If you have had any experience with Adobe SiteCatalyst implementations, you have had the pleasure of getting to know the SiteCatalyst variables. There are two basic types of variables used in SiteCatalyst: Traffic Variables and Conversion Variables. (Known to their friends as “props” and “eVars” respectively :) One of the most basic yet perplexing questions is, “When should I use one over the other?” Let’s take a look at some criteria to help you make the right decision for your implementation.

The confusion comes because the information that can be passed into each of these variables looks very much the same. To the developer who is performing the implementation, having the same information in multiple variables appears inefficient. However, the experienced SiteCatalyst user knows that the data will manifest itself quite differently in the reporting.

The most important aspect to making this important decision is to know the underlying business question behind the tracking request. As indicated by Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

So, let’s take a look at the differences and similarities. To be thorough, I have included a third type of data, namely “events.” Success Events are quite different than either of the other two variable types, but they will help us differentiate them. Three categories of criteria will be used as the basis our decision: Purpose, Function, and Metrics.

Traffic Variables (props)

Conversion Variables (eVars)

Success Events

Purpose

Traffic Counters

Conversion Segmentation

Conversion Metrics

Function

Non-Persistent, Pathing, Participation

Persistent, Merchandising

Counter, Numeric, Currency

Metrics

Page Views, Visits, Visitors, Time Spent

Success Events, Visits, Visitors

Traffic Variables (props)

There is some information about your website that you will want to collect about every page on the site. One good example is unique page names. You will want to know how many page views or “hits” each page received, how many visits and visitors came to each page, and the time spent on the page. You may also want to see which pages came before or after a particular page in a path. These questions can all be answered by using Traffic variables.

If you use the word “popular” to describe your business questions, this may indicate good candidates for using Traffic Variables to capture the information. Here are some other examples:

· “I want to know the most popular site sections.”

· “Which search terms are most popular?”

· “What are the most browsed product categories?”

Pathing is another compelling reason to use a prop. Let’s say you want to see how visitors navigate between values for a particular data point, such as how they move across Site Sections within your website and in what sequence. In this scenario, a pathing-enabled prop is the way to go!

Conversion Variables (eVars)

Conversion refers to the objectives of your website. What do you want your visitors to accomplish on your site? What are the intermediate steps to get there? These activities should be captured as conversions or conversion events (Success Events). Some examples include purchases, account registrations, email sign-ups, and leads initiated.

Conversion variables refer to the data dimensions you will use to segment your conversion events. Any values you want to separate by metrics by should be set in conversion variables. One of the useful features of eVars is that they are persistent for a defined period of time. In other words, a conversion variable value can be set on one page and apply to success events set further downstream in a click path. SiteCatalyst remembers the values for each visitor until the value expires.

So you want to look at some examples of good eVar candidates, you say? Again, let’s look at the business questions to be answered:

· “How many clicks did we get for each of our marketing campaigns?”

· “Which products were purchase the most?”

· “What age group registers on our website most often?”

Can’t I have it both ways?

The answer, of course, is “Absolutely!” There are situations where it may be appropriate to have the same value in both a prop and an eVar. For example, let’s say I want to track my internal search feature. I want to understand not only how much revenue each search term is responsible for, but also what pages Visitors see after performing a search. If we place the search keywords into a prop and an eVar, we can accomplish both! There are several ways to accomplish this, but let me give you a couple examples:

s.prop1=s.eVar1=”search keywords”

You could also take advantage of the dynamic variable population by using this code. This may help you if you are concerned about the size of your image beacon requests.

s.prop1=”search keywords”

s.evar1=”D=c1”

In summary, there are pros and cons to using props and eVars in your implementation. Implementation of these in the proper manner becomes an art when you understand the implications of each.

Have specific questions about Adobe SiteCatalyst?  Want to track a data point on your website, but not sure where to start with the implementation?  Follow me on Twitter @sitecattips Please feel free to leave a comment here or send me an email at adobesitecatalyst (at) adobe.com

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