As the Web’s popularity continues to grow and as new uses of the Web are developed, the importance of measuring the performance of a given Website as accurately as possible also increases. In this chapter, we discuss the various uses of Web analytics (how Web log files are used to measure a Website’s performance), as well as the limitations of these analytics. We discuss options for overcoming these limitations, new trends in Web analytics—including the integration of technology and marketing techniques— and challenges posed by new Web 2.0 technologies. After reading this chapter, readers should have a nuanced understanding of the “how-to’s” of Web analytics.
Current Uses Of, And Problems With, Web Analytics
This section addresses the state-of-the-art with respect to Web analytics, and is organized around the following issues:
What data is collected in Web analytics?
How is it obtained?
Who uses the data?
For what purposes are the data used?
What are the deficiencies and limitations with Web analytics?
How can these deficiencies be addressed?
Key Terms in this Chapter
Behavioral Targeting: A technique used by online publishers and advertisers to increase the effectiveness of their campaigns. The idea is to observe a user’s online behavior anonymously and then serve the most relevant advertisement based on their behavior. Theoretically, this helps advertisers deliver their online advertisement to the users who are most likely to be influenced by them.
Clickstream Data/Clicktrail: The recording of Web pages that a computer user clicks on while Web browsing or using a personal computer.
Cache Busting: Techniques used to prevent browsers or proxy servers from serving content from their cache, in order to force the browser or proxy server to fetch a fresh copy for each user request. Cache busting is used to provide a more accurate count of the number of requests from users.
Log File Analysis: Analyzing log files (Web server logs) to review the aggregate results.
Site Overlay: Any type of content that is superimposed over a Web page; for the purpose of Web analytics, the site overlay typically shows click and conversion data superimposed over the links on a Web page.
Server Logs: See log files.
Cookies: (HTTP cookies or Web cookies): Parcels of text left by a Website on the computer user’s hard disk drive; these data are then accessed by the Website’s computer server each time the user re-visits the Website. Cookies are used to authenticate, track, and maintain specific information about users, such as site preferences and the contents of their electronic shopping carts.
Page Tagging (Web Bug/Beacon): An object that is embedded in a Web page or e-mail and is usually invisible to the user but allows checking that a user has viewed the page or e-mail.
Web Analytics: The study of the behavior of Website visitors; the use of data collected from a Website to determine which aspects of the Website work towards the business objectives (for example, which landing pages encourage people to make a purchase).
Web Metrics: A generic term for the many types of measurements that can be made about a Website and its visitors.
Log Files or Web Server Logs: A file (or several files) automatically created and maintained by a computer server on which a Website is hosted of the activity on that Website (traffic, hits, etc.). A typical example is a Web server log which maintains a history of page requests.
Geo-Mapping: A visual representation of the geographical location of Website visitors layered on top of map or satellite imagery.
Web 2.0: A second generation of Web-based communities and hosted services, such as social-networking sites, wikis and blogs, which facilitate collaboration and sharing between users.
Flash Cookies: Similar to “cookies” (above), but coded with Macromedia Flash software; Flash cookies are more difficult to remove than traditional cookies, and as a result, they tend to be more reliable.