Your tables aren’t long enough

Like King Arthur and his gang at a kids tea party, I have been left to rue the size of tables recently. Whilst Arthur may have got out of this predicament by getting Merlin to do his magic, I only have the HBX support guys (although they can be just as magic when they want to be). “But this just sounds like you are over egging a contrived gag.” I hear you cry. Well you are right, to a point, but there is something a bit more serious behind it all.

In HBX (as in other web analytics tools) suffers from a problem where by they have to limit their table lengths to speed up responses and processing. This means when you set up your HBX account and you discuss how many pages there are going to be, you have to be very careful. Most of the time, this information is ok – for a Commerce website, the likelihood is that you won’t have that many pages. For a content based website this is more of an issue.

Ok – lets put it all into perspective – you could probably go for years without having to worry about this sort of thing (some of our websites have done). In fact, if you don’t read this post then you could go into the next 18 months before you have to change to site catalyst without realising that your tables aren’t long enough. There are far more important things that you could be getting on with in HBX without noticing that your 1001 top landing page suddenly doesn’t have any data associated with it.

But let me explain why you should get them increased (apart from the fact that you can) with a couple of examples. Electronics Weekly web Editor Alun Williams wrote about Hitbox in his blog. This story was the 2500th most visited page on Electronics weekly in the month of October. That doesn’t sound a lot but Alun works out how well his blog is doing by looking in the content Hierarchy of HBX and these page views add a vital couple to his blog when he’s working out where he should be spending his and his teams time.

However if he is trying to work out if he should spend more time building links into his blog posts then he will need to look in his Entry pages report and work out how many of those visits to his blog pages arrived at the individual entry pages. However we’ve just discovered that our page is only the 2500th most visited page and turns out to be lower in terms of entries. This means that if we only look at our top 1000 entry pages (which is what our account was set at) we don’t get to include that page. Suddenly this long tail is looking very short.

Then we have to think about what our users do on the page having arrived at the blog posts. Now if Alun is trying to work out whether he needs to write more posts (get more visits), build more links (get more of those entries) or whether he needs to focus on getting those links built internally to keep them on the blog (or the site) then he needs to make sure that his bounce rate is low. How does he do this in HBX? Well he adds up all the entries to his blog posts (if we can get them right), then he adds up the total number of single access pages in his blog posts and he divides one by the other.

Well we’ve just proved that we don’t really know the number of entries. The number of single access will depend on how long that table is too. If it too is cut off then you might suddenly discover that some of your pages had entries and no single access. They all stayed. Really? Do we really believe that? Well no – because some will go away straight away, but they will have fallen off the bottom of the table. So we’re making the best performing pages, even better performing. And our not quite so well performing will appear worse because the better ones will appear better.

Ok so here we have a couple of reports that we need to get longer: Entry pages, Single Access pages, (we might as well do all the other page reports whilst we are at it and do page views, visits, uniques, exits, time on page, etc). But we also need to think about other reports that are going to be too long. Referring urls is one that should be increased – this is used for the referring url report for each page. The search term and search engine report also needs to be the right length (otherwise your long tail, etc, etc and so on).

How do you do it? Log into support and ask them to increase the lengths.

Posted in Blogging, HBX, Web Analytics

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