Put To The Test: WebSideStory HBX Analytics - InformationWeek
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11/21/2006
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Put To The Test: WebSideStory HBX Analytics

HBX Analytics measures total site performance, including animations, podcasts and RSS feeds.

PROS
• On-demand delivery approach speeds implementation and lowers initial deployment cost.
• Powerful "active segmentation" functionality lets you slice and dice data however you want.
• Supports analysis of streaming media, animations, RSS and wireless content.
CONS
• The use of custom parameters for tracking can be cumbersome and takes time
• JavaScript coding approach could use more automation and less programming.

In Web analytics as in business intelligence, breadth of capabilities is the name of the game. WebSideStory, which delivers Web analytics on demand, now offers its Active Marketing Suite, an integrated suite that includes site analytics, site search, keyword bid management and Web content management applications that are integrated through a common set of APIs.

This review focuses on the site analytics component, HBX Analytics. Recent innovations include streaming media tracking and portable device tracking. WebSideStory is a front-runner in the industry in part because it offers such capabilities as standard features; competitors provide this tracking, but only as a custom project. Other recent enhancements include tracking of Flash animation, RSS and podcasting.

WHAT'S NEW?

HBX Analytic's new streaming media capabilities focus mainly on analyzing the popularity of individual clips. Key metrics include how often someone started to view it, completion percentage, average duration of clip and the types of players used. You can examine conversions to understand how many leads videos are driving. If a clip is being watched for a long time, you might add more complex messaging; if it's being watched only for a short time, perhaps you need to simplify the messaging.

Several data points can be collected about RSV feeds: initial signup and request of the feed, ongoing requests for the feed, when RSV data is displayed by the client, and also click-throughs from an RSV feed that take users to the Web site.

BEHIND THE SCENES

HBX Analytics is all about measuring conversions, typically defined as when a customer purchases an item. The product relies on a snippet of JavaScript embedded on each page, cookies and parameterized information such as the location of a link on a page. The HBX Analytics server parses all the information collected and then creates an XML file. The session data collected includes summary information about when visitors reached the site, where they came from, the browser they used, geographic information and historical detail on whether they visited the site before or responded to an e-mail campaign.

Events such as page views with time stamp and referral links are also stored in the database. Events roll up into each session, and session data is aggregated into reports. Tracking session information lets you track everything prior to a conversion, including what the customer viewed, how long they were on the site and where they came from.

ACTIVE VIEWING

The easiest way to get a feel for what HBX Analytics offers is to use the Active Viewing browser overlay. This is a visual tool that runs within a standard browser; the left-hand frame contains data about the site and the page currently being viewed. It's possible to segment visitors, grouping people based on something we know about them--whether they purchase something, whether they've purchased something in the past, where they come from, and so on--or look at global data about all visitors. The data displayed includes overall site traffic, page views, visitors, bounce rate and conversion information. Everything is right at your fingertips with Active Viewing. Of particular interest is page flow and referral URLs, which show how people navigate to this page and where they go afterwards. Click-path information is easy to understand and relies on colored icons representing pages. It's possible to search through paths, find out who looked at a page and what path they took on the site before and after that page. One very cool feature of Active Viewing is the ability to overlay nested HTML menus and see the traffic each menu received in total or by each link; you can also display the results as a table.

The Active Viewing component of HBX Analytics is intuitive and useful for performing a cursory inspection of site traffic that compels users to dig deeper into the overall analytics for their sites.

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