ClickTracks Keeps Analytics Simple

By Dan Muse | Posted April 08, 2004

If anything, small and mid-size e-commerce businesses have too much data these days. Thanks to Web analytics software — which allows you to track visitor behavior patterns in the most granular of detail — information abounds on where visitors came from, where they went, how long they stayed and so on. However, being able to interpret that data is still a challenge. That's where ClickTracks attempts to step in.

In previous versions, ClickTracks made strides to make analytics more intuitive by placing click-through figures directly on your Web pages. Want to compare apples and oranges? The number and percentage of page views is right there on your Web page. Since then, other analytics packages began offering that capability. However, today ClickTracks looks to up the analytics ante again with the announcement of version 5.0 of both ClickTracks Analyzer and ClickTracks Professional 5.0. (Prices are $495 and $2,995, respectively. Upgrades are free if you have a current support contract.)

Who's Mining Your Data?
Following its keep-it-simple approach, ClickTracks doesn't attempt to overwhelm you with a long list of new features. Perhaps the most significant of the handful of new features is the What's Changed Report, which is available only in the Professional version. When you log onto ClickTracks, it searches for what it considers unusual shifts in the numbers of visitors, search queries, referrers, campaigns, entry pages, visited pages, and countries of origin since your last visit.

"You can quickly see what's rising and what's falling," ClickTracks CEO John Marshall said. For example, if five days ago your most popular search keyword was "Boston," but today "Boston" is only fifth among searchers, ClickTracks automatically highlights that change. If your top referrers have changed significantly, you'd be shown that automatically as well. Conversely, if there is no significant change in a particular area, ClickTracks doesn't waste your time by displaying statistically unimportant data.

The only drawback is that you can't customize the software to show changes that trip user-configured thresholds — for example, it's impossible to restrict the software from limiting the What's Changed Report to pages with pageviews increases of greater than 25 percent. Marshall said that while customizability could be useful, providing the current level of data mining is already a complex technique.

"The algorithm is pretty hairy," he said.

Now and Then Analysis
Another area where e-commerce companies spend a lot of time is in trying to determine the effect of marketing campaigns, paid-search programs and design changes. The Before and After feature (available only in the Professional version) is designed to help you pinpoint those results.

"It's also useful for tracking the effect of things out of your control — a link from an article, a mention in high-profile blog," Marshall said.

One of the challenges for analytics software, Marshall said, is that users often don't know exactly what they want to know. In the new version, the ClickTracks Way feature is designed to be a context-sensitive tool offering tips, articles and other appropriate content to help customers understand the meaning of the reports and to offer ways to interpret data.

Marshall described it as a built-in advisor that answers the "what does it mean?" question. "It's more than online help or an online manual," he said.

The new version also allows you to analyze visitors' country of origin, export multiple pages to PDF or Excel, view the average number of pages a visitor views, and compare six months' worth of data — the previous version allowed six weeks.

ClickTracks has also changed the terminology a bit. In previous versions, you would highlight areas you wanted to further analyze by tagging the data. In 5.0, you label the information. Marshall said some the term "tagging" confused some customers, who mistakenly believed that it referred to writing HTML code.

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