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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.