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://twitter.com/Omni_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)