Friday, November 30, 2007

Bubble-burst 2.0

According to John Gartner, we are or will be witnessing pretty soon the second burst of the Dot-com bubble.
It's ridiculous over inflation of Facebook's worth has gotten even the optimistic to say that the emperor has no clothes. Social networking and widgets are cool, but they aren't going to change the dynamics of commerce and advertising.
On this point, I totally agree with M.Gartner. From a financial perspective, the over inflation of some innovations, or in fact, not so innovations than better repackaging of existing inventions, is ridiculous. Facebook is, for the most part, a fancier version of the old closed BBS's environments. While Dot-com 1.0 was all about growing the largest client-base, even if totally unqualified; Dot-com 2.0 is about gaining as more attention as possible. And it appears the concept of "attention economy" is one of my favorite. Except here, the concept is screwed toward pure capitalism based on money and market, as M.Goldhaber flamed about in his post "The Wrong Book". Here's, in short, what Goldhaber says about the attention economy:
It is an economy in the sense that it involves allocating of what is most scarce and precious in the present period, namely the attention that can come to each of us from other human beings.
Could Web 2.0 be something else than rich media, social media, network as a platform, AJAX, consumer generated content and all those fancy ways of reaching the end goal: attention?

Gartner ends his post with:
Blame the ongoing war, the lead-tainted toys, the housing and mortgage collapse, and volatile days on Wall Street. Uncertainty across the board is about to investments Web 2.0 companies hard.
Again true, just like Bubble 1.0 economics, stretched Bubble 2.0 economics will be a thing of the past. What will remain are the concepts and the tools to help businesses, and ultimately people, be more efficient.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Yulbiz tonight, [WAM] tomorrow!


Yulbiz is a gathering of business people interested in blogs and bloggers interested in business.
It's going on tonight at Café Melies in Montréal. The latest news says there will be somewhere around 50 people. Sadly I can't be there, but I attended the one in Québec city and I will try to attend the next one in Montréal.


[WAM], and his friend [WAQ], are monthly meeting of the local Web Analytics community held in Montréal and Québec city. It's an happy gathering of practitioners in the field of web analytics and related interests: strategy, website optimization, SEO/SEM, design, and the Internet in general.
Tomorrow night (Wednesday, November 28th at 6:00pm) is also the last "[WAM] Web Analytics in Montreal" event, also at Café Melies! And it promises to be the largest ever, with 40 people confirmed and another 20 potential. This month the event is sponsored by Coremetrics, Digital Marketing Optimization and web analytics vendor and we will see lots of new people coming from web agencies, SEO/SEM freelance consultants, and of course, practitioners and web managers. We'll have the usual networking, but I will also present some industry news and Coremetrics will do a presentation on do's & don't of web analytics.

UC Irvine: Certificate in Web Intelligence

I first heard about this several months ago and found the idea very compelling. At a time when new people are flocking to web analytics like flies on a good sh*t pile (hmmm... maybe not a good example!), the best thing to ensure a descent level of quality is to get certified courses from renowned university degrees like the UBC and U of C.

From Jim Sterne's newsletter:
What do you get if you combine four WAA / University of British Columbia web analytics courses with four University of California, Irvine business intelligence courses? The Web Intelligence Certificate Program.
Of course, as a tutor of UBC's Intro to Business Process Analysis, Intro to Web Analytics and Web Analytics for Site Optimization, I might be a bit biased... But once I complete my eBusiness MBA, this is the next continuing education achievement I will undergo!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Practical analytics: incoming traffic quality

The initial inquiry was something like this: "In Site Catalyst how do i calculate bounce rate for referrers? I am trying to figure out the quality of referrers to the site using bounce rate by referrers".

Step 1: Define

The first analysis step is to define the improvement goal that is consistent with customer demand and business strategy.
We can rephrase that into something closer to a SMART objective: "During the month of October, which referrers brought people who engaged with our site beyond the initial page?". This might be good enough, but the initial statement was about "quality", which ultimately needs to relate back to the business primary objective (or one of the secondary ones). For an ecommmerce site, it could be: "During the month of October, which referrers brought customers?". We could even qualify it further by stating a minimal purchase amount, life time customer value, etc.

Step 2: Measure

Here we have a very good example of the difference between reporting and analysis. Reporting would limit itself to each individual metrics such as Referrers and Visits and leave it to the reader's imagination to find a meaning to those numbers. Analysis aims to look at the correlation between various metrics and build up a good story around them.
In the second step, we want to look at the process and collect relevant data for comparison.
In this case, we have a couple of important elements we can look at:
  • Visit: "A visit is an interaction, by an individual, with a website consisting of one or more
    requests for an analyst-definable unit of content (i.e. “page view”)."
  • Page Views: "The number of times a page (an analyst-definable unit of content) was viewed."
  • Referrer: "The referrer is the page URL that originally generated the request for the current page view or object." In our case, we will want to look at the originating domain, not the whole URL. So we will talk about the "referring domain" for "external referrers".
  • Conversion: "A visitor completing a target action." Typically, it's easier to look at the referring domain that brings us the most conversions.
  • Entry Page: "The first page of a visit."
  • Page Views per Visit: "The number of page views in a reporting period divided by number of visits in the same reporting period."

Step 3: Analyze

We want to analyze the relationship and causality of various factors.
In order to analyze what is happening, we need to define two new metrics derived from the basic metrics commonly available in any web analytics solution:
  • Bounce Rate: The number of visits that resulted in a single page view and then left the site. It can be defined in Site Catalyst as a new calculated metric of Single Access/Entries.
  • Weighted Bounce Rate: Same as above, but gives more weight to pages that are viewed more often, thus pushing problematic pages to the top of the list. It is calculated from this formula: (Single Access/Entries) * (Page Views/Total Page Views).
In Site Catalyst, the only way to find out Bounce Rate by Referrers is to go under Paths/Pages/Most Popular Pages and select our newly defined Bounce Rate and Weighted Bounce Rate.

Then we can simply click on the correlate icon and select Finding Methods/Referring Domains.

Step 4: Improve

Optimize based upon the analysis and various design experiments.
Now we have all information at hands to make hypothesis and validate them. One could think we don't have much control over who links to our site. In this case, we found out some referrers were simply linking to a "deep" page while they should link to a page that comes up sooner in the process. Since those referrers were mostly partner sites, we could simply ask them to fix the links. They are actually sending us qualified traffic, but at the wrong step of an important conversion process! End result: frustrated customers, loss of revenue.

Step 5: Control

The last step is to control that our changes results in positive outcomes from a user perspective, but also from a business point of view. We can simply run A/B reports showing the months of October and November side by side.
We want to ensure that any variances can be explained. Set up audit at specific intervals to asses conformity and institute control/correction mechanisms.

Six Sigma

Here it is! Without knowing it, we've just went through a very simplified Six Sigma approach that can easily be applied to web analytics. Using the Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control process, it is easier to keep the business objectives in mind and stay focused on actionable data that brings tangible outcomes.

Monday, November 19, 2007

[WAM] Web Analytics in Montreal, November 28th

You are cordially invited to a meeting of Montreal's Web Analytics community at Café Melies on November 28th around 6:00 PM, sponsored by Coremetrics. The meeting will be a gathering of practitioners, consultants, web managers, eBusiness strategists in the field of web analytics or other related interest
(strategy, SEO, design, or the Internet in general).

  • Quick industry and Web Analytics Association news & announcements from your humble host (that's me!)
  • Short presentation from this month sponsor, Coremetrics,
  • Followed by drinks and networking!
When: Wednesday, November 28th, around 6:00pm
Where: Café Melies, 3540 boul. St-Laurent, Montréal

Please RSVP by sending me an email or on the [WAM] event on Facebook.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

An evolving definition of Web Analytics

It's a recurring topic: what is the definition of "web analytics"?

I first posted my views in March 2006 and again in September when I suggested we (or at least I) couldn't care less about the trend of putting a "2.0" or "3.0" after every buzzword, just like the "e" of the Web 1.0 era (sic) where we had to put the notion of "electronic" to qualify everything we did: ebusiness, emarketing, elearning, e-anything!

So let's try it again!

What is web analytics?

Web Analytics Association definition:
Web Analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of Internet data for the purposes of understanding and optimizing Web usage.

Avinash Kaushik definition:
1) The analysis of qualitative and quantitative data from your website and the competition 2) to drive a continual improvement of the online experience that your customers, and potential customers have, 3) which translates into your desired outcomes.
An evolving definition:
1) The analysis of qualitative and quantitative data from your website, the competition and business systems 2) to drive a continual improvement of the online experience that your customers, and potential customers have, 3) which translates into desired customer and business outcomes.
I'm adding what I think are two important concepts:
  1. business systems obviously store a commensurate amount of knowledge. A website doesn't float by itself on the web ocean, it's anchored to other business systems. Note that here, I'm considering the web is a business system part of "a set of interacting or interdependent entities, real or abstract, forming an integrated whole".
  2. customer and business outcomes highlights the difference between the web site user outcome and the business one. Pleasing the customer to a level where it wouldn't be business wise would eventually lead to the death of the business itself. However, forgetting to satisfy the customer wished outcome would also destroy the business. Thus, the notion of exchanging "something" for "something else" where both parties are satisfied and see a benefit.

Since I'm tutoring the Business Process Analysis course of the UBC Certificate in Business System Analysis, the importance of business process optimization on the web become obvious. My personal background isn't that much in marketing, but much more in the analysis of interrelated tasks organized to solve a business issue.

And lastly, I have a bad news and a good one for you: "web analytics" is dead, the good news is we can now talk about "business analytics". (Hey! I had to be provocative!)

Friday, November 16, 2007

[WAQ] Web Analytics Quebec, Wednesday, November 21

This month, the "Web Analytics in Québec city", or "WAQ" for short, join again with Yulbiz-Québec, organized by my friend and web analytics entrepreneur Stéphane Guérin.

Who: bloggers, entrepreneurs, strategists, designers, web analysts, VC, geeks :)
When: Wednesday, November 21th, around 7:00pm
Where: Taverne Urbaine chez Mo, 810 boul. Charest Est, Québec

Come join us for a chat, a drink and some tapas!

You might want to let me know or RSVP on the Yulbiz-Québec Facebook group if you come.

WASP 0.29: a week later

It's been a week since the release of WASP 0.29 and being in the field of web analytics, I couldn't resists reporting on some insight I got.

Numbers, numbers, numbers

  • Number of downloads of WASP in a week: 4,500
  • Total number of downloads since first launch: 24,000
  • Number of sites visited by WASP users in a week: 4,300
  • Number of pages analyzed by WASP in a week: 63,900
  • Current number of products detected by WASP: 55
I could release some market share numbers, but I don't feel it would be fair because the sampling is not large enough. Let's just say that in absolute number of sites tagged, Google Analytics largely dominate (twice as more as) Omniture SiteCatalyst (twice as more as) WebSideStory HBX, then WebTrends Live and Coremetrics.

I'm receiving great feedback about WASP. People like the new status bar indicator and I received a couple of requests to for additional products to detect, or small glitches here and there on specific sites (usually sites that have weird implementations!).

What you want to see in WASP?

Let me share my dilemna regarding an advanced version of WASP: aim for the mass or aim for the bucks?
  • Creating "WASP Google Analytics Edition" would probably be very popular, but SiteScan exists, is free, and is doing a good job. Furthermore, from a purely commercial perspective, why would people pay for a QA tool while Google Analytics is free?
  • Creating "WASP Omniture Edition" would probably be much more interesting, especially with the type of clients Omniture has and the recent industry shakeup.
Which brings the next question, below "Which features would you like to see added to WASP?".

But this inevitably brings another question...

Which model would fit?

So far, I have spent dozens of hours (I stopped counting!) working on WASP. Creating WASP is a great experience in itself and it's rewarding to see the interest picking up. Honestly, it's also bringing a fair amount of "attention" which translates in other opportunities. Being perceived as a thought leader, innovator and helping out the community is great, but in and by itself, WASP needs to bring some tangible outcomes.

It's interesting to see that most respondents to my little survey say a "donation model" appears to be, in their view, the most appropriate one. The WASP user interface clearly shows a "Make a Donation" button and the website as a clear call to action to make donations. Here's the results:
Since the first launch of WASP, there has been 2 donations, for a whopping total amount of 30$!
Am I complaining? No! I just thought I would share this info and seek your input. Please fill out the poll. Please send in your comments and if you are inclined to do so, let me know, honestly, how much would you pay to make sure your site is correctly tagged? (or email me privately)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Webcom-Montreal: optimization through web analytics

Yesterday, I had the pleasure to be on a panel at Webcom-Montreal with my friends Jacques Warren and Simon Rivard to talk about using web analytics for site optimization. Here's some highlights from this presentation.

What is web analytics?

Jacques suggested a definition, here's mine, which is slightly modified from the one proposed by Avinash Kaushik:
"Web Analytics is the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data from your website, the competition and business systems to drive a continual improvement of the online experience that your customers, and potential customers have, which translates into desired business outcomes (online and offline)".
I'm adding "business sytems" as an important source of information used for analysis.

Why use web analytics?

We were unanimous on that one! Through the use of web analytics, we aim to answer three simple questions. You might change the way those questions are formulated, but it's essentially:
  • Who is coming to the site?
  • Why are they coming? What's their goal?
  • Were they successful in accomplishing their goal?

What skills are required to do web analytics?

I proposed three key elements to be successful in web analytics:
  1. Business acumen: knowledge of the specific business area, the global strategy, and how this strategy is facilitated by the Internet. Understand the goals and the processes related to ebusiness and "speak the language of business".
  2. Technology savvy: general web and internet concepts and best practices (and sometimes deep understanding!). The architecture and how the site is constructed, structured and applications are conceived.
  3. Analytical mind: ability to analyze data of various nature. Correlate it to business objectives and provide recommendations. Communicate efficiently to all stakeholders.
Don't worry, I don't know anyone who can claim to be a specialist in all those three areas (if you know someone who claims that, be very suspicious!). That's why a multidisciplinary team is the best, or hire a consultant for areas where you don't have the skills internally.

How can we improve a site?

Once we have a better insight on the three essential questions, we can seek to improve the site. Simon suggested the following areas of improvement:
  • Spotting technical problems such as bugs, broken links or server errors
  • Understanding the level of interest (engagement) of visitors (where they come from, what's their interest, what they are doing on the site, etc.)
  • Better qualifying target audiences (especially in the context of marketing activities)
  • Improving usability and communication efficiency
And another one of my own:
  • Improving business processes
Simon noted that in his experience, any time there's a red error message on a page, you drop another 10% of your users.

What bounce rate or conversion ratios are ideals for...

We knew someone would ask! Simon joked: 0% bounce, 100% conversion!
  • For eCommerce, some studies mention conversion from visit to purchase of 4% as being a good objective, 8% is exceptional.
  • But each business strategy being different, and each expression of that strategy on the web being specific, bounce rates, ratios and conversion rates should never (well, maybe not never, but very rarely!) be compared from one company to the other.
It's really hard not to fall into anecdotal demonstration of such and such case where bounce rate was 50% or 2%, or conversion for a specific transaction was 98% (yes, I have seen that!) or checkout was improved by 400%. Again, each case is different!

Where can I find more info about web analytics?

You are here! It's already a good start :)
I hope that helps, please don't hesitate to send in your comments!

Friday, November 9, 2007

WASP 0.29 released!

What is WASP?

By now, most people in the Web Analytics sphere have heard about WASP. WASP is the free Web Analytics Solution Profiler, a Firefox extension aimed at web analytics implementation specialists, web analysts and savvy web surfers who wants to understand how their behavior is being analyzed.

By automatically detecting the tags on a page and displaying detailed information about the data being sent, WASP can significantly ease the tagging process and increase the quality of a web analytics implementation.

What's new?

It took a while to get this version out the door, but the folks at Mozilla are doing a great job ensuring Firefox extensions abide to quality standards and good practices! Some noticeable changes are:
  • Now detects 55 solutions!
  • WASP icon shown on the status bar
  • Enable/disable WASP from the status bar
  • Fixed most problems related to tab browsing
  • Even more optimization
  • WASP uses web analytics too! WASP has been instrumented to collect anonymous usage information. This will allow me to improve WASP and eventually provide market data. Of course, this feature can be turned off from the Options dialog.
Visit for full details or see the complete revision history and the FAQ.

Your feedback is important!

I've received a lot of feedback from the community and this helped shape this release of WASP, determine what should be improved and developed in the future. Your positive input is always appreciated, but constructive critics are also accepted!

Please take a few seconds to fill out my two quick polls:
  1. If a special edition of WASP had a price tag, which packaging would be most effective for you? Take this poll
  2. Which features would you like to see added to WASP? Take this poll
Make a donationIf you are inclined to do so - or if you use WASP for professional purposes - a donation would be appreciated!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

I've been quiet, but quite busy!

On the surface, I've been more quiet than usual for a couple of weeks. But behind the scene, there's a lot going on! Here's some highlights.

Webcom Montréal

Webcom Montreal is coming up next week, November 14th in Montreal. I will be on a panel with Jacques Warren and Simon Rivard discussing about "how to optimize your conversion rates with web analysis?"
Don't forget Web Analytics Association members get a 15% discount!

"[WAM] Web Analytics Montreal" and "[WAQ] Web Analytics Quebec"

[WAQ] Living in the nice Quebec city area? Book your agenda for November 21th at Taverne Urbaine Chez Mo where we will repeat last month's experience of joining the YULBiz group. At the same occasion, there will be the launch of a book entitled "Pourquoi bloguer dans un contexte d'affaires" (why blog in a business context), a collective work of 10 bloggers in Quebec .

[WAM] Close to Montréal? Book your agenda for November 28th, around 6pm at Café Melies, for the next get together of Montreal's Web Analytics community. This month sponsors are Coremetrics and the Web Analytics Association. I will provide more info as we get closer to November 28th.

eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit

I'm working with Andrea Hadley, June Li, Alex Langshur and Joseph Carrabis on the upcoming Canada's eMetrics Marketing Optimization coming up in Toronto March 31st-April 2nd. We're putting a final touch on the agenda and making contact with potential sponsors and speakers.

What about WASP?

It's been a while since I talked about the Web Analytics Solution Profiler. I have made some major improvements since the last version: a status bar, more tools detection, improved interface, much better handling of multi-tab browsing, optimization, etc. Sadly, it's been rejected twice by the approval team at Mozilla because of some changes in the End User License Agreement and the introduction of some data collection in the tool itself. Basically, I will collect usage information in order to improve the product and provide market share data (this feature can be turned off). I hope to have the stamp of approval within two weeks.

UBC Introduction to Business Process Analysis

I'm tutoring the UBC course "Introduction to Business Process Analysis", which is part of the Certificate in Business System Analysis. This first experience as an online tutor is a great opportunity to view elearning from the mentoring side instead of being a student. Starting in January I will be tutoring the "Introduction to Web Analytics" course, which is part of the Award of Achievement in Web Analytics program.

eBusiness MBA at Université Laval

I took a break this summer and for the fall semester, but will get back to it for the winter semester in order to complete the MBA within a year. In the meantime, I will be attending the Honor Roll reception on November 13th for achieving higher grades (top 20 students for the eBusiness MBA program).


Between all of this, I'm getting closer to November 30th, which is the date I will be officially "freelance" and 100% dedicated to web analytics. Setting up the business is a lot of work in itself: incorporating, lawyer, finance, setting up a decent presence, defining the exact services I want to offer, finding some contracts, etc.

On the opportunity side, it's beyond my expectations! I already have some work going on, and two major contracts on the way. The work I've put in networking, getting some attention and word of mouth are paying off and I'm very excited by the way things are turning out.

Some might ask, why "immeria"? It's already hard to find a name, even more a name that can have some meaning and good pronunciation in French and English! immeria can have several meanings:
  • The word immeria is inspired by the german word "immer", which mean "always", "forever".
  • It refers to the notion of immersion or flow: an experience that is at once demanding and rewarding, from the theory of M.Csikszentmihalyi
  • It can simply be a contraction of "immersed in Internet and Analytics"

Friday, November 2, 2007

Online identity, reputation and privacy

Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, GMail, Hotmail, Yahoo!, YouTube, Amazon, eBay, FeedBurner,, Flickr, Friendster, corporate identities... and a bunch of others. Thank God I have resisted the temptation of using Second Life and Twitter! And a newcomer, I'm giving a try at Naymz:
Naymz Profile for Mr. Stephane Hamel

It's like managing our flesh and blood life wasn't already hard enough, now we have to manage our identity in the ether.

While we hear more and more about so called "social network" horror stories or email bankruptcy, a "Giaant", I mean Google, is sticking to its corporate mission to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful". This week we witnessed the birth of the gPC, a simple and cheap solution that totally avoid Microsoft while being enough for most casual home users. This PC is not "built by" Google itself but obviously heavily backed up. And that's not the only battle front for the business "Goood" of the 21st century: gPhone, backing mySQL, OpenSocial (and a first security breach in 45 minutes!), Google enterprise plans and probably other stuff we don't suspect today.

At the same time, while Facebook was an unsuspected player just a few months ago, it is raising to become a data-pit of private information grown to unprecedented scales. It seems that Project Beacon will raise segmentation and one-to-one marketing capabilities to a new level... this will be done within a closed, badly developed, unusable interface... with the consent of its users. My personal experience of Facebook isn't very positive. So far, the 57 "friends" I have in Facebook and the Web Analytics Quebec group that gathered 41 fans in a week haven't proven to be very effective to ease constructive communication (other than the zombies and a bunch of other useless gadgets).

All of those have one thing in common: information concentration in the hands of a few. And these days, information is power. Sadly, history has proven that too much power in one's hand, even with the pure and honest intention of "doing no evil", inevitably ends up in chaos.