How to create a webtrends custom report

webtrends menu
the webtrends menu in my old company login, new one isn’t as nice.

First off I am going toclarify that I am working in WebTrends self hosted software version 8 and that I have administrator access to do this. Without those factors you won’t neccissarily have the same experience setting up custom reports.

I have already had the developers add tags to the site to track custom events (SDC tags, DCS MultiTrack events) and I don’t work with the actuall tagging on the website so I will not address those concerns here.

I’m starting from the point where the tags are live on the site and I need to set up this custom report so we can start gathering data. If you need retroactive data because the tags were placed on the site months ago and you didn’t create the report, it is only possible if you create the report and re-process all the data from scratch for that time period and this is usually done in a new profile. This takes a long time (sometimes weeks if you have years of data) and the people maintaining the servers and data for your webtrends setup usually hate you if you ask. So, let’s stay out of that area and go build a report that will collect data in a table from this point forward.

One of the most frustrating thing about WebTrends is that nothing is connected and it is a bunch of database tables. Nobody in Marketing thinks that way or interacts with a system like this so it is completley foregin. (‘m getting the feeling that the developers feel the same way too) You have to go into several tables in the database behind the webtrends software and create the structure for the report. It sucks but that is the way it works.

For every custom report you need at least three things. A Measure, A Dimension and A Report. (you may also want a filter but that isn’t required).

1. Testing – Some people (webtrends actually advises this) like to create a copy of the profile to test the reports (or any changes to the profile) before they add or change anything for real. This reduces the probablility that you will have some change corrupt or crash your data. If you depend on this data and have a lot of custom reports and data already set in the profile you’re working with, start with a copy profile first and don’t endanger the main data set. Work in that sandbox until you find the right combination of settings, write them down and then go back to the main profile when you’re sure the report exports the right data in the right format. There is a one day waiting period to collect data to test in most cases unless you’re running on-demand (of which most of my advice may not apply to) or you have updates and processing every few hours. Also only select the most recent month’s data in the copy profile, you don’t need all the data to run a test.

2. A Dimension is what most people would call a metric name. It is the data being collected from those custom tags. Just because the tags are in the WebTrends format and live on the site doesn’t mean that the WebTrends software knows that they are there or what to do with that data. You need to create a dimension to name this data and create a table to collect it in. Go to Dimensions in the admin menu. (some systems show custom report menus under reports & profiles others in Admin, check both) Select new on the upper right corner. Name it. Give it a column name for reports. Use the navigation to go through the process steps to finish creating this measure. You will need the actual tag names for this. In my case it is WT.it. Not terribly descriptive but hopefully functional. Do not select to activate across all profiles because you also need to go into the profiles (the main one and the copy) you are working with and enable this dimension there so it knows which profile it is working with. You don’t want to affect everyone elses profiles with this extra data, just yours. They need a drop down within the dimension setup to allow you to select this all at once but of course that doesn’t exist to confuse us more.

3. A Measure is another function you need to set up manually (in a database table?) and tell WebTrends that along with the Dimension you just created a table for, should you count or sum this data? In a system like DART, this is so simple it is a drop down choice on an export menu, here you have to configure the backend system of the millennium falcon to get it set. Silly but true. Go to Measures on the custom reports menu. Select new on the upper right corner. Name it. Give it a column name for reports. Use the navigation to go through the process steps to finish creating this measure. You will need the actual tag names for this. You must also go into the profiles (the main one and the copy) you are working with and enable this measure there so it is activated. Ditto about not selecting all profiles on the measure setup so that this works. For my purposes I had the WT.ti (page title tag) and 4 parameters that were possible when that tag was used. (ShareThis: Facebook, Twitter, Email & MySpace) and they all got created as additional measures also. This will give us more granularity in the data showing us not only which pages had share this activity but which site it was shared to.

4. The Custom Report finally! – After about 4 hours of setup for the setup you can finally go do what you originally set out to do. Go to the reports link under custom reports.

The menu for setting up the report asks for the info about the dimensions and measures you just set up as well as how you want the data compiled. I always allow for sorting ability but you don’t have to if you want to save space and if you just export it all anyway it may not matter.

The setup for the report makes more sense having seen everything we’ve already talked through. It is also worth noting that if your template for webtrends software doesn’t have a left nav bar location for the custom reports you have to find the template being used now for your back-end-interface then you have to go into that version of template and add custom reports to that list. I found mine under report configuration, report designer in the report and profiles section of the menu. See screen shot at left. Click the top line of the left nav in the template to deselect the chapters already there and add a new report and list it in a new chapter for custom reports.

You also need to enable the report in the profile itself. Each version of WebTrends has a slightly different menu, but in the edit-report menu of the profile there is a reports tab that lists all the custom reports set up in the system and you select the ones you want to enable.

After this your data in the test copy profile should work, then the trick is repeating it all over again in the main profile and remembering all the steps.

WebTrends Email Stats Reports How To Setup

I love that WebTrends is a good solid web analytics reporting solution, but I really find the setup process for just about anything with this system to be very confusing and lengthy. I’m sure there is a reason for this (could be data integrity processes or cost savings) but I really just need a step by step list when I need to get something done quickly and someone to tell me where these oddball parts of the process exist. Therefore I’m writing a list to explain this process so I have it written down and other people can find this info too.

(technical note I’m using webtrends software 8.1, not the webtrends hosted solution)

Today the task at hand is setting up automated reports of webtrends data to be sent monthly by email. The duration of the data collected and the frequency of the reporting schedule are both flexible, it can be daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly.

The first step is to go to the administration menu from your login. There go to Report Designer and Templates. You can select one of their templates, I needed to create a new one.

Then name your template. Go to next, select the content by adding (and naming) a new chapter, then adding content to that chapter from the add report link on the menu above. Select the “built in report” list from the drop down to get the standard metrics available in webtrends. Check the boxes of the metrics you want included, I would say 4-8 per report is enough before you have too much data for someone to really use. You can make changes to the layout, although I was not looking for that level of detail now.

Click next at the bottom of the page. Then you have some configuration settings, like for wrapping text lines on long urls (ok) and how many rows of data in the reports (20-50 max for readability, top 5 is good).

Click next again and give profiles access to this report. I noticed mine are already given universal access and grey-ed out so nothing much to do with this screen. Then click save.

Next you then go back to the profiles list (admin menu and web analysis and reports & profiles) and edit the profile you want to get this report to add the report to the profile. This is one of those steps I think is redundant and should be automated or brought into the setup process before this because its confusing. You wave over the profile in the list (don’t click it) and get a menu with “actions” and edit is one of them.

From there go to reports in the top menu and on the drop down go to report templates. Click the box by your report to select it, ignore the second checkbox that is labeled default because it will change the default reporting style in the profile to this new report, and that isn’t the intention here.

Then go back to the admin menu a third time and to the scheduler menu (bottom) and then schedule jobs and click the button for a new job. This is the email setup part. Under job type select scheduled report and follow through the pieces of menu from left to right as you fill out each section. First select your profile you want reported on, next give the report a name and assign it to a user (yourself). (note this is also how to disable the emails with the check box below, no idea why this is hidden here). Report type: general report. Output type can me a database, pdf, excel/csv or pdf. I chose pdf because it looks professional and we don’t have to install Microsoft office/word on the server in order to export it. Its the only option that does not require that except the database. Number of data rows to report is up to you, I usually do top 20.

Next add the report destinations, this is where you need the email info. Add your email as the from, add theirs as the to address. Also, cc yourself on these reports so you get them too. Add the SMTP server address (if you don’t have the SMTP address it will hold up all of your other scheduled jobs, so don’t set this up without it.) So, the software knows where to connect to send it from. (contact IT about this if you don’t have it) You can also FTP it if you like your data that way, or save to a folder on the server. (not as exec friendly though) 

Under templates, complete view is ok. Under reports, here you select the reports you want to include. These are a duplicate of the ones you selected above, maybe redundant but this is literally the process we took on the phone with the WebTrends helpdesk people. Report type: standard again, date range: its up to you. Scheduling is next on the menu, you can’t run it on the 1st of the month because data may not have compiled yet in all time zones so the 2nd of the month is the first you can run a monthly report with the most recent previous month’s data. Ditto lag time for dailies, weeklies etc. Run once or run weekly/monthly/daily, as you choose.

The host binding section he literally told me to ignore. So I have no idea what that means. Then you get a summary page at the end and click save.

You just wait now and see if everything gets delivered correctly. It is good that the report is only generated once per month on the date you specify as a job that processes, so it can run data in the past (vs only from the point you created the report, forward like custom reports do because they create their own database table) and it won’t clog up your processing queue with a lot of memory/processing because it’s just once.

I wish there were short concise directions for setting up webtrends email reports like this on the web already but I realize that nothing is easy or self explanatory with database systems or webtrends. It’s just part of the territory until next generation tools come around, and no I don’t mean Google Analytics (which is almost as confusing now to beginners). Someday this has to get simpler in process so more people can use it.

Bounce Rates on Google Analytics

google analytics bounce rate pages exits ratesI was just discussing what Bounce Rates were in Google Analytics and thought this could be a potentially confusing term and would be helpful to blog about. I also work with WebTrends .

We have a client that has a site with us that had a high bounce rate and a high exit rate. (50% for some pages) Anything above 20% would be something worth looking into in my opinion, but the differences change depending on the site, product, sales process and design so everyone has their owne level of normal as a benchmark and you try and improve from there.

They wondered if this Bounce Rate was an issue, as many clients would.

The thing is, it may not be an issue to have a high Bounce Rate because if people land on a product description page and then click to buy (or in our case, apply) is this really bad?

Well the qualifier for a Bounce Rate is that they viewed that one page and left. This does not include someone clicking on a link on the page to buy/apply. That would be an exit. They would not have viewed any other page on the site or interacted (clicked) anything else either. This bounce would be from hitting the back button or clicking the x button on the browser.

Exits from the site are considered people who have viewed more than one page and finished their visit. They may click to apply/buy or they may x-out of the window or they may reload the home page. (just a few of many examples) One tricky thing is when someone gets a site that launches a new window for a page you click on. That is typically an exit and new site visit. 

So, is this good or bad? For this client I think it is ok, because they are very stringent about who they are looking to hire and when people see the extensive requirements I am pretty sure most people would realize whether they had a shot at the job or not very quickly and either click forwards in the path to apply (on an Applicant Tracking System application site, (don’t ask, too many sites linked with too many processes)) or back out. It is very straight forward and very few other options are on the page.

How do you reduce bounce rates?

I never hear people talk about strategies to get more qualified traffic to these pages, I just hear about providing more info on the page to help them convert. That is a great strategy and if you can link exact search terms to the appropriate products/jobs with a page designed for one clear desired action then you are doing well. If you can suggest other related alternatives on the same page, maybe on the right sidebar, you are doing even better. If you have an email sign-up that says, not what you are looking for? Sign up here and we’ll email you when new ones come up. Great. But if you have a lot of traffic bouncing even then, you may want to look at the source. What words are your pages optimized for and why do those keywords not match what you’re providing or asking people to do? Maybe search is also not the right medium to find people based on the Google Insights search volume for that term and you are getting similar searches/clicks but not for what you offer. Maybe reel in the search efforts and go for more qualified means of finding these specific people like email, targeted display ads (by content/interest, behavior or location) or offline communication. (gasp!)

Remember Google Analytics (or any analytics package) is not just about a bunch of numbers and bunk. If you can’t figure out what the human behavior is behind the numbers or what the actual user/customer wants they don’t mean much of anything except that your site is up and running.

Jay Leno’s Prime Time Show Experiment Flops

I am glad I am not the only one thinking this, but yet my initial reaction was “why are they recreating his incarnation of the Tonight Show an hour earlier?”. Ugh. The same old slow humor? The jokes you really have to stretch, strain and reach for? More not really funny headlines? More lame monologue jokes? Ugh…Click-Off, delete from DVR.

mid century modern house overlook california jay leno show set

this would be a more appropriate set for a late night show from California

I’m not of the prime Jay Leno age audience (I’m 33) but I am pretty sure that the people who collectively voted Jay Leno into office on the Tonight show many years ago are 55+ now and not looking for change. That must be why this is the exact same show, with the same band, the same lame bits and a new set. And the Oprah bit was kind of lame and the CGI used for the TV in the picture looked really fake. And they need a fireplace or something behind the 2 chairs on the stage to make it more like a comfy living room conversation and less like some window to Hollywood lights on that ridiculous over the top backdrop. How about a view of the Ocean? The beautiful scenic cliffs overlooking the ocean in one of those all glass mid-century modern houses would be a cool look.

I think we yearn for something fresh and new and look to see Jay do something unscripted for once. I actually kind of liked the way he was asking Kanye some tough interview questions like Diane Sawyer would do or Charles Gibson.  (although the one about Kanye’s mom was below the belt)  I also enjoyed the car wash sing and dance number for its impromptu serenading of an unsuspecting (or maybe not) girl at the car wash. (although the sex jokes in the song were a bit too much at that hour).

I think we want to see something outside the realm of a studio scripted variety show and more of an impromptu (reality based?) type of variety show. And let things happen as they may when set up for some kind of interaction on stage. Jay is actually funny on an improv basis when NBC lets him. I think we want to see more of Jay’s actual personality. We know little about him that is real and compelling because he has been behind all these writers for all these years. We’d like to get to know him better as a person and a presenter on this show, and it doesn’t have to be all comedy bits all the time. Think about what the variety/chat  show could be when you open up the boundaries.

I would like to see a little more Jonathan Ross and Jeremy Clarkson and that Parkinson guy style in the UK influence on this show, since it’s no longer late night. (with or without a 3 walled green room) Be silly, be open, interact with the audience, run around outside the studio, bring new people in as writers, with an improv background. And interact with people online about the show and take the online interaction into the show itself. Think more Ellen and less Oprah. Think more Jon Stewart and less Rod Stewart. More Letterman ok less Letterman… you get the picture…

And my biggest pet peeve: Where was the star in the reasonably priced car segment? With the tricked out battery-powered Ford Focus? I pretty much tuned in just for that because I am such a Top Gear UK  nut and they did not use that in the show at all. (when they did show it later in the season it sucked, because the track was too small, too slow and too dumb with obstacles)

I think they could bring back Jerry Seinfeld more often for reoccurring appearances if they would let them genuinely show off their friendship and allow them to do segments where they do stuff they genuinely enjoy together as friends. Why not do a road trip challenge ala Top Gear with Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld and Tim Allen? Three baby boomer car guys with very different personalities. I think there was a bad Disney movie about that, but reality is far funnier and they would have to drive their own cars.

I think there are limitless possibilities to where Jay’s show could go, but recreating the same tired format and segments is so limiting and will lose steam fast. A lot of people were relieved when it ended, looking for Jay to do something more fresh, new, funny and clever.  Let him evolve this show and turn it into something new that people will be fascinated with again. Being risk averse is easy and challenging the safe route will push TV and the show further into new funny territory. At least go see the groundlings improv and see what kinds of ideas some new writing people would have for the show. You never know, you might like it.

(seeing how Jay Leno recycled jokes from his show as the host of the White House Correspondent’s Dinner in 2010 I now believe that all his writers should be fired and he should stop doing comedy if he wants to phone it in. There are too many other funny people who should be there instead)

Hidden fat & Cholesterol in Foods

I am still hot on this topic of finding hidden fat and cholesterol in my diet because I am still faced with how to get my Cholesterol down from 243 to under 200 in the next 6 months. I am not wild about the challenge but I don’t really have a choice either. Its my health right?

I have been to Jewel (our local grocery chain store, they’re pretty nice actually) and reading a lot of labels. I am finding a lot of fat in places I didn’t think I would. Here are some of the suprising foods I have decided to avoid to stay under 40 grams of fat per day.

Anything Organic.Organic food doesn’t have to be lowfat, so to make it taste better they leave the fat in despite all the health claims. Some of those organic granola energy bars had up to 12 grams of fat in them. A lot of it is from coconut and nuts in general. Yes, nuts make things taste better sometimes but you can’t have nuts in everything, despite it being good fat in them. Beyond about 6 almonds worth per day its still too much fat for the average person.

Any pre-made bakery, cookies or granola bars. Granola bars may have 8 grams of fat per bar and cookies can have 6-8 grams of fat per cookie. How many of us eat just one? Not likely. The only ones I found that were bearable was a low fat sunshine brand granola bar with 2 grams of fat and a honey graham cracker cookie and generic nilla wafers with 3 grams for a serving. I still like my sweet but I am not going anywhere near the enteman’s aisle or the key lime pie freezer.

Cereals. Yes, cereal. You don’t even get to enjoy the fat in cereals. Why is it there? I am not sure but some is from nuts other fat may come from the yummy clusters. I am not sure, but shredded wheat with frosting has 0 grams of fat and LIFE cereal has 1 gram, so those are the best of the bunch in my pantry and they’re plenty sweet.

Light Salad Dressing.Most of the big agrifoodmanufacturing companies have gone with a light is better than full fat strategy to sell more food because its tastier that way than at fat free. So finding fat free dressing is more of a challenge these days, yet the light dressing can have up to 6 grams of fat in one serving. How many of us only use one serving though? Back to fat free only for me, even though some of the fancy brands are a bit more expensive.

Pro-Biotics Again the health food claim but not low fat. A pro-biotic bar that was next to the Yogurt was 12 grams of fat. It was made of mostly nuts. Even the pro-biotic yogurt has 2 grams of fat in those tiny one ounce containers. Sneaky!

So generally I am looking for foods that have 1-3 grams of fat and anything 4+ gets tossed back on the shelf. One bright spot: The sunmaid english muffins with raisins (by the eggs in the fridge case, not the bread like you would think logically) only have 1 gram of fat. But no butter is allowed on them for me, I use jam instead.

The absolute worst food I found was a frozen Quiche about 4 inches across that had a whopping 26 grams of fat! Avoid quiche at all cost!

SEO Update from Chicago

Everything just got a bit harder with the new Google Caffeine update for the search engine. If you haven’t heard about it yet you can check out the API to see how your website will rank in the new engine compared to the old engine.

I would say that most people began to understand the old engine in a logical way from experimentation over time and many businesses thought they were just “following the rules” building sites in a way that fit with that logic. Now the new engine will be completely different and all that work will be gone. I looked at some sites and saw how they will compare between the 2 and the results are a challenge.

One site went from 12th to 44th for a key search term. Another went from 5th to 23rd. It is almost universal that everyone who develops a business model around search will be hurt by the change whether they are spammy or not.

I am all for reducing and removing spam/affiliate networks/link schemes from google to reveal the real content but the actual companies with the products/services/tools that businesses and professionals use will be hurt by the update and some may suffer financially as a result. Google just doesn’t have the human ability and reasoning skills in a robot algorithm to tell whether a site is spam or not. They’re going after spam and hurting other legitimate businesses.

Investing in marketing might be something we start looking at like investing in stocks/bonds/401K/the market. They have had long standing recommendations on asset allocation between stocks/bonds/international funds/currency and other types of investments. They associate risk levels with each one and say things like; invest the percentage in bonds that matches your age or diversify and reallocate to maintain that level of diversification between investment types 2-3 times per year.

Investment Strategy with Marketing may look the same someday. SEO might bring in X% of revenue and cost Y% of budget but is highly risky, so you don’t invest as much in it, because it is all potentially going to vaporize when Google decides to update. Things like Branding on TV and Radio and Outdoor are more expensive and not trackable, but companies have been using them for decades and they are very low risk. You spend that money on awareness and people know who you are after that. PR is another wild card and social networking (viral) marketing is another component with low cost and high risk.

Companies may want to diversify their marketing and advertising dollars based on risk as well as the ROI because within a few clicks of a mouse in California, the entire web changes and all your efforts may go up in smoke. This idea definitley favors the old methods and in some ways, internet banner ads. Display advertising on the internet is way undervalued right now and people are also starting to look at ads online like they used to on TV. They are actually paying attention sometimes. The conversion rates have gone down on average, but for mainstream brands and trusted sites they are near 5% (up from .01% years ago) when you include post impression data (people who never clicked, but went to your site anyway).

So, I guess the mood I am feeling today is one that is cautious optimism about old advertising methods in light of Google pulling the rug out from under companies, in the way they always do. It doesn’t help that adwords pay per click costs are as high as $20 for many mainstream words and can go as high as $100 perclick. Then when the conversion rates are so low, nobody will pay that. Most of my clients are abandoning ppcads and someday may do the same with SEO. It just doesn’t pay.

Blog Template Redesign

I just noticed that WordPress had some new template CSS designs available and I decided to update around here a bit. I hope you like this clean white bright design from their library of options, I thought it looked cool.

I am in a bit of a blog catch up month since the wedding is past and work is now the crazy part of my life. I hope that by month’s end (Aug 09) I will be updating my collection of blogs more than once a week. (each!) I know its a challenge but I really enjoy how different Blogging is than my regular day job in data analysis of online advertising. Sure numbers are cool, but sometimes you need a break from all the format requests for millions of little excel tables in minuscule fonts. (that are of course needed all on the same day and only with 24 hours notice or less).

All in all I am tired, but blogging still excites me and I am happy to have a job in the current market, even though I get frustrated just like everyone else at some point. So, I will hopefully be more active on the Protagonist5 blog again soon.

ps- Why does WordPress come up as a mis-spelled word in the spellcheck of the WordPress.com editor?