Friday, August 29, 2008

Web Analytics Wednesday: Montréal, September 22nd, sponsored by Xiti

A special "back to school" Web Analytics Wednesday! sponsored by Xiti.

When: Monday, September 22nd, starting at 5:00pm
Location: the new cool place in Old Montréal, Le Local
Where: 700 William, Montréal, H3C 1P1, 514-397-7737
RSVP: >>> RSVP through WebAnalyticsDemystified service <<<
Sponsor: Xiti

AT Internet is an independent and trustworthy company that enables an integral analysis of websites, intranet and mobile sites. It has provided real time, Online Intelligence solutions since 1995.

The web analytics leader in France, AT Internet has launched its North American office right here in Montréal!
So, come and join us for aperitif as we sponsor our first Web Analytics Wednesdays event.

Our goal is to present a demo of something different in a relaxed, non-sales pitch type atmosphere.
Interested in checking us out? Please do and sign up today!

Friday, August 22, 2008

WASP love!

As WASP is grabbing some attention in the market, people are mentioning it more and more on their blogs. Here are some of them:
"WASP is a plugin created by my good friend Stéphane, he lives in Canada and its a great tool. It just detects all the javascript tags. So if you go to my blog you'll see I'm using 9 tools, just because I can!" (laughs!)
"Stephane Hamel has created a wonderful plug-in for just this purpose and it’s well worth the download!"
"Very useful, as no tracking code usually means no data collected!"
"In terms of Web analytics, being good at your job should at least include knowledge of the following".
"One great plug in that everyone interested in web analytics should be using"
There are also mentions worldwide!
Since WASP is vendor agnostic, they are also starting to mention it in their own literature and online. I also heard rumors that trainers, support teams and implementation specialists are using WASP and mentioning it.

WASP: a good tool to audit site tags

There's an interesting thread on the Yahoo! Web Analytics forum "What is a good tool/methodology to audit a large site for tags?". As often, my answer was getting long! It started like this:
"I'm starting a new job with a big, complicated site, and want to get a handle on its data collection strengths and weaknesses.  Any suggestions?"

Potential solutions

Even without lots of details, and as others pointed out, we can identify a couple of potential solutions. Of course, WASP comes to mind first... but let's look at other alternatives:
  •  Maxamine's flagship product, now owned by Accenture, would come to mind. But the price tag is high and it seems it's not available as a standalone product anymore. So one would have to hire Accenture consulting, which is probably an issue for lots of smaller companies, web and analytics agencies, etc.
  • EpikOne's SiteScanGA offers a Premium subscription. But unless your site is tagged with Google Analytics, this is of little use... Furthermore, SiteScanGA doesn't actually look at your site; it looks at whatever Google Search have in their cache. So it won't scan any "no-index,no-follow" areas of your site (secured sections, transactions, etc.) and since Google might not have your latest page version, this further lower the value of SiteScanGA.
  • Debugging proxies and manual method: if you are a techy, Charles and Firebug are your friends. But who would want to walk through tens of thousands of pages manually?

Poor guy's solution

Someone suggested that "if one had access to the actual server, could you not literally download the entire site to a local machine, then do a grep for the relevant text?"

That would be a very poor guy's (and very bad) way of doing quality assurance! Here's an analogy: would you trust your site works correctly just because you can see the company logo on the page?

It would only tell you the source code is there, but wouldn't guarantee it works and is actually sending the right data. I think it's how EpikOne SiteScanGA and other basic tag checking tools are doing it: they don't run the code, they simply look for a string in the source file.

Here comes WASP!

As you can see in a case study I made on a site using SiteCatalyst, there are things you would simply not be able to find if you don't actually load the page and run the code. From the start, WASP's goal was to run "in situ" of a real user. This makes WASP the most unique and robust way of doing quality assurance.

Someone suggested that since most sites are based on templates (CMS, ecommerce catalogues, etc.), why not check just one page of each template?
  • "You don't know what you don't know": ask a site owner if all their pages are tagged, at best they will say "yes", usually they will say "I think so"... WASP often tells otherwise by crawling all pages and finding whole sections that were missed! Static pages, but more surprisingly, transactions are usually the area were tags are missing or bad.
  • "All pages using a template are alike": yes and no. Since tags are often populated automatically from the data filled in the template, there might be cases where unexpected values are set: special characters, blanks, missing values, wrong data type, invalid range of acceptable values, etc. Since the person who controls the template is not the same as the one who populates it with data, the likelihood of errors is significant.
Other than the status bar tag indicator and the sidebar values being sent, WASP includes a powerful site crawling feature that allows you to start from any site page and recursively crawl to the level and number of pages you want. Use include/exclude filters, follow or not robots exclusion specifications (robots.txt), bypass alerts/confirm/print messages that could hang the crawl, etc. You can also start from an existing sitemap.xml or a file containing a list of URLs. Future versions of WASP will include incremental crawl and other features that will make it easier to be alerted when something unexpected happen.

Of course, you don't want to inflate your site statistics with a visit that would span thousand of page views. WASP already offers different ways to filter out your data: modify the User Agent string or block your IP address. Future release will include a "stealth mode" that will actually block the call from sending the data.

Ok, I need WASP now!

Hold on to your hat for a few more weeks. I'm literally working overnight to deliver WASP v1.0. In the meantime, you can get started with the beta release and help identify bugs, issues and feature requests in the WASP support forum.

I'm already receiving lots of requests for the commercial version but I want to make sure it's stable and well tested before selling it. I can tell you I've run scans of 30,000 pages in a single pass without major issues.

Case studies wanted!

I'm also looking to write other case studies. Put WASP (and me) to the challenge! Send me a note with your web analytics implementation audit challenge and I will consider it for a future case study. For free! You just have to allow me to mention you/company/client in my case study. Good deal isn't it! :)

Note: I'm putting the final touch on a video that will demonstrate WASP crawl in action. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

An immersion in analytics

From time to time, I catch up with my friend Joseph Carrabis to chat about strange topics. Take last week, our "topic du jour" was about company tag lines. Simple topic, interesting outcome!

Web analytics is easy to do badly

I was thinking of changing immeria's current tagline from "an immersion in analytics" to something else, something more representative of my goal "to make web analytics easier by fostering education, processes and tools".

Interestingly, while reading "Discovering Knowledge in Data: An Introduction to Data Mining" from Daniel Larose I stumbled on a nice quote readily applicable to our field:
Just as with any new information technology, (data mining) web analytics is easy to do badly.

A mentra for immeria

Guy Kawasaki's book "The Art Of The Start" covers "mentras" in the first chapter. My thought process went from immeria = "an immersion in analytics", to "making web analytics easier" and then, simplified even more, just "easier analytics". Joseph and I reflected on taglines for other companies in the web analytics and marketing space. I felt "easier analytics" would be quite good, simple and to the point. And I must admit it would be a pun to those who say web analytics is hard... :)

Alliteration and syllabation: here comes M.Carrabis!

To which Joseph argued, with his never resting scientific mindset, that my current tagline is better because "alliteration combined with increasing syllabation causes things to go into memory quickly, stay there for a long time and be easily recalled when necessary".

He continued: "an immersion in analytics works as a mnemonic device because it has a driving syllabic rhythm (1-3-1-4) and because the alliterative elements are echoed (an ... ANalytics), ( The sense given from this tagline is that we're going to go into something to learn how to deal with it on the outside. Very good and probably the way you think of things, knowing you somewhat."

Joseph, you are amazing! (and I will stick to "an immersion in analytics").

Thursday, August 14, 2008

WASP case study: SiteCatalyst hierarchies

As I'm getting closer to WASP v1.0 release, I have started to work with some of my clients to put the tool to the test. So here's first real life case study of WASP!

The client: Quebecor Media Inc

Quebecor is one of Canada's largest media companies. More specifically, Quebecor Media Inc. encompasses nearly 200 websites with very diversified ebusiness requirements, strategies, and technologies. In terms of web analytics, it's what I would call a "nice playground", with sites ranging from multilingual media portals to bookstore, dating, classifieds, jobs, search, etc.

This case study looks more closely at, a (French) TV channel website with information about shows, schedule, artists, contests, live and on demand video, etc.

The web analytics tool: Omniture SiteCatalyst

QMI took the right approach of defining guidelines and requirements for their SiteCatalyst implementation. This way, a common baseline is shared across all sites, easing deployment across various business units (despite different technologies and different development teams), standardizing the terminology and aggregating traffic into roll up accounts.

The challenge

Although most sites are template driven (CMS, eCommerce catalogues, etc.), there are always certain pages that needs to be tagged in a more manual way. This is often the case for transactions: subscriptions, checkouts, etc. But with dozens of templates, some of them might be missing tags or using the wrong version of the implementation code.

SiteCatalyst hierarchies

While looking at the SiteCatalyst Hierarchy report, we uncovered some levels had a lot of “Unspecified” values. We focused on the "network|vosemissions" subset of the site (see image), which was crawled using WASP. Omniture knowledge base article #1941 attempts to explain the "Unspecified" value but here’s a simpler explanation:
Unspecified hierarchy: If some pages do not set the hierarchy variable (hier1) to its full extent, all those page views are summed up into "Unspecified" so the total of pages views at that level match up with the total shown at the level above.
Since the hierarchy variable is often populated automatically, a simple error or unexpected condition might cause the value to be missing or invalid (think about special characters, blanks, javascript errors, etc.).

    WASP in action

    It took WASP less than 15 minutes to crawl the first 1,000 pages of that site section. By using the WASP "Save as CSV (Comma delimited)" option and filtering on the Hierarchy column (h1) for pages with only "network|vosemissions", we were able to identify a couple of pages that didn't have the 3rd hierarchy level.

    Templates such as artists bios and specific show episodes were using an earlier version of the implementation code.

    Problem solved!

    Why WASP is better?

    You could browse your site manually and look at debuggers and proxies until your eyes end up in the same socket... You could use a very expensive tool and try to get this level of detail after several hours... Or...

    >>> Install WASP now! <<<

    That's what it's all about: making it easier to do quality assurance of your web analytics implementation.

    Monday, August 11, 2008

    Even more Web Analytics Dashboards Fun in Excel 2007!

    Update 2010-05-07: If you want to use this dashboard with Google Analytics data, check out "Tatvic enhances immeria's Excel web analytics dashboard".
    Attention Internet Explorer users (MSIE)! When clicking on the link to download the .xlsx template, MSIE wrongly try to save it as a .zip file, which it's not. Make sure to rename the file with the proper .xlsx extension (or better yet, switch to Firefox!)
    A couple of weeks ago I published "Web Analytics Dashboards: fun with Excel 2007", it got on Stumbled  and became one of the most visited article. A while back I also published Box plots and whisker plots in Excel 2007 and it consistently receives a lot of views.

    So here's an update of Web Analytics Dashboard Fun with Excel 2007!

    What is it?

    I'm glad to release "Web Analytics Dashboard Fun" (Microsoft Excel 2007, 85KB .xlsx), a free Microsoft Excel 2007 template for web analytics professionals. It can be used for learning web analytics, Excel in general or as the basis for more elaborate dashboards. The goal is to use only Excel 2007 features and ease customization of the template and update of the data.

    Why Excel?

    As a teacher of web analytics and a web analyst myself, I noticed people often struggle to define KPIs and get going with dashboards. My clients use different web analytics tools, be it Omniture, Google Analytics, Coremetrics, WebTrends, Xiti or others. Although some of the tools offer very advanced dashboarding and analysis capabilities, there are a number of reasons why you would want to use Excel:
    • Control the information being distributed
    • Publish the information in a format people are used to (either Excel or PDF)
    • Avoid granting access to the web analytics tool itself
    • Include other sources of data
    • Ease "month to month" and "year to year" analysis
    • Ease analysis of major segments (such as two countries, two sites, etc.)
    • Include the analyst comments and evaluation

    Get Web Analytics Dashbaord Fun!

    Based on the feedback I got, and some further tweaking to make the dashboard more generic and easier to modify for your needs, I'm releasing "Web Analytics Dashboard Fun with Excel 2007 v1.1". To get started there are just a few steps:
    1. >>> Get the template <<< (Microsoft Excel 2007, 85KB .xlsx)
      (Get the Excel 2003 version - with some features disabled)
    2. Right-click on the S1 and S2 radio button and "Edit Text" to your licking
    3. Change "Success Event 1" through "Success Event 3" in all worksheets
    4. Update the data in WebDataS1 and WebDataS2
    5. Voilà!
    Once you are comfortable with the spreadsheet, you can modify the dashboard to add/remove/modify KPIs to your liking. Although this step requires more work, it should become fairly easy once you understand the general pattern of the spreadsheet.

    Feedback, comments and contribution

    One of the goal of is to "make it easy to do web analytics" by providing educational ressources, documented processes and tools that are both easy to use and non-specific to a vendor ("product agnostic"). You are free to use this template, modify it and even redistribute it as long as its not for profit.

    Creative Commons License
    Web Analytics Dashboard Fun by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.

    Friday, August 8, 2008

    Beijing 2008: Virtual demonstration for human rights

    The Reporters Without Borders cyber manifestation is going on now!

    Human rights and freedom of speech

    Please take a few seconds to support freedom of speech and human right in China. Read more about free expression in China.

    Viral Campaign

    From an online marketing perspective, this campaign is interesting and the concept of cyber-manifestation is very well conveyed on the campaign site. Check it out!

    When I checked there was 11,400 participants. Spread out the online manifestation!

    Always be testing (and learning!)

    Bryan Eisenberg's latest book, "Always Be Testing: The Complete Guide to Google Website Optimizer", is now shipping at Amazon. I had the chance to view an earlier draft and I'm awaiting my copy within days. Bryan posted about the book and the upcoming seminars.

    About the book

    For years companies have tried to develop THE best website, even shamelessly copying from the so called "best of breed". The reality is although technology can be copied, although business processes can be inspired from best practices, humans can't be that easily copied. If one of the distinctive element of any company is its workforce, the decisive factor of success is understanding the client. And the only way to know if your website works for your clients is to test, measure and optimize your Persuasion Architecture.

    A continuous improvement process isn't complete until we reach 100% success... in the meantime, read this book, learn a whole lot about testing, see what others are doing, and get plentiful of ideas to get going!

    Although the book titles states "Google Website Optimizer", the book is really an excellent introduction to the concept of A/B and multivariate testing for any solution.

    A funny situation!

    For years companies have tried to develop THE best website, even shamelessly copying from the so called "best of breed".
    When I read Bryan's latest blog post, "Always be testing unleashed" I clicked through to view the two versions of his book cover (since yes, he is doing A/B testing on that too!).


    I though my browser had a problem! Compare the two websites below. The first one is, the site I created for my tool almost a year ago, wihle the second is the newly launched site by Bryan
    Site A: WASPSite B:

    Now... I feal a bit embarrassed and pleased at the same time... I've known Bryan for a while and I'm sure he wouldn't intentionally pick a site design so close to something that already exists in such a close industry. With Bryan's and FutureNow experience, I guess they took this design because they saw there was a good potential for persuasion architecture optimization. On the other hand, I wouldn't want people visiting either of the site thinking we stealed design from each other. It's simply that we both took inspiration from Template World!

    A/B analysis of both sites

    So now, you can visit both sites and comment about how to improve both sites! Some details like the following:
    • Buttons: The 3 big boxes on my site are clickable, while TestingTool click must be done on the small arrow within the box.
    • Tabs: My site uses tabs at the top navigation as a reminder of the site section you're in. Bryan's site doesn't have any visual clue on where you are.
    • Logo: By convension, the top-left logo is supposed to bring you home (safeharbor). Bryan's site will get you out of the book's site to FutureNow main site.
    • White space: Notice the amount of white space between the top nav and the 3 big buttons. I reduced it on my site because I wanted to bring most content above the fold.
    • Call to action: On my site, the green "Add to Firefox" is my conversion goal, we would presume for a book it would be something like "Buy the book now", but it's not there.
    Any comments are welcome!

    Tuesday, August 5, 2008

    Taking position for human rights

    The Olympics are at our doorsteps, but I can't resist the urge to take position.
    Because I can...
    The International Olympic Committee roles states, among other things:
    • to cooperate with the competent public or private organizations and authorities in the endeavour to place sport at the service of humanity and thereby to promote peace;
    • to act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement;
    • to encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all levels and in all structures with a view to implementing the principle of equality of men and women
    The IOC, governments and corporations are closing their eyes on obvious human rights abuses.

    Lost a son in a earth quake: shut up!

    Today, the CBC was reporting they wanted to interview a mother who lost her son in the last earth quake. Just when they were to meet her, the journalists got stopped by police and the women is now in curfew. China wants to show one face to the world, and it looks they are ready to go to any extent.
    ...China's government-controlled media have largely ignored the topic, and parents and volunteers who have questioned authorities have been detained and threatened...
    ...It's a subject local Communist leaders have seemed anxious to suppress....

    You are Tibetan: no longer!

    Last night I watched the movie "What remains of us", a documentary about Tibet, the ongoing cultural extermination of an entire society and countless cases of human rights violations. A Canadian citizen with Tibetan roots took great risks in smuggling a message from the Dalai Lama and secretly using a camera to film their opinions. An amazing lesson of humility.

    You are Black: no party!

    Even if you are a top world athlete, it looks like you might not be "good enough" to party like the others, as reported by numerous papers around the world.
    Chinese police officials have forced some Beijing bar owners to sign secret pledges promising to prohibit blacks from entering their bars during the Olympics next month, a Hong Kong newspaper says.

    Join the cyber demonstration: August 8th

    Liberty of press is the first step toward improved human rights and liberty of opinion. On August 8th, when we will be billions watching the Olympics opening ceremony, think about what is currently going on behind the scene. More info at

    Monday, August 4, 2008

    WASP market research: eMetrics Industry Insight

    At the last eMetrics I was honored to be invited to present some of the market research I'm doing with WASP. I received several requests for this presentation but I was a bit uncomfortable publishing it without the accompanying explanation. I wouldn't want those numbers to be wrongly interpreted or misused.

    But here it is anyway, please inquire before re-purposing this information...

    I look forward to present another round of results at the upcoming eMetrics in October (Washington D.C.)

    Please contact me for any inquiries regarding the web analytics industry marketplace or WASP.

    WAA board election

    A couple of weeks ago, the world famous Avinash Kaushik decided to step down from his Web Analytics Association position. It's understandable, the guy is doing so much I sometimes wonder if he have an army secretly working for him behind the scene!

    The WAA wanted to get a new board member who would be representative of the vendors side. The nominies are all very interesting:
    Overtime, I had discussions with most of those people. Sometimes just trough emails or phone calls, other times meeting over a beer at the famous eMetrics lobby bar.

    Dennis Mortensen is well known for having brought IndexTools to Yahoo!, but he has been highly involved in the community for several years. He can bring an European voice to the WAA although he is now living in the States.

    Matthew Langie, being with Omniture, would bring a voice from the heavy weight in the market. If we want to get a "voice of the vendor" on the board, he would be a good candidate!

    I recently spent some time speaking with Nicolas Babin, Executive Vice President International for AT Internet, the XiTi publisher. XiTi has a strong presence in Europe and Nicolas’ experience would also be an interesting voice.

    But we also have Coremetrics, Unica, Optimost. Hard choice!

    If you haven't done it yet... vote now!

    Back from vacation


    I was away at my camp for a week, totally disconnected from modern society: no computer, no cell phone, not even a land line, no TV, water comes from a well and there is barely enough electricity to sustain the fridge and the oven. The camp is at the far end of a gravel road, surounded by 500 acres of wood and farm fields. 500 acres is enough to get lost, encounter dears, racoons, porcupine, maybe even moose and bears. Disconnected.


    As I shared a while back, every couple of months I take a pause pause to think about my career. I made the jump to become freelance last December, but the decision was really taken about a year ago. Lest look back at my 3 + 1:

    1. Am I increasing my value in the market?

    2. Am I bringing the right value to my employer clients?

    3. Am I being rightly compensated for my value?

    And an extra one proposed by Avinash Kaushik:

    1. Am I happy?

    The problem I'm facing is interesting: I can safely say a resounding "YES!" to all of those. So is there any problem? Read on.


    Vacation is a good time for cleanup...

    I had enough! I'm defaced, de-twitted and still alive! Some people say Facebook and Twitter are the next greatest thing in life, I simply have enough of it. I deactivated Facebook and deleted my Twitter account. I also cleaned up my RSS feeds and will now read my Hotmail and GMail only once a day, while I keep my email account strictly for business. However, I still find value in LinkedIn and to some extent, Plaxo, so they both remain in my toolbox.

    I also cleaned my cable-TV, internet, phone and cell services. It's amazing how much we end up paying if we don't review all the great "extras" that gets added over time.


    immeria's tagline is "an immersion in analytics". Web analytics is an emerging field and demand for experienced people is high. Consulting, developing WASP and education: I love the three aspects. The problem is I'm being pulled into many directions, sometimes too deeply. It's easy and tempting to do consulting work, but consulting is mostly a one-to-one knowledge transfer; it doesn't scale easily. However, this is also how I can "stay in touch" with the field and identify pain points and think about learning, processes and tools to make web analytics easier. So here are the results of my introspection:

    1. Consulting: Keep a few consulting clients but refer to trusted partners whenever possible

    2. Tools: Pursue WASP development, especially for quality assurance and market research, and delegate more sub-contracting work. WASP being the first of a serie of tools to make web analytics easier.

    3. Education: Continue tutoring and teaching; actively work on educational content, especially the documentation of web analytics processes, toward a new full semester class on web analytics coming up this winter at Laval University (graduate level).


    In short, what I want to do is this:

    As a free spirited, independent consultant, I want to seize every opportunity to make web analytics easier by fostering education, processes and tools that are solution agnostic and largely applicable.

    Kampyle: review after 3 months of use

    Kampyle is an emerging Feedback  Analytics service I've been testing for a couple of months and commented about already. The service is in beta and evolving quickly. I had great discussions with Eran Savir, co-founder and VP of development, who also took time to comment on my own endeavor with WASP (btw, WASP detects Kampyle tags).

    Feelings or feedback loop

    "...out of the online customers submitting feedback, 73% will provide a detailed feedback, 56% would like to hear back from the website owner and are willing to submit their real email address!" (Kampyle press release, July 8th)
    Isn't it amazing? Maybe in a way, but if a user goes to the extent of providing feedback, and if they provide their email address, maybe they would appreciate some feedback? At least I do but it so rarely happen!

    A 5-stars grading scale is fine in some cases, but sometimes you want to create an opportunity to get more feedback. One of the things that distinguish Kampyle from other solutions is the ease of innitiating a feedback loop from the comments received. If the user leaves his or her email address, I can reply back with a personal message directly from the Kampyle interface, or even pick all similar comments and reply at once to everyone.

    Not every page is equal

    If someone is engaging into your conversion process and bails out, why ask the same questions they would have got on the home page? Kampyle allows you to target specific areas with specific questions, so you can tailor your questions for checkout abandonment, articles rating and feedback, or even use it to create a small support request form.

    Google Analytics mashup!

    A clever Greasemonkey script allows you to merge your Kampyle feedback with your Google Analytics stats. You can even dig at the page level to view feedback for a specific page. That's an important aspect of doing feedback analytics: you should look at the context that lead to this specific feedback. Which page the user was viewing, what they did before, any technographics or sociographics information, etc.

    My take

    I've already noticed a lot of improvements since I started using it, and Kampyle is gaining some momentum. All in all, the service is very useful and flexible. The beta is available to anyone and they are working on additional features to be offered on a subscription basis.

    Some other recent discussions about Kampyle: