Falling into the bucket of SiteCatalyst features that many clients are not familiar with, Participation is a handy feature that can help you determine which of your site content elements are leading to success and which are not.  In this post, I will explain Participation and then illustrate some advanced uses of it that even those familiar with it may not have tried.

What is Participation?
In order to fully understand Participation, I find that it is helpful to first understand Allocation (also known as Linear Allocation).  If a visitor to your website clicks on ten pages and then completes a Success Event, SiteCatalyst “allocates” or divides the Success Event into equal parts and gives each preceding page credit.  If the Success Event is a purchase of $100, all ten pages viewed prior to the Success Event and the page on which the Success Event takes place would be given credit of $10.  If the Success Event is a Counter Event, then each page would receive .10 credit.  These values are aggregated, rounded and displayed in the Pages report if you add a Success Event metric as shown here:

Most people never notice Allocation because when they look at the Pages report they are looking at Page Views, Visits or Unique Visitors.  You can add multiple Success Events to the Pages report and see the different page allocations for each Success Event metric (note: this functionality is unique to the Pages report).  While Allocation metrics can be useful, they have an obvious downside.  The more pages visitors view in a visit, the more diluted Allocation is for each page.  For example, if a second visitor views 20 pages and then completes the same Success Event, each page would get only .05 credit.  Therefore, Allocation tends to reward visits with smaller number of clicks and punish visits with many clicks.  Depending upon your business model and/or site objectives, this can be a positive or a negative.

Having covered Allocation, let’s now get back on topic and define Participation.  Participation is a feature that assigns equal credit to each item that “participates” in the flow leading to a Success Event.  So in the examples above, whereas Allocation would divide the $100 Success Event, Participation would assign full credit of $100 to every page the visitor viewed up until the point that the Success Event takes place.  When customers first hear about this, they are taken aback since the Participation values are inflated and report totals will not match actual Revenue (or equivalent for a Counter Success Event).  The key to Participation is to focus the Participation values of various items in the report to see which produces the most success.  Since this can be a bit tricky, I will go through another example:

In the above report, we can see a few pages of the Omniture Blog, the associated Page Views and Blog Post View Participation.  In this case, Omniture sets a Success Event each time a visitor views a Blog Post and through this report you can see how often each page leads to Blog Post Views.  For example, the “Adam Greco” page had 30 Page Views, but only was viewed in the flow leading to 27 Blog Post Views (my awful head shot must have scared some folks off!).  In other words, the Participation metric is indicating that there were 27 Blog Post Views, in the time frame of this report, in which the visitor viewed Adam Greco’s page prior to opening a Blog Post.

Finally, I like to take this a step further by creating a calculated metric that divides a Participation metric by Page Views.  When doing this, the higher the resulting number, the more that item (page in this case) generates Success Events for every Page View it gets (efficiency).  I use this to do a “hidden-gem” analysis where you are looking for pages that may not get the most traffic, but when they do, convert at higher than average rates.  In the example we have been using, you could call this calculated metric “Blog Pull-Through” and add it to the pages report as shown here:

Of the pages shown in this report excerpt, the “ASI” post had the most “Blog Pull-Through” in that it was able to get 30 Blog Post Views out of only 8 Page Views or 3.75 Blog Post Views/Page View.

Important Things To Know About Participation
The following are some important things to know about Participation:

  1. Participation can be turned on for most SiteCatalyst Success Events (excluding some forms of Data Sources).  To enable Participation for a Success Event contact your Account Manager or ClientCare.  Once Participation is turned on for a Success Event, you add Participation metrics to traffic reports by using the drop-down box in the “Add Metrics” dialog box
  2. Participation is calculated after the Success Event takes place, but affects pages viewed prior to the Success Event
  3. Participation is calculated on a per Visit basis
  4. In SiteCatalyst, Participation Metrics are not retroactive so they only show data from the point at which they are turned on
  5. Participation metrics are available for most Success Events by default in Omniture Discover
  6. Participation metrics are primarily used with Traffic Variables (sProps), not Conversion Variables (eVars)
  7. By default, Participation metrics are tied to the s.pagename (Pages) variable, but there are more advanced ways to use Participation by tying Participation metrics to custom sProps (see example below)

Real-World Example
In this week’s real-world example, I will attempt to explain a more advanced version of Participation (not for the faint of heart!).  In this example, a manufacturing subsidiary of Greco Inc. has a website containing thousands of products and the Product team wants to understand which products site visitors are looking at and, more importantly, which products get visitors to look at the most other products.  The first question is answered pretty easily by setting a custom “Product View” Success Event and capturing the product ID# in the Products Variable.  The web analytics team’s first attempt to answer the question of which products get visitors to look at other products was to pass the product ID# to a custom sProp and enable Pathing.  While this provided some good information, there were far too many products to effectively use Pathing analysis.  The second attempt to answer the question was to enable Participation on the “Product View” event as described above, but the issue they ran into was that there were so many pages on the website that it was difficult to analyze the Participation metrics for product amongst all of the other pages contained in the Pages report.

At this point, Greco Inc. turned to Omniture Consulting for guidance (shameless plug!).  Their Omniture Consultant informed Greco Inc. that they could enable Participation on any sProp, not just s.pagename.  A nice thing about enabling Participation for the custom sProp (Product sProp in this case) is that it removes all of the clutter surrounding non-product pages which can be really helpful.  Since they already had product ID#’s in a custom sProp, they could tie Participation to that sProp.  (Concentrate here because this is about to get complicated!)  By doing this, each time a Product View took place, the Product View Success Event metric would be increased and the product ID# passed to the sProp on the Product View page would get one Product View Participation credit (for itself).  If, within the same visit, visitors viewed a second product, a Product View Success Event would take place for the second product and the second product would get one Product View Participation credit (for itself), but more importantly, the first product they looked at would get a second Product View Participation credit since it was in the flow of another Product View Success Event (I told you it was going to be tricky!).  For those keeping score at home, here is how the count stands so far:

Just to make sure you get it, let’s go one step further and assume that the same visitor looks at one last product and exits.  At this point, the third product gets one Product View Success Event, one Product View Participation (for itself) and the first two products get one more Product View Participation bringing the new totals to:

Once Greco Inc.’s heads stop spinning, they implement this according to the Omniture Consultant’s instructions and by the next day they can see the following report by opening the “Product” sProp report and adding the following metrics:

 

Now Greco Inc. can look at products by Page Views, Product View Participation (how many times each was in the flow of another Product View) or they can create a calculated metric to divide Product View Participation by Page Views to see which products have the most Product Views/Page View which can show you which products get visitors to look at other products.  Note that Participation will only count each element once so, in this case, if a user views the same Product more than once, it will get a second Page View, but no more Participation.  If you anticipate this happening a lot, you can substitute Visits for Page Views in the above Calculated Metric.   All of this can be useful in answering their question as to which products get visitors to look at other products.

 

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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10 comments
Melvin
Melvin

Excellent post !!! I'm asking to enable this junction on my site from ClientCare. Keep it up !!!

Adam Greco
Adam Greco

James - Great point. It can get confusing between sProps and eVars. I guess the best short answer I can give is that when you want to look at how page-by-page actions impact success, I would use sProps and Participation since they are tied to sProps which collect on every page. When you want to see how a discrete value (i.e. City, Age, Site Tool) impacts success, I would use eVars...

matt
matt

Hey Adam, Excellent post, thanks for spelling this out. Page view participation is *extremely* helpful for us media companies who are always looking to see which pages or chunks of content drive the highest number of page views in aggregate. I was interested in your example above where you talk about taking [PV Participation]/[Page Views] as the "pull-through" metric. This works when you want to make sure that the first page gets credit for multiple product views in a single visit session (your example), but for us it's often the other way around. The business question we want to answer is: on average, how many page views are consumed after a given page is viewed, *regardless* of whether those follow-on page views came from the same page as the one you're measuring? Users are bound to zig-zag, so what we're really looking at is the *first* instance of a given page within the visit. If users click back to the original page, we don't want the pull-through metric to start counting a second set of particpation values toward the same page name. Would the [PV Participation]/[Visits] ratio give us that? Can you see any concerns with using that approach? Thanks again - these posts are a great help. matt

James Dutton
James Dutton

Adam, Useful post as always. One thing I think you might want to touch on, is how participation metrics (which are extremely useful for most of my clients) compare with using evars. With evars offering first touch, last touch and linear attribution and sprops offering allocation and participation; and many Omniture implementations recommending duplicate use of sprops and evars for the same measures there may be some community confusion around best practice for both forms. Keep up the good work, speaking on behalf of the community - we all enjoy your writing. Cheers, J twitter.com/slicecast

Adam Greco
Adam Greco

Rich - Doing examples of Participation for Purchases and Newsletter sign-ups would be too easy! I have been asked by many to provide more advanced things that aren't as obvious which is why I chose the examples I did. Unfortunately, with so many different audiences, you can't please all of the people all of the time! Thanks for the reply... Adam

Rich Page
Rich Page

Hi Adam, Thats a very interesting post on a somewhat confusing, but important topic. How come you didn't chose to do participation examples on something like purchases or newsletter signups? Seems like it would be a better real world example than page and product view participation. Keep up the great posts lately too - the Omniture blog has got much better lately! Rich Page

Adam Greco
Adam Greco

Rich - You are correct. Participation only affects activity after the success event and Participation is only credited for the current visit.

rich chew
rich chew

can you confirm that the participation to a success event is only credited if that page is viewed PRIOR to a success event? in other words, it wouldn't make sense to credit a page for participation of a success event if the page was viewed AFTER the success event, even if it was viewed during the pathing flow. also, it's noteworthy to mention that participation is credited if the pages are viewed during the same visit, correct?

Adam Greco
Adam Greco

Dirk - Yes you can, as long as you have a Success Event for each discrete interaction...

dirk shaw
dirk shaw

Hey Adam, Excellent post and very timely. Is it safe to assume you can tag discrete interactions such as discussion post, a rating or reviews as Participation metrics. The idea is to understand which types of social interactions are driving customers to a Success event. thanks again. dirk