Thursday, July 12, 2007

P3P - Do we really care about it?

P3P (Platform for Privacy Preferences Project) as it is commonly known is actually not known by the regular internet user. I was going through some Internet terminologies and came across this term in Wikipedia. It immediately struck me as an interesting topic and prompted me to share my own views. P3P is a standard introduced by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) for website to share/display their privacy policy to the general Internet users. There is tons of information on P3P on the Internet with all sorts of intricate details.
But do people know or feel the need for P3P? Personally, I think people should take it more seriously. I do know that third party cookie rejection rate has been at the highest during the past 3-4 years and it is high time that websites start feeling the need for introducing valid and sound privacy policies. Third party cookies are a piece of text/data placed on your machine that do not belong to the website you have visited. If you go to and you find an Omniture cookie on your machine, the cookie is the third party cookie tracking your browsing details in this scenario.

According to a WebTrends article posted in 2005, the cookie rejection rate was as high as 12-15%. So we can guess that figure should be between 20-25% in 2006-2007. The new versions of browsers like Firefox and IE7 aren’t helping matters either. The default settings in the Privacy tab of IE7 are designed to automatically block third party cookies that do not have a P3P policy. Look at the below screenshot.

So these points do prove that Webanalytics giants like WebTrends and Omniture are loosing a lot of valuable data as their cookies are being blocked more and more if the security setting of browsers is high. But this has been the trend since Web Analytics originated. One of the reasons why Google, MSN and Yahoo are successful in targeting their customers is because they have a login cookie placed on the user’s machine. If a hotmail customer is logged on to passport, it is really easier for Microsoft to show ads based on his previous browsing habits. This cookie can never be blocked unless the users chooses to block all the cookies. But if the user blocks all the cookies, he would not be able to login to his account. So it is possible that majority of the users will choose the defualt browser setting making it easier for other websites to place their cookies. It is always better for websites to have a TRUSTe Privacy Program which is a universal standard found in a privacy policy and for users it is a good practice to read the privacy policy of a website which can be checked by going to View -> Web Page Privacy Policy in your IE7 browser. The default setting in browsers will always allow cookies from companies having a Privacy Policy. A website having a valid privacy policy would also be worthy of the trust of users. Users should always shop online on portals having a TRUSTe Privacy seal in their Privacy policy.

It was a good practice for me to look around for information about P3P and believe that it is a positive step taken to make the users aware about what kind of data is being collected and how it could be attributed to their online behavior. Please feel free to add your opinions/criticisms.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Things that make Online Shopping Click

eCommerce is really an interesting term to talk about because it is becoming popular day by day in developing countries and is already successful in the Western world. Countries like United States and United Kingdom have setup the appropriate infrastructure for Online shopping to thrive whereas developing countries are a little behind in terms of the facilities needed for eCommerce to boom. I also wrote an article on online shopping in India. Internet speed, latest aAntivirus protection, updated spyware and malware protection, firewall protection, ground shipping etc are really important to make Online shopping successful in any country. So, it's necessary that we ensure appropriate steps are taken to secure our computer before we shop online.

Ground Shipping is another important aspect of online shopping. I was browsing and looking for some game DVDs for my cousin in India but unfortunately Amazon has a policy which doesn’t allow people to ship DVDs outside of US. So such things do go a long way in hampering the growth and popularity of online Shopping around the world but these are exceptions that will exist everywhere.

On a brighter note, a study by J.D. Power and Associates in 2006 revealed that used car buyers increased from 53 % in 2005 to 59 % in 2006. Websites like, have made it very easy for people to compare used cars online and portals like have made it a breeze for people to buy/sell cars without hassle. Another successful online shopping industry is the electronics market. Personally I have always believed in buying electronics online because I can get an in depth review of the product with detailed specs. Laptops and Digital Cameras in particular have experienced a huge Internet market as majority of the people end up buying them online because they are cheaper in comparison to retail store prices.

Other important industries gaining popularity online are Clothing, Home Decors, Perfume and Cosmetics. Websites like have made it possible for people to browse for their favorite brands in clothing. They also have the option to select the design, color of the fabric by simply sitting at home. Perfumes too fall under the same category offering consumers the option to easily select their favorite fragrance and brand. Home Decors is a booming industry in the making as shopping for these in stores is not a good idea as they might be bulky and difficult to carry so buying them online is a really good bet as they can be delivered to your home without you having to go to that crowded store.

Online shopping will continue to gain more popularity worldwide as it has more advantages than disadvantages but it will take some time for people to understand its worth in some parts of the world. I hope you like this article and please feel free to comment with your opinions.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Should a Web Analyst have development skills? - Part 1

Development skills are in themselves enough to get you a great job. But does a Web Analyst really need to be a developer as well? Personally speaking, it would be a blessing in disguise if a Web Analyst has development skills. In my opinion he will be the ‘Ideal’ Web Analyst. But it is not usually common to find those skills in a Web Analyst. I am not a developer but I do understand the basics of programming as I took some courses in college. I do believe that a Web Analyst should be able to understand the code as he is the one who might be responsible for the implementation of tracking code on the Web pages along with reporting and analysis of data. Also he is the one responsible for debugging the code in case the captured parameters aren’t being reported correctly. Having basic knowledge is HTML, JavaScript and ASP will always be a big help in enhancing the Web pages if there is an area of concern on a page. Usually if a Web Analyst is working with the Dev team, mostly the changes suggested by the Analyst will be done according to the discretion of the Dev team which will take time. However if the Web Analyst knows a little programming, he can make proper changes on the page like changing links, renaming pages, modifying the JaveScript tracking code himself to make the process much quicker.

A Web Analyst should also have a sound understanding of Databases as they are crucial for a Web Analytics tool. Knowing what is the backend query being used by a WA tool like Omniture and WebTrends to pull out a particular set of data, a Web Analyst will understand the process even more. In some cases he can himself pull out data for a custom reporting request. One trend that I noticed since the time I started working is that more and more Developers started showing their interest in learning Web Analytics. This means that they will always have an edge over Web Analysts who only do reporting, analysis and don’t have a technical background. The Web Analyst/Developer might steal the show by showing their dedication and technical skills over a normal Web Analyst.

I do have a prediction for the Web Analyst job profiles in the future. Companies seeking Web Analysts will sooner or later be looking for people who have a background in Web Development or any other Development experience. The reason why I say this is because a Web Analyst’s job will be seen as very limited with a static role. Companies would want people who can minimize their expenses on the development team as the Web Analyst they would seek will have an entry level understanding of programming languages like JavaScript, VBScript and to some extent even AJAX. I hope I have expressed my point here that Dev skills will be a key in creating the ‘Ideal’ Web Analyst.

Hopefully you like this post and feel free to comment on this article with your opinions.

Monday, June 25, 2007

8 Steps for maximum ROI through SEM, SEO and Web Analytics

SEO, SEM and Web Analytics are interconnected. A business can be very successful if we utilize the 3 skills effectively. Let us consider an example where a business is interested in increasing its ROI based on the SEM expenses. It is a travel website and has bought travel related keywords on Google Adwords. It is paying $2 per click for the keyword ‘air tickets’. So if someone searches for ‘air tickets’, this website will be on the first page of the sponsored listings.
Let us assume that this website got 100 clicks from the SEM campaign with an Acquisition rate of 50% meaning 200 people viewed the ad for this website and 100 users out of the 200 clicked. Now out of this 100, 3 people actually bought tickets worth $200 each. So the SEM expenses are $200 and the ROI in this case would be 600-200/600 = 66% with a Conversion rate of 3%. Note the difference between Conversion and Acquisition. In another case the business is again paying $2 per click on the same keyword with only 1% Conversion and 100 impressions/clicks. This time the ROI is 200-200/100 = 0%. So obviously the first case is better and it is imperative for the business to take immediate measures ensuring that the conversion rate is more and the expenses on SEM are less.
How do we do that? Simple, it is a mix of combining the 3 techniques (SEM, SEO and Web Analytics) effectively. Once you start your SEM campaign and buy keywords, follow the below steps:
1) Focus your attention on all the keywords you bought and specifically on the most expensive keywords like ‘air travel’. Keep track of this data to decide which keywords are getting the most impressions.
2) Prepare relevant and catchy ads in your campaign management tool that will entice users to your website thereby increasing traffic.
3) Always differentiate between Organic and SEM keyword traffic to effectively analyze your traffic. Organic Referring URL for ‘air tickets’ would be For tracking traffic from SEM keywords, you need to manually tag the destination URL with a query string parameter like This will help you differentiate the traffic from Search Engines.
4) Optimize all the keywords you bought and focus most on the expensive keywords. Create new links containing these keywords and make sure that you populate the Meta tags properly. Your Meta tags should always be in relevance to the content of your page.
5) Also use the Overture Tool for the lookout on related keywords to optimize your pages and add content.
6) Use tools like Google Analytics to look at the content performance report and Overall Keyword conversion report to analyze which pages and keywords are getting the most traffic from Organic Google search.
7) Also add Goals in Google Analytics to ensure that the conversion is according to your objectives. Once you know which pages are causing the majority of bounces, then it is up to you to optimize your pages and reduce exit links, introduce A/B testing etc.
8) Finally if you start seeing more Organic traffic on your website than SEM keyword traffic, make sure you lower your bid on the keywords and gradually finish your campaign once your website is properly indexed by Search Engines.

These were some of the steps that might help you lower your expenses on SEM. There is so much more information on the Internet that will help you diminish your cost on your online campaigns. I’ll keep you posted on new techniques and practices to help you lower your cost on online advertising.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

How is my Web Analytics data captured?

The concept important to learn after grasping the basic Web Analytics fundamentals is how do the Analytics software capture data. The basic thing required to track data on a Webpage is the Web Analytics code or tag. For e.g. if you want to find whether a page has the Google Analytics code, go to View -> Source and Ctrl+F for analytics.js. This is a JavaScript code that can be pasted on a Webpage to track Analytics data. Similarly there is a different technology of a .gif Image call to the Server to track Web analytics data. Similarly, to find an image call code you can go to and and search for c.gif and p.gif respectively. Below is my understanding of the various steps that take place before the data shows up in the Analytics tools. I have summed them up in a seven step hierarchy and call it the Web Analytics Data Lifecycle.

Webpage -> JavaScript Tag/Image Call -> Web Server -> Log Files -> Processing -> Databases -> Web Analytics Tool

1) Webpage - Web pages are the most pivotal part of this hierarchy. These can be HTML, ASP, ASP.NET etc or any other page hosted on a Web Server.

2) JavaScript/Image call – Omniture, Google Analytics, Web Trends etc use the JavaScript tag. This code needs to be placed on the client’s Webpage so that it can track the required parameters that can be used to make important business decisions. This JavaScript is then rendered when a person lands on a page and it sends parameters like Page Name, I.P, and resolution etc to the appropriate datacenters. The other widely used technology is the Image call technology which is a simple (img src) tag that calls the .gif image on the appropriate Server. Again, once the page is rendered, it calls the image and a hit is registered. Usually it is recommended that you place these tags on the top of your page so that they get called even if the page is not fully loaded.

3) Web Server – This is the datacenter/Web Server that is responsible for storing the parameters captured by the page tag. These Servers are usually very powerful and can store TBs of data and are also responsible for dropping cookies in the client’s machine. These cookies are the crux of Web Analytics and are crucial for calculating user behavior.

4) Log Files – The parameters captured by the Analytics Tag are stored in the Server Logs which are systemically designed to store data in the form of text files which can be in TXT or CSV format. Again these log files are huge and it is recommended to store them as compressed Archives.

5) Processing – The log files are then processed by the operations or database team via an ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) process. This is a very complex step and a team having strong technical expertise can do the job. This team is also responsible for filtering out the so called bot traffic.

6) DataWarehouse – A DataWarehouse stores the filtered data that will be displayed in the Web Analytics Tool. These databases are mostly used by Digital Analysts who want to create custom reports usually not possible with the help of Web Analytics tools. They can write their own custom queries and create a report not present in the analytics tool.

7) Web Analytics Tool – This is the final step of the Web Analytics Data Lifecycle and is the GUI form of data. Tools like Adobe Analytics, Google Analytics etc are the backbone for all the Analytics that take place nowadays. Anything like exporting data to creating graphs, charts are the basic features of these tools. They help organizations make the business decisions that generate revenue and make the appropriate changes to the Web Pages to retain users and also entice them to come back.

So you read how a simple web page forms the basis of such complex processes that are used to transform a simple http request into data that generates revenue. I hope you liked this article and would appreciate if you can critique it by commenting.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Online Shopping and Web Analytics in India

Online Shopping and Web Analytics are still in their nascent state in India. A term like online marketing is quite uncommon here as majority of the population still tends to buy stuff from small retail stores. This has been the trend in India since the advent of Internet and online shopping was never given a lot of attention here. But as the status of living has been improving, people are becoming more aware of Internet. Some reasons for Online Shopping not being popular in India are:

1) There aren’t many famous shopping sites in India. The only one I know of that is famous is formally (I might be wrong here but this my own opinion.)
2) Internet has never been treated as a shopping medium here as most of the Television commercials and shopping banners in the cities always encourage people to buy stuff from the Retail Stores.
3) Majority of the population still use cash as the major payment medium and Credit Cards are just recently being used by more and more people.
4) People feel hesitant to give their credit card information online due to fear of someone stealing their information online. This is a tendency in all of us but it’s only when we are aware of things like SSL and Verisign that we start trusting the Internet more.
5) Most of the people don’t have Internet at home so they tend to go to cyber cafes/Internet cafes where their information is more susceptible.
6) Slow Internet connection speed available to consumers. The fastest connection speed available to consumers is 2.5 MBps.

I will now write about my opinion on the future of Web Analytics in India. Since the time I have arrived in India after my project in United States, I have been looking at the Web Analytics job market here. I wasn’t disappointed at all after looking at the job profiles companies have to offer here. Majority of the jobs are in SEO, PPC and SEM but there is a small percentage of jobs in hardcore Web Analytics. US Companies in India are the first ones to have a Web Analytics department so that they can get some Analytics related work done from here. Many Indian companies too are opening up a Web Analytics department. So as far as the Web Analytics job market is concerned, India still has good positions but they are limited and will increase with time. Regarding the Internet usage, I have noticed that classified websites like are not yet popular here. Classifieds are something that can drive huge traffic but in India people still use the newspaper/radio as a medium for buying stuff or selling something. That culture is yet to creep in the Indian society but it will happen very soon.

I read an interesting post in Yahoo WA group regarding WebAnalytics not being accurate in India and China and wanted to add my own feedback on the Indian perspective.
It is true to some extent that people do tend to scramble on 1 computer but that is more prevalent in rural areas but not in metros like Mumbai and New Delhi. If talking in terms of business value, I would say people in urban India would always be more interested in buying something online rather than people in rural India. So if you want to measure the users in India, do so in the metropolitans rather than the small towns as in urban India there more chances to expand your business quickly. Again, this will change gradually once the standard of living changes and more people use their own computers. Currently only 5 % of the Indian population is using the Internet actively (Courtesy: and still this number is in comparison to other major countries. It is inaccurate to say that Web Analytics can never be successful in India based on mere facts. As the number of Internet users increase, there will be more awareness and hopefully more business revenue. I hope you like this post and please feel free to add your comments.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Web Analytics related to Business Goals

It is usually common for Web Analysts to simply report the data and follow the instructions as told. But the core of Web Analytics is the deeper analysis of data based on the business goals. Once you have the business goals then a question comes to my mind. Will the Web Analyst be able to state what metrics to use in order to calculate a business goal?

Let us take the example of a content site which displays banner ads and gets paid according to the number of impressions reported. The page views would be the business goal in this scenario. It is apparent that a Web Analyst should look at all metrics converting to page views. More the page views more is the revenue generated. The other metrics which in turn map to the pag eview can be Visits, Keywords, Unique Users, and Referrers. So what do you think should be the most important metrics? Logically looking at these 5 metrics, I would say each and every one is important as these are equally important for generating page views. Once the metrics is known, it is now that the Web Analyst needs to make sense out of the numbers and report them in a presentable manner. He needs to effectively communicate what these numbers mean and in some cases give recommendations on how to increase these numbers.

Let’s think of another scenario where a user comes to a website, chooses a product and enters the cart (funnel). What do you think would be the appropriate business goal? The business goal in this scenario could be to sell a product or complete a registration form. So the metrics to measure in this case could be bounce rate, exit rate, page depth. Another good value to measure would be see where on the page the people are clicking to exit or bounce off the page. This can help us to detect which are the problem areas that are turning the page into a bounce page. We can then act accordingly and remove those links which are making the people abandon the cart. Another advantage of measuring these metrics would be introduce A/B Testing on the pages to test which page has a lower exit/bounce rate.

All in all it is imperative that Web Analytics is tied with business goals and continuous analysis will help companies stay on top of things.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Probable Reasons for Website Traffic Fluctuations

I was doing some analysis and Anil Batra’s article Who moved my traffic really helped me. I liked the way he explained the probable reasons on why there is a difference in traffic every month. I would like to cite 2 scenarios I came across in the form of graphs. Let’s assume these graphs are for a small scale shopping site called This is a shopping site which has a business model similar to This website has Omniture tagging setup and appears on the first page of when we do a search on ‘online shopping’. The homepage has 40 % of its traffic from Search Engines.
I will try to explain the possible reasons for the traffic fluctuation for the graph below. The reasons are in bold.

January starts with an average visit count of 10000. This is the expected average visits for this site.
In February you’ll notice there is a slight decrease. This might be because of February having 28 days. The next 3 months experience average traffic inflow.
June experienced a drop off along with July. The most likely reasons for this drop are:
New competitor: A new competitor joined the race along with other online shopping portals which meant that some share of the traffic went to that portal. I say this because 40 % of the overall traffic to came from search engines and the inclusion of a new website on the search results page distributed the traffic.
Tagging not placed on all the pages: The previous months had 60 % of the traffic on the homepage but this month the homepage had 40 % of traffic which disclosed the problem of untagged pages under the This was one of the main reasons for the discrepancy in traffic when I used to do analysis in my previous job.
Worldwide event/news: This scenario is the cause for the drop of traffic even on some major portals. The traffic might drop if there was some breaking news and people were busy visiting news websites or were mostly watching the news on TV.

The visits again picked up and the traffic came back to normal for the following months.
The traffic again went down in November and December. Below are some more possible causes:
The Website server was down: This is highly unlikely but I have come across such scenarios.
Search Engines did not display this website on the first page: Maybe due to some changes being made on the homepage etc, the Search Engines were not able to index the page and people were not able to find this website on the initial SE pages.
Tagging was accidentally removed: Again rare but a possibility.

The next graph is the opposite of the above graph and should be more appealing to website owners. Below are some the reasons related to increase in traffic:

Link Exchange: As the year passes by, more and more links are being exchanged to and fro with other websites which in turn increases the Page Rank of this website and thus increasing it’s ranking in search engines.
Search Engine Optimization: SEO is one of the key factors responsible for driving traffic from Search Engines. Page Name, Title, keywords and description have to be relevant on the page for search engines to index/cache the web pages.
Search Engine Marketing: Google Adwords, Microsoft AdCenter etc are the necessary tools that enable businesses to advertise by selling specific keywords. This mechanism of buying keywords is important for a website that isn’t on top of the Search Engine’s organic ranking.
Banner Ad Campaigns: Advertisements on the homepages are a good medium to attract more clicks and thus driving more traffic to the content pages.
Multiple tagging: A rare occurrence but again something I’ve noticed in my past analysis.
Weather and Festival/Holiday: You’ll notice that November and December have the most visits. The most appropriate reasons for this are that people tend to stay at home and browse the internet regularily during winters. It is also possible that they might be buying gifts from this website for Christmas.

These were some of the possibilities that might cause the traffic to fluctuate. Hope you like this post and feel free to add your suggestions/comments.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Legitimate ways of optimizing your Web Pages for Search Engines

As a SEO expert, your job and goal is to push your website on the top of Google’s rankings without crossing the line. No one can assure you that your site will end up on the first page when someone searches for a keyword. The first objective of a SEO expert should be to add relevant keywords in the Meta keyword list pertaining to his business. So every time you add new keywords in your Meta Keywords list, you wish that Google will cache/index your page immediately but it’s not an easy process. I have tried this before while optimizing a new Site and it took 2 months before that page was indexed.
Here are the important things I learned from that experience:
1. Content of your website should be relevant and present in abundance on the homepage as well as inner domain pages.
2. Other sites linking to your website is an important point. The more links other websites provide to your pages, the better chances you have to increase your ranking.
3. The page name is an important point. Usually we tend to ignore the page name. Search Engines do index pages based in the page name. For e.g. The other important tags on the page are the description, title and keywords.
4. Never try to bombard your keywords in the Meta Keyword tag as it only decreases your chances for your page to be index.

Here is a link to a website that will explain my last point in more detail: Enter your URL name and this will give you an idea about what you can do to enhance the tags on your page. These are a few tips which might improve your website's performance.
I will continue to write more about Website/Search Engine Optimization in my future posts.

Monday, May 7, 2007

SEO free tools and tips

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is always fun and challenging. For starters it is always good to use free SEO tools before they become competent. I would like to share with you some of these free tools on SEO. I am going to share free tools with you that I came across as these will give you a background on where to start. I started learning SEO using a tool called Overture. This tool is a part of Yahoo and is available on the Internet at It will tell you what keywords are being searched most on Yahoo based on a month to month basis. You would have to start off by entering a keyword to find related searches. For e.g. If you enter the word ‘insurance’, it would show you all keywords related to insurance with their number of searches. This is extremely useful in case of optimizing an insurance website. Look at the screenshot below from for the results when I did a search on the keyword ‘insurance’.

Note: This tool will only show you the top 100 searched keywords.

The next tool I used can be found at This tool is quite similar to the above tool but it harnesses the technology of Google and Yahoo. This tool reports 100 related keywords in the basic version but you can search up to 10000 keywords if you decide to go for the premium edition. So after you have added the keywords to the Meta tags of your Website using these tools, you can check your keyword ranking here: You can start doing this after 2-3 weeks of adding these keywords to your page. This will help you determine where your keyword ranks among all the major Search Engines. This is really helpful to be at the top of your game. Below is a screenshot.

Finally I would not encourage unethical practices that would improve your rankings on Major Search Engines which might include flooding your meta tags with keywords or adding extra links on your page.
Hope you like this post. I will keep you updated with cool tips and information.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Web Analytics as a career path

Shortly after college, I was wondering which career opportunity I should pursue. It wasn’t clear to me whether to choose a career in Networking, Databases or Quality Assurance. These 3 career options are pursued by many people and I was planning to be part of the usual crowd. But with the guidance of Anil Batra who has been in this field since 10 years, I came to know about Web Analytics.

I started learning about it by using a tool called Google Analytics which was the perfect medium to help me grasp the fundamentals of Web Analytics. Through Google Analytics I came across totally new concepts like Unique Users, Page Views and Visits. These terms and metrics really fascinated me and I wanted to learn more. It prompted me go deeper into analytics and I started reading Eric Peterson’s titles like ‘Web Analytics Demystified’ and ‘Web Site Measurement Hacks’. These books further strengthened my view about Web Analytics as a career option and I decided that this is the career option I want to pursue. Another important resource for me was the Yahoo Web Analytics group which provided me with all the information regarding the latest Web Analytics buzz. It is followed by all Web Analytics experts who often answer questions raised by other members.

I started applying for jobs all over the United States and believed that my lack of experience would not be a hurdle. I gained a lot of confidence by taking phone interviews and also went for a couple of face to face interviews. Starting as an entry level was always a challenge for me and I made up for it by showing commitment and the desire to learn to my interviewers. It was important for me to be confident and eager in spite of my lack of knowledge in this field. It was through dedication and hard work that I nailed both the interviews and had the comfort to choose the best opportunity.

Finally I would like to sum up my article by mentioning that Web Analytics is a really interesting field to be a part of. It will give you the opportunity to learn about analysis, databases and a little bit of programming. The most important contribution of Web Analytics is towards the Internet which is now looked at from a totally different business prospective.