After much debate, my team of co-presenters and I elected to cover a small num­ber of top­ics, but to dive as deeply as pos­si­ble into those top­ics dur­ing the brief time allot­ted to us. We tried to pick tac­tics that were brand new, little-known, or known-but-underutilized. I dis­cussed the first two of these top­ics, Vis­i­tor Scor­ing and get­Per­cent­PageViewed, in pre­vi­ous posts. The final con­cept, par­tic­i­pa­tion, is some­thing that may be a bit more famil­iar to some, but we believe that more could/should be tak­ing advan­tage of this fea­ture to under­stand where their truly valu­able con­tent is.

Participation—an overview

How do you gauge the value of your con­tent? It’s easy to see what some­one was doing when they added a prod­uct to a shop­ping cart, or when they clicked to sub­scribe to your RSS feed, but it may not be ter­ri­bly action­able in many cases. Con­sider a news­pa­per site, where one mea­sure of suc­cess is daily sub­scrip­tions gen­er­ated. Just because users hap­pened to be brows­ing the Pol­i­tics sec­tion when they clicked to begin the sub­scrip­tion process doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean that Pol­i­tics was the sole impe­tus lead­ing to sub­scrip­tion. Pre­vi­ous page views across the site—Sports, Local, Enter­tain­ment, etc.—may have played an equally valu­able role. And when you exam­ine these trends in aggre­gate, won­der­ful pic­tures of rel­a­tive con­tent value begin to emerge. Par­tic­i­pa­tion is how you get there.

I’ve been rely­ing heav­ily on Adam Greco’s fan­tas­tic write­ups for back­ground info dur­ing this series of posts, and sure enough, he cov­ered par­tic­i­pa­tion back in 2008. The key point here is that, while lin­ear allo­ca­tion in Site­Cat­a­lyst assigns par­tial credit to each page or other report value that led up to a con­ver­sion, par­tic­i­pa­tion assigns full credit to each of these val­ues. I’ll explain below. (This can be a bit tricky to grasp, so hope­fully read­ers will let me know if it ends up as clear as mud.)

In the Pages report, lin­ear allo­ca­tion means that if the user viewed five pages and converted—for exam­ple, placed an order for $100—on the fifth page, the stan­dard Orders and Rev­enue met­rics would assign one-tenth of an order and $20 of rev­enue, respec­tively, to each of the five pages lead­ing up to the purchase.

Lin­ear allo­ca­tion can be really use­ful in many cases. How­ever, as Adam pointed out, “[lin­ear] 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.” Is a page less “valu­able” sim­ply because there were more page views dur­ing the visit prior to con­ver­sion? Or, con­versely, is a site sec­tion more valu­able because there were fewer site sec­tions dur­ing the visit? A $10,000 pur­chase divided by 20 pages assigns just $500 to each page in the visit, but if a user spent the same $10,000 after just five pages, then those pages receive credit for $2,000 instead. The order and rev­enue val­ues were the same, so why does each page in the 20-page visit receive less credit? At the very least, in some sit­u­a­tions it can intro­duce incon­sis­ten­cies in under­stand­ing the value of the con­tent involved in the conversion.

This is where par­tic­i­pa­tion comes in. It assigns full credit for the given con­ver­sion event to every value (every page name, every site sec­tion, etc.) that led up to the con­ver­sion. In the exam­ple above, each page in the 20-page visit would receive one order and $10,000 of rev­enue. Each page in the five-page visit would receive one order as well, and $10,000 of rev­enue. It lev­els the play­ing field, so that report line items, such as page names, do not dis­play added or diluted value sim­ply because the visit was shorter or longer.

This dia­gram assumes a five-page visit lead­ing to a $100 purchase.

Participation in SiteCatalyst

The really great news with par­tic­i­pa­tion is that you don’t need to imple­ment any­thing (pro­vided you’re already cap­tur­ing your most crit­i­cal suc­cess met­rics already). Par­tic­i­pa­tion is cal­cu­lated by Omni­ture based on visit path and con­ver­sion data that you cap­ture using nor­mal tech­niques, and is avail­able on request in Site­Cat­a­lyst for your top con­ver­sion events; your Account Man­ager can help you decide which met­rics should use par­tic­i­pa­tion and can enable this fea­ture for you. Just to be clear, I’ll put that in other words (and in bold): con­tact your Omni­ture Account Man­ager to get par­tic­i­pa­tion enabled if you believe this fea­ture is for you. Note that enabling par­tic­i­pa­tion adds new met­rics to the rel­e­vant reports; it does not replace any exist­ing met­rics or data, so you don’t need to worry about the effect on dash­boards or book­marked reports from enabling this feature.

Analy­sis and opti­miza­tion using participation

As Josh James described dur­ing the open­ing gen­eral ses­sion at Sum­mit, the “old school” met­rics aren’t going to cut it in the next dig­i­tal decade. They don’t tell the whole story, and in some cases can be really mis­lead­ing. An online mar­ket­ing orga­ni­za­tion that is account­able for its deci­sions needs more. Take a look at the report below. If you were judg­ing the rel­a­tive value of these con­tent types based on page views or vis­i­tors, you might make some bad choices about where to focus your efforts. When we look at “sub­scrip­tion par­tic­i­pa­tion” (i.e., the var­i­ous “con­tent type” val­ues that par­tic­i­pated in gen­er­at­ing sub­scrip­tions), we see a dif­fer­ent pic­ture of things.

Participation in SiteCatalyst

In real­ity, con­ver­sion is being gen­er­ated by the “col­umn,” “inter­ac­tive,” and “video” con­tent types. (“Con­tent Type” here is a Cus­tom Traf­fic vari­able. The exam­ple could just as eas­ily have focused on pages, site sec­tions, etc.) Now you know that you should exam­ine what these con­tent types are doing suc­cess­fully to point users toward con­ver­sion. In Omni­ture Dis­cover, which offers par­tic­i­pa­tion for all suc­cess events by default, you can even run these reports against var­i­ous seg­ments to see how con­tent value changes based on nearly any cri­te­ria under the sun.

Page View Event Participation

Another pow­er­ful thing you can do with par­tic­i­pa­tion and a page view cus­tom event is “Page View Par­tic­i­pa­tion per Visit,” which helps you under­stand the “stick­i­ness” of var­i­ous pages on your site by show­ing, in met­ric form, the aver­age num­ber of page views per visit that fol­low each page on your site (For more infor­ma­tion on set­ting up a page view cus­tom event see this post. The basic idea is that you will have a cus­tom event that gets set on every page view across your entire site.)

Once par­tic­i­pa­tion is enabled on your Page View cus­tom event, each page that users view receive full credit for each page view that comes after it. In the dia­gram below, notice that page A has a value of four, indi­cat­ing that a total of four page views came as a result of view­ing page A. Page B has a value of three, because three page views can ulti­mately be attrib­uted to it.

Participation in SiteCatalyst

Within the Pages report, you’ll want to set up a cal­cu­lated met­ric defined as:

[Page View Event Participation] / [Visits]

This would level the play­ing field even fur­ther. Once you’ve got that met­ric, you can eas­ily see which pages are stick­i­est right there in your Pages report:

Participation in SiteCatalyst

Those four pages in the mid­dle of the report are highly sticky with­out being the raw traf­fic lead­ers. Of course, in this par­tic­u­lar report you may need to keep in mind what type of “con­tent” you’re look­ing at; it’s pos­si­ble that the “site search: results” page might be some­what over­val­ued because it is nat­u­rally likely to lead to addi­tional page views. But for cer­tain con­tent types, this infor­ma­tion could be extremely helpful.


That should just about do it: The three top­ics that we cov­ered at Sum­mit, now in blog form. Our goal dur­ing our pre­sen­ta­tion was for audi­ence mem­bers to come away with at least one thing that they could go home and do imme­di­ately (although, of course, if they came away with more than one thing, that’s even bet­ter). Hope­fully this series of blog posts will enable even those who didn’t make it to Summit—and those who were there but wanted more information—to begin employ­ing at least one of these tac­tics to do more in Site­Cat­a­lyst. Prob­a­bly more impor­tantly, I hope that the core con­cepts and func­tion­al­ity are clear so that you can apply these tac­tics in your own unique way to address your spe­cific busi­ness needs.

As always, I wel­come any ques­tions, con­cerns, com­ments, etc. that you might have about any of these posts (or about any­thing else related to the Omni­ture Online Mar­ket­ing Suite. Please feel free to com­ment on this or any other blog post, or to con­tact me via Twit­ter (@OmnitureCare) and I’ll do my best to get you the infor­ma­tion that you need.


These three topics covered at Summit seem to be pretty great! I am looking forward to hear more about using data to gauge the value of my content. I hope to be able to employ the knowledge that I learn at Summit immediately when I return home.