Using Visitor Intentions To Track Your Web Site

Implementing basic web analytics on your web site should be pretty straight forward. Add the code to every page and your on your way. Once you start getting creative with your site elements is when you really need to look at which elements you are tracking as basic traffic metrics. Just blindly adding tracking code to every single page you have listed on your server can lead to miscounting what is really going on. Let me explain.

The two biggest things that I have seen a problem with is pop-ups and iframes. These elements while both technically can be additional pages to your site, they should not be considered as additional page views. The main thing to consider here is visitor intention. Consider the following example. If you take a look at this page on Boat Trader.com, you will see a form at the bottom of the page. While everything looks nice and seamless, that form is actually a iframed in page. Even though you are viewing two pages here, the visitors intention is not to see two pages but a single page. That iframed form should not be tracked as a page view. This can easily be overlooked if adding code to everything you see. Still looking at that page we see a link near the top of the page that says “Send to Friend”. Clicking this brings up a pop-up form which is also another seperate page, presented as a pop-up. Again, the visitor did not intend to view another page of the site so that pop-up should also not be considered another page view of the site. All of this should be pretty simple to figure out. Nothing really ground breaking yet.

When I talk about this to others the largest debate I come across is tracking outsourced sections of your site. Content syndication has been around for a long time and comes in many different forms. But when it comes to tracking these pages is where it gets a little hairly and we need to rely on visitor intention to help us out.

Lets look at another example. If you visit Walmart’s site, you will see a link on their left nav, for Job Classifieds. Clicking on that link takes you to a Walmart Job Classified page. Now this page is completely outsourced and is actually a subdomain of Oodle. Looking at the page it is branded and styled to look just like a page of walmart.com. Walmart’s intention is to let the user feel like they are still on their own site, and this is just another page. Walmart should count this as another page view of their site. Now lets look at this from Oodle’s side of things. This page is ‘technically’ a part of oodle.com, with all of Oodle’s content. So what do they do? Does Oodle get credit for another visit, visitor or page view? Looking at the visitors intentions, they never intended to visit oodle.com. They intended to visit walmart.com. Walmart did all the legwork to attract that visitor to their site, and should get credit for everything that happens with that visitor. That is Walmarts visit, visitor and page view and should be credited toward the walmart.com report suite.

But that is Oodle’s content. It is Oodle’s advertisers that are getting impressions and the leads. What do they get out of the deal? How does Oodle tell their advertisers that their ad recieved 2 leads with 0 visitors? This page still needs to be tracked by Oodle in some fashion, but in a separate report suite than the main site. To someone in this situation I would recommend that they create a new report suite and call it ‘affiliate network’. Then they have the ability to track all of the leads generated from this page to their advertisers, but without artificially inflating the number of visitors who actually intended to visit www.oodle.com. Then by using the SiteCatalyst Excel client you can bring in both site’s metrics on to a single spread sheet and you have the ability to report on the performance of main site and the affiliate network of sites.

I can see where it would be tempting by the crew over at Oodle to call that another page view of their site to bump up their traffic numbers, but that is misleading. Our sites are built for our visitors, and should be tracked using their intentions.

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