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 won’t export data, what’s wrong?

I thought I would share another WebTrends Analytics morsel of information since it is so hard to find information about this analytics software that is quick and concise.

Today I was working from home and our self hosted software would not let me download the WebTrends reports that a client requested. It would abort the process and return to the login landing page each time.

We’re using WebTrends self hosted 8.1 software (not the most recent, yet still solid) and we found that WebTrends 8.1 does not play well with Internet Exporer 8.

We found that if I ran my browser in standard IE8 settings it would not export data and the popup of data processing screen was supressed and the system couldn’t complete the request.

There is a setting in the IE8 browser though that is called “compatibility view” that fixes this problem. Just set it to run in compatibility mode for the data site or all sites if you want and your analytics data is available for download again.

On another note, our recently update McAfee security and virus protection software is also blocking the javascript prompted popup window where the data is usually exported and I can’t download any data at work anymore either. We haven’t found a solution to this problem because the security settings get reset to the standard again when the system finds that the administrator has changed them, usually within a 1/2 hour. No word on if the powers that be would make an exception for my computer somehow or if our maintenance systems even allow that.  

It’s going to be a fun month.

I am glad Microsoft didn’t buy Yahoo

Am I the only one who thought that Microsoft and Yahoo didn’t have the first thing in common? Microsoft is still deeply rooted in the OS/Software/Desktop culture, biz model and products. Yahoo is all about the web and always has been. They aren’t winning the battle of the web right now but they are certainly better at it than MSN. (yeesh) Yahoo handles classifieds, news, advertising sale and products as well as their home page better than Microsoft and MSN. And Microsoft wanted to own them and tell Yahoo what to do? Stupid.

Its odd to think that there are incompatible sets of engineers, technology and visionaries, but these to were never destined to be together.  It almost seemed like a hair-brained distraction tactic to keep everyone’s eyes away from something else. What else could Microsoft be trying to do with this kind of deal? And buying up companies that are better at something than you are is such an old school tactic. Why not be affiliates? Lisence their ad network? Become associates so you can foster some kind of working relationship and trust first before you go in for the kill and it will be taken as a lot less hostile.

I just think this whole thing was bungled and made no sense from the beginning. And I don’t even know anything internally about it. I don’t work for nor know anyone who works for these companies. This is just my feeling based on the news reports on the internet and radio.

It does make me worried about the future of Microsoft in a world where they are so off base and desperate like this and no one really has any affinity for them anymore. That said, I am typing this in IE but on a free blog platform and on a chinese computer. Things sure have changed in the past 10 years.

Safe Christmas Gifts for Kids

With all the toys from China coming over with lead these days, parents and relatives are looking for safe alternatives this Christmas instead of the usual dolls, action figures, cars and other plastic toys that are popular. This Christmas the gifts under the tree are going to look a little different. They will be a mix of college savings bonds, computer software, board games (scrabble and others if not plastic) , clothing, books and anything else not plastic that parents can think of. One  good idea is learning related materials, books, games and software are good because they are fun and functional. If you are researching some new ones and want a free educational software trial this one may be of interest to you if you have kids between the age of 2 and 10. (yes kids use the computer at age 2, they may think its a toy but they use it) CD Earth’s Fun with Learning Volume 1 is an educational software CD packed with 70 learning activities for kids ages 2-10. The CD has 70 engaging, educational activities and games. They cover topics including math, reading, typing, science, computer literacy, geography, art & music. Each activity has several levels that automatically adjust to a child’s growing abilities to help them get ahead. It sounds better than guessing about what has lead and what doesn’t and getting the kids to play educational games is always a good thing.

free educational software trial

Adobe offers Free MS Word alternative software

Adobe bought Buzzword, which is an online word processing program. There are others out there already one from Google and another called Zoho. Microsoft feels the pinch of their business being stolen so they have also come along with “Microsoft Office Live beta” which is supposed to be similar. I haven’t tried any yet because I am one of those people who has MS word already and haven’t had a need it hasn’t filled. I might try this in addition to it though just to see what they are like. I wonder if you can store documents there too? (update: this is coming later as Adobe Share) Or if you have to just download what you have written immediatly? Or if you can publish from there to the web? There seem like a lot of natural applications for this product, I will check them out sometime this week and report back here.