I have found that one of the rites of pas­sage for Site­Cat­a­lyst users is the day that you under­stand what the heck “Instances” are in Site­Cat­a­lyst reports.  For those of you who have been through this, you will know what I am talk­ing about.  For the rest of you, my hope is that this post will pre-empt your confusion/frustration by explain­ing what Instances are and why you should not lose sleep over them!

What Are Instances?
So what are instances?  Instances is SiteCatalyst’s way of telling you how many times a Con­ver­sion Vari­able has received a value.  Doesn’t sound too hard does it (just wait…)?  So before we dig deeper, let’s start by com­ing face-to-face with the Instances met­ric.  To do this, open any eVar report you have in your report suite.  Once you have opened the report, click the “Add Met­rics” link and you will see a met­ric named Instances in the list.  You can add this met­ric to the report by itself or along­side other Suc­cess Event met­rics.  Below, I have added the Instances met­ric to a report show­ing Blog Post Views for the Blog Post Title eVar.  In this case, the Instances met­ric matches the Blog Post Views met­ric because that Suc­cess Event is set every time, but there will often be cases where an eVar will have Instances (have a value set), but no Suc­cess Event takes place:

So what does this report tell you?  It is basi­cally say­ing that, in this exam­ple, the value of “Plug-ins [Inside Omni­ture Site­Cat­a­lyst]” was passed to this eVar 217 times.  Not all Site­Cat­a­lyst users uti­lize the Instances met­ric in eVar reports, but there are times when the Instances met­ric mag­i­cally trans­forms into other met­rics that are use­ful which I will describe next.

Instances = Searches
When using Site­Cat­a­lyst Search Engine and Search Key­word reports, you may have used the “Searches” met­ric to see how many searches your site gen­er­ated from each search engine and key­word.  The Searches met­ric in these reports is really the Instances met­ric with a dif­fer­ent name.  It acts just like the Instances met­ric and can be added to reports as needed.  In fact, if you want to see a Site­Cat­a­lyst “magic trick,” you can open a report like the one shown above for a cus­tom eVar and then click to a Search Engine or Key­word report and you can see the Instances col­umn name mag­i­cally change from Instances to Searches (but don’t wait for applause since no one but you will find this ter­ri­bly exciting!

Instances = Prod­uct Views
This same con­cept applies to Prod­uct Views when look­ing at the Prod­ucts report.  When view­ing a Prod­ucts report, Site­Cat­a­lyst renames the Instances met­ric to “Prod­uct Views.”  I have seen many clients get con­fused when they see a new Suc­cess Event named Prod­uct Views that they don’t recall setting!

Instances = Click-Throughs
Finally, the same con­cept applies to Click-throughs in the Cam­paign reports.  Click-throughs is the Instances met­ric in the Track­ing Code report and all related cam­paign Clas­si­fi­ca­tion reports.

So What?
So why am I telling you all of this?  Unfor­tu­nately, there are times when the Instances met­ric can cause prob­lems.  The fol­low­ing are some prob­lems I have encoun­tered and how you can avoid them.

Instances, as a met­ric, is not the same as a true cus­tom or pre-defined Suc­cess Event (such as Orders or Cart Addi­tions).  True Suc­cess Event reports have eVar val­ues tied to them when the Suc­cess Event is set, but Instances does not.  For this rea­son, as you get more advanced in Site­Cat­a­lyst, you may choose to set cus­tom suc­cess events instead of rely­ing on the Instances met­ric.  For exam­ple, a long time ago, I was try­ing to cre­ate an eVar Sub­re­la­tion report for a client so I could see credit card prod­uct views bro­ken down by City and Age, only to find out that it wouldn’t work since I was using the Instances met­ric.  After think­ing about it for a while, it made sense since Site­Cat­a­lyst had Instances for City and for Age, but did not have a table defin­ing the inter­sec­tion of City and Age for Prod­uct Views.  To cre­ate the report that I was look­ing for, I needed a cus­tom Suc­cess Event for Prod­uct Views that I set when a vis­i­tor viewed a Prod­uct Page.  Once this was in place, Site­Cat­a­lyst would assign the Age and City to that cus­tom suc­cess event and I could cre­ate sub­re­la­tion reports to my heart’s content.

Another “gotcha” is that Instances met­rics can wreak havoc on Cal­cu­lated Met­rics.  This is due to the fact that Instances are tied to the spe­cific report you are look­ing at.  At some point, you may have cre­ated a Cal­cu­lated Met­ric and see a met­ric in the list that says “Vis­its (Report-Specific)” and won­dered what that meant.  Using what we have learned here, you can see that what this is really say­ing is that if you are in the Prod­ucts report and you want to cre­ate a Cal­cu­lated Met­ric that divides Reg­is­tra­tions by Prod­uct Views (where you are using the Instances ver­sion of the Prod­uct Views met­ric), you can do this, but when you open that Cal­cu­lated Met­ric in a Search Engine report, it will really be divid­ing Reg­is­tra­tions by Searches (the Instances met­ric of that report).  In effect, the denom­i­na­tor in this for­mula will change based upon the report in which you are view­ing the Cal­cu­lated Met­ric.  If you were to add the same Cal­cu­lated Met­ric to the City eVar report, you would be view­ing Reg­is­tra­tions divided by the Instances of each eVar value (Chicago, New York, etc…) in that par­tic­u­lar eVar report (I told you Instances can get confusing!).

Let’s clar­ify this through an exam­ple.  Let’s say you are look­ing at the Nat­ural Search Key­word report and view­ing Searches and Blog Post Views as shown here:

So in this case, the nat­ural key­word “omni­ture” drove peo­ple to the site 60 times and resulted in 12 Blog Post Views.  So now let’s say that we want to cre­ate a cal­cu­lated met­ric that divides Searches by Blog Post Views.  Unfor­tu­nately, as shown below, when we attempt to cre­ate the cal­cu­lated met­ric, you will not see a “Searches” met­ric in the list since it is really the Instances met­ric for that report:

How­ever, since we see the “Report-Specific” in paren­the­ses, we know that the numer­a­tor will change depend­ing upon what report you are in.  Finally, if viewed out­side of an eVar report (as a gen­eral cal­cu­lated met­ric), the met­ric will default to Visits.

For both of the rea­sons above, just to be safe, I tend to set cus­tom Suc­cess Event met­rics for Instances met­rics that I plan to use a lot such as Prod­uct Views and Cam­paign Click-throughs.

Have a ques­tion about any­thing related to Omni­ture Site­Cat­a­lyst?  Is there some­thing on your web­site that you would like to report on, but don’t know how?  Do you have any tips or best prac­tices you want to share?  If so, please leave a com­ment here or send me an e-mail at insidesitecatalyst@​omniture.​com and I will do my best to answer it right here on the blog so every­one can learn! (Don’t worry — I won’t use your name or com­pany name!).  If you are on Twit­ter, you can fol­low me at http://​twit​ter​.com/​O​m​n​i​_​man.

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22 comments
Jonny H
Jonny H

Hey Adam,


I see that Searches= Instances in the Search Keyword report. But I still am unsure what that means exactly. So if i have 20 "Searches" for a given keyword, does that mean 20 users came to the site from that keyword from a search engine? That sounds very similar to Visits, but our Searches and Visits in the report are not the same.

Andrew L
Andrew L

Hi, Adam, this is great post. We have a merchandising variable for finding product method, which is bind to add to cart and product view event. The evar3 was assigned with "search' or 'browse" when user used different way to find one product. When adding "revenue" as metrics, the report shows revenue breakdown by "search" and "browse', however, when adding instance as metrics, all instances of evar3 are not associated with either search or browse method (all instances of evar3 are associated with none). could you please explain why evars3 cannot be breakdown by instances?

Tucker Christiansen
Tucker Christiansen

Hello Mark, I assume the eVar is only being set when the click-through occurs? If that is correct, then instances will equal click-throughs. Do you know what the expiration setting is for the eVar? If it is longer than a visit, or if it set to expire on a event, then it is possible to have multiple visits attributed to a single click-through. It is usually more common to see this with external campaigns as they tend to have 7 to 30 day expiration whereas internal campaigns are usually set for visit expiration. Tucker

Mark I.
Mark I.

Adam, For this post you say "Instances = Click-Throughs" and this is what I have been told by our in house Omniture experts. If this is true, and I am tracking internal banner data to internal pages, why are my visit numbers always higher than instances? Why would it show that more people have visited a page from a banner than clicked on the banner it self? Mark

Tucker Christiansen
Tucker Christiansen

Hello Alison, Instances for eVars is the number of times it is set, regardless of the value.

Alison Smith
Alison Smith

Hi Adam, Re Sibel's note that "instances actually work like props" - am I right in thinking that this is not quite true? I believe that instances are only incremented when an eVar value is *changed*. e.g. if the expiry is set to 30 days and the eVar value is set to 'X' at the start of a visit on 1st April, and on 3 subsequent visits between 1st and 10th April the eVar value is set to 'X' again, then there will only be one instance recorded. Is this correct? So you can't count on instances to tell you how many times an eVar value is set - unless you can guarantee that it changes value every time it is set.

Ben Gaines
Ben Gaines

Praveen: Currently, visits and visitors are not available in the Referrers report natively. However, you can pass the referrer into a Custom Traffic (s.prop) variable: s.prop1=document.referrer; Your Account Manager can then enable visit and visitor metrics on this variable. (You could do something similar passing the referrer into an eVar, as well. Note that Custom Traffic values are truncated at 100 characters, whereas Custom Conversion values are truncated at 255 characters.)

Praveen
Praveen

Hi Adam, Thanks for the informative post. I get to see the instance number under "Referrers Report", how can i get the number of visits from a particular referrer in place of instance? Praveen

Adam Greco
Adam Greco

Paulina - If you are tracking e-mail campaigns you should be using Click-Throughs not Instances. Please e-mail me so I can help clarify for you. Thanks! Adam

Paulina
Paulina

I'm still lost. Our team uses to Omniture to track our email campaigns and the instances I get still doesn't make sense.

Oliver
Oliver

Great post. My understanding of instances is that it is used for conversion variable to count how many times the conversion variable be assigned. Right? If it is, to assume that a visitor visit a page and eVar1 assigned to "1" on this page, then eVar1 re-assigned to "2" on another page when the visitor click a link. In this case, instances of eVar1 is accumulated how many times? Thanks

Jason
Jason

Great post. As a one time SiteCatalyst user and now a full-time Discover user, one of the things that took a lot of getting used to was the lack of on "instances" metric in Discover. The instances metric can be very powerful if you understand how it is calculated.

sibel
sibel

Adam, That is a good point. Thanks

Adam Greco
Adam Greco

Sibel - Keep in mind that props allow you to do pathing and use correlations Adam

sibel akcekaya
sibel akcekaya

Thanks for this post. I just realized instances actually work like props, and you really do not need to implement a prop (in some cases) if you have an evar implemented already for that particular item.

Adam Greco
Adam Greco

Melissa - I believe the closest thing to what you are referring is to enable Visits (or Visitors) in Conversion reports which can be done, but carries an additional cost... Adam

Adam Greco
Adam Greco

Gunjan - I am not sure I follow your scenario...Please e-mail me more details at insidesitecatalyst@omniture.com Adam

Melissa Kavanagh
Melissa Kavanagh

Adam - Another great post. Thank you. Why do Custom Insight reports use "page views" instead of "instances?" Also, are there any plans to be able to run all of those instance-type reports (search, referring domain, campaigns) using visits in addition to instances?

Gunjan
Gunjan

Hi Adam, If its a fully flash site, then visits numbers should be same as instances? Means, if someone lands on A page of flash site and then clicks on B page. The visits of B page in top pages section should match with instances of B coming in next page report of A ? PS : B page link is available only on A page

Adam Greco
Adam Greco

Yuhui - While the Pathing reports do show Instances as the metric they actually show "Path Views" which is just another way of saying instances where someone went from page A to page B... Adam

Yuhui Balasingam-Chow
Yuhui Balasingam-Chow

Hey Adam, Thanks for another great entry. I've been enjoying reading your "Inside Omniture SiteCatalyst" series. This entry helped to clarify my understanding of Instances. However, I've noticed that Instances are also used in Traffic reports. The one that stumps me most is the Previous/Next Page reports. The only metric available here is Instances. How is this metric used in this case, or in other Traffic reports? Regards, Yuhui (yuhui on Twitter)