Monish Datta: “I can’t believe Sasha skipped WAW for the US-Mexico World Cup Qualifier!”

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Actually, THAT’s almost a direct quote. Sarcastic as it may be. We were actually competing with a US-Mexico World Cup qualifying match that was being played in Columbus (in some crazy weather…but I’m getting ahead of myself). The US won 2-0, for what it’s worth, and I’m sure Sasha enjoyed the game. I’ll get an update next month!

This month’s WAW was something of a last-minute adventure. We once again had the event sponsored by the Web Analytics Wednesday Global Sponsors, and we had a drawing for a WASP for Analyst license, which David Ruen won. I’ve got to give a tip of the hat to Sandy and Ben Blanquera for the amazing work they’ve done getting Columbus Tech Life up and running, as we continue to bring in a few fresh faces from the Columbus Tech Life Meetup postings for WAW.

The real adventure this month was that Columbus had projected high winds for Wednesday evening. And, as the day progressed, there were rumors floating around about a Level 2 Storm Alert and 60 mph winds. After a brief flurry of e-mails, we decided that we would go ahead and have WAW, and I sent out a quick note to that effect, but let people know not to worry if they’d registered but then weren’t going to make it due to the weather. Power is still out in some neighborhoods in the area a full day later — the wind lived up to the hype.

I was heading to the event in between one wet-windy-heavy storm and what later turned out to be mostly just high winds storm and caught a pretty spectactular double rainbow out my window. Lucky for me, I was heading to WAW, so had more than just my Blackberry available to snag a picture!

 Double Rainbow in Columbus

We tried another new venue this month — Bar Louie in the Arena District. And, overall…too loud (a common theme). But, good food and good drink, topped off with a good crowd (we rattled off seven people who intended to come and then didn’t either because of a last-minute conflict or the weather):

Web Analytics Wednesday Columbus - February 2009

Ironically, Monish Datta — the target of my running gag to make this site dominate organic searches for his name — is almost entirely obscured behind Brian in this picture.

The new faces this month included:

  • A co-founder of SearchSpring, which is an ASP site search tool geared towards small- to medium-sized e-commerce sites
  • The founder/owner of Jones Insight, a customer and marketing analytics consulting firm
  • A couple of folk from Bizresearch, which has developed a service for providing easy-to-understand SEO/SEM reporting
  • A jack-of-all-things-web-marketing marketer from Scotts

And, oh dear, I’m just not going to get into listing where everyone was from. As always, it was interesting to watch the interactions — the people who realized they actually had worked with each other, but only over the phone, the people who had 2 degrees of separation from each other, and, of course, the web analytics chatter.

Due to the noise level, we only did a half-hearted attempt to run our planned round table question of, “What is the most interesting (or entertaining…or terrifying) example of MISinterpretation of web analytics data you have seen?” We got a few chucklers:

  • The company that had spent a lot of development time and money to roll out a new feature on their home page. The analytics showed that 0.03% of the visitors to the home page were using the feature. The analyst who provided that insight got a call from the person who had championed the development. She told him, “Thanks so much for that data. It helped me justify keeping that feature on the home page!” The analyst wondered…how?!
  • A related example from a different participant. He had a client who had a “My” feature on their home page — a “My Favorites”-type of link-saving feature on the site. They were just about to spend $15,000 (and it was a fairly small company) to have someone update the feature. The analyst spent 5 minutes demonstrating that there was virtually no actual use of the feature, and the updates they were planning weren’t really geared towards that, anyway. The project got canned. Hmmm… turns out that wasn’t a misuse of web analytics at all, was it? Well, we are a wild and crazy bunch, so we let the rebels say their piece.
  • The time that a product manager who did a lot of self-service on the web analytics front saw a sudden 10X increase in visits to one of his product pages several weeks after he made some minor content updates for SEO purposes. He showed the results to his manager, then he shared them with the VP of Marketing, then he shared them in a large staff meeting. He developed quite a spiel about his SEO results. Then he shared the data with the web analyst, who immediately applied one of his favorite filters: the “common sense” filter. It took some digging to find out that the web infrastructure team was testing a new web site monitoring service…and that page was one of the pages they used for the test. And the company was using a log-based analytics package. And the user agent for the monitoring service wasn’t being filtered. The step function was entirely bogus.

The event started to wind down earlier than normal. I was drifting out myself after 2.5 hours. Dave and Andrew had started to head out earlier, but had gotten engrossed in a conversation and wound up sitting down to finish it. As I walked out, I got engrossed in their conversation. A half-hour later, as I started to leave (again), I realized that a number of Deloitte consultants who I work with had drifted in to watch the UNC-Duke basketball game. I wandered over for a quick, “Hey”…and didn’t leave until 11:15.

Which is why I’m going to end this post here and go to bed!

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2 Comments


  1. Thanks again Tim. Great stuff. Looking forward to using WASP around our web properties.

    If not for the decibel level at Bar Louie I wanted to see if anyone was tracking RSS feeds and the process behind it. I’ve seen and deduced that you could with a tracking code when the link is on your site and someone says, that looks really great and puts it into their RSS reader. But is it possible to track when the user actually clicks on the link from their RSS reader say three days later? It’s kinda the front end and back end tracking. Front end being from your site and then the backend from their reader when they click on the topic.

    Any experiences or guidance on that would be great.

    See you guys next month.

  2. RSS has always raised challenges on the tracking front. You can track the number of subscribers by using something like Feedburner. But, that’s obviously not enough. So, the next question is, “Can I track how many people are viewing my content in their reader?” Traditionally — very tough. That’s one of the reasons that many sites only include a teaser in the RSS feed and require a clickthrough to view the full content (cnn.com and nytimes.com are both guilty of this “hurt the user experience in the interest of better tracking” sin). IF the feed includes a parameter in all of the “read more” links from their posts, then any WA package can pick that up and determine that the page view came from an RSS feed clickthrough.

    One case where a company is trying to really push the envelope on RSS tracking without damaging the user experience is Eloqua and their marketing automation platform. Check out this post over at the Bulldog Solutions site for a summary of what can be done on that front: http://blog.bulldogsolutions.com/2008/07/18/you-mean-i-can-track-individual-rss-subscribers/ (I don’t think the demo is actually still running on the e-mail notification front).

    Basically, Eloqua generates a GUID for each subscriber to an RSS feed created using their tool That GUID then gets slapped on the end of every link that gets posted to the feed. Once a user clicks through, that GUID helps them stitch together who clicked through and on what. It’s not bulletproof by any means — if I sent you an Eloqua-generated RSS feed and you added it to your feed reader, Eloqua would think you were me! My information is a little dated there, but if you track down @stevewoods on Twitter, I’m sure either he or someone at Eloqua would be happy to talk you through their approach.

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