Whew! Omni­ture Sum­mit 2010 has come and gone, but hope­fully you’re still deriv­ing real value from some of the thoughts, tac­tics, and strate­gies that were dis­cussed, both for­mally and infor­mally, at the con­fer­ence. As promised, I will be blog­ging about each of the three advanced Site­Cat­a­lyst solu­tions that my team and I cov­ered in our break­out ses­sion. (It’s also worth not­ing that, while we dis­cussed Site­Cat­a­lyst specif­i­cally in my ses­sion, these ideas become even more pow­er­ful when cou­pled with an advanced seg­men­ta­tion tool, such as Dis­cover or ASI, or when used in the con­text of Test & Tar­get.) Let’s get started with the first topic from our session.

Vis­i­tor Scoring—an overview

You prob­a­bly have a num­ber key activ­i­ties on your site that con­sti­tute a highly engaged vis­i­tor. These are things that you want users to do, because they either con­sti­tute direct suc­cess (i.e., con­ver­sion), indi­cate the build­ing of loy­alty (e.g., social ele­ments such as “Write a Review”), or sug­gest that the user is truly inter­act­ing with your site (e.g., inter­nal searches, view­ing pho­tos, etc.). Vis­i­tor scor­ing in Site­Cat­a­lyst allows you to assign numer­i­cal “scores” to each of these key activ­i­ties, and then aggre­gate these scores as vis­i­tors move through these dif­fer­ent site elements.

The idea is that you can begin to see how vary­ing vis­i­tor (and visit) scores affect con­ver­sion and cus­tomer loy­alty. For exam­ple, you may notice that users with a score of 30 or higher spend twice as much money on each order when com­pared to users with score less than 30. You can also drill down to see which site ele­ments are pre­ferred by highly engaged vis­i­tors so that you can focus your efforts on those areas. Addi­tion­ally, the solu­tion allows you to see which vis­i­tor acqui­si­tion chan­nels gen­er­ate the high­est lev­els of inter­ac­tion with key site ele­ments, and which cam­paigns are the stick­i­est in terms of lead­ing users to these aspects of your site.

To do this, you will need three things:

  1. A scor­ing sys­tem that assigns val­ues to each of your top 5–10 key engage­ment points.
  2. One “counter eVar,” which will be explained below.
  3. One cus­tom event, set to “numeric” as its type.

The Scor­ing System

This is the most com­plex aspect of the Vis­i­tor Scor­ing solu­tion because you will need to lay out a rel­a­tive points sys­tem for the 5–10 top site ele­ments that you want users to engage. Some users may have access to advanced sys­tems for sci­en­tif­i­cally assign­ing rel­a­tive value to dif­fer­ent site activ­i­ties, but in the absence of such a sys­tem here is how we rec­om­mend doing this:

  1. Iden­tify the top sev­eral key “things” that you want users to do on your site (includ­ing, but not nec­es­sar­ily lim­ited to, con­ver­sion). As described above, these should be activ­i­ties that show engage­ment; the idea is to gauge how active a visitor’s expe­ri­ence is.
  2. Iso­late either the activ­ity that you con­sider most valu­able or the activ­ity that you con­sider least valu­able on your list.
  3. Assign that value an arbi­trary score, such as “5.” (This can be any­thing, and can be adjusted later.)
  4. Assign other scores rel­a­tive to that first score. For exam­ple, if we believe that “inter­nal search” is our impor­tant, but is our least “valu­able” activ­ity of those on our list, we might give it a value of 4. Let’s say that sub­scrib­ing to a newslet­ter is sig­nif­i­cantly more valu­able; we might give it a value of 8. Read­ing a review may be even less valu­able in our minds than per­form­ing a search; we’ll give it a value of 3.

This chart shows an exam­ple of how this sys­tem might be laid out:

Example of Visitor Scoring

This will be entirely unique to your busi­ness and, at the begin­ning, may involve a bit of edu­cated esti­ma­tion. For­tu­nately, as you work more closely with these reports, you’ll be able to see where scores are being inflated (or deflated) by user activ­i­ties that have been over­val­ued or under­val­ued, and you can adjust your scor­ing appropriately.

The Counter eVar

A sta­ple of almost any Site­Cat­a­lyst imple­men­ta­tion is the “eVar” vari­able, which allows you to set a value (e.g., an inter­nal search key­word) and per­sist it for a cus­tomiz­able period of time so that you can tie sub­se­quent suc­cess met­rics back to the val­ues. (In the con­ve­nient “inter­nal search key­word” exam­ple, an eVar allows you to view the amount of rev­enue, num­ber of leads, etc. that occurred after the given key­word was searched.) These eVar vari­ables accept text strings by default, but also have a nifty option for accept­ing num­bers. Adam Greco defined counter eVars in out­stand­ing detail in a pre­vi­ous blog post, which con­tains infor­ma­tion on enabling counter eVars as well as a num­ber of use cases.

In the case of Vis­i­tor Scor­ing, we’re going to take advan­tage of eVars’ per­sis­tence by set­ting the num­ber of points for the key activ­i­ties that were defined in the pre­vi­ous step into the eVar each time the activ­ity occurs. For exam­ple, based on the chart above, we would set a value of “+3″ into the counter eVar imme­di­ately after the user rates a prod­uct, “+5″ every time the user e-mails an item to a friend, and so forth. Implementation-wise, using eVar1 as an exam­ple, it looks like this:

// after an internal search
s.eVar1="+4"

// after writing a review
s.eVar1="+5"

(Not that this has any­thing to do with Vis­i­tor Scor­ing, but it’s worth men­tion­ing here—because we for­got to do it in one of our two chances to present this topic—that you CAN pass neg­a­tive num­bers into counter eVars to sub­tract from the over­all vis­i­tor value.)

As the user moves through an expe­ri­ence on your site, inter­act­ing with the var­i­ous key ele­ments that you have defined, he/she will accrue points. If the user con­verts, you’ll be able to see their “score” at the time of con­ver­sion. If they don’t con­vert, you’ll be able to see that, too.

Example of Visitor Scoring

Pretty con­fus­ing, right? We can see that scores of 16–17 appears to be the “sweet spot,” but it’s hard to really under­stand what we’re look­ing at here. For­tu­nately, you can use SAINT to “group” vis­i­tor scores, and note that SAINT is flex­i­ble and allows you to rearrange/reallocate scores into dif­fer­ent buck­ets depend­ing on your chang­ing needs and obser­va­tions. After doing this, the report is much more digestible and actionable:

Example of Visitor Scoring

Now we’ve got some­thing we can use. This makes it much eas­ier to see how dif­fer­ent engage­ment lev­els affect con­ver­sion. Again, how you divide up the dif­fer­ent scores into groups is com­pletely up to you, and you’ll prob­a­bly want to adjust it as you dig into these reports. Also, note that you can do some really pow­er­ful things here with seg­men­ta­tion; using Dis­cover, ASI, or Data Ware­house, you can focus in on the user expe­ri­ence both for users in the “Very High” group and in the “Low” group to see what they’re doing, and opti­mize your site around those findings.

The Numeric Event

The final piece of our Vis­i­tor Scor­ing sys­tem involves a numeric (a.k.a. “incre­men­tor”) event, which you can enable using the Admin Con­sole. (Mr. Greco doc­u­mented numeric events as well in a pre­vi­ous post.) This might be my favorite part of the solution.

In addi­tion to set­ting a counter eVar when­ever a user does some­thing that we’re scor­ing, this method also sets the value in an event so that you can view the score as a met­ric in var­i­ous reports. This does involve using the s.products string, but don’t worry; we’re not going to mess with any actual prod­uct data. The imple­men­ta­tion would look some­thing like this (expand­ing on the exam­ples given above and using event2 as our numeric event):

// after an internal search
s.eVar1="+4"
s.events="event2"
s.products=";;;;event2=4"

// after writing a review
s.eVar1="+5"
s.events="event2"
s.products=";;;;event2=5"

(Make sure to note that “event2” exists both in s.events and in s.products in this case, and that there are exactly four semi-colons in s.products before event2 gets set.)

The great thing about this is that it allows you to see how var­i­ous data dimen­sions affect engage­ment with key site ele­ments. You’ll prob­a­bly want to set up a cal­cu­lated met­ric to divide this “score” met­ric by vis­its, because the raw score may be higher for dif­fer­ent data dimen­sions sim­ply due to vary­ing lev­els of traf­fic; for exam­ple, when view­ing this met­ric in the Cam­paigns report, a cam­paign that has 10,000 click-throughs will likely have a higher vis­i­tor score than a cam­paign that has 10 click-throughs sim­ply because the over­all traf­fic level is higher. When we view var­i­ous mar­ket­ing chan­nels through the lens of this cal­cu­lated met­ric, we imme­di­ately get a great report:

Example of Visitor Scoring

Social media sites, nat­ural search, and part­ners are the clear win­ners in terms of bring­ing inter­ested, engaged vis­i­tors to our site. Looks like we know where to focus our efforts—especially if we already know (from our expe­ri­ence with our counter eVar) how much more con­ver­sion a high-score vis­i­tor is likely to gen­er­ate on our site. This gets even bet­ter when we focus on indi­vid­ual items within our top chan­nels, break­ing down this report by refer­ring domain:

Example of Visitor Scoring

Not only do we know that social media brings eager vis­i­tors to our site, but we even know exactly which social media efforts/campaigns were most pow­er­ful (in this case, Fark​.com, Deli­cious, LinkedIn, and Facebook).

Conclusion—and two bonus tips!

We didn’t men­tion this dur­ing the Advanced Site­Cat­a­lyst ses­sion at Sum­mit, so be glad you read down this far. A really use­ful twist on this solu­tion if you have two avail­able eVars for use with vis­i­tor scor­ing is to con­fig­ure one of them to expire at the end of the visit and another to a much longer expi­ra­tion (such as “never”). The first eVar then gives a uni­form view of indi­vid­ual vis­its, and how vary­ing lev­els of inter­ac­tion with key site ele­ments affects con­ver­sion within the indi­vid­ual visit only. The sec­ond eVar would pro­vide a view of “life­time engage­ment” across mul­ti­ple vis­its since the user last cleared his/her cook­ies. You can slice and dice both data sets to get some pow­er­ful views into how user behav­iors may change over time.

Along these same lines, it’s pos­si­ble that dif­fer­ent teams or indi­vid­u­als may want to assign dif­fer­ent scores to cer­tain site activ­i­ties. Don’t fight about it! Don’t let this scor­ing sys­tem destroy the har­mony in your mar­ket­ing depart­ment. Instead, sim­i­lar to the tip just men­tioned, if you’ve got an extra eVar, you can actu­ally assign dif­fer­ent scores to the same key site activ­i­ties. Here’s a quick exam­ple using s.eVar1 and s.eVar2:

// this one is for the first team
s.eVar1="+5"
// this one is for the second team
s.eVar2="+30"

So there you have it. One tac­tic down, two to go. Next time, we’ll cover per­haps the most pop­u­lar of the top­ics that we covered—the brand-new get­Per­cent­PageViewed plug-in. If you have any ques­tions about Vis­i­tor Scor­ing, either based on this blog post or on the con­tent we shared at Omni­ture Sum­mit, please let me know by leav­ing a com­ment here. You can also con­tact me via Twit­ter (@OmnitureCare).

12 comments
VPS
VPS

Having statistical data on visitors to one's site is very helpful towards how to concentrate one's efforts on achieving the highest conversion rate possible. Though where to point this priority will be somewhat static, having a value changer like "eVar" helps to clear the path to optimal strategies. Distinguishing the tracking of daily visits from the long-term tracking of individuals is an important separation of data. The resulting numbers should make for a much clearer pictures about visitor behavior to the site. Thanks for including this in the conclusion of the article!

Tim Elleston
Tim Elleston

Hey Ben, Can I email you(I don't have your email address)...I'm seeing some very strange results that I dont understand and wanted to check with you a) our implementation of this and b) why I'm getting the results I'm getting. Thanks Tim

Tim Elleston
Tim Elleston

Hey Ben Nice post - just implementing this. Question though, would you put a minimal score on every page view, or just score key activities? Thanks Tim

Jay
Jay

Is there a way to track the value of the counter eVar at the end of a visit? I'm not concerned about its value at any specific event on the site, but rather the total increase or decrease at the end. Possible?

Rudi Shumpert
Rudi Shumpert

Ben, Good stuff here! Another spin is to deduct points. Say a -5 if the user hits your careers page. -Rudi

Ted
Ted

Why wouldn't I just use a calculated metric to create a score? It's flexible and requires no code changes if you are already making good use of custom events. If I value orders 10 times as much as page views (event1) and 5 times as much as contact form submits (event2), then engagement score=10*orders+event1+2*event2. Seems like you'd want to at least use the calc metric before going the counter evar route just see how the score might appear in your reports.

Adam Greco
Adam Greco

Great post! One additional idea to consider is using a DB Vista rule to assign "points" based upon the page name. This allows you to modify them without having to talk to developers!

Ben Gaines
Ben Gaines

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

Ben Gaines
Ben Gaines

Great question, Jay. It's not easy to do using counter eVars, but it's possible using numeric events, as described in the post. You won't be able to "group" users by high engagement/low scores, but you would be able to pull total "visit" scores into other reports to see, for example, which channels led to the greatest total-visit scores. I hope that helps!

Ben Gaines
Ben Gaines

Absolutely. Maybe negative numbers should have been my "bonus tip" instead of multiple eVars. It's a really valuable way to "disqualify" (or at least devalue) a user who does something that you're less interested in.

Ben Gaines
Ben Gaines

Good suggestion. I hadn't considered handling it that way, but there really is no reason that you couldn't. Keep in mind, however, that this would give you the metric (i.e. replaces the custom event), but not the report (the counter eVar).

Ben Gaines
Ben Gaines

Excellent suggestion, Adam. DB VISTA would be a great way to remove development from the process and make the whole thing even easier to manage.