pink fiveMy post on exactly how Time on Page and Time on Site are calculated by Web Analytics tools was well received but there were some people who had this reaction:

       "Good lord! This seems so fragile! Abandon ship!!"

I was not totally surprised at the reaction because people deep in the trenches (and I don't like to think of myself as one of those but sadly I do spend a lot of time there) realize that a lot of Web Analytics data collection is fragile. It is partly the nature of the web, partly how we collect data and partly the ever evolving madness that is online customer experiences.


That does not mean the data is less useful or not actionable. This sentiment is especially true for Time on Site, a valuable shining Knight of a metric that can be extremely useful for measuring even core things such as Return on Investment on your campaigns / web efforts.

time spent on site 1

Often though Time on Site is discarded for the warm comforting embrace of Conversion Rate or ROI (Return on Investment).

It just feels soothing and comfortable in the arms of dollars (!!), or counts of orders or ecommerce tracking etc. If not that then it certainly feels confident.

This post, through Hollywood quality professional videos ;), aims to apply the exact same treatment as Time on Site to understanding how Conversion / ROI is computed.

The videos also go one step further but helping outline how conversions are attributed, answer the million dollar question: who gets credit for conversions in different scenarios!

I think you are really going to enjoy them, we had a lot of fun creating them.

The videos were done at the Market Motive "head quarters" in Scott's Valley. True startup style! For example here is our "sound technician" & "camera man" & "technical editor" & "director" Michael Stebbins intensely focused on ensuring that the audio is coming through ok on both channels and making John and I sound good. . . .

michael stebbins market motive

. . . . of course by day Michael is our CEO and co-founder!

Let's get this baby on the road.

The videos are a five act play. With each act things get more complex, and more clear. Act 5 is the most advanced version, and for good measure we thrown in the kitchen sink and imagine everything that could go wrong. Cookies deleted, privacy blockers, first and third party and what happens? You'll see.

Act 1: One source site, one session, click on a banner.

We started off with a simple scenario, someone comes to your website from a click on a banner ad. They convert in one session. What happens when it comes to data capture, recording of the conversion and attribution of that conversion.

Here's a slide you'll find handy:

conversion attribution act one market motive

And here's the opening act of the John & Avinash show (9 mins ). . . .

It was a hoot was it not? John and I always have such fun.

Now things get more delightful.

Act 2: Two sources, three sessions, conversion.

In Act 2 the first visit is still from, but then things get crazy (or normal, depending on your point of view). The same Unique Visitor comes back via a search engine (say a PPC click) and then one more time via a banner ad. Magic happens. What happens to the conversion? Who gets credit?

Here's a slide you'll find handy as you watch the video:

conversion attribution act two market motive

Now John and I dissect this scenario for your educational pleasure (9 mins ). . . .

Made sense? Is it not surprising who gets credit? Most people don't realize this might be the delightful outcome.

But you say "Avinash, we are not that simple, we have three to nine tools, I am using one, my Marketers are using others to measure success, we have conflicting numbers and we are at each others throats! What's up with that?" Ahhh…. Act 3 is for you Jennifer!

Act 3: Three measurement tools, three sessions, conversion.

Things get a bit more complex now, but very common. Your PPC vendor, in this case Rimm-Kaufman Group :), us measuring success of your PPC campaigns with its own tags, your cool media agency in New York is tracking success of banner campaigns with their own tags, and finally there is still you with your Omniture or Google Analytics or ClickTracks or CoreMetrics or IndexTools implementation.

It is time to attribute success who gets credit?

Let's go, let's go, let's go (6 mins). . . .

Its a food fight! A child with three fathers! :)

Remember each "father", in their own way, is right.

Act 4: "You are making me lose faith in humanity! Don't give me a problem, give me a solution!!"

Ok this short act is for Angie.

This particular act is the reason John wanted us to do this video series (4 mins). . . .

Convinced about the value you can get from Time on Site? See how clever that particular metric is in overcoming some of the limitations of Conversion and Conversion Attribution? Very clever right?

I can hear Ian saying: "Ok ok John but what about cookie deletion and privacy blockers (that's "privacy" with a cute British accent!) and all the other things whole sole purpose in life is to mess with our precious darling web analytics data?" Act 5 is for all the people who love the cookie debate!

Act 5: Impact of cookie deletion, cookie rejection, blockers on Conversion Attribution.

Of all the videos I think this one is most fun, it is our "kitchen sink" strategy, lets just assume the worst of everything. My fellow geeks (yes Steve, you!) out there will find this video to be particular delightful.

Here you go Ian (11 mins). . . .

You can see the havoc these things wreck on your data collection methodology, no matter which one you use and no matter what web analytics tool.

The assumption here is that you have the most common settings. In some tools you can custom code a few things, from who gets credit to more "attribution smoothing" (distributing it) etc that might mitigate some of the issues.

But regardless of that metrics like Time on Site are still valuable as one more measure of success.

Almost 40 minutes of pure entertainment. Hope you had fun. We did.

One of the important things that hopefully this video series demonstrates is that there is a lot to learn about Online Marketing.

A lot of people ask me how they can get educated about Web Analytics or Search Engine Marketing or SEO or . . . . My answer typically is: There is almost no place that provides you with current education, I am a huge fan of blogs and they are a good place to start.

But to consistently stay in touch with the latest and greatest knowledge out there you could consider Market Motive. Our sole mission in life is to teach and in bite sized chunks set you up for success no matter what you are trying to do online. We guarantee it. There are no long term contracts, you can cancel any time you want (we want the superior quality education to keep you in).

So check out Market Motive to be the best you can be at SEO, Conversion, Online Publicity, Marketing Automation, PPC/SEM, Social Media Marketing & Web Analytics.

Teaching is our passion.

Thanks for your time and attention. Please share your feedback via comments and please continue the conversation.

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