The first 5 things you should know about SiteCatalyst

The first 5 things you should know about SiteCatalyst

“Hi Alec, with your help we’ve just successfully put SiteCatalyst on our website. My development team say that the data is being collected so can I use it now?” says my imaginary client.

“Sure.” I say “Have you ever used SiteCatalyst before?”

“No, sorry!” comes the reply

“Ah.” Time for a rethink “But you have used a web analytics tool before, haven’t you?”

“No, sorry!” comes the reply

“Well in that case you should read my blog post on the first five things you should do in SiteCatalyst!” – I love nothing than a bit of self promotion with the clients.

“I didn’t know you’d written one!” says my erstwhile client

“I’m writing the rather convoluted introduction to it now!” I say.

1. Understand the different types of data points

There are four different types of data in SiteCatalyst and they all have rather ridiculous names:

  • Traffic Variables: Traffic variables allow you to set a value on each page. Want to know how many times a certain page has been viewed? Traffic Variable. Want to know how many times a banner has been viewed? Traffic Variable. Want to know what search term users typed in? Traffic variable. You have a somewhat limited list of metrics that you can use, but I’ll come on to that later.
  • Conversion Variables: Conversion variables aren’t very well named. These aren’t the variables that convert, these are the things that get converted. Want to know advert people saw on your site before buying? Conversion variable. Want to know what campaign people came from before signing up to your newsletter? Conversion variable. Want to know how many product pages people viewed before requesting more information? Conversion variable.
  • Events: Events are the things that convert against each of the values in your conversion variables. Events are the buying a product, signing up to the newsletter and requesting more information. You can put them wherever you want. You could put one on every page and call it Page Views (we do this sometimes).
  • Product Variables: Products are the things that people bought, the newsletter that they signed up to or the information that they requested. They’re related directly to the event itself, how many of them there are and how much it cost.
Of course these variables each have their own ‘standard’ set ups and their own custom ones. When it gets set up the custom ones can be any way you want them to be, named anything you want them to be and put into the menu structure anywhere, so you may not know what they are.

2. Understand Metrics

Metrics are something that are almost always independent to any system and knowing what the metrics mean is vitally important. As is knowing what you can do with each of them:
  • Page Views, Visits and Visitors. These are your staple metrics for traffic variables. Page Views tell you how many times something has happened. Visits tell you whether it happened for a user in their session or not. Visitors tell you how many people did it.
  • Entries, Exits, Single Access. These metrics all relate to a visit. An entry is where it was the first time that a value was created in that variable, an exit is the last time that a value was created in that variable and single access is where only one value was created in that variable. In some variables these metrics make sense, in others they don’t. For example having an entry page, an exit page and only viewing one different type of page in a visit makes sense. Having an entry search term (the first search term the visitor does in their visit), an exit search term (the last search term a user does in their visit) and single access search terms (the only search term that a user does in their visit) doesn’t make sense.
  • Instances, Searches, Events. These are your staple for conversion variables. Instances are the number of times something happens and are analogous to page views. In your external search reports the guys at Adobe have decided to rename instances as searches (to confuse you). The events, as we discussed before, convert against the variables. They don’t have to happen on the same page, but remember that you can set how long you want your conversion variables to persist for. Events will also convert against the product that they are set up for.
  • Calculated Metrics. This is where it gets a bit more complicated. You can use any of the above (within reason, obviously) to create your own metrics which you can call anything you want.
I’ve said this before, but there aren’t really any standard reports in SiteCatalyst. You’re mission, should you choose to accept it, is to create as many reports as you can using the above variables and metrics. Then you need to change something on your site and see if the data gets better.

3. Comparing Dates

There are two ways you can look at data over time in SiteCatalyst. You can compare two time periods or you can trend a variable over time.
By choosing the comparison chart you will be able to see all your variables and more than one metric if you want, as well as the difference between them. It’s a useful tool in some situations where you know when something changed on the website.
In other cases you might want to see how something changed over time without knowing whether there was a change in the site at some point. For this, you need to use a trended view.
The downside of the trended view is that you can only have one metric at a time and you can only have five items at a time. Obviously you can change the metric and you can change the items as well, but it is a limitation.
You can also decide how to have your chart. Do you want each data point to be one day or do you want it to be a whole week? That’s an option that you can choose at this point. Having the data daily is a pain if your site has big drop offs at the weekend – you won’t be able to see your trend at all!

4. Do stuff with your reports

Right, so you’ve got the reports that you want to see. How do you get them out of SiteCatalyst so that you can show them to your boss?
This is where you need to make use of the icons at the top of the page.
From this point you can download your report in a number of different formats or if you don’t want to have a middleman you can email it directly to the person who would like to see it.
Of course the next step is to automate your report to send it on a regular basis once you’ve decided that it is ‘the one’. You can do this in the email options by choosing to deliver it for a later date in the advanced delivery options.
If you want to get to the report again so that you can check it in the future, you can add it to a bookmark (it will then appear in your ‘favourites’ list in the top left hand corner).
Or if you have a number of reports that you want to group together you can add it to a dashboard. You can then create a little pdf booklet of reports that you can send to someone. The SiteCatalyst dashboard creator is really easy to use as well.

5. Sit back and bask in your glory

Of course the last step is not to sit back and bask in your glory at all.
The last step is to use this information to make your site better.
Data is nothing if you don’t do anything with it. All you’ve done is waste your time getting it in the first place. You need to use the data in two ways:
  1. Work out what you should be changing. The data will help you decide what parts of the site are working and what parts aren’t so that you can focus your efforts
  2. When you change something on the site, in your marketing or in your pricing you can see the effect of that change in real data
By doing these two things you’ll be making your website data driven. You won’t make lots of changes on parts of the website where they won’t have any effect and you’ll be able to learn from your mistakes.
Oh yes, you’ll make mistakes when you change your site. Part of the trick is being able to spot them.

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