Conducting Cohort Analysis with Adobe SiteCatalyst

One type of web analysis that you hear about from time to time is cohort analysis. In general, the concept of a cohort analysis is that you look at a population of visitors and see how that population performs over time. Unfortunately, there is no out-of-the-box way to perform cohort analysis in Adobe SiteCatalyst, but in this post, I will share the steps you need to take to perform this analysis using SiteCatalyst (and which will also work in Discover).

Establishing Your Cohorts

The first step in performing this analysis is to identify the business question that you’d like to solve. There are an unlimited number of cohort analyses that can be done, so I will use a simple retail example here. Let’s imagine that your boss wants to know how much money those who place their first order in month #1, spend on the website in month#2, #3, #4, etc. For example, how much did those who originally purchased in January, spend in February, March, etc. and how does that compare to those who originally purchased in February and then spent additional money in March, April, etc.? In this example, we will start with January 2013 as month #1. To do this, we first need to identify visitors who made their first purchase in the first month, in this case, January 2013.

If you have been reading my posts about setting a Date eVar or Segmenting on Key Dates, you may recognize that we are going to want to set a date to an eVar as part of this solution. However, in this case, what we need to do is to set the date eVar only at the point that the visitor makes their first purchase. An easy way to do this is to create a new eVar and call it “Original Purchase Date” and in the Admin Console, set it to be Original Value (First) allocation and expire it “Never” as shown here:

Once this “Original Purchase Date” eVar has been created, you would set it on the order confirmation page every time, since the allocation will tell SiteCatalyst to ignore it if a value already exists (obviously, cookie deletion will cause it to be reset, but there isn’t much we can do about that). Keep in mind that if you have an existing implementation, the “first purchase” may not be the real first purchase since visitors may have purchased before this eVar was around, but over time it should work for new visitors. If this bothers you, I suggest asking your developers to write some code to only set the eVar if it truly is a first time purchase.

Now that you have an Original Purchase Date eVar, we need another eVar to compare it to in our cohort analysis. This second eVar would be the date that each purchase takes place. This eVar is easy, as it is simply set to the current date on each visit as described in my Date eVar post and will bind to the Revenue metric when the purchase success event is set. For the first purchase, the “Original Purchase Date” eVar will be the same as the Date eVar, but as visitors make subsequent purchases, the “Original Purchase Date” eVar will stay constant while the Date eVar will contain dates in the future.

Setting Up The Analysis

After you have the two date eVars populating, the next thing you should do is to group dates into larger buckets, either weeks or months. While you can use specific days, I find that doing analysis at a weekly or monthly level is a bit cleaner and may be a bit easier to explain here. To do this, I will apply SAINT Classifications to both of my Date eVars. This is very straightforward, as you simply upload the week or month associated with each date as shown here:

Next, let’s assume that a few months have passed and that it is now early April of 2013. We will open the Original Purchase Month eVar report (classification of Original Purchase Date) and add Revenue as the success event. Once this report opens, we will make sure our date range covers January 2013 through April 2013 and then should see a report that looks like this:

Unfortunately, the preceding report isn’t terribly exciting (yet!) since it just shows revenue by the month of the original purchase. However, when we apply a subrelation to break down this report by the Month Classification of the Date eVar, something magical happens:

As you can see here, revenue for cases in which the original purchase took place in January 2013 and February 2013 is now broken out by each month in which purchases actually took place. This allows us to see our first cohort analysis and see how much $$$ those who purchased in each month spent in subsequent months. If desired, you could also add other elements to a segment to do more in-depth analysis. For example, you could add Marketing Channel = SEO to a container in the segment builder to see how this analysis changes for those sourced from SEO. You could add visit number to the segment container to see how this analysis changes for visitors whose original purchase was also their first website visit. The possibilities are truly endless.

As you can see, setting up cohort analysis in SiteCatalyst is a bit of work, but not impossible. One downside is that you need to use one eVar for every type of cohort you want to do. In the preceding example, I created an “Original Purchase” eVar, but if I wanted to see a cohort analysis around Orders, I would need to have an “Original Order” eVar. If you are running low on eVars or want to do many types of cohorts, this can be an issue. Maybe one day SiteCatalyst will allow you to see an “original” version of each eVar out-of-the-box.

Creating Your Cohort Analysis in Excel

Unfortunately, the report above doesn’t present the data in the ideal “cohort” framework. To do this, you are going to have to do a bit more work, and I recommend using Microsoft Excel. We will have to extract the preceding data to create a table that shows the current month in the “Month 1″ column and then subsequent months in the next few columns so it looks like this:

For example, if we assume that the preceding report was run in April, we can see how much is spent in each month and the subsequent months. Another way to visualize this is to calculate cohort percentages by dividing these revenue amounts by total monthly revenue to create report like this:

In this example, it looks like we may be doing a bit better in February than we did in January since a higher percentage purchased in the following two months.

But how do we extract this data in an easy, scalable way? To find out, stay tuned for my partner Kevin Willeitner’s post on how to build Cohort Analyses using ReportBuilder which will show how you can use ReportBuilder to automatically  create the above tables…

My friend Jan Exner wrote a related blog post about performing cohort analysis in SiteCatalyst which you can read here (if you speak German!). While I swear I wrote my post before translating his to English, you will see that our approaches begin in a similar way, but diverge thereafter. Another cohort-related post by Tim Elleston can be found by clicking here. As is often the case with SiteCatalyst, there are multiple ways to do similar types of configurations so it is beneficial to review both options. If you just can’t get enough cohort analysis reading to satisfy you, check out Justin Cutroni’s post on how to do cohort analysis in Google Analytics. In the meantime, I hope this helps and if you have any questions/comments, feel free to leave them here. Thanks!

Published on March 7, 2013 under Cohort Analysis, Conversion Variables, ReportBuilder, SAINT Classifications

Segmenting on Key Dates [SiteCatalyst]

Recently, while working with a client, I got into an interesting discussion about doing web analysis around key dates in their marketing program. There are many cases in which milestone marketing events take place on specific dates and clients ask me if there is an easy way in SiteCatalyst to slice and dice data by those key dates. What web analyst hasn’t had a situation where metrics spike up or down on a date or date range and you have no idea why! This is a topic I have dabbled with over the years, but this situation forced me to think about it a bit more deeply. The following will share some ideas I had related to this in case this is a question your organization has as well.

Key Date Reporting

As I thought about this scenario, it dawned on me that there is not a great way to report on key dates in SiteCatalyst. Obviously, you can look at any metric report and see spikes in website activity by date. For example, when I worked at, around the time of our Dreamforce conference, we would see a tremendous spike in Form Completions around the conference dates that might look like this:

From this report, we can surmise that something happened around these dates. If you work in Marketing at, I guarantee that you would know that these dates coincide with the Dreamforce conference, but what if the marketing event is something much smaller. A targeted e-mail blast or a social media campaign? What if there were only a modest increase in traffic and metrics on a specific date? I think back to how many times I was called into some executive’s office asking why a particular metric or conversion rate changed on a specific date. I also remember how many times we had to copy a SiteCatalyst chart to a PowerPoint presentation and annotate it with a bubble indicating why there was an increase or decrease. Eventually, SiteCatalyst began adding some ways that you could annotate charts in SiteCatalyst using the Calendar Events feature. This feature allows you to specify a date or date range and add a note to reports in that time period as shown here:

However, adding notes to reports doesn’t allow you to do much in terms of reporting data. Let’s say that you wanted to see the Average Order Value (AOV) for your website during the Black Friday period and compare it to the AOV during other key shopping periods (i.e. Valentine’s Day). Unfortunately, Calendar Events won’t help you very much. It isn’t even easy to compare conversion rates for two date ranges using Segmentation since it is difficult to create a segment on date ranges in SiteCatalyst (unlike Adobe Discover) and even if you could, there is no easy way to compare segments or compare date ranges for Success Events or Calculated Metrics in SiteCatalyst (can only be done for eVars and sProps). Your best bet would be to use Adobe ReportBuilder and pull a data block for the Valentine’s date range and a separate one for the Black Friday date range and compare the two. But what if you want to do this type of comparison natively within SiteCatalyst? Are you out of luck? Have no fear, Omni-Man is here to show you how to do this!

Key Date Segmentation

Back in 2011, I wrote a blog post recommending that each SiteCatalyst implementation have a Date Stamp eVar. The purpose of this eVar was to record the date that Success Events and eVars were set and its primary use was for segmenting on dates. At the time, I was using this eVar to look for actions that took place in the past within SiteCatalyst since only Discover provided the way to segment on dates natively. As I thought about the preceding key dates issue, the idea struck me that my client could leverage this Date eVar to enable additional web analysis for key dates. To do this, you can apply SAINT Classifications to the Date eVar and denote key marketing dates for items normally found in a marketing campaign calendar. Once these items have been uploaded to SAINT, you have an eVar value that can be used to segment data by date ranges of your choosing.

Let’s walk through the creation of this solution. First, you would set the current date to an eVar in each website visit as described in this post. Next, you would use the Administration Console to apply a SAINT Classification to this Date eVar. In this case, we will do just one classification and call it “Key Marketing Dates.” Next we will fill out the SAINT Classification file with some of our key marketing dates. Note that you can leave non-key dates blank or set a dummy value of “No Key Events” on dates having no key marketing events. Here is a sample SAINT file:

Once this SAINT file has been uploaded and propagated to the SiteCatalyst servers, you can open the classified report:

In this report, we now can see a row for each “Key Marketing Date” which is an aggregation of the specific dates associated with that key marketing date label. From here, we can add any metrics we’d like and can compare metrics for those dates. Keep in mind that these rows can contain one or multiple dates depending upon how you have classified the Date Stamp eVar. In addition to the above “ranked” report, you could switch to the trended view to see one metric trended by up to five Key Marketing Date values. It is also possible to break this report down by any other eVar report using Subrelations. For example, you might like to see the above report broken down by Products.

Another powerful use of this concept is the ability to filter Conversion Funnel reports for these key date ranges since it is now treated like any other eVar:

Finally, you can use these Key Date ranges as segmentation criteria since all SAINT Classifications can be used as segmentation criteria:

A Few Gotchas

As is often the case, no solution is perfect. If you have marketing campaigns or key dates that overlap, things get tricky. One way to address key date overlaps is to list both values in the classification value. Alternatively, you could also create more than one SAINT classification and have each SAINT column designated for a specific type of campaign. For example, the first column might be reserved for e-mail campaigns, the next column might be reserved for social media campaigns, etc. That would allow you to have multiple “Key Dates” for the same date stamp value. However, my hunch is that the above solution will work for most companies.

Another potential issues is that you will only see data in the Key Marketing Date report if the date range you have selected includes the dates that were classified using SAINT. Therefore, when running these types of reports, it would be advantageous to use a longer timeframe (i.e. year).

Well, there you have it. What do you think? Have you done something similar? If so, please share your ideas here as a comment…

Published on February 28, 2013 under Administration Console, Calculated Metrics, Conversion Variables, Segmentation, Success Events

Alternative Conversion Flows

Many online marketers have a desire to test out different conversion flows on their website. Whether those flows are for an alternative checkout process or a new application process, the overall desire is the same. By testing out an alternative conversion flow, you can see how website conversion differs and find opportunities to optimize your website and boost conversion. In this post, I will share how you can track these alternative conversion flows in Adobe SiteCatalyst.

Conversion Flow eVar

Luckily, tracking alternative conversion flows is easy in SiteCatalyst. As you probably already know, SiteCatalyst provides Conversion Variables (eVars) that area meant to be set and used to break down various website conversion events (Success Events). Therefore, eVars can be used to store the names of your various conversion flows. For example, let’s imagine that you work for a credit card company and have a standard 4 step application process, but want to test out a streamlined 3 step process. To do this, all you need to do is create a new “Conversion Flow” eVar and pass the appropriate value to it at the start of each process flow. If the current website visitor has been shown the 4 step process, you would pass in a value of “credit-card:4-step” and if the visitor was shown the 3 step process, you would pass a value of “credit-card:3-step” to the eVar. This simple action allows you to segment your website success events into two buckets and see how each conversion flow plays out with respect to conversion:

In this example, we can see that the 3-step process looks to be converting better than our default 4 step process. As always, this new conversion flow eVar can be broken down by other eVars (i.e. Campaigns) and can be used as part of a segment in SiteCatalyst. If you want the results of the test to be limited to one visit, you would set the eVar expiration to “Visit” but if you have cases where you want to retain which flow they were in beyond the visit, set the eVar expiration accordingly (i.e. Month).

Another thing to keep in mind when using this conversion flow eVar is that it can be used over and over again. Once you are done with the preceding conversion flow test, you can re-use the same eVar for other conversion flow tests. When re-using this eVar, you will just want to make sure that preceding tests are completed. I have seen some clients who try to cram too much into a conversion flow eVar and forget that subsequent values will overwrite preceding ones if values are passed to the same eVar.

Concurrent Flows or Tests

So what do you do if you have multiple conversion flow tests taking place simultaneously? For example, let’s say that in addition to the 3 vs. 4 step conversion flow test above, you are also testing landing page A vs. landing page B? This presents a real quandary, since SiteCatalyst does not have a great way to deal with this.

The easiest way to track multiple conversion flows or tests is to use multiple eVars. I suggest that you identify the general types of flows or tests you will have and assign an eVar to each. For example, if your website routinely does landing page tests and conversion flow tests, you might reserve one eVar for each. Each visitor would be assigned a value in both eVars and you can break one down by the other. For example, in the preceding example, if visitors were assigned a landing page value in an additional eVar, the above report might look like this when broken down:

Obviously, this approach has some limitations since, if you do a lot of different types of tests, you will use up many eVars, but this is probably the most straightforward approach.

The other approach, albeit one that I have not yet tried with a client, is using a List Var to store the various test values. As you may recall, SiteCatalyst provides three List Vars that allow you to store multiple values in one eVar. I don’t see why you could not use a comma-separated list of values and put all of the various tests that a visitor is part of in that eVar. However, since I have not yet tried this, there may be some unforeseen downsides to doing this. For example, there may be cases in which you need to remember which flows/tests visitors have been in and persist those values to the List Var to avoid a string of two or three test values being overwritten by a single test value deep within your website. If you are going to try this approach, I suggest you pre-pend each value with the type of test it relates to such as “landing:control” and “app-flow:4-step” so you can differentiate each in the List Var report. However, for now, I suggest that you begin with the multiple eVar approach.


Published on January 7, 2013 under Conversion Variables, Shopping Cart

Products & SKU’s

When I work with retailers who use Adobe SiteCatalyst, one topic that often emerges is the best way to handle the tracking Product ID’s and SKU’s. In this post, I will outline the challenges that exist and share some ways to handle product and SKU tracking in SiteCatalyst.

The Product vs. SKU Dilemma

The primary challenge that arises when it comes to Products and SKU’s is that there are often cases in which you have to set conversion Success Events at the point you know only the Product ID and other cases in which you know the Product ID and the detailed SKU. This is best illustrated by an example. Imagine that you are a retailer and one of the products you sell is a sweater. At the point that a website visitor views the product page for the sweater, you would want to set a Product View Success Event and the Products Variable (s.products). In this case, you most likely have a Product ID for the sweater being looked at by the visitor so you might pass that to the Products Variable such that your tagging looks like this:"prodView,event1";

So far so good. However, now let’s assume the website visitor chooses a color for the sweater (i.e. blue) and adds it to the shopping cart. In this case, you probably still know the Product ID, but also have a more detailed SKU that represents the sweater with the color being “blue.” Now you have two tagging choices. During the Cart Addition (scAdd) Success Event, should you pass the Product ID # (ProductID-111) or the more detailed SKU as shown below?"scAdd";

The issue with the preceding code is that your Products report will be disjointed since Product Views will be tied to Product ID’s and Cart Additions (and presumably Orders and Revenue) will be tied to the SKU ID. Here is what a sample Products report would look like if the above visitor were the only visitor to the website:

This is clearly not ideal since you’d like to see a full funnel report for each Product or SKU. While we have the option of cleaning up this report by applying SAINT Classifications to roll it up by Product ID, this can be time consuming. Therefore, let’s look at a few ways to improve upon this reporting.

Solution #1 – Product ID Only

If our goal is to produce a clean Products report such that metrics are consistent for each Product ID, one approach is to only pass the higher-level Product ID to the Products variable for all shopping cart Success Events. In the preceding example, this would mean passing a value of “ProductID-111″ with the Product View event and all other shopping cart events. This will allow you to see drop-off between these shopping cart Success Events by Product ID as shown here:

This is the most basic solution, but has one major drawback – it is not possible to see detail below the Product ID. Since you are only setting Product ID’s, there is no way for SiteCatalyst to magically allow you to breakdown the shopping cart Success Events by SKU since you haven’t provided the SKU. This approach works if your products don’t have detailed SKU’s, but if they do, you might find this option limiting and consider moving onto the next approach.

Solution #2 – SKU Merchandising

If your organization subdivides Products into SKU’s at the Cart Addition step, I suggest you use a different approach. In the past I have discussed Product Merchandising, which is a way in SiteCatalyst to associate an eVar value with a specific Products Variable value. Product Merchandising can be used in this situation to bind a SKU to each Product ID using a new SKU Merchandising eVar. In this case we will ask ClientCare to enable a new Merchandising eVar using the “Product Syntax” approach.  Once this is done, we can pass the Product ID to the Products Variable as shown in the above solution, but additionally pass the SKU to a new Merchandising eVar whenever it is present:

During the Product View:"prodView, event1";

During the Cart Addition:"scAdd";

Keep in mind that if we wanted, we could pass in the actual SKU value (i.e. “Blue” as the color) instead of using the SKU #, but passing the SKU# is ok since we can use SAINT to classify it later.

So far this may not seem to get us much further than we were previously, but as I will show, this set-up does make a big difference. First, you can see a complete funnel by Product ID as shown above by using the Products Variable. But now we have an additional eVar that can be used to see the conversion funnel by SKU. To do this, simply add shopping cart metrics to this new SKU eVar report and you can see everything except Product Views (since those don’t have a SKU):

Since you have two different variables, you can also use Conversion Subrelations to break the Product ID down by the new SKU eVar to see the Product ID metrics broken down by SKU for all shopping cart metrics except Product Views:

Final Thoughts

As always, there are many different approaches to things in SiteCatalyst, but hopefully the preceding gives you some things to consider when dealing with Products and SKU’s. If you have other cool approaches you have used, please leave them as a comment here. Thanks!

Published on December 17, 2012 under Merchandising, Products Variable, SAINT Classifications, Shopping Cart

Adobe SiteCatalyst – ClickTale Integration

About a year ago, I wrote a blog post discussing ways that you could integrate Adobe SiteCatalyst and Tealeaf. In that post, I talked about some of the cool integration points between the two products. In this post, I’d like to talk about how the same integration would work with ClickTale and share some cool new things that are possible that go even beyond what is possible with Tealeaf.

What is ClickTale?

For those unfamiliar with ClickTale, it is an in-page analytics tool that allows you to record website sessions, filter them and play them back. It is often used to see heat maps of pages and to “watch” website visitors and includes even their mouse movements. It is pretty cool technology since often times the best way to get internal stakeholders to understand website issues is to have them watch real users encountering issues.

In a similar manner to what I described in my previous Tealeaf post (which I suggest you read before continuing with this post!), it is possible to pass a ClickTale ID to SiteCatalyst via an sProp or eVar:

Having this ClickTale ID in SiteCatalyst allows you to use the standard segmentation capabilities of SiteCatalyst to isolate visits or visitors who exhibit specific behaviors in which you are interested. For example, you might be interested in isolating visits where visitors reached checkout, but didn’t purchase:

Once you do this, it is possible to open the preceding ClickTale Session ID eVar and see a list of all of the ClickTale session ID’s that match this segment.

Adobe Genesis Extend (BETA) Integration

But as I noted in my preceding Tealeaf post, one of the frustrations of this type of integration is that once you isolate the session ID’s that you want to watch, you are stuck. You have to copy each one individually and then switch to the other application (i.e. Tealeaf) and then start the process of watching the session. My wishlist item in my previous post was that this process could be simplified so you can simply click and view the session, right from within SiteCatalyst. Believe it or not, doing this is now possible! Thanks to the creation of Genesis Extend (still in Beta), you can add a Genesis Chrome browser extension to your version of Chrome and get the ability to streamline this process for ClickTale (not Tealeaf unfortunately).

To do this, simply search for the Genesis Chrome browser extension and install it. When that is done, you will see a new icon in your Chrome browser which you can click to see the settings:

You will notice that there is a ClickTale box you can check (and also one for Twitter which allows you to see actual Tweets in referrer reports). From here you can enter your ClickTale authorization credentials and you are ready to go.


Back in SiteCatalyst, there is a free Genesis “labs” area you can visit to launch the wizard that helps you generate the code you need to capture the ClickTale ID in an eVar of your choice:

After you have completed the wizard and are collecting ClickTale recording ID’s in an eVar, you can open that report in SiteCatalyst, you will see a new link in each row…

…which allows you to click to view the actual recording in ClickTale:

It is also possible to use this new SiteCatalyst eVar to copy a list of ClickTale ID’s and paste them right into ClickTale to create a segment and look at heat maps for just those ID’s.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, this is a cool interface integration that is possible since both SiteCatalyst and ClickTale are “cloud” products. I would expect that you will see more of this in the future in more browsers or even natively as part of SiteCatalyst. If you are a ClickTale customer and use SiteCatalyst, you should definitely try this out!

Published on December 10, 2012 under 3rd Party Integrations, Voice of Customer

SiteCatalyst Tip: Corporate Logins & Labels

As you use Adobe SiteCatalyst, you will begin creating a vast array of bookmarked reports, dashboards, calculated metrics and so on. The good news is that SiteCatalyst makes it easy for you to publicly share these report bookmarks and dashboards amongst your user base. However, the bad news is that SiteCatalyst makes it easy for you to publicly share these report bookmarks and dashboards amongst your user base! What do I mean by this? It is very easy for your list of shared bookmarks, dashboards, targets and other items to get out of control. Eventually, you may not know which reports you can trust and trust is a huge part of success when it comes to web analytics. Therefore, in this post, I will share some tips on how you can increase trust by putting on your corporate hat…

Using a Corporate Login

One of the easiest ways to make sense of shared SiteCatalyst items at your organization is through the use of  what I call a corporate login. I recommend that you create a new SiteCatalyst login that is owned by an administrator and use that login when sharing items that are sanctioned by the company. For example, if I owned SiteCatalyst at Greco, Inc., I might create the following login ID:

Once this new user ID is created, when you have bookmarks, dashboards or targets that are “blessed” by the company, you can create and share them using this ID. For example, here is what users might see when they look at shared bookmarks:

As you can see, in this case, there is a shared bookmark by “Adam Greco” and a shared bookmark by “Greco Inc.” While based upon his supreme prowess with SiteCatalyst, you might assume that Adam Greco’s bookmark is credible, that might not always be the case! Adam may have shared this bookmark a few years ago and it might no longer be valid. But if your administrator shares the second bookmark above while logged in as “Greco Inc.,” it can be used as a way to show users that the “Onsite Search Trend” report is sanctioned at the corporate level.

The same can be done for shared Dashboards:

In this case, Adam and David both have shared dashboards out there, but it is clear that the Key KPI’s dashboard is owned by Greco, Inc. as a whole. You can also apply the same concept to SiteCatalyst Targets:

If you have a large organization, you could even make a case for never letting anyone share bookmarks, dashboards or targets and only having this done via a corporate login. One process I work with clients on, is to have end-users suggest to the web analytics team reports and dashboards that they feel would benefit the entire company. If the corporate web analytics team likes the report/dashboard, they can login with the corporate ID and share it publicly. While this creates a bit of a bottleneck, I have seen that sometimes large organizations using SiteCatalyst require a bit of process to avoid chaos from breaking out!

Using a “CORP” Label

Another related technique that I have used is adjusting the naming of SiteCatalyst elements to communicate that an item is sanctioned by corporate. In the examples above, you may have noticed that I added the phrase “(CORP)” to the name of  a Dashboard and a Target. While this may seem like a minor thing, when you are looking at many dashboards, bookmarks or targets, seeing an indicator of which items are approved by the core web analytics team can be invaluable. This can be redundant if you are using a corporate login as described above, but it doesn’t hurt to over communicate.

This concept becomes even more important when it comes to Calculated Metrics. It is not currently possible to manage calculated metrics and the sharing of them in the same manner as you can for bookmarks, dashboards and targets. The sharing of calculated metrics takes place in the Administration Console so there is no way to see which calculated metrics are sanctioned by the company using my corporate login method described above.

To make matters worse, it is possible for end users to create their own calculated metrics and name them anything they want. This can create some real issues. Look at the following screenshot from the Add Metrics window in SiteCatalyst:

In this case, there are two identical calculated metrics and there is no way to determine which one is the corporate version and which is the version the current logged in user had created. If both formulas are identical then there should be no issues, but what if they are not? This can also be very confusing to your end users. However, the simple act of adding a more descriptive name to the corporate metric (like “CORP” at the end of the name) can create a view like this:

This makes things much more clear and is an easy workaround for a shortcoming in the SiteCatalyst product.

Final Thoughts

Using a corporate login and corporate labels is not a significant undertaking, but these tips can save you a lot of time and heartache in the long run if used correctly. You will be amazed at how quickly SiteCatalyst implementations can get out of hand and these techniques will hopefully help you control the madness! If you have similar techniques, feel free to leave them as comments here…

Published on November 26, 2012 under Administration Console, Calculated Metrics, Dashboards, General Implementation

De-Duped Success Metrics

When working with SiteCatalyst clients, I often see them ask questions related to how often a particular Success Event takes place at least once during a visit. Examples of this might include the following questions:

  • In what percent of visits do visitors add an item to the shopping cart?
  • How often to visitors who add items to the cart reach checkout?
  • What percent of visits do visitors conduct an onsite search?

At first glance, these seem like easy questions to answer, but I see clients making mistakes with these questions. For example, let’s say that you want to answer the first question above and see the percent of all visits that add items to the shopping cart. Most clients would approach this question by creating a calculated metric that divides Cart Additions (scAdd) by Visits. While this seems logical, it will not give you the correct answer, since visitors can add multiple items to the shopping cart within the visit. If Visitor X adds three items to the cart in the visit, the formula in our calculated metric would be:

The issue is that since most people look at this metric for all visits, the individual Cart Addition numbers are obfuscated and you are often seeing an inflated percentage for Cart Add/Visit %. In fact, the same issue applies to all of the questions listed above. If you are looking to compare Cart Additions to Checkouts, multiple Cart Additions or Checkouts taking place in a visit could inflate your ratio.

So how would you resolve this issue? There are several ways in SiteCatalyst to accurately report on the preceding questions so I will share the various methods at your disposal.

Using De-Duped Success Metrics

The easiest way to resolve the preceding dilemma is to set an additional “de-duped” version of metrics that you want to see in calculated metrics like the ones above. Personally, I wish Adobe provided an easy way in SiteCatalyst to see a de-duped version of every Success Event, but that is not currently available. Therefore, you will have to create a second Success Event for those metrics that you want to use in these types of Calculated Metrics. Keep in mind that you are limited to around one hundred Success Events so you won’t want to do this for all of your Success Events, so use your best judgment.

In this case, let’s assume that you are interested in seeing an accurate percent of visits in which a Cart Addition took place. To do this, every time you set the normal Cart Addition Success Event (scAdd), you should set a second, custom Success Event and call it something like “Cart Adds (De-Duped).” For this second Success Event, you will want to apply Success Event serialization to prevent the event from being counted more than once in a visit. I would recommend using “Once per Visit” serialization since it requires less tagging and can be enabled by ClientCare. By setting this new Success Event, you will have a count of how often visitors add items to the cart, but it will only be counted once, regardless of how many times the visitor adds items to the shopping cart within the visit. When this is complete, you can create a calculated metric that divides this “Cart Adds (De-Duped)” metric by the Visits metric to see an accurate ratio for visits in which at least one Cart Addition took place:

To see the impact of this, let’s imagine that you had five website visitors that performed the following actions:

In this scenario, if we used a calculated metric that used Cart Additions and Visits, our ratio would be 120% for these five visitors. Obviously, this isn’t representative of what really happened. However, if we use our new “Cart Additions De-Duped” Success Event, we will only count one Cart Addition per Visit and see the following data:

Doing this provides a more accurate representation that 60% of visits contained at least one Cart Addition. And since you now have a Calculated Metric that is trustworthy, you can see the answer to this question trended over time using a report like the one shown here:

This Calculated Metric can be easily added to a SiteCatalyst Dashboard and can be used like any other Calculated Metric.

Note: Some companies implement the Carts (scOpen) Success Event at the first shopping cart addition and de-dup it using “Once per Visit” serialization. This is a similar approach, so if you are doing this, you can use the Carts Success Event divided by Visits to see the same cart rate.

As you can see, the addition of one more Success Event allows us to greatly improve our reporting for cases in which you want to see if something happened at least once in a website visit. If you look at the other questions posed above, you will see that the same concept can be applied. For example, if you want to see an accurate ratio of times that visitors do at least one Cart Addition and one Checkout, you might create a “De-Duplicated” version of Cart Additions and Checkouts and use those versions in your Calculated Metric.

Keep in mind that these new “De-Duplicated” metrics will not be accurate when used in Conversion Variable reports (i.e. Products Report, eVars, etc…) since they will only be counted the first time the Success Event takes place. This means that if a visitor adds three products to the shopping cart, only the first product will be associated with a value in the conversion variable (i.e. Product XYZ). These new “De-duplicated” metrics should only be used in global website calculated metrics and the normal metrics (i.e. Cart Additions) should be used in detailed Conversion Variable reports.

Segmentation Approach

If you are averse to using more Success Events to answer the questions above, it is possible to answer them using Segmentation. I think this method is more cumbersome, but will describe how to do it for educational purposes.

To use Segmentation to answer any “how often did X happen in a visit” question, you will have to create a Visit-based segment that isolates visits in which the Success Event in question took place. Using the preceding example, if you wanted to see how often visits contained a Cart Addition, you would create a Visit segment and add the Cart Addition Success Event to the segment as shown here:

Once you have this segment, you can open the Visits report and see how many Visits took place in the desired timeframe. For this example, let’s use the data for the five visitors we described above. In this case, three of the five visits would qualify to be included in the segment so our Visits report would show a total of three. Now you can write that number down and then remove the segment (go back to “All Visits”) and look at the same Visits report for the entire population. In this case, you would see a total of five visits, so you can divide the three Cart Addition visits by the total visits to get the same 60% we saw above. If this is something you will be doing on a recurring basis, you can automate this process using Adobe ReportBuilder. To do this, you would create two different data blocks in Excel – one for all Visits and one for Visits with the above segment applied. Then you can create a formula that divides the totals of these two data blocks and trend it over time using a custom graph.

As I mentioned previously, I think this approach is more time consuming, but it does save Success Events if that is a concern.

Page Name Approach

In theory, there is another way to answer these types of questions, though I don’t recommend it. This approach involves using Page Names. To do this, you can use Adobe ReportBuilder to isolate the specific page on which a Success Event takes place (i.e. Cart Addition page) and look at that pages’ Visit count and divide it by total Visits. However, since page names can be unreliable and it still requires work in Adobe ReportBuilder, I don’t recommend this approach.

Final Thoughts

If you ever have questions in which people ask you how often something took place at least once in a website visit, I hope that you will think about these concepts and make sure that you are accurately answering them for your organization. While some of these concepts are a bit complex, they can save you the embarrassment of reporting inflated conversion metrics to your organization.

Published on November 19, 2012 under Segmentation, Serialization, Success Events

SiteCatalyst Variable Naming Tips

One of the parts of Adobe SiteCatalyst implementations that is often overlooked is the actual naming of SiteCatalyst variables in the Administration Console. In this post, I’d like to share some tips that have helped me over the years in hopes that it will make your lives easier. If you are an administrator you can use these tips directly in the Administration Console. If you are an end-user, you can suggest these to your local SiteCatalyst administrator.

Use ALL CAPS For Impending Variables

There are often cases in which you will define SiteCatalyst variables with a name, but not yet have data contained within them. This may be due to an impending code release or you may have data being passed to the new variable, but it hasn’t yet been fully QA’d to the point that you are willing to let people use the data. Of course, you always have the option to use the menu customization tool to hide new variable reports until they are ready, but sometimes it is fun to let your users know what types of data are planned and coming soon. Anther reason to enter names into variable slots ahead of time is to make sure that your co-workers don’t re-use a specific variable slot for a different piece of data, which can mess up your multi-suite tagging architecture.

So now, let’s get to the first tip. If you have cases in which you have variables that are coming soon, I use the Administration Console to name these variables in ALL CAPS. This is an easy way to communicate to your users that these variables are coming soon, but not ready to be used. All you have to do is explain to your SiteCatalyst users what the ALL CAPS naming convention means. Below is an example of what this might look like in real life:


I have found that this simple trick can prevent many implementation issues. For example, I have seen many cases where SiteCatalyst clients open a variable report and either see no data or faulty data. This diminishes the credibility of your web analytics program and over time can turn people off with respect to using SiteCatalyst. By making sure that reports that are not in ALL CAPS (proper case) are dependable, you can build trust with your users. When you are sure that one of your new variables is ready for prime time, simply go to the Administration Console and rename the variable to remove the ALL CAPS and you will have let your end-users know that you have a new variable/report that they can dig into.

Some of my customers ask me why I wouldn’t simply use the user security feature of SiteCatalyst to only let administrators and testers see these soon to be deployed variables. That is a good question. It is possible to hand-pick which variables each SiteCatalyst user has access to using the Administration area. Unfortunately, you can only limit access to Success Events and Traffic Variables (sProps). For reasons unbeknownst to me, you cannot limit access to Conversion Variables (eVars), which are often the most important variables (I have requested the ability to limi access to eVars in the Idea Exchange if you want to vote for it!). But you can certainly use this approach to limit access to two out of the three variable types if desired. Another approach I have seen used is to to move all of these impending ALL CAPS variables to an “Admin” folder using the menu customizer.

Add Variable Identifiers to Variable Names

As you learn more about SiteCatalyst, you will eventually learn the differences between the different variable types (Success Events, eVars and sProps). I have even seen that some power users end up learning the numbers of the specific variables they use for a specific analysis, such as eVar10 or sProp12. While normally, only administrators and developers care about which specific variable numbers are used for each data element, I have found that there are benefits to sharing this information with end-users in a non-obtrusive manner.

For example, let’s say that you want to capture which onsite (internal) search terms are used by website visitors. You would want to capture that in a Conversion Variable (eVar) to see KPI success taking place after that search term is used, but you also might want to capture the phrases in a Traffic Variable (sProp) so you can enable Pathing and see the order in which terms are used. In this case, if you create an eVar and an sProp for “Internal Search Terms” and label them as such, it can be difficult for your SiteCatalyst users to distinguish between the eVar version of the variable and the sProp version of the variable (which is even more difficult if you customize your menus).


Therefore, my second variable naming tip is to add an identifier to the end of each variable so smart end-users know which variable they are looking at in the interface. As you can see in the screenshot above, I have added a “(v24)” to the Internal Search Terms eVar and “(c6) to the “Internal Search Term” sProp as well as identifiers for all other variables. This identifier doesn’t get in the way of end-users, but it adds some clarity for power users who now know that internal search phrases are contained within eVar 24 and sProp6. Being a bit “old school” when it comes to SIteCtaalyst, I use the old fashioned labels from older versions of the JavaScript Debugger as follows:

  • Success Events = (scAdd), (scCheckout), (e1), (e2), (e3), etc…
  • Conversion Variables = (v0) for s.campaigns, (v1), (v2), etc…
  • Traffic Variables = (, (c1), (c2), (c3), etc…

Obviously, you can choose any identifier that you’d like, but these have worked for me since they are short and make sense to those who have used SiteCatalyst for a while. Another side benefit of this approach is that if you ever need to find a report in a hurry and you know its variable number, you can simply enter this identifier in the report search box to access the report without having to figure out where it has been placed in the menu structure. Here is an example of this:


Front-Load Success Event Names

When you are naming SiteCatalyst variables, you should do your best to be as succinct as possible as having long variable names can have adverse effects on your menus and report column headings. However, there is one issue related to variable naming that is unique to Success Events I wanted to highlight. Let’s imagine that you have a multi-step credit card application process and you want to track a few of the steps in different Success Events. In this case, you might use the Administration Console and set-up variables as shown here:


In this case, the variable name is a bit lenghty, but more importantly, the key differentiator of the variable name occurs at the end of the name. So why does this matter? Well let’s take a look at how these Success Event names will look when we go to add them to a report in SiteCatalyst:


Uh, oh! Since the key aspects of these variable names are at the end, they are not visible when it comes to adding metrics to reports. This makes it difficult to know which Success Event is for step1, 2, 3, etc… You can hover over the variable name to see its full description, but this is much more time consuming. I have asked Adobe repeatedly to make the “Add Metrics” dialog box horizontal instead of vertical but have not had any success with this (you can vote for this!). In this case, I would suggest you change the names of these Success Events to something like this:


Which would then look like this when selecting metrics:


Keep in mind that there is no correlation between the length of the variable definition box in the Admin Console and when the Success Event name will get cut-off in the Add Metrics dialog box so don’t get tricked into believing that if it fits in the box you will be ok!

Final Thoughts

These are just a few variable naming tips that I would suggest you consider to make your life a bit easier. If you have other suggestions or ideas, please leave them here as comments so others can benefit from them. Thanks!

Published on November 15, 2012 under Administration Console, General Implementation

The Adobe SiteCatalyst Handbook Now Available!

After months of writing, editing and re-editing, The Adobe SiteCatalyst Handbook: An Insider’s Guide is now available!

I have received many questions about the date it is available and formats. The book is available in both hardcopy and digitally from the Pearson publishing site using the preceding link. The book is also available on and in the iTunes Bookstore. You can check out the table of contents on the Pearson site as well as on these other sites.

To hear more about the making of the book, you can listen to Rudi and I discuss it on this podcast.  If you have any questions, please leave them here as a comment. Thanks and enjoy the book!


Do You Want to be the Best of the Best?

As mentioned in my last post, I was asked by the great folks at eMetrics to conduct a one-day advanced SiteCatalyst class in conjunction with the Boston eMetrics conference. Yes! #TopGun @adamgreco  on TwitpicThis was a modified version of my “Top Gun” training class that I do for my consulting clients who really want to understand the inner workings of SiteCatalyst. I am pleased to say that the class went very well and that the room was filled with folks from all over the country. Afterwards, I conducted a similar class in London and all participants enjoyed it. You can check out some of the recommendations on the Web Analytics Demystified LinkedIn page or my LinkedIn profile. I am conducting this class next in April 2013 at the San Francisco eMetrics conference.

In the meantime, if your organization would like to have my “Top Gun” training class, please let me know by contacting me.

Published on October 16, 2012 under Training

My Web Analytics Cocoon

It has been a few months since I have been able to blog (or podcast) and I have started received some e-mails from readers asking where I have been! I apologize for the hiatus, but have been busy during this time. In this quick post, I wanted to update you on why I have been gone and hopefully you will forgive me once I explain.

The Book!

As some of you may have heard, I have been working with Adobe on writing the first-ever book about SiteCatalyst – The Adobe SiteCatalyst Handbook: An Insider’s Guide.

I am very excited about this project, but it has been way more work than I anticipated. While my hundreds of blog posts have provided lots of good starting material, I decided to re-write everything from the ground up to present the most relevant and up-to-date product information. I even got my friend Kevin Willeitner to help me write a bonus chapter on Adobe ReportBuilder!

The book will focus on three main areas:

  1. Understanding how SiteCatalyst works and all of the features you need to understand to take full advantage of the product.
  2. An overview of how to use the SiteCatalyst interface so you can help your end-users understand what they can do once they get access to the tool.
  3. Example applications of the product features including some best practices and tips and tricks for solving business questions with SiteCatalyst.

While the book won’t cover the implementation (tagging) side of the product, it should have a little something for everyone who uses SiteCatalyst. This book, on top of my regular consulting projects has kept me very busy! My hope is to get back to more regular blogging once the book is released. I apologize for the silence, but I think having the book out there will ultimately prove to be more valuable than a few months of extra blog posts. The book is due out around October 25th and is available for pre-order on

Top Gun Training Class

In addition to clients and a book, I was asked by the great folks at eMetrics to conduct a one-day advanced SiteCatalyst class in conjunction with the Boston eMetrics conference. As a consultant, I frequently conduct what I call “Top Gun” SiteCatalyst training classes for my clients. In this class, I explain all aspects of the SiteCatalyst product and explain how each works behind the scenes. I have found that many clients have only a basic understanding of SiteCatalyst and never get to the advanced features that are so powerful. Providing these private training sessions has been fun for me and very educational for my clients. Now, as part of eMetrics, I will be doing an abbreviated one-day version of this class. This class is open to anyone who wants to learn more about SiteCatalyst, though it is offered at a discount if you are attending the eMetrics conference as well. If it goes well, my hope is to conduct a similar class in San Francisco at the eMetrics conference in April 2013 (also, it gets cold here in Chicago in November so if anyone reading this lives in London and wants this class for London eMetrics, please let me know!). Over the last few months I have been working on this training class and I think it will help attendees think about new ways they can use SiteCatalyst at their organization. If you are interested in attending, you can learn more by clicking here.


Lastly, all of us Demystifiers have been gearing up for our next ACCELERATE conference taking place in Boston this October. These events have been a blast and this one is at a super-cool venue. If you are on the east coast, come join us for this event (it is free!). You can learn more and register by clicking here.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, even though I have been in a bit of a cocoon, I have been busy and hope that the things I have been working on will pay off for all of you in the near future. I hope to get back to my regular blog posts in the fall (or sooner if I can) so stay tuned!

Published on August 9, 2012 under Training


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Ten Things You Should ALWAYS Do (or Not Do) in Excel
Tim Wilson, Partner

Last week I was surprised by the Twitter conversation a fairly innocuous vent-via-Twitter tweet started, with several people noting that they had no idea you could simple turn off the gridlines.

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Omni Man (and Team Demystified) Needs You!
Adam Greco, Senior Partner

As someone in the web analytics field, you probably hear how lucky you are due to the fact that there are always web analytics jobs available. When the rest of the country is looking for work and you get daily calls from recruiters, it isn’t a bad position to be in! At Web Analytics Demystified, we have more than doubled in the past year and still cannot keep up with the demand, so I am reaching out to you ...

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A Useful Framework for Social Media "Engagements"
Tim Wilson, Partner

Whether you have a single toe dipped in the waters of social media analytics or are fully submerged and drowning, you’ve almost certainly grappled with "engagement." This post isn’t going to answer the question "Is engagement ROI?" ...

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It’s not about "Big Data", it’s about the "RIGHT data"
Michele Kiss, Partner

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have heard (and perhaps grown tired) of the buzzword "big data." But in attempts to chase the "next shiny thing", companies may focus too much on "big data" rather than the "right data."

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Eric T.








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(503) 282-2601

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