New Time Spent calculation in SiteCatalyst 15
© Shut­ter­Stock

The improved plat­form back­ing Site­Cat­a­lyst 15 has made pos­si­ble a num­ber of the fea­tures we’ve dis­cussed on this blog. For exam­ple, you can build and apply seg­ments and break down any con­ver­sion report by any other con­ver­sion report because the plat­form makes these things pos­si­ble (as well as a num­ber of other tremen­dous new ben­e­fits that we haven’t dis­cussed here yet—or haven’t yet built on top of that plat­form!). Today, I’d like to shift focus a bit toward some prac­ti­cal improve­ments that the plat­form allowed us to make to exist­ing features/metrics/reports in SiteCatalyst.

There are four of these that I’d like to dis­cuss today, the goal being to help you under­stand how your data—and your abil­ity to do con­fi­dent, pow­er­ful analysis—is going to improve as you move in to Site­Cat­a­lyst 15. Let’s walk through each of these things; I’m sure they’ll gen­er­ate some ques­tions in your mind, so please leave com­ments or work with your Account Man­ager, who has been trained on each of these improve­ments and empow­ered to help your orga­ni­za­tion pre­pare to lever­age them.

1. Vis­its for Non-Cookied Visitors

Site­Cat­a­lyst 14: Site vis­i­tors who do not accept per­sis­tent cook­ies via their browser are not included in the Vis­its total in any report, at either the site-wide or line-item level. This also applies to pathing data; for exam­ple, users who block cook­ies are not included in Bounce Rate cal­cu­la­tions, the Fall­out report, etc. Note that Dis­cover has always included Vis­its and pathing data from non-cookied vis­i­tors. This occa­sion­ally led to a sit­u­a­tion where your Unique Vis­i­tors could be higher than your Visits.

Site­Cat­a­lyst 15: All vis­i­tors, regard­less of cookie accep­tance, are included in Vis­its counts and pathing data.

What does this mean for me? First, it means a more com­plete and accu­rate view of many met­rics. Of course, a visit is a visit, and, ide­ally, cookie accep­tance should not deter­mine whether a user’s time on your site counts as a visit. Sec­ond, it means an increase in the Vis­its met­ric in Site­Cat­a­lyst, although the degree of this increase varies depend­ing largely on the type of imple­men­ta­tion that you are using. A sam­ple of data from our beta cus­tomers show a mean increase of less than 0.5% for first-party cookie imple­men­ta­tions, and an increase of 5–12% for third-party cookie imple­men­ta­tions (due to dif­fer­ences in cookie accep­tance rates).

Keep in mind that this increase will also affect cal­cu­lated met­rics that use Vis­its or a pathing-related met­ric (such as Entries, Aver­age Time Spent on Page, etc.) For exam­ple, many users have defined “Con­ver­sion Rate” as Orders divided by Vis­its. After upgrad­ing to Site­Cat­a­lyst 15, you may see a minor increase in Vis­its with no cor­re­spond­ing increase in Orders, lead­ing to what some could view as a small decrease in Con­ver­sion Rate (which, as any ana­lyst will tell, can often raise red flags).

This also means that you should never see your Unique Vis­i­tors count exceed Visits.

How should I pre­pare for the change? You can deter­mine the increase in Vis­its (and pathing met­rics) that you are likely to see post-upgrade by log­ging in to Site­Cat­a­lyst 14, going to the Site Met­rics > Vis­i­tors > Daily Unique Vis­i­tors report, and click­ing on the “Per­sis­tent Cook­ies” fil­ter. This will break out non-cookied vis­i­tors from cook­ied vis­i­tors in your exist­ing data; you can divide [non-cookied vis­i­tors] by [total vis­i­tors] to deter­mine the per­cent­age increase that you are likely to see when you upgrade to Site­Cat­a­lyst 15. Then, we rec­om­mend work­ing with your inter­nal cus­tomers to help them under­stand and pre­pare for this improve­ment in this com­monly used metric.

2. Time Spent Metrics

Site­Cat­a­lyst 14: Both the Time Spent per Visit report and the Aver­age Time Spent on Page met­ric (in the Pages report) use Page View server calls (as opposed to cus­tom links, exit links, video views, etc.) to gen­er­ate time­stamps used in order to cal­cu­late the time spent. To improve pro­cess­ing effi­ciency, Aver­age Time Spent on Page met­ric is cal­cu­lated by assign­ing visit times to “buck­ets” (such as “30−60 sec­onds,” “1−3 min­utes,” etc.), giv­ing every­thing in each bucket the median value for the bucket (45 sec­onds or two min­utes in the exam­ples just given), then aver­ag­ing the num­ber of instances in each bucket.

Site­Cat­a­lyst 15: Both the Time Spent per Visit report and the Aver­age Time Spent on Page met­ric use all server call types to gen­er­ate time­stamps, giv­ing you addi­tional insight when­ever non-Page View data is cap­tured. For exam­ple, Site­Cat­a­lyst 15 pro­vides much improved report­ing regard­ing time spent on pages that include videos. Addi­tion­ally, the Aver­age Time Spent on Page met­ric does not use “buck­ets,” but instead aver­ages out the time spent for each and every indi­vid­ual page view, except for any­thing occur­ring after the final server call of the visit.

New Time Spent calculation in SiteCatalyst 15

What does this mean for me? Time Spent per Visit is likely to increase, although it is impos­si­ble for me to say in a blog post how much; that answer depends on your imple­men­ta­tion and the extent of your use of cus­tom links, file down­loads, exit links, and video views. Aver­age Time Spent on Page may increase or decrease, since Site­Cat­a­lyst 15 does not use buck­ets. For exam­ple, the median value for the “1−3 min­utes” bucket is two min­utes; if your vis­its within that bucket does not fol­low an even dis­tri­b­u­tion, but is instead weighted toward one minute, using the true aver­age will result in that set of vis­its hav­ing a mean below two min­utes, thus pos­si­bly low­er­ing the Aver­age Time Spent on Page met­ric for the given page.

How should I pre­pare for the change? If you have Adobe Dis­cover, you can exam­ine the dif­fer­ence between your Time Spent data in Dis­cover and the same data in Site­Cat­a­lyst 14; Dis­cover has been using the improved logic for time data since Dis­cover 2.9.

3. De-duplicated Visits/Visitors in Classifications

Site­Cat­a­lyst 14: In clas­si­fi­ca­tion reports, such as the Cam­paigns report, the Vis­its (or Vis­i­tors) total for a value rep­re­sented the summed total of each of the Vis­its (or Vis­i­tors) Key val­ues (e.g., Track­ing Codes). For exam­ple, con­sider two Vis­its that hap­pened to include the same three pages. At the page level, you’d see two visits/visitors to Page A, two visits/visitors to Page B, and two visits/visitors to Page C. Now let’s say that those three pages are grouped using SAINT clas­si­fi­ca­tions into a value called “Prod­uct Pages.” If you were to run the classification-based report con­tain­ing “Prod­uct Pages” in Site­Cat­a­lyst 14, you would see six vis­its and vis­i­tors for “Prod­uct Pages” (2 + 2 + 2).

Site­Cat­a­lyst 15: Clas­si­fi­ca­tion val­ues cor­rectly de-duplicate the Vis­its and Vis­i­tors met­rics for clas­si­fi­ca­tion val­ues. In the exam­ple pro­vided above, “Prod­uct Pages” would cor­rectly show two visits/visitors.

New classification deduplication in SiteCatalyst 15

What does this mean for me? Most impor­tantly, it means that you can use SAINT classifications—one of the most pop­u­lar and pow­er­ful fea­tures of SiteCatalyst—more heav­ily than before, because they pro­vide more accu­rate insight into the num­ber of vis­its and vis­i­tors occur­ring at the “group” or clas­si­fi­ca­tion level. Where in the past you may have needed to use addi­tional vari­ables and/or VISTA rules obtain a visit/visitor count for a site sec­tion, a cam­paign, prod­uct cat­e­gories, etc., Site­Cat­a­lyst now pro­vides this insight directly through SAINT.

How should I pre­pare for the change? If you have Adobe Dis­cover, which has de-duplicated vis­its and vis­i­tors for clas­si­fi­ca­tions for some time now, you can exam­ine the dif­fer­ence between this data in Dis­cover and the same data in Site­Cat­a­lyst 14. As with the pre­vi­ous changes dis­cussed here, you can work with your users to help them under­stand why these totals are chang­ing, and how they have been improved.

4. De-duplicated suc­cess met­rics for mer­chan­dis­ing eVars

Site­Cat­a­lyst 14: Very sim­i­lar to the pre­vi­ous entry, if a sin­gle order/booking/lead/etc. includes n prod­ucts with the same mer­chan­dis­ing eVar value, that eVar value will receive credit for n order/booking/lead/etc. (For exam­ple, if I buy two prod­ucts, both with a mer­chan­dis­ing cat­e­gory of “sports equip­ment” in a sin­gle order, Site­Cat­a­lyst 14 will report two orders for “sports equip­ment,” but one total order at the site level.)

Site­Cat­a­lyst 15: Site­Cat­a­lyst 15 de-duplicates orders for mer­chan­dis­ing eVars so that, in the exam­ple just given, “sports equip­ment” would receive credit for one order (since both prod­ucts were pur­chased as part of the same order).

New deduplication of success metrics for merchandising eVars in SiteCatalyst 15

What does this mean for me? Note that this only applies to mer­chan­dis­ing eVars, not to reg­u­lar eVars; if you are unsure whether you are using mer­chan­dis­ing eVars, check with your Account Man­ager. For those who are indeed using mer­chan­dis­ing eVars, this improve­ment means that suc­cess met­rics for mer­chan­dis­ing eVar val­ues may decrease, depend­ing on how you are using these eVars.

How should I pre­pare for the change? I am begin­ning to sound like a bro­ken record here: Right? Right? Any­way, here goes: If you have Adobe Dis­cover, which has de-duplicated suc­cess met­rics for mer­chan­dis­ing eVars for some time now, you can exam­ine the dif­fer­ence between this data in Dis­cover and the same data in Site­Cat­a­lyst 14. As with the pre­vi­ous changes dis­cussed here, you can work with your users to help them under­stand why these totals are chang­ing, and how they have been improved.


Why pub­lish a post that I know is going to raise ques­tions in your mind? The fact of the mat­ter is that if we only dis­cuss the new fea­tures in Site­Cat­a­lyst 15, we aren’t telling the whole story. We expect that most read­ers of this blog will love the four improve­ments that I have dis­cussed here, but in some cases, train­ing inter­nal users and prepar­ing the busi­ness to use and under­stand­ing these met­rics will take some time. We can’t assume that all of your users are flu­ent in ana­lyt­ics, and want your Site­Cat­a­lyst 15 upgrade to be the best pos­si­ble thing for your ana­lyt­ics prac­tice. Hope­fully this post gives you some direc­tion. Now, get with your Account Man­ager and talk in more spe­cific terms about what these improve­ments mean to you and what you should do about them!

As always, if you have any ques­tions about any­thing in this post, or about any­thing else related to the Adobe Online Mar­ket­ing Suite, please leave a com­ment here or con­tact me on Twit­ter and I’ll do my best to get you the infor­ma­tion that you need.

James Leitess
James Leitess

when i run a year/year comparison of site visits in sitecat15, will all the numbers in there include non-cookied visits from last year? the specific time periods i'm comparing are 7/1/10-2/1/11 and 7/1/11-2/1/12. i'm wondering if the change in non-cookied reporting creates a spike once we switched to sitecat15, or if the new reports can see the complete (cookied & non-cookied) visits picture from the past as well. FYI, we've been on Sitecat since before version 13.

Craig Scribner
Craig Scribner

Thanks Ben--this is all great news! What about props and eVar reports--will their Visits metric also include non-cookied users?