Widget Analytics – Measuring the widgets in the wild

Helping web analysts navigate the measurement and tracking of widgets.

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Archive for November, 2007

WAA and IAB Collaboration on Standards – a response to the Metrics Insider

Posted by widgetgirl on November 26, 2007

As many of you know, I am a member of the WAA Standards committee as well as the IAB. This past Friday, the MediaPost metrics insider email newsletter ran a commentary from David Smith on how Jim Sterne from the WAA and Randall Rothenberg from the IAB should get together to talk – and to not continue setting standards without collaborating with each other. As a member of the WAA Standards committee who reached out to the IAB on this very topic, I felt compelled to respond to David’s posting. He brings up a very important topic within the space, but I do feel that he wrote without knowing what the groups were actually doing.

You can read David’s post here. My response to his posting is below. I would appreciate your comments on the topic – or better yet, respond on the Metrics Insider blog.

Cheers! Jodi



You bring up an excellent point and one that the WAA Standards Committee has discussed ad nauseum. As a member of the WAA Standards Committee I can tell you that we have had conference calls with the authoring members of standards from the IAB and the MRC. In fact, I’ll be sitting down to lunch with that same team at the IAB Measurement Forum this Thursday in NYC. The WAA Standards Committee’s focus on standards does differ slightly from the IAB, but there is room for collaboration (and improvement of course). The WAA is focused on ensuring that the name of each metric and its definition is standardized across vendors. We allow for flexibility in what is included or excluded in the definition as all web sites are not the same. An html page on one web site may be considered a page view for one site, while filtered explicitly and not counted on another. The goal of the web analyst is to analyze their site – the WAA standards are a guideline for assisting the analyst in the terminology that is used across vendors and the practice of web analytics. The IAB is focused on defining metrics in a manner that ensures compliance. As advertisers are paying for impressions, clickthroughs and view throughs, the standards that this body sets must have a technical definition – and be audited by a credible third party. In the WAA’s discussions with the IAB regarding standards setting, we noticed several differences between the two bodies that drives the ability to document and enforce the standards that are set. The most notable ones are as follows:

1. The IAB has a full time paid staff. The WAA is almost 100% volunteer.

2. The IAB is comprised almost entirely of corporate memberships, the WAA is almost 100% individual membership driven – and therefore volunteer driven in its efforts to research the space and set standards.

3. The IAB is comprised of advertisers and publishers who require mediation of counting methodologies to ensure fairness and compliance.

4. The WAA is comprised of practitioners who are seeking standards within the industry so that consistent business analysis can take place.

In an ideal world, the two bodies would work together to drive standards that overlap (such as clickthrough), but due to the composition of the bodies and their missions, this is not quite feasible. What we can do (and are doing) is to to communicate with each other and work through fundamental discrepancies between mutual standards. The WAA’s goal is to set standards that are consistent but allow flexibility for the web analyst to operate within. The IAB’s goal is to ensure that advertisers get what they pay for. They represent different bodies of users within a common space. There is room for each body, but we agree that we must communicate with each other due to the issues that you address in your column. I am writing to let you know that we are.

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Travelogue – widget spreading and viral hubs

Posted by widgetgirl on November 16, 2007

One of the most interesting things about widgets is the analysis of their travels. A widget can move from web site to web site on its own as visitors grab the widget and share it to their own web site or social networking page. Some widgets travel in an innocuous pattern across the web – nothing exciting, just an even spread of being shared from one site to the next with no peaks or valleys. However one of the exciting things that we see in data quite often is a burst of spreading energy from one or more particular widget placements. This is what the web analyst is looking for, right? Show me the anomalies!

Viral spread is is quantified in a metric that we call “Viral Hubs”. When you break this down, a viral hub is the placements metric evaluated over the dimension of domain (check out my previous post on the placements metric). Viral hubs simply indicates the directional flow of the widget placement. Domains that have a large proportion of new placements created from them are identified as a strong viral hub.

So as a web analyst or marketer, what do we do with viral hubs? Traditionally marketers plan their campaign strategies to drive unique visitors back to their site (incoming traffic to view content). To optimize spread and reach for your widget, the strategy needs to shift to pushing content as far from your site as possible – or at least to Web sites where your widget will garner the most views from your target audience. There are a few brilliant strategies that I have witnessed in the last few weeks that exemplify good, quality seeding.

Strategy #1:

  • A media company seeds their widget on their own site. The company also registers their widget as a Facebook Application and creates a Canvas page on Facebook for easy sharing and viral distribution. Depending on who you are and what kind of content you have, applications can spread through Facebook like an unquarantined virus! In a good way of course. Social networks provide huge opportunities for advertisers to go straight to their audience network and seed their widget within its walls, thus creating a viral hub that may or may not have emerged on its own.

Strategy #2:

  • Ad serve your widget! Many companies today are doing ad buys to speed up the viral spreading of their widget. One company purchased the position on the home page of MySpace for an entire day – and MySpace became a monster viral hub as a result. It generated more new placements in one day than waiting for their own Web site seed placement to organically grow itself across the internet. The best part is that even though the the ad buy may have hypothetically been for 5M impressions, all of the views of the widget after it is spread are gravy…aka as free! Your actual CPM goes down depending on how viral your widget is.
  • If you want to ad-serve your widget, check out the new product that we recently launched called Clearspring for Advertisers. It is pretty powerful stuff and all the big kids are doing it 😉

The biggest byproduct of a seeding strategy on steroids is that you now have all of these placements to push content to. Going back to the media company example, they could initially promote a new TV show or perhaps a movie trailer within a widget. Once that particular media piece becomes stale, they could use the same install base to promote online reruns, additional content or upcoming new episodes or sequels. Remember, the widget creator always serves the content. If they want to change or update the content, they have the power to do that agnostic of where the content is placed or the widget-serving platform that they are using.

Having a powerful install base also provides a good spring-board for extending your reach even further. Analyzing where your widget organically spreads from the install base (your non-seed placements) presents yet more opportunities. Analysts can evaluate their widget analytic data to identify specific social network profile pages, blogs and web sites that are emerging as strong viral hubs.

Strategy #3:

  • Identify non-seed placement viral hubs for business development relationships. For example, if I notice as an analyst that a particular individual blogger or Web site is emerging as a viral hub, I may want to contact them directly to ask them to either write about the content in my widget, incentivize them to keep my widget on their site or ask them to place and promote a widget that I haven’t even built yet.

Seeding strategies are critical for maximizing the spread of your widget. The tables have expanded for marketers. Instead of starting with a budget and then maximizing each inbound channel for reach and ROI, you now have the opportunity to reduce your marketing spend with optimal organic spread strategies. Granted, you may have to still spend money, but the persistence of that spend will outlive an email drop, ad buy or traditional display ad run.

To wrap it up…..

  1. Maximize the exposure of your seed placements. Location, location, location!
  2. Analyze your spread data and identify where your viral hubs are emerging.
  3. Plant future seed placements at the base of known powerful viral hubs – don’t wait for your widget to make its way there on its own. This one is difficult, but that is what your Biz Dev skills are for 😉
  4. Don’t forget about your install base – keep them happy and use their real estate wisely. Don’t abuse it.

And of course my favorite widget of the week – Project Runway. Who doesn’t just love Heidi Klum…or Seal for that matter. The Bravo folks have created their own Project Runway profile page in Facebook and placed a widget that is registered as a Facebook application on it. You can go to the application’s canvas page and grab the widget for yourself using Facebook’s “Add Application” function and also notify your friends that they should grab it too. Your Facebook friends can then either grab the widget from you on your profile page or go to the canvas page and grab it for themselves. Bravo, “Bravo”….brilliant seeding strategy!


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Widget sessions, do they exist?

Posted by widgetgirl on November 7, 2007

Where did my sessions metric go? Just because it is a widget, there is the concept of a session or visit, right? Well…not so much. The concept of a session vanishes when looking at distributed content. In traditional web analytics, we look at a one to many relationship between unique visitors –> sessions –> page views. This changes when looking at widgets. The model moves to unique visitors –> views –> interactivity.

So where did the session go? I have often been asked how to calculate the concept of a session when it comes to widgets and my response generally is, “the definition doesn’t stand?”. As a web analytics practitioner, I know that the timestamps in between each page are aggregated together to calculate session duration. An example is as follows:

  • Page 1 requested at 09:01:05
  • Page 2 requested at 09:01:55
  • Page 3 requested at 09:02:33

If we stop right there, the total session duration that we can calculate is 00:01:28 (1 minute and 28 seconds). We never REALLY know how long someone spent on the last page. We just know that the page was requested and that we did not see another request from the visitor within a specified timeframe.

What does that mean for widgets? How do we calculate the amount of time spent with the widget if the concept of session no longer exists? The shift is to time spent viewing the widget – similar to page duration or the time spent viewing a page. However, with only one “page view” to see the widget, how do you calculate that difference in timestamps. The only way to do this is through periodic communication back to the analytics server that is collecting the widget data.

Here at Clearspring we have instrumented a way to have the widget container gracefully “ping” back to our servers to let us know that the widget is still alive and kicking on the page…ok, maybe not kicking….but alive. The container sends a request every 30 seconds if no activity has occured (a click, a mouseover, etc.) and every 5 seconds if the visitor is actively interacting with the widget. The result is the ability to calculate the time that a visitor is spending viewing or interacting with the widget. So an example of this would look like:

  • Visitor requests a page with a widget on it at 09:01:05
  • Visitor mouses over the widget at 09:01:25
  • Visitor clicks on the widget at 09:01:57
  • Visitor is viewing the widget (no interactivity) 09:02:27
  • Visitor continues to view the widget (no interactivity) 09:02:57
  • Visitor continues to view the widget (no interactivity) 09:03:27

The time spent on the widget is 00:02:22 (two minutes and 22 seconds). If you notice in the last three requests, they are spaced 30 seconds apart. This allows for the widget to communicate important activities such as clicks and mouseovers, but to tacitly report back on view time. What results is the ability to add clarity to the interaction events while approximating total view time without degrading the user experience. By the way – we do allow you to adjust some of these settings if you have a widget that begs for a high level of interaction. We also start to spread out those 30 second “pings” into longer timeframes if the widget is on the page for long periods of time.

So the session didn’t die, it just isn’t applicable to content that is standalone and transient. Pulling those “pings” of timestamps together to get a time spent on the widget is the only way to calculate how long someone is interacting or viewing the widget. The end result is a transition from session duration to time spent.

I would love your comments on this topic for those of you reading this. It is an evolving area that neither the IAB or the WAA have set standards on.

Widget of the week!

And of course, my favorite widget of the week! As I was browsing through our Google Analytics reports, I noticed that a common keyword used to get to Clearspring.com is “Hand Reflexology”. There is a very cool hand reflexology widget that you can interact with to learn the pressure points on your hands. Very cool stuff. If you click on the link below, you can go to the widget home page and see this widget – and grab it for yourself if you’d like!

Hand Reflexology Widget

Hand Reflexology Chart

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