Web analytics tools should measure social media

Imagine, your products are mentioned on the Tonight Show and your Web traffic goes up 3,000% the next hour.
Or, a celebrity participates in your comedy show and your online demographics change overnight. Perhaps, a clever “YouTube” parody goes viral and drives 5 million new visitors to your Web site the next day.

If you are responsible for a Web site, it is easy to believe that you are well prepared to capitalize on these or similar situations and can make the most of a surprise influx of visitors.  After all, you are using one of the leading Web analytics solutions and your analysts on staff are well versed in the latest techniques. You may be in for a rude awakening.

Most Web analytics tools today were designed for Web 1.0 — a world where visitor behavior did not change in a flash.  As such, they rely on inflexible segmentation definitions, predictive models that take long to build and roll out and narrow analytics capabilities that fail to provide in-depth insight into behaviors.  In the modern Web, to get reaction time within the window of opportunity dictated by these fast-paced changes, a new approach is required.
The solution starts with recognizing that behavioral analysis is fundamentally different from standard Web analytics.  Sure, you will always need to know about page views, visitor counts, bounce rates and other key metrics.  But quickly uncovering valuable interaction patterns spread over time and multiple sessions by tens, thousands or even millions of visitors is a daunting task.  When you add the need for short reaction times, the problem seems insurmountable.
Luckily, new types of technologies designed for these kinds of behavioral analysis are emerging.  Known under various names such as associative, temporal or affinity databases, these solutions are reaching the level of maturity, scalability and performance necessary to handle Web data.  This translates into new opportunities for web site operators to drive incremental revenue by turning their transaction-level web data into actionable behavioral insights on their high-value visitors.

But don’t throw away your existing Web analytics tools — they still have a place.  Think about these new “affinity analytics” solutions as incremental value to what you already have but designed for the new world of Web 2.0.

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