms of files as page views too but that requires customization).
The one page that is showed in the reports is a page view.

Visitors or Unique Visitors

Visitors or Unique Visitors, sometimes also referred as Unique Users is the number of unique individuals visiting a site. The most common way to identify an individual is via an anonymous cookie. Keep in mind that this is a close estimate of unique visitors and not an exact measure. Here are four examples on how unique visitor count can be wrong

  1. If two people use the same computer and same browser to visit a site, that identifies users by an anonymous cookie, both of them will be counted as one unique visitor since their cookie will be the same.

  2. On the flip side, if one individual uses two different computers to access the same site, the individual will be counted as two unique visitors because the new anonymous cookie will be issued on both the computers and show up as two different cookies in the analytics tool and hence will count them as two different visitors.

  3. If an individual uses the same computer but two different browsers (say IE and Firefox) then the person will be counted as two unique visitors because each browser will have its own cookie.

  4. If the individual visits the site, she will be counted as one visitor. Then if she clears her cookie and then visits the site again, she will be counted as two visitors.

Note: Visitors are calculated over a period of time e.g. day, week, month, year etc. and a visitor count from two periods can not be added together to get a total visitor count. Let’s take the data for following 2 days
Day 1 - 30 visitors
Day 2 – 45 visitors

The total visitors count for day 1 and day 2 is NOT the sum of the visitors count for the two days i.e. it is not 75 (30+ 45). Why?

For simplicity let’s assume that all the visitors who came to the site on day 1 also returned to site on day 2. In that case we will have 30 visitors from day 1 and 15 (45-30) on day 2 as unique between those two days, making the total unique to be 45 for the two day period and NOT 75.

The calculation I showed above has been simplified for this example. My advice is to let the analytics tool do the calculation for you and not sum the visitor count from separate period to come up with the total count of unique visitors.


Visit is also known as session. Visit starts when a visitor interacts with this site. In most case the interaction is the first page view by the visitor. The visit ends when user does not interact with a site for specified period of time. Most of the web analytics tools set 30 mins of inactivity as the end of the visit, however in most tools it is configurable and you can set it to whatever makes sense for your business.

Unlike, unique visitors, total visits to the site can be summed across time periods to get the total visit count for the period.

Hope this clarifies some of the confusion surrounding these terms.

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