Web Analytics - Introduction

Posted on Wed, 12/13/2017 - 16:55 by avantgarde

Web analytics is the collection, reporting, and analysis of website data.  The focus is on identifying measures based on your organizational and user goals and using the website data to determine the success or failure of those goals and to drive strategy and improve the user’s experience.

 Web analytics applications can also help companies measure the results of traditional print or broadcast campaigns. It helps to estimate how traffic to a website changes after the launch of a new advertising campaign.

Web analytics also provides information about the number of visitors to a website and the number of page views. It helps note traffic and popularity trends which is useful for market research.

Basic Steps of Web Analytics Process

Most web analytics processes come down to four essential stages or steps, which are:

  • Collection of data: This stage is the collection of the basic, elementary data. Usually, these data are counts of things. The objective of this stage is to gather the data.
  • Processing of data into information: This stage usually take counts and make them ratios, although there still may be some counts. The objective of this stage is to take the data and conform it into information, specifically metrics.
  • Developing KPI: This stage focuses on using the ratios (and counts) and infusing them with business strategies, referred to as key performance indicators (KPI). Many times, KPIs deal with conversion aspects, but not always. It depends on the organization.
  • Formulating online strategy: This stage is concerned with the online goals, objectives, and standards for the organization or business. These strategies are usually related to making money, saving money, or increasing marketshare.

Each stage impacts or can impact (i.e., drives) the stage preceding or following it. So, sometimes the data that is available for collection impacts the online strategy. Other times, the online strategy affects the data collected.

There are at least two categories of web analytics; off-site and on-site web analytics.

  • Off-site web analytics refers to web measurement and analysis regardless of whether you own or maintain a website. It includes the measurement of a website's potential audience (opportunity), share of voice (visibility), and comments that is happening on the Internet as a whole.
  • On-site web analytics, the most common, measure a visitor's behavior once on your website. This includes its drivers and conversions; for example, the degree to which different landing pages are associated with online purchases. These measure the performance of your website in a commercial context. This data is typically compared against KPI's for performance, and used to improve a website or marketing campaign's audience response. Google analytics and Adobe analytics are the most widely used on-site web analytics service.

Historically, web analytics has been used to refer to on-site visitor measurement. However, this meaning has become blurred, mainly because vendors are producing tools that span both categories. Many different vendors provide on-site web analytics software and services.

There are two main technical ways of collecting the data:

The first and traditional method, server log file analysis, reads the log files in which the server records file requests by browsers.

The second method, page tagging, uses Javascript embedded in the webpage to make image requests to a third-party analytics-dedicated server, whenever a webpage is rendered by a browser or, if desired, when a mouse click occurs. Both collect data that can be processed to produce web traffic reports.

Some useful terms in web analytics:

  •  - A request for a file from the web server. The number of hits received by a website is frequently cited to assert its popularity, but this number is extremely misleading and dramatically overestimates popularity. A single web-page typically consists of multiple (often dozens) of discrete files, each of which is counted as a hit as the page is downloaded, so the number of hits is really an arbitrary number more reflective of the complexity of individual pages on the website than the website's actual popularity. The total number of visits or page views provides a more realistic and accurate assessment of popularity.
  •  - A request for a file, or sometimes an event such as a mouse click, that is defined as a page in the setup of the web analytics tool. An occurrence of the script being run in page tagging. In log analysis, a single page view may generate multiple hits as all the resources required to view the page (images, .js and .css files) are also requested from the web server.
  •  - A visit or session is defined as a series of page requests or, in the case of tags, image requests from the same uniquely identified client. A unique client is commonly identified by an IP address or a unique ID that is placed in the browser cookie. A visit is considered ended when no requests have been recorded in some number of elapsed minutes. A 30-minute limit ("time out") is used by many analytics tools but can, in some tools (such as Google Analytics), be changed to another number of minutes. Analytics data collectors and analysis tools have no reliable way of knowing if a visitor has looked at other sites between page views; a visit is considered one visit as long as the events (page views, clicks, whatever is being recorded) are 30 minutes or less closer together. Note that a visit can consist of one page view, or thousands. A unique visit's session can also be extended if the time between page loads indicates that a visitor has been viewing the pages continuously.
  •  - The uniquely identified client that is generating page views or hits within a defined time period (e.g. day, week or month). A uniquely identified client is usually a combination of a machine (one's desktop computer at work for example) and a browser (Firefox on that machine). The identification is usually via a persistent cookie that has been placed on the computer by the site page code. An older method, used in log file analysis, is the unique combination of the computer's IP address and the User Agent (browser) information provided to the web server by the browser. It is important to understand that the "Visitor" is not the same as the human being sitting at the computer at the time of the visit, since an individual human can use different computers or, on the same computer, can use different browsers, and will be seen as a different visitor in each circumstance. Increasingly, but still somewhat rarely, visitors are uniquely identified by Flash LSO's (Local Shared Object), which are less susceptible to privacy enforcement.
  •  - The percentage of visits that are single page visits.
  •  - the chronological sequence of page views within a visit or session.