Some SiteCatalyst Implementation Pet Peeves [SiteCatalyst]
Over the years, when I have consulted clients who use the SiteCatalyst product, I have encountered some strange implementation items that made me scratch my head. In the beginning, when I saw these odd implementation quirks, I was mildly entertained, but as I saw them more and more, they were soon elevated to “pet peeve” status. Therefore, I thought I’d share some of these items with you to make sure that you are not doing any of them, and also because I am curious to see what other “pet peeves” you may have. Please check out my list (which is by no means exhaustive!) and if you have items that you have seen that bug you, please leave them here as a comment!
Tracking Every eVar as an sProp
I would say that my biggest pet peeve is when clients have an sProp for every eVar they have set (or vice versa). When I see this, it is an early warning sign that the client doesn’t fully understand the fundamentals of SiteCatalyst. While there are definitely cases where you would capture the same data in both an eVar and an sProp, they are usually few and far between. As a rule of thumb, I only set an sProp if:
- There is a need to see Unique Visitor counts for the values stored in the sProp
- There is a need for Pathing
- You have run out of eVar Subrelations and need to break one variable down by another through the use of a Correlation (which will go away in SiteCatalyst v15)
- There will be many values (exceeding the unique limits and you just want data stored so I can get to it in DataWarehouse or Adobe Insight
For the most part, that is it… Beyond that, I tend to use eVars and Success Events for most of my implementation items.
This is why I shudder when I see 40 eVars set and the same 40 sProps set. I find that this only confuses users since most don’t really understand the difference between the two variable types to begin with! Therefore, my advice is to make sure you understand the difference between eVars and sProps and make sure you use the right variable for the right purpose.
Pathing Enabled Unnecessarily
Another item I have seen a lot is when a customer will have Pathing enabled on an sProp that doesn’t change in a session. For example, let’s say you have people log into your website and you store the Customer ID in an sProp. That Customer ID is designed to be the same for each visitor during the entire visit. However, I often see clients who enable Pathing on this Customer ID sProp. My hunch is that they think this will show them the paths of that Customer ID, but the truth is that it will show no paths for each Customer ID so it is a complete waste of time. Keep in mind that pathing is only useful if values change in the same session. If you pass the same value in on every page of the session, SiteCatalyst will see that as a Bounce of 100% for every Customer ID! Since Adobe (Omniture) will only let you have so many variables with Pathing enabled, you need to make sure you are using them wisely!
No Friendly Page Names
The next pet peeve is when clients don’t pass any values to the Page Name variable and use the default of the URL. This really makes my blood boil! There are so many downsides to doing this when it comes to the Pages report since it impacts Page Views, Unique Visitors and Pathing. For better or worse, the Pages report tends to be a very popular one and I feel that, even if just for the perception of the integrity of your web analytics implementation, you need to take the time to make sure this report is accurate and understandable. For more information on this topic, please refer to my Page Naming Best Practices post by clicking here.
Passing Query Strings to Page Name Variable
On a related note, I have another gripe related to the Page Name variable and it has to do with query string parameters. Many times I find that companies are including query string parameters in the Page Name variable. This is a really bad idea. Here are two common things I see:
- When a visitor arrives to the website from a campaign, the URL will have a campaign code in the query string parameter and pass this to the Page Name variable (i.e. zyz corp:home:homepage:cid-12345)
- A company will have a search results page and include the keyword/phrase that the user searched upon to get to that page in the Page Name (i.e. zyz corp:search:searchresults:user manual)
Both of these examples involve the company having one page name essentially split out into hundreds (or thousands) of versions of the Page Name due to the query string parameter. Creating many versions of the same page has the effect of losing Visits, Unique Visitors and Pathing for the true Page Name. Most of the time this situation can be solved by using one Page Name and passing the query string parameter to another variable and using a Correlation. If you really need to have these extra query string parameters associated with pages, I recommend using another sProp instead of the Page Name variable…
Reports with No Data
Another thing I see quite often are implementations that have tons of variables labeled, but that have no data. As a rule of thumb, I recommend you disable any variables that have no data or at a minimum hide them from the menus using the Admin Console. There is nothing more frustrating to an end-user than opening up a report, getting excited to see the data and then realize that there is none! Besides being annoying, it hurts the credibility of your web analytics program. When I am in the midst of a new implementation and things are in flux, one thing I do is to put all reports that are coming, but have no data in ALL CAPS or I add the phrase “(COMING SOON)” after the variable name. This helps me see which variables are left to do and which ones I can begin to QA. However, once the implementation is semi-stable, I urge you to hide variables that are not coming for a while so you don’t annoy people unnecessarily!
No Menu Customization
On a related note, how many SiteCatalyst implementations have you seen where they use the default menu structure? Why would you want to tell users to look in “Customer Conversion 1-10” to find the report they are looking for? Not very helpful is it?
Instead, you should customize your menus so they make sense for your users. This will help in your adoption and make training much easier. For some great tips on how to customize your menus, check out Brent Dykes’ post by clicking here.
No Variable Standardization
The next one is when you have a situation where you have multiple report suites that are really the same website, just for different business units and/or locations and none of them are set-up consistently. I see many clients who are tracking some things in the US, but not in the UK or Japan, even though the websites are identical. When this happens and you select multiple report suites in the Admin Console, here is what you see in the variable screen:
I call the “Multiple Madness” due to what you see in the Admin Console and it is not a good thing! You should make sure that as many of your report suites are as consistent as possible so you can minimize your development time and roll-up data into higher-level report suites.
Wasting of Variables
This next one is a minor one but it is related to wasting variables. Even though there are more variables available now, it doesn’t mean that you should track everything or that every piece of data requires its own variable. For example, I recently ran into a client that was tracking Salutation (Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc…) in an eVar. This makes very little sense. How are you going to do cutting-edge analysis on that? Gender maybe, but I don’t think Salutation is worthwhile. Just because you know it, doesn’t mean you need to track it.
This leads to the other type of waste I see – not using SAINT Classifications to save variables. There are many cases where you can accomplish the same analysis objectives by using SAINT Classifications and save variables along the way. Using the prior example, instead of storing Salutation as an eVar, if you really need it, why not store a Customer ID value and then add Salutation as a classification value of that Customer ID? That saves you one eVar and if you happen to have Full Subrelations on that eVar, you get them on the classification of that eVar as well (which will be less of an advantage when using SiteCatalyst v15 since all eVars will have Full Subrelations).
My advice here is to just be thoughtful when assigning variables and if you have cases where there is a direct relationship between two variables that won’t change very often, consider using a SAINT classification and also think about whether you will ever use that data point for an analysis before tracking it in the first place.
VISTA Rule Chaos
The final pet peeve I will mention is related to VISTA Rules. Let me start by saying that VISTA and DB Vista rules are not bad. They can be very powerful, but it is also true that they can be easily misused and wreak havoc on a SiteCatalyst implementation. When using VISTA rules, it is critical that you and your entire team understand WHEN the rules are being used and WHAT they do in terms of setting variables. I have seen many cases where a developer will change a variable not knowing that there are VISTA rules impacting it. You need to make sure VISTA rules are heavily documented and as you change your site or implementation, they need to be factored into the equation. One suggestion I have is to add the phrase (SET VIA VISTA) in the name of any variable that is set via a VISTA rule in your documentation so there is no missing it!
The other pet peeve I have related to VISTA rules is when they are used as a “band-aid” to avoid doing real tagging. In the long-run, this always comes back to haunt you. I see many clients creating band-aids on top of band-aids until things fall apart. I am ok with companies using Vista rules to get things done quickly, but I recommend that, over time, you phase out as many VISTA rules as you can and move their logic to your regular tagging so you have all of your logic in one place.
Well, there you have it. Not all of my implementation pet peeves, but a bunch of them that popped into my head. I am sure you have seen some fun ones out there and I’d love to hear about them…Please leave them as comments here!
NOTE: For more details on these points, check out my follow-up post here.