In past blog posts I have discussed SiteCatalyst Pathing Analysis in general and some specific examples (i.e. Success Event Pathing). In this post, I will share a more advanced technique I call Segment Pathing which is often used to extend the capabilities of Pathing Analysis. While this technique can be used in many different ways, I will use Visitor Type Pathing as the primary example and way to explain the concept.
What Is Segment Pathing?
Most of you are probably familiar with the idea of Pathing and that SiteCatalyst Pathing Analysis tracks the order in which a visitor looks at pages, sections or anything else on your site. As such, it is normal to pass a page name or section name value to a Traffic Variable (sProp) so you can then enable Pathing. However, there are often cases where you want to see how different segments of your visitors navigate through your site. For example, what pages do New Yorkers look at first vs. those from Chicago? Are there Pathing differences between younger vs. older visitors?
In order to see how these different segments navigate your site, you have the following options:
- Create an ASI Segment for the population you care about and look at Pathing reports there
- Utilize Omniture Discover (assuming you have paid for that), create a Segment and view Pathing reports
But what if you don’t have Discover and you don’t want to burn up an ASI segment perpetually for this Pathing Analysis? The answer is to use Segment Pathing which I will demonstrate here.
An Example: Visitor Type Pathing
In this example, let’s assume that your organization has a cookie that stores (to the best of its ability) the current visitors customer status. Often times companies assume that a visitor with no cookie value is a “Non-Customer” and those who have logged in or purchased something are “Customers” (obviously this is subject to cookie deletion). Now let’s assume this this Visitor Type is passed to a SiteCatalyst Traffic Variable on every page. Obviously, the name of each page is passed on each page and should be set to the s.pagename Traffic Variable. Therefore, you have Page Name and Visitor Type, but no way to see pages by Visitor Type. All you have to do is to set a new Traffic Variable (sProp) that concatenates these two values together in a format like this:
[VISITOR TYPE]:[PAGE NAME] or “Customer:Home Page”
If you do this on every page of the site and then have your Account Manager enable Pathing on this new sProp, you now have an intersection between Visitor Type and Page Name on each page and can use any of the many Pathing reports (including Fallout and Pathfinder) for this new variable. SiteCatalyst experts long ago realized how simply concatenating values together into one SiteCatalyst variable could yield powerful results. By using this technique, you can now select the appropriate “Visitor Type” concatenated value in the Next Page Flow report to see what “Customers” do on your Home Page:
as compared to “Non-Customers” viewing the same page:
As you can see here, Non-Customers have a much higher exit rate from the Home Page than Customers do, but without the use of this Visitor Type Pathing, it might be difficult to spot this since you are looking at Pathing for all segments lumped together.
Keep in mind, however, that this is just one example of how you can do Segment Pathing. One of my favorite uses of this technique is to concatenate Campaign Names or Campaign Tracking Codes and Page Name so you can see how visitors from different Campaigns navigated through your site. In the more advanced version of this shown below, you can see a Pathing Flow for visitors who arrived at a website from a Tracking Code “ggl_1” and landed on the Video Games page. By concatenating these two values, we can see how visitors arriving from the “ggl_1” Campaign Tracking Code navigated the site as compared to those arriving from a different Campaign Tracking Code. In fact, we can also see how people coming from the same Campaign Tracking Code (i.e. “ggl_1” navigated the site differently when they arrived on a different page (i.e. a page different than the “Video Games” page).
Note that in the example below, the Campaign Tracking Code is not concatenated with the Page Name on every page, but rather just on the first page. In this case, this was done because of the massive number of potential Campaign Tracking Code & Page Name combinations, which could lead to a “uniques” issue in SiteCatalyst. However, the good news is that since Pathing reports only show values that took place after the element before it, by simply selecting the value of “ggl_1:Video Games,” we are guaranteed that all path views after it had to be preceded by the selected value.
As you can see the implementation of this through the use of variable concatenation is not terribly difficult. However, before you run out and concatenate all of your Traffic Variables together, keep in mind the following:
- You do not want to enable Pathing on too many sProps since it will cost you $$$ and could result in report suite latency
- While powerful, this technique is more of a “hack” so if you are going to be doing a lot of segmentation, I encourage you to invest in Omniture Discover which is a much easier way to do Segment Pathing