International stores, video advertising, and the Windows 7 launch

We’re in Amsterdam this week, presenting at a Measureworks conference on web performance and optimization and attending a Tweetup.

Our host, Jeroen, told us yesterday that since the introduction of GPSes in Amsterdam, traffic accidents in the narrow-streeted city have risen significantly. Many people are focused on their instruments, rather than looking around them. This made me think of some issues I’d seen with web advertising recently that would have been hard to detect through instruments alone, and underscored some of the shortcomings of a purely instrument-driven analytics approach.

Microsoft Canada's website for the Windows 7 launchWith much fanfare, Microsoft launched Windows 7. By many accounts, it’s a good operating system, despite the widely derided launch parties they tried to encourage (which, to be fair, did get people talking about the launch.) The launch involved a massive online ad buy, as well as a new online store for the company. Two aspects of this launch caught my attention: The differences between regional stores, and the state of video advertising.

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Slides from performance and KPI webinar

We had a good discussion about performance and its impact on KPIs like analytics and conversion with Strangeloop this week. Here are the slides, available for download or viewing, on Slideshare.

Proof that speeding up websites improves online business

conversion rate and order valueDo faster web pages mean better business? Definitely. We’ve seen hard evidence from major web operators like Shopzilla, Google, and Microsoft. But what about other websites? How big an impact does performance optimization have on the business metrics of a typical media or e-commerce site?

Here’s some concrete data on how reducing latency changes the key metrics, such as bounce rate, pages per visit, conversion rate, and shopping cart amount. It’s a pretty detailed discussion, but it if you want to understand the ROI of improving web performance on your site, dig in. If you want to read this more easily, here’s a PDF.

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3 reasons why real time analytics tools are essential

SonarA real time analytics solution lets you see who is currently visiting your website.   You get granular session-level detail (IP addresses, technographic information, geolocation, and sometimes even a username).  They differ from tools like Webtrends, AT Internet and Google Analytics in that they’re not well equipped to deal with trending and goal tracking.

If you run a website, we strongly suggest that you install a real time analytics solution.

Here’s why:

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The Adobe and Omniture Acquisition: Some Predictions

For Alistair Croll’s take on the Omniture – Adobe acquisition, click here.

Omniture - Sentiment Over 4 Quarters - SysomosAdobe’s acquisition of Omniture dramatically strengthens Adobe’s ability to optimize and monetize its clients, and Omniture’s ability to pierce real time streaming and online video markets.  Overall,  sentiment for Omniture’s will increase as it is integrated in a strong brand with a proven record of successful acquisition integrations.  The attached picture from the social media listening platform Sysomos shows blog sentiment for Omniture over the last four quarters (Thank to team Sysomos for providing the screenshot).

Expect to see:

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The Adobe and Omniture Acquisition: What It Means

For Sean Power’s predictions on the Omniture – Adobe acquisition, click here.

Adobe has a problem. They make great client software — Flash, Flex, Acrobat — that works with the vast majority of browsers. In fact, it ships with most of them. Despite attempts by Scribd, Silverlight, and others, Adobe’s technology makes the Web a more exciting place.

But Adobe only makes money when they sell the server side of all those tools. And they don’t have a monopoly on those sales. Plenty of software can save Flash or PDF formats.

With the acquisition of Omniture, Adobe may actually have found a way to make money from all those installed clients. It’s relatively easy to instrument HTML: just put in a snippet of code. But doing it in Flash or Acrobat is a lot harder, requiring some coding and instrumentation.

If Adobe makes it easy to track client behaviors in Acrobat and Flash, it can make itself the Google Analytics of the Rich Internet Application world. Done right, there’ll be widgets in the Eclipse-based Flash and Flex developer environments, and in Acrobat authoring tools like Illustrator. Imagine dragging a “Goal” object to a Flex view, or marking a text field as the “transaction value” for a session, or tracking how far down a document a particular reader has scrolled.

Then Adobe can offer tracking and analytics for video and RIAs to those who want it. If they’re smart, they’ll do it for free for clients that don’t have a lot of traffic, but charge for more volume. It’s a great Trojan Horse strategy, and it’ll work if they open up Omniture’s entire suite.

This goes beyond simple analytics, of course. Adobe is uniquely positioned to track the sharing of viral videos, Flash-based games, and forwarded documents, then to tie those back to conversions on the website. It’s the holy grail of Internet marketing, and it requires that a client be deployed across all browsers and embedded in the applications themselves.

There are some important security and privacy issues here, of course. If you thought tracking cookies were bad, imagine what they’re like when they’re inseparable from the document, video, or application itself.

Nevertheless, everyone making money tracking things — from bit.ly, to Doubleclick, to other analytics firms — is going to be watching this really closely. If you wondered how we were going to pay for online media and digital TV, well, now you know.

An Open Letter To All TechCrunch50 2009 Startups: The TC Bump, What It Really Means and How To Navigate It

Disclaimer 1: All site-related data found in this post comes from compete.com.  The company was kind enough to give us a “pro account” to help us research the O’Reilly book that we wrote called Complete Web Monitoring (thanks, you rock!).  However, compete.com did not sponsor this post (nor did any company, for that matter).  And yes, we know – compete.com numbers are simply estimates.

Disclaimer 2: I (Sean) worked for Akoha as Community Gardener while we launched at TechCrunch50 2008; but I’m now doing metrics, web analytics, performance, and social computing consulting.  The views found below are mine, and do not reflect those of Akoha in any way.  For the record, Akoha is awesome!

About us: This post was written by Sean Power with Alistair Croll.

Dear TechCrunch50 Startups,

Congratulations. You made the list. You’re finally launching, and that pent-up frustration of not being able to tell people about it for a month is almost at an end. Now, you have to live with a weekend of cold, hard fear that your demo will explode. You’ve got an interesting week ahead, and I know you’re short on sleep, so let me get to the point quickly.

You’re probably excited about the TC50 bump. I first saw the term used by Josh Kopelman of First Round Capital on the RedEye VC blog. The bump refers to the pounding your website is about to experience from TC50 attendees, readers, bloggers and their friends.  It’s not to be underestimated.  Here’s a glimpse at how the bump looked like for all TC50 startups in 2008.  If you squint a little, you’ll see Akoha somewhere in there!:

TechCrunch50 2008 - Unique Visitors - All Finalists - The TechCrunch Bump

This is an unprecedented influx of attention. It may be the single biggest traffic spike you’ll ever experience. Thousands of visitors will drive by your site, stay for a minute, and leave — never to return. After the bump, you’ll feel a tremendous rush of adrenaline, then deep, soul-sucking disillusionment as your traffic dwindles back to its former levels.

Don’t waste this opportunity. If you take the right steps, you can make the most of your fifteen minutes of fame.

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DemoCamp Guelph

We’re doing a presentation that’s excerpted from the book at DemoCamp Guelph tonight. Should be an interesting conversation; we have an “exercise” planned. Sean can’t be here (he was at Podcamp and has to get real work done after a weekend of editing the 400+ figures in the text!) but will be joining on Twitter. If you have photos from the event, or questions for Sean, we’ll be using the #CWM hashtag (for Complete Web Monitoring, the title of the book.)

One of the projects we’ve been working on is trying to create a single, comprehensive overview of the Complete Web Monitoring process. Here’s where we’re at (and an early glimpse at a poster we’re working on.)

First of all, a complete monitoring strategy includes the many questions a web analyst needs to answer:

  • Web analytics (“what did they do?”)
  • Web Interaction Analytics (“how did they do it?”)
  • Voice of the Customer (“why did they do it?”)
  • Both synthetic and real user performance monitoring (“could they do it?”)
  • Community monitoring (“what are they saying?”, “who’s talking?”, and “where are they saying it?”

Any strategy also has to look at several different stages in monitoring:

  • Arrival (“I visited the site”)
  • Usage (“I played with it”)
  • Engagement (“I’m a part of it”)
  • Revenue (“I paid for it”)
  • Referrals (“I spread the word”)

If these look somewhat like Dave McClure’s Pirate Metrics, it’s because he’s awesome and we borrow heavily from his thinking on startup metrics. Anyway, this PDF is a work in progress of trying to align the big questions analysts need to answer with the various stages of visitor engagement. Once we sex it up a bit, we’ll make some posters.

I’ll put the DemoCamp slides up here shortly.

Places and tasks

I have a problem with web analytics.

The whole notion of a web visit as a rigid set of steps that users follow is incompatible with how we use the web today. Visitors browse around the site, taking their time, exploring and interacting. Occasionally, they complete some kind of action we want—inviting their friends, buying something, and so on.

For a couple of years, I’ve been thinking about web visits in terms of two fundamental building blocks: Places and tasks. If you look at your site as a series of places and tasks, you’ll think differently about how and what you should be watching.

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[Web Analytics] My, How Things Have Changed

I’m currently in the middle of writing the Web Analytics chapter for the book, and my gosh – things have changed so much in fifteen years.  This screenshot is from the program “GetStats”, one of the first web analysis tools to exist.  I ran it using watchingwebsites.com logs (I had to parse them through sed & awk to change their log format to CLF for it to work).  Notice how it took 7 and a half minutes to process as many lines!

I was talking to the author, Kevin Hughes about GetStats and the state of web analytics when he first wrote it.  “Actually getstats wasn’t the first Web server log analysis tool, but it was very influential in terms of the way the data was presented and summarized.  Roy Fielding with wwwstat was the first as far as I can recall to present statistics in an easy-to-read paragraph summary form, that I think was written in Perl.  I also took ideas from Thomas Boutell (wusage) and Eric Katz (WebReport).

Web analytics tools began by telling us how many hits we had on the site, but that doesn’t do much today to tell us what’s really happening with our sites.  The tools went through many evolutions before they got to where we are today – simple metrics, a few KPIs and actionable information.  I’ll touch a bit on this in the book; we’ll also cover implementation methods, advantages, limitations and deployment impact of web analytics tools.

The book is days away from having a completed 1st draft.  I can’t wait to send the complete manuscript out to the reviewers!