Monday, September 15, 2014

Web Analytics Tutorial #1 - What is Web Analytics?

I have been writing about Tag Management and Web Analytics on an Adhoc basis from some time here. For someone who is new to Web Analytics, the random posts I write may not make much of a sense. So I thought it would be nice if I start a series of posts explaining every detail I know about Web Analytics from scratch in a more organized way. Since most of my work has been on the technical side so far, my posts will have more of a technical tone rather than a qualitative tone unlike Avinash Kaushik's posts.

I will try to give as many as real world examples to explain the concepts. So let's begin by understanding what exactly is web analytics and why do we need such a technology in the first place?

Jack is a movie buff who always decodes and analyzes each bit of the movie and explains to his friends. One of his friends suggested him why don't he start a blog where he can put his thoughts. Impressed by this idea, Jack created a free blog from one of the top blogging platform and started writing interesting articles. He started receiving nice comments as well.

But he was not really satisfied with the statistics he is receiving and he wanted to know more details on how his blog is performing. On a fine day, Mike a friend of Jack, who is working for an Analytics agency told him how he can install a tool on his website and start tracking the number of hits his articles are receiving, from which part of the world he is receiving the hits and how long the users are staying on the blog.

But Mike explained the technical details on installing the tool and he told him, his blog should be supporting JavaScript on which the tool's algorithm is built on and he need to paste a standard snippet of code that is provided by the tool on all the pages of his blog. Jack had a huge relief on hearing this. If only he had a static HTML website with each article having a seperate HTML page, he has to copy paste the snippet of code on all the HTML pages he has created which will be a tedious task.

Fortunately the blogging platform follows a template structure which enables all the pages on the blog to have a common header and common footer. So if at all there is any need to add something on all the pages Jack can go to his template and add that piece of code either in the Header or Footer section so that it will be available on all the pages of his blog.

Jack created an account on the tool's website and got the snippet as told by Mike and pasted that into the footer section of the template and published the changes. He then went ahead and refreshed his blog to check whether it is working fine or whether the new code has caused any issue. He found out there are no issues and the blog is working fine.

After a day, he went to the tool's dashboard and started checking out the data it is receiving. He was blown up by the information he is receiving. He came to know that he is getting traffic from 34 countries and his review on "Inception" is the most viewed and his review on "Mr. Nobody" is where the people has spent most time on. This information gave him lot of insights and he understood the pattern that the popular movies' reviews are receving more number of hits but movies which are not much known and difficult to interpret are the ones which are most engaging.

With this Jack changed his priorities on the articles he is about to write.

So what is Web Analytics?

It is nothing but a way of finding out what exactly is happening on the online space which you are controlling. It may be a website, a blog, a facebook page or something else. To achieve this, we use different tools that are available on the market which enable us to view the data represented nicely.

By reading Jack's story you should be in a position to appreciate the importance of data and why do we need that data. From the point where he expresses his opinions he went on to write more focused articles and he gained a user base who spends good amount of time reading his niche articles interpreting some under rated movies. All this happened because Jack was able to view the data.

If you have any questions/queries please feel free to comment below. In the next post we will see the next steps from here.

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