Analytics wobble on Web 2.0

While agency Web personnel may be eager to try out newfangled Web 2.0 technologies such as podcasting, blogging or video content, they should still apply analytics to understand how these new offerings are being used, according to Phil Kemelor, principal of consulting firm PKWeb Communications.

But using analytics may be tricky because most Web analytics software and service providers are still grappling with how to measure usage of Web 2.0 technologies, he noted.

Kemelor spoke about analytics at the Gilbane conference for content management this week in Washington. Kemelor is author of the CMS Watch Web Analytics Report.

Web analytics software measures traffic on large Web sites. It can show how many visitors a site gets, when most people visit, what terms they searched for, what pages they viewed and other data that could help Web managers better tailor their sites' content.

Web 2.0 technologies could offer a whole new set of metrics, Kemelor said. How many people download podcasts on a regular basis? How many people watch a Flash presentation all the way to the end? How many people, after reading an organizational blog, jump to some other section of a Web site?

To address this new style of Web interaction, analytics companies such as Omniture, WebTrends, Unica and Coremetrics have started to add capabilities to measure Web 2.0 usage.

Kemelor still advised the buyer to beware when considering Web analytics tools. While most companies claim to offer reporting capabilities for Web 2.0 technologies, in many cases the abilities must be developed through the use of custom reports. Because of this, potential customers should ask tough questions about how much work it takes to measure Web 2.0 usage, Kemelor noted. In some cases, an organization could chalk up expensive professional-services fees trying to tweak the software to measure Web usage, he said.

Another aspect to keep in mind is that many Web analytics firms are changing their pricing structure to reflect such changes in Web site usage, Kemelor noted. Traditionally, such companies charged by the number of page views. Thanks to new Web presentation methods such as Ajax, however, companies are now shifting pricing to a mode based on the number of server calls, he added.

Traditionally, analytics were performed by software that runs at the host of the organizations' Web sites. Increasingly though, vendors are offering analytics as a service. In this case, small scripts are placed on each Web page which have the browser that downloads that page send a notification back to the analytics vendor's own Web site. The company can then tally the information and compile the results for customers, Kemelor said.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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