Omniture Acquires Visual Sciences

From their joint press release to-day:

The management teams of both companies will host a conference call and simultaneous audio-only webcast today at 6:00 p.m. (Eastern Time).

Don't miss this. Things just got a lot more interesting (in the competition for market dominance, it's largely them against Google now... In the near term at least, this move helps solidify OMTR's current hold on the enterprise tier).

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C is for Cookie

The whole furor around cookie deletion rates (1st and 3rd party) has been brewing in the Web Analytics scene for a while, so likewise, I've been meaning to comment on it here for a while. How the cookie crumbles is a topic I've been fielding repeated questions about for a solid year or more, and in that time for my clients I've maintained that, relatively speaking, the matter has been a bit of a media-fueled tempest in a teacup.

It was only a matter of time until someone published a thorough discussion of why. If you didn't catch the final version of Stone Temple's very intriguing 2007 Web Analytics Shootout, hit it up and watch for these gems:

...some of the largest sources of error, such as those that relate to session management and counting, do cause a variance in the traffic results returned by the packages, but they do not affect the ability of the program to minitor the key performance indicators (KPIs) of your site.

Even if an analytics package is measuring the behavior of only 80% of their users, it remains highly relevant and valuable data. By contrast, the traditional print industry relies on subscriber surveys, and feels lucky if they get 20% response. They would die for data on 80% of their customers.

The fact is that some percentage of the questionable data is bad, and some of it may actually relate to a real user. The package that throws out too little gets skewed on one direction, and the package that throws out too much gets skewed a little bit in the other direction.

Neither of these changes the ability of these packages to measure trends, or to help you do sophisticated analysis about what users are doing on your site.

Thanks, Eric. I couldn't have summed it up better myself, especially in consideration of how cookie deletion and/or blocking is just one "error" type that can occur.

Now, critics of this stance cite the revenue models of advertising networks, specifically those that make their money by serving impressions (typically pricing by CPM). My opinion there though, is that they have essentially the same calibration tasks to embrace - as part of routine maintenance - as their customers do. The issue is not that in there is no perfect number. It's human nature to seek out impurities, and do things like brand all forms of hypocrisy band along the way and other short-sightedness. In the works of online analytics though, those urges have their place but do have to be kept in check. In this game, yes, actionable guidance is real and essential. As far as hard numbers go however, there is no "final answer."

The real issue is more that it falls to publishers and advertisers to be mutually prepared to haggle it out if/as their numbers don't match up and it's invoicing and/or contract renewals (a.k.a. "remind us again what we pay you people for") time. Sink your teeth in and take a bite; it's part of the fun. Always be tracking and auditing your own end via multiple tools i.e. disparate reporting sources if/as it really, really matters.

  • If you're a publisher, advertisers should want to keep your business. If/as you've a good case to make, do so... or at least make sure someone (your agency if you have one) is watching over your house attentively. It's part of what any involved intermediaries should be there for (and why it's good to have an agnostic middleman in the mix sometimes).
  • On the other hand if what puts food on your table is charging by Impressions (if you're an advertiser), build maximum deviations into your pricing model as a safety net. It's not like publishers don't need you to maintain visibility.

If the relationship's been working out and neither party's made itself a rep with the other for being a choad, problem solved.

I'm using the report's publication as a chance to spew scream cookies about this a little, as one of the most common traps I see people fall into in this space, is habitually obsessing over small incremental accuracies too much, while not monitoring longer-term trends, too much. Some marketers lack patience to pay enough attention to larger trends, and/or worse, fail to invest in positioning to monitor them - caveats and all - from the moment they hit the Web. Among the biggest sacrifices that gets made when problems like these happen is it prevents marketers from getting around to ad-side and/or site-side conversion optimization: Tasks like A/B - or even better - Multivariate testing, for examples. I'm not saying the issue isn't important. I'm saying it is, and things can be done about it, but beyond noting that it's not the end of the world, marketers need to check their heads re. expectations. Different vendors / tools calculate sessions - hence metrics like Visits, Unique Visits and others - differently. Some natural variance in between is going to happen inherently, i.e. even if/when implementations happen flawlessly.

So I've given enough of a spoiler on the report and done my soap-boxing. For more of its details, data and otherwise, go read it. In consideration of top-tier vendors it's unfortunately sparse on Omniture data, but to be fair, aside from their being a market leader I'm picking on that a little extra just as a relatively deep and frequent Omniture user, myself. Anyway... that's good enough for me.

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Google Analytics + Salesforce

The Washington Post reports that Google Analytics and Salesforce are now talking partnership.

This makes sense. Both tools are lightweight and with a low cost barrier. Also, Salesforce was among the first to hype up the idea of software-as-service... in their case "eCRM" or, per their creative "No Software" image which cleverly makes software look about as politically correct as smoking. Benioff may ruffle some feathers and/or frighten people from time to time, but as a technologist his foresight there was right on target. BTW Marc if you ever read this, next time you have (now Governator) Arnie over for a holiday party, have him arm wrestle people!

...Sorry, I just had to indulge and pretend there's a CEO of something reading my blog. My "SEO the CEO" gospel is taking longer to catch on than what would be ideal, and I verified this morning that, as expected the folks at Wired were too smart to (re)print any of that post (it was partly in response to their their "Get Naked" story from a couple issues back). 🙄

Anyway, what will be interesting will be to see if this partnership - if it firms up - ends up an exclusive one or not. If not, then perhaps we'll still see them pair up with other analytics vendors like Omniture someday after all.

If I were Salesforce I'd be looking to potentially establish a partnership with every major side-side analytics player, if possible... including WebTrends for that matter (even though Microsoft is among their current users... and hey wow, their homepage is one solid line of code without a single carriage return; pretty intense). As the grandfather vendor of the space, WebTrends is hardly bed-ridden and still commands considerable respect and pull.

But then of course, I'm not Salesforce. I just work and sometimes live around the corner; they're more buttoned-down and also, like most, can hold their liquor more than yours truly (part of why I mostly stick to wine).

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Wanted: Senior Analyst

Job Description

The Senior Analyst manages the data processing, testing, analysis, and determines data-driven strategy for our client advertising and marketing campaigns. This position will also work closely with their respective media, account and project management counterparts in ensuring campaign objectives are appropriately tracked and optimized. The Senior Analyst will design relevant marketing tests within the context of our campaigns that lead to improved learning and performance, analyze campaign activity from a variety of sources and provide compelling case studies by employing their analytic insight and present their findings, highlighting the key trends and learnings to our clients.


  • Develop measurable campaign objectives, and enable their tracking through site or 3rd party measurement tools: selection, implementation, usage
  • Define base metrics to inform current and future campaigns
  • Collect, normalize, and report on campaigns histories and current activity
  • Analyze performance reports for optimization and learning
  • Develop and present analysis to clients
  • Provide team leadership with media, creative, and account management
  • Manage day-to-day relationships with 3rd party vendors
  • Other duties as assigned


  • 3+ years web analysis experience including SEM (PPC, Paid Inclusion)
  • Excellent writing and editing capabilities
  • Familiarity with online analytics measures, terminology, benchmarks
  • Detail-oriented, with high standards for data accuracy and integrity, and quality of thinking and presentation
  • Excel skills, including pivot tables and vLOOKUPs for data manipulation
  • PowerPoint presentation skills
  • Ability to recognize and correct data problems and inconsistencies
  • Self-motivated, deadline-driven, ability to support multiple projects at a time
  • Understanding of strengths, challenges and complexities of online tracking
  • Skills with 3rd-party ad servers: DART, AtlasDMT, Mediaplex
  • Skills with 3rd-party site-side tools: Omniture SiteCatalyst, WebsideStory Hitbox, WebTrends, Coremetrics, Google Analytics
  • Understanding of statistical analyses, databases and site building basics
  • Bonuses: Experience with A/B and multivariate creative testing, experimental design, SAS or SPSS, e-mail campaign analysis, SEO San Francisco
55 Union Street
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San Francisco, CA 94111
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V: +1 415 817 3800
F: +1 415 817 3801

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[Omniture Summit :: Tail]

03.15.07 :: Day 3: Keynotes, Breakouts, Sidebar, Downloads.


We listened just to Anne Holland, President and CEO of MarketingSherpa. As usual the 'Sherp went over some great data even if some of it was a couple years old. Key take-aways:

  • While 2.0 has buzz and would get that extra $100K of Spend if/as Marketers had it, the real dominating investments are still all about Search and Email... Because they're so proven in terms of bang for the buck.
  • Paid and Organic Search convert at about the same rates on average. I had actually been assuming organic would be more, so it was a good head check against a common Marketer's trap: being so close to one's field that one assumes the audience is just as familiar, as comprehending, as non-impressionable, as jaded and/or as discriminating.
  • Putting new levels of attention on robust and effective internal (on-site) search, and also on re-marketing to lost conversions (ex: shopping cart abandons) are each hot new ROI frontiers. The idea being these are prime leads worth putting extra effort into keeping in the fold. Both B2C and B2B are advised to invest here.
  • SEM conversion rates coming from situations where Analytics is being deeply embraced are around 10%. However SEO is still averaging just half that rate, meaning Marketers haven't gotten it as well together with optimizing conversions from unpaid traffic yet (and need to).
  • Solicit the surveyed ROI data from them if/as need be to justify hiring Analysts and arming them with great Analysis tools. They're currently way underutilized.

As a side note, I was glad to see SEO at the top of their survey of Marketers' answers to the basic "what works?" question... whereas some of the flashier fun Web 2.0 stuff like podcasts for example was in the bottom ends i.e. single percentages.

Another stand-out item re. what's on marketers' minds is landing page optimization, from SEM and Email especially. So the rest of the keynote was all more granular i.e. landing page and email best practices for both B2C and B2B.


The first of these I hit was all on leveraging internal search. Really it was a big pitch from Endeca, a new Omniture partner. Their engine seems pretty solid, very oriented toward letting users refine results against a classification scheme. Plus, the hooks it has into SiteCatalyst give it optimization potential. It's made to be most beneficial for big e-tailers (ex: Home Depot) and/or media sites (ex: NY Times). Home Depot offered themselves up as a case study. They've been a longtime Endeca client who had recently dropped WebsideStory or Omniture. I did that on one project before, myself.

The second session, which we all hit, was all on making Analysis work on RIAs (Rich Interface Applications e.g. Flash, AJAX): Really technical and meticulous work but impressive when successes are presented. Main messages received:

  • Omniture's new ActionSource protocol makes tracking Flash sites much easier. Just set up the classification scheme in SAINT and there it is. No coding in opbject assemblies to Omnture's JavaScript tag, no HTML page or giving Builders access to SiteCatalyst needed even, for implementation and testing. Just the free Charles proxies utility or similar debugger needed for verifying event firings. Awesome.
  • Start-to-finish, tracking & analytics implementations on robust RIAs take months.
  • Project Managers need to build Analysis into requirements definitions at the kickoff stages. What happens too often is QA and Analysis get tacked on the end and sacrificed from/in the planning then it all blows up. Companies need to take it all very seriously and plan for it needing to take a while to get it in right.

Case studies included Nike. They have (4) JSP sites, (183) Flash sites, (1) dozen agencies, and Omniture tying all of it together behind the scene. Wow. The sites they're most proud of are NikeID (multiple languages, one big app, rolled into all just one SWF!) and NikePlus. One cool point was that they use SiteCatalyst to help guide offline inventory management, e.g. triggered alerts that flag whenever users try to order something that's out of stock. Their approach to marrying Analytics with robust, database-driven Flash applications creates a tight online marketing ecosystem.

Digestion / freeform sidebar:

There are a lot of exciting things happening, and there's much to get out in front of this year.

To me it feels increasingly that while solidifying their grasp on Web 2.0 (or as Omniture billed it this week, "Marketing 2.0") enterprise web marketers might do well to try adopting a content management industry inspired logic to evaluation and development of companies' presence online. That is, address the triumvirate of layers that makes for any given web property (or family thereof) distinctly, but also extend it to the whole online realization of their brand(s):

  • Presentational
  • Informational
  • Functional

My point here is the value of a CMS is sold on its ability to manage versioning and collaborative workflows for all these asset types... but look what happens when we look at project challenges through that same perspective. It creates a view that helps inform the strategic agenda. It could work simply by using this model to frame what companies are trying to online, instead of getting focused so straight away just on what their sites are about on the surface, to the end that one misses what really trying to do and why. I suspect the latter can be a potential trap for all kinds and levels of consultancies.

When so many things start off with a phone call from Brand X to experts A, B and C about their idea for Project Z and then everyone jumps to make a case for Y they should get the gig, etc., it can potentially distract a bit from the relationships being key. Not just between marketer and brand, but between brand and audience. Areas like this are where people sometimes let themselves get swept up into all the "gee-whiz" production options, in my experience. Marketers get wrapped up in advertising mindsets along the way, instead of thinking like brand ambassadors to the audience - mediators in between the two parties, even. What takes the hit perhaps most of all are overlooked meganiches where much can be learned about what customers really need and want. Marketers mustn't let these fly under their radar. Studying and then engaging these - honestly and under whatever disclaimers are needed to help expedite things - is important for bypassing all the noise. Honesty in advertising? Now more than ever, because so many of us online are all both content consumers as well as publishers. Or, put more bluntly, everyone's selling something - and it's a great thing, not a disturbing one. It creates great collective filters for bullshit.

I prefaced the importance of content in my last post: Some of the biggest brands online to-day are firms that, through various means and vendors in combination and over time, have published great presentation layers, solid and/or hit-and-miss functional layers, and emaciated or underdeveloped informational layers. So now more than ever with the new empowered audience and

the Web the way we've all always wanted it to work

- as MarketingSherpa put it this week - brands have a problem. They need to not just open themselves up. They need to expand their reach by enriching themselves... moreover some may even need to take it a step further with their social engineering work, spiking the punch via viral campaigns deployed as hoax and/or stealth initiatives, even. I wonder how many are thinking these ways yet, and how much of this type of thinking we need to start doing for them. For starters we do know we have clients challenged with the basic informational content void to-day, whether they know it or not... and marketers need to come up with ways to help them stay relevant there because the bar has been raised on brands re. what qualifies as such or not. Those who don't evolve to stay relevant may fade, so it's up to those versed in forward-thinking online marketing to be both conduits and advisers as this next stage of natural selection plays out on the Web.

So as we work, perhaps framing strategic vital signs as if evaluating CMS software requirements at the conceptual levels might help... and also, it might simultaneously help break discipline silos, optimizing our project / production management workflows so that at the end of the day we're putting out even tighter product than we already are.

Marketing Wisdom for 2007

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Demographics in Web Analytics

One thing that's often elusive in doing sites analysis is weeding out the demographics of visitors. There have been natural limitations here as analytics technologies have always had to collect no personally identifiable information, and in connection with this they've also obviously had to keep their privacy policies clear. Vendors like Omniture, Coremetrics, Websidestory and others must adhere to this basic rule, like just about anyone doing business online.

This has meant Web Analysts have been left to things like surveys, offline data sources like call center data, and any associated indirect and/or circumstantial evidence to draw conclusions from. This can get complicated fast, so often marketers opt to keep it simple at least at first. Example:

OK, my top referrer is Myspace, so chances are good most of my visitors are Millennials.

Aside from accuracy considerations, a problem with this though is the results aren't always going to be actionable. The data will come out something that had already been treated as a given...

Well duh, I'm selling ringtones. Tell me something I don't know, like whether we're talking mostly high school or mostly college students...

One fun, free and casual tool that's out now to perhaps help connect the dots is Quantcast. Some of the data it returns on some sites I've worked on looks believable. On low-traffic sites at least though, I'm finding it's way inaccurate, presumably due to limited data: I also checked a well-aged domain held by a popular club here in the city, managed by a few folks I know. Quantcast says it's got roughly 1000 visitors a month, which is of course almost nothing and sounds about right. However they also said an overwhelming majority of visitors to the site are Hispanic, also holding graduate degrees. I do promotional networking at the venue itself on occasion. To my knowledge its average patronage is almost all early-mid 20-somethings (normally a bit young to have finished grad school), moreover pretty Caucasian; perhaps leaning slightly on the WASPy side... So there are some pretty big differences here between who Quantcast says the club's Web audience is, and what I know their meatspace audience to be. It doesn't add up.

I've started connecting a few sites to the tool for quantification, to see how it does with queries regarding others I've background on already. At the very least, on traffic numbers we'll see how it holds up against the reporting sources already in production. They're still aggregating information from their integrated partners, and I'd half-expect them to not come up with demographics at all on some domains even if they weren't still building out their records, but here's crossing fingers and noting a new option for the toolkit in any case.

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Based out of Northern California, is a bl.og dedicated to the advocacy and study of high-impact, data driven marketing disciplines and related concerns: Analytics and Data Mining, Marketing Automation, Integrated Advertising (targeting, retargeting), Demand Generation and Lead Nurturing, Social Media / Social Engineering (Crowd-hacking) and the new PR, Privacy, Security, CRM, SEO / SEM, CRO, ROI... more TLAs (three letter acronyms) than any sane person's daily lexicon should include.

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