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Thursday, 20 March 2008

Winning content, spring break and analytics

Winning content

A while ago I wrote an article on box plots and whisker plots using Excel 2007. When I wrote it, I had in mind the use of this concept in the web analytics field, but it turns out a lot of people are searching for this information, especially students enrolled in statistical classes. Soon this article got referenced by de.Wikipedia.org and en.Wikipedia.org.

Hypothesis #1: Reporting on spring break

The thing is... I'm getting a lot of traffic, good for my ego, but this traffic is for the most part, "not qualified" for my blog goals: talking about web analytics. So here's what happen when students go in spring break: a huge drop in traffic in the last week!

That's reporting: making up an hypothesis and comforting our conclusion with some data extracted from a report.

Hypothesis #2: using analytics

Is this really the cause? After all, I know it's spring break in most regions...

Then I did this:
  • Entry page: identify which pages got the highest drop in traffic: yes, the Box Plot page is the culprit
  • Search terms: double-checked to confirm this was the root cause: yes, there's about a 50% drop from searches containing the word "plot"
  • Referrers: referrers from Wikipedia, is there a drop: no?! Hmmm... why?
  • Segmented search terms by continent: traffic is down by about 50% regardless of the continent... it's not spring break everywhere at the same time!
The real culprit: a change in my blog setup to shorten the page titles using only "immeria::"+post title has got my ranking to fall dramatically in Google!

Conclusion

Doing web analytics often implies starting up with an hypothesis. Then we fall short of digging for a complete explanation and we jump to the conclusion as soon as we have some data to prove us right. However, pushing web analytics a bit further implies using different tools and different angles to observe the same situation. Just like a scientist would describe something with different attributes and different qualities and a team of scientists would bring their expertise from various fields to provide an even more thorough analysis.
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