Omniture SiteCatalyst Plug-ins

Omniture SiteCatalyst is without a doubt one of the best Web analytics solutions out there. However, like all analytics solutions it be can difficult to implement when you are not a dedicated programmer or you do not have the available programming resources at your disposal. Many times Web analytics and other people that are responsible for the Web analytics function within a company will also not have access to server-side code to implement better page names and to set events and variables when you need to in certain circumstances. And this is where the Omniture SiteCatalyst plug-ins enter the equation.

The primary advantage of the SiteCatalyst plug-ins is that they allow you to implement SiteCatalyst and its more advanced features without the need to touch the server-side code. It should be noted thought that editing server-side code to pass dynamic data to SiteCatalyst is almost always the preferred avenue if it is available to you. That being said, Omniture has created many plug-ins that allow data to be sent to SiteCatalyst so that you can implement by only touching your basic “s_code.js” file that is a part of the implementation. Some of the more useful plug-ins (my opinion of course) include:

  • Append List (s.apl)
    • This function is one of the most useful and versatile for someone without easy access to source code. As an example of how this function might be used, assume that you have a registration confirmation page that needs a success event fired. By using the “s.apl” function, you can write some very simple JavaScript that will detect the Omniture page name and if it is a match, this plug-in will fire your success event. All being coded from directly within the Omniture JavaScript file.
  • Link Handler (there are 3 of these)
    • There are three flavors of the link handler plug-in. One controls clicks on regular links, another controls exit links and the last controls download links. The “s.downloadLinkHandler” plug-in is especially helpful if you want to track all of the PDFs on your site by setting a specific custom event for only clicks on PDFs, while at the same time sending the URL of the PDF into a commerce variable (a.k.a. an eVar). By using these three plug-ins, you can easily begin tracking the clicks of select links on your site.
  • New vs. Repeat Visitors (s.getNewRepeat)
    • The name of this plug-in says it all. By using this one, you will be able to segment all of your visitors and their interactions with your site into behavioral groups for new and return visitors. Very useful when the Omniture prop and/or eVar is correlated or fully subrelated, respectively.
  • Query Parameter (s.getQueryParam)
    • This might be the most basic plug-in, and is a part of almost every Omniture SiteCatalyst implementation that I’ve ever seen. While simple, it is extremely useful. Using this plugin, you can capture the value of any query string parameter and send that value to an eVar or prop. When you couple this plug-in with one like “s.apl” you have an easy way to capture your internal search phrases while at the same time setting a custom success event for internal searches.

These are but a few of the many plug-ins offered by Omniture. There are also more advanced ones such as:

  • Channel Manager (advanced tracking of your campaign data)
  • Cross Visit Participation (provides an understanding of campaign impact across visits)
  • Form Analysis (enables reporting on form errors, abandonment, etc.)

This last few are more difficult to implement in most cases, and you might consider contacting a consultant here.

The plug-ins are one of the most useful features of a SiteCatalyst implementation but are often overlooked. I think that a session on a few of the more advanced plug-ins would be an excellent idea for an Omniture Summit session, don’t you?

Campaign Revenue Attribution

One of the most simple questions asked in analytics is, “How much money are we making from our paid search campaign?” The problem is that there are many ways to answer this question, as well as many factors from the Web analytics side that can created different answers.

As a Web analyst working within a team of more traditional SQL-using, data analysts, explaining how an analytics solution answers the above question can be challenging. The 3 primary variables that are a part of a revenue attribution methodology include:

  1. The order with which the campaign credited with the sell occurs in relation to other campaigns
  2. The length of time that a campaign may receive credit for a sale
  3. How attribution is split (or not) among multiple campaigns

As for order, the most common approach is last touch. In other words, if a visitor clicks through your email campaign today and then through your Google ad tomorrow, the Google ad will get all of the credit because it was the last campaign touched before the purchase. The problem of course, is that even though the email campaign was clicked first and might have impacted the sale, the email receives no credit. One alternative to last touch that gets around this is linear attribution. Basically, linear attribution would split the previously mentioned sale 50/50 between the email and the Google ad. But should it really be 50/50? In addition to last touch and linear, you can also have something like first, or original, touch, where the email would get all of the credit. So there are a lot of choices to mull over.

Now that I’ve talked about a few of the methodologies around the order of attribution, the variable of time needs to be added. Using the previous example, and assuming last touch as the order of attribution, how long after coming in through a Google ad should the ad get credit for the sale? Only if they buy within the visit? 7 Days? 30 Days? The most typical solution is 30 days. However, this could very well extend out to months if your Web site is one of lead generation where the sales cycle is weeks or months long. Also, if you send out daily emails, is 30 days really a good choice for attribution? If you don’t have the choice of a custom solution, then 30 days is probably your best bet right now since that seems to be the standard. But, just keep in mind that you might have the option of changing your attribution to any time preiod (or maybe even event on your Web site).

Earlier, I mentioned linear attribution as a method of splitting revenue between multiple campaigns. Aside from this even split among campaigns, there are not many other options out there. This is one of the biggest challenges in revenue attribution. One way around this is to export all of your analytics data by visitor ID for every visit (that’s a ton of data to say the least). Once you have this data, you can create your own methodology to tie a sale back to every visit by the visitor, and every campaign that they touched (and the time between) prior to the sale, all the way back to maybe even the first campaign code ever touch by the visitor. We’ve done this at my current job, and I can tell you that it is not something that is easy to recreate on an ongoing basis.

It would be great if there was some solution on the Web analytics vendor side that would let you create a truly custom attribution methodology. However, the problem there is that if you can customize every aspect of attribution, you might end up creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. What I mean here is that if you want to weight the last touch before a sale as being worth more than the campaign touches between the first and last, then you might be over valuing paid search if that is most often your last touch marketing channel.

So what is the solution?

As far as I am concerned, it is short sited to value everything as last touch. You can’t just ignore the fact that other campaigns have in someway influenced/impacted your visitor prior to making a purchase. To ignore this is to miss out on understanding and optimizing your marketing efforts from beginning to end. So, ditch last touch (in a perfect world, if you can).

Next, you’re going to need to create your own solution as to how to tie all of the different campaign touches together and appropriately attribute them to the sale. This is an easy thing to say, but not so easy to do obviously. In a later post I will try to flesh out an idea to actually do this.

Do you have any ideas as to how to improve upon existing ideas of revenue attribution? If you’re doing something custom yourself, let me know about it.

Programming and Web Analysts

Now that Omniture has APIs and WebTrends is doing more sophisticated things with their tools that have ODBC connections, I was thinking, should we Web analysts consider adding to our skill set? Primarily, should we begin to add programming abilities to our skill set? Things like APIs are great, but only if you have the ability to create applications that access these APIs. Should we Web analysts start learning languages like PHP, SOAP and XML so that we can create our own applications?

Also, most popular Web analytics technologies are based upon JavaScript (from the implementation side anyway). So, a better understanding of JavaScript would most likely benefit us all. A better understanding of JavaScript alone could open some doors for better Web analytics opportunities for those not already proficient with JavaScript.

I think that we Web analysts should be immersing ourselves in programming so that we become more than just analysts and the users of tools like Omniture, GA, WebTrends, etc. I for one will be trying to pick up the following skills in 2009:

  • PHP/SOAP – for the purpose of programming with Web APIs and creating new applications for analytics and online marketing
  • JavaScript – I’m already decent with JS, but would like to be able to do some more advanced things for analytics
  • SQL/MySQL – for the purpose of querying Oracle, SQL and MySQL databases

Are their any other skills that you think would benefit Web analysts? What additional skills are you trying to pick up on your own this next year?

Omniture Dashboard Speed & Dates

This post is just to note a couple of things that I have discovered recently about Omniture dashboards. I hope that this might be of help to some of you that use Omniture.

Faster Omniture Dashboards

File this one under what is most likely common sense. But, I have seen many Omniture SiteCatalyst dashboards take forever and a day to run, or you will see the “unable to retrieve data” message. I at first thought that this might be due to the fact that I had seen this most often on dashboards for Omniture variables that were using 20 – 30 classifications. Maybe using that many classifications slowed everything down? But no, it was really just because of the number of metrics that we had for each reportlet. I tried recreating dashboards with only revenue, and voila, the dashboards ran in no time. The down side here, is that a dashboard is only so useful if it has a single metric. If you are experiencing problems with slow dashboards, you might want to try and reduce the number of metrics in your reportlets (maybe to just two or three) until it runs in a reasonable amount of time. The addition of calculated metrics is also a significant factor in slowing down or killing Omniture dashboards. Of course if the dashboard is automated via email, you can add everything you like, and the whole thing will get emailed perfectly fine.

Omniture Dashboard Dates

Just another Omniture dashboard experience that I thought I’d share. We have several dashboards that are setup so that each reprotlet might be reporting on ranked data for the last 30 days. Last 30 days was chosen since a current month would not be all that useful on the first of the month. One of the great advantages to dashboard in SiteCatalyst 14 (as opposed to earlier versions), is that you can change the date for all reportlets in a dashboard at the same time. This makes the dashboards much more useful. So, someone requested the executive dashboard for a custom date range. Knowing that you can do this in SiteCatalyst 14, I changed date range to the custom one requested. Everything ran great, so I sent the dashboard to the person via the email function within SiteCatalyst 14. However, the dashboard that the person received was stuck to the default of last 30 days in which the dashboard was originally created. So, just be aware that while you can change Omniture dashboard dates to custom ranges, the email results will be the default of the dashboard in the way that it was created. I confirmed this with Omniture, and it is not a bug, but just the way it was designed.

Commitment and Site Optimization

Reading a recent blog post from Jeffery Eisenberg (Realistic Expectations For Conversion Rate Optimization) made me once again think about how a lot of companies fail to really commit to testing and site optimization once they purchase a tool (Test&Target, SiteSpect, Optimpost, Goolgle Web Site Optimizer, etc.). Right now, I see site optimization where I saw Web analytics about 5 years ago in terms of tools and commitment.

A few years ago, businesses were ready to go out and buy the biggest and best Web analytics solution out there, without having any kind of dedicated resources to leverage the information or to ensure that any kind of best practices were being followed or developed. Now, many companies have dedicated Web analysts that can implement analytics solutions and help their businesses leverage the information contained within. Site optimization is, as I see it, about to explode (more than it already has) because companies appear ready to commit resources to the effort as opposed to just buying a solution and running with it.

Most companies do not dedicate any resources to actually making their existing Web sites better.

Most design and development efforts are concerned with developing new features or content. Instead, companies need to remember that they have a ton of content out there that could probably be performing better than it already is. After all, how often do any of us get something perfect on the first try (or the second for that matter)?

There are several things that a company can do to ensure that they are committed to optimizing their Web site:

  • Dedicated some of the time of your design and development teams to optimization.
  • Commit to designing at least 2 versions of everything that goes out. Make optimization a part of the design process (within reason of course). This is often a big challenge as designers see testing as just doubling their work.
  • Find a way to get everyone invested/interested. A lot of companies make the testing process an internal contest of sorts where everyone watches results in real time.
  • Pay your employees for coming up with ideas that improve conversion rates. After all, shouldn’t you be paying your employees to impact the bottom line anyway? Here, it’s measurable!
  • Realize that optimization and testing is just as important as your paid search and e-mail marketing efforts. All require an ongoing commitment in resources and effort.
Do you have any other thoughts on what companies can do to ensure that they are committed to site optimization and testing?

New Google Analytics Features – First Impressions

So I have access to the new updates to Google Analytics now. My first impressions of the updates are very positive. The two big additions (aside from the API) are the custom reports and segmentation.

The custom reporting actually went a little beyond my expectations. The big thing here that Google has done is that you can create reports that are very deep (4 levels or so) and that you can correlate across different report dimensions easily. Now Google just needs to implement more variables and events to take this to the next level.

The segmentation works well too, but it’s a little clunky in it’s setup. Here, I like the buckets that you start with in Omniture’s Discover. The creation of a segment seems a little more intuitive when starting from the idea of a visitor, visit or page view.

I do think that with the additions of the custom reporting and segmentation that Google has become more of a serious option for larger businesses. 

Omniture Launches Developer Connection & Discover API

Okay, I’m not trying to make this an Omniture blog, but they keep releasing products/services and acquiring companies at startling rate the last few weeks. That being said, I received an e-mail from them this morning about launching a beta of something called the “Omniture Developer Connection.” At first glance, this appears to be just a repository for documentation on Omniture’s Web services. One BIG thing that I did notice, is that:

There is now a Discover API and accompanying documentation!

This is great to see, and I hope that Omniture gives some more attention to this new API. I would like to automate some Discover reporting, and an automated CSV file isn’t the most elegant way to accomplish it.

This site (that requires Omniture login credentials) also contains forums for developers as well as a library of code examples that can be contributed to by developers. Right now though, there are no posts in the forum (aside from the admin) and there’s only one code example.

Here’s the announcement e-mail from Omniture:

Announcing Omniture Developer Connection (BETA) 

The Omniture Developer Connection is here—a community Web site designed to help our customers build applications  that use their Omniture data. Found at http://developer.omniture.com, the Developer Connection allows our customers to:

  • Use Omniture SiteCatalyst data across third-party applications, such as an intranet or a company-branded application
  • Access SiteCatalyst reporting data to create calculated metrics, or format the data to meet specific internal needs
  • Use the data collection API to facilitate the integration of SiteCatalyst with applications that cannot be easily tagged with JavaScript

In addition, Omniture Developer Connection contains:

  • Documentation of Omniture’s application programming interfaces (APIs)
  • Sample code showing reference  implementations to give developers a head-start in developing their own applications
  • Discussion boards and blogs to provide peer-to-peer support among those building Omniture-driven applications

Please pass this along to the appropriate development team within your organization. For additional detail on the Developer Connection, a list of Frequently Asked Questions is provided below: 

1. When is the Developer Connection available?
Omniture will be releasing the Developer Connection in beta on
October 17, 2008.

2. Who can access the Developer Connection?
The Developer Connection and Omniture APIs are accessible to Omniture customers with a SiteCatalyst login.

3. What are the Omniture APIs?
The Omniture Web Services API provides programmatic access to Omniture SiteCatalyst administration, data insertion, Omniture Data Warehouse and reporting functionality. The Web Services API is built using SOAP, which allows developers to use any SOAP development toolkit to start developing applications. The data insertion API is built on an XML-based schema, allowing developers to easily and quickly send data and begin testing integrations with the system.

4. How do I access the Developer Connection?
Customers can use their SiteCatalyst login information to access the Developer Connection at http://developer.omniture.com.
 
5. What is the best way to start using Developer Connection?
A Getting Started guide (for users with a SiteCatalyst login) is available to assist new users through the process of learning the prerequisites, enabling the Web services APIs, and testing and authenticating newly developed applications. The guide is available under the ‘Getting Started’ tab in the portal.

6. Does Developer Connection include API documentation for all products in the Omniture Online Business Optimization suite?
Currently, API documentation is available for SiteCatalyst, DataWarehouse, Discover reporting, and SearchCenter. Additional API’s will be added in the future. 

7. How should Beta participants provide feedback regarding the Developer Connection portal? 
We will be monitoring the community blogs and message boards and encourage customers to provide us feedback there. 

Sincerely,


Your Omniture Team

Omniture Acquires Mercado

Omniture Acquires MercadoI received an e-mail this morning that Omniture has acquired Mercado, one of the largest players in on-site search. The funny thing here is that Omniture has only recently started selling the rebranded VisualScience product (which was formerly a WebSideStory product) for site search. I am guessing that Omniture will take the same direction here as they have with their Discover product, making the VisualScience product a “lite” version compared to their newly acquired product from Mercado. Here’s the e-mail Omniture sent this morning making the announcement:

Dear Omniture Customer,

We are excited to let you know that Omniture has agreed to acquire the assets of Mercado, a leader in site search and merchandising and a long-standing Omniture partner. This acquisition includes certain technology and intellectual property assets.

The addition of Mercado’s applications presents a unique opportunity for Omniture to further expand our online business optimization platform with increased site search and online merchandising capabilities. 

The acquisition will be highly complementary with our Omniture SiteSearch™ product. SiteSearch customers should know there will be no impact on the current Omniture product offering. In the future, however, we anticipate bringing together the best features of both so we can continue to provide the most comprehensive site search and merchandising solution available in the market.

For additional information, please read the press release announcing this news, visitwww.omniture.com or contact your account manager.

It would seem that Omniture is pushing full steam ahead in creating their “online marketing optimization suite.”

At this time, my company is using Endeca. I don’t know that this will make us take a look at this new offering or not, but it will be interesting to see what kinds of integrations they have planned down the road in terms of their other products.

Update:

I’m hearing on Twitter that this was a bit of a fire sale (http://twitter.com/jbillingsley/statuses/959067564). It also looks like Mercado wasn’t doing so well and that the software-as-a-service business model wasn’t helping the issue (http://www.startupisrael.com/mercado-shutting-down). I know that Omniture uses the same basic business model, but they also have the advantage of a huge customer base.

Creating an Action-Oriented Culture

Most experts in Web analytics dream of working for a business that makes data-driven decisions. Look at it as justification for our career choice. However, I think that this needs to be taken a step further:

We should be concerned with creating an action-oriented culture, not just a data-driven one.

Having access to advanced Web analytics tools, we can churn out meaningful analyses that management will most certainly use in making decisions. So, that means that we work for a data-driven company, which is a great thing indeed. The missing thing there is that the information isn’t nearly as useful if no action is ever taken. This can also be very defeating for people in Web analytics. No one wants to feel as though their hard work is never put to real, visible use.

So what can we do to help create an action-oriented culture when we don’t have direct control over resources and priorities?

Start A/B Testing

This is a slam-dunk, since action is one of the first steps here, and the payoff is pretty quick to see. Once you can get your company to buy into A/B testing (don’t worry about multivariate yet), more tests will follow as the return on investment becomes evident. Start easy with only A/B tests, where “B” is very different from A (to ensure meaningful results) and try out a tool like Google Website Optimizer (free) to help make ROI justification easier.

Focus on Change

Everyone delivers dashboards and standards reports. As I’m fond of pointing out, these eventually get ignored with all of the other noise that exists in inboxes. If you want people to stand up and take notice, and eventually act, then you’re going to need to get a little more manual and really dig into the “why” of your data and information. Like it or not, we Web analysts don’t know everything that marketing, Web design and the other teams on our site are doing. So, instead of just delivering dashboards on a regular basis, we need to start tracking significant changes in metrics, investigating with the necessary people, and finally delivering an intelligent analysis on the “why.” In addition, we need to make efforts to be more in the loop with all of our online efforts to understand and provide analysis on the efforts that are not making any significant changes on our site(s). After all, why waste effort on something that doesn’t even move the sales needle?

Understand Your Customer/Visitor

I just mentioned how important it is to understand the “why” in why things are changing or happening on your site. While traditional quantitative analytics is great, we must supplement our data with qualitative data. We must also do this at the visit level so that we can correlate the “why” to what visitors actually did (or did not do) on our site. If you can start to get survey input from your site visitors, then you can put some real, hard evidence that action needs to be taken and put it in front of the right people. These people might find it a little harder to not act on information from a person that has a proven purchase or visit history with your Web site. While there are a lot of survey solutions out there, you should at least start with something free like 4Q, which was created by Avinash Kaushik and iPerceptions. You may not be able to get the answers to the 4Q survey related to your transactional data (hey, it’s free!), but it’s a starting point in gaining qualitative knowledge about your visitors/customers.

Do you have any other ideas as to how data and information can spur action?

The Economy and Web Analytics Jobs

A lot of people have lost their jobs over the last few months, and a lot more probably will. Most people in analytics know that there is more demand for skilled Web analysts than there is supply. So, would you say that experts in analytics have recession-proof jobs by default?

I keep seeing a lot of articles and content poping up on the Web about recession-proofing your job. Most of them say that you need to appear indespisible (perception is reality, right?) as well as be more of a jack-of-all-trades. Here’s a podcast from Harvard Business Review on this:

Harvard Business IdeaCast 110: How to Protect Your Job in a Recession

What can Web analytics people do to recession-proof themselves?

As I see it we can do several things at least:

  1. Constantly (and I mean almost daily!) turn out ideas to improve your company’s online presence
  2. Present to management often (to increase your visibility and the perception of being indespensible)
  3. Speak at conferences (analytics or otherwise) and become better know in your company’s own industry (unless the bad economy has resulted in your travel budget being shot!)

One other thing that you can do to recession-proof your job is to keep some information close to the vest. That is, don’t run out and tell everyone in your company how to do everything that you do. If you document exactly how to do all of the technical aspects of your job, this might also hurt you in recession-proofing your job. I can’t say that I really agree with everything here about not sharing things about your job skills, but I’m just throwing it out there as something that we all know is done in reality.

Do you have any further ideas as to how people in Web analytics can help themselves in recession-proofing their jobs in this economy?