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The Net Takeaway: Web Metrics vs. Web Analytics


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Web Metrics vs. Web Analytics · 05/10/2004 09:03 PM, Analysis

Jim Sterne of is another one of those guys always worth listening to. While I don’t agree with everything he says here, its in the right direction (free registration may be required to read it).

Basically, he posits “web metrics” as the descriptives around the internet as a whole: popular sites, broadband penetration, etc. He considers this the bastion of Keynote and Comscore’s MediaMetrix. The down and dirty of analyzing your own web site is what he calls web analytics.

This sort of reflects a marketers’s slant, and ignores the researcher/analyst way of looking at indicators. In the database world, these concepts fall out in a smoother way, and the terms are already in wide use. The difference between metrics and analysis becomes easier if you read “reporting” for “metrics”.

Mr. Stern is reinventing terms that researchers have already defined. For example, what he calls web metrics is what many of us would refer to as a census. That is, the review of the population of web sites, how they act as a group, and the behaviors of the denizens within the Internet, these all make up the population our interactive marketing live within. That’s not “web metrics”, that’s “describing the Internet”.... or a census.

My definitions are much more workable, and they force the tools to put up or shut up. Web metrics are the counts of behaviors and actions on your site. They can be script executions, page views, or combinations of pages making up an action. They can also be counts of user-agents, browser types, and return visits. In some cases, they can be counts of “new registrants”, and, of course, purchases.

Web Analytics is breaking apart the web metrics, often in an interactive fashion, to understand patterns and estimate causes of behaviors (and changes in behavior) in those metrics. It can also involve linking “web metrics” to “other metrics” including retail sales for the same time period, etc. Can one do such a data examination with reports (“web metrics”)? Sure, up to a point. If you know that you have different sources of visitors, you can pre-configure the reporting to split on that variable to show different patterns of behavior. And if there are no differences one day? Your reporting may not be able to tell you why, so you shift to ad-hoc reporting which is the first step to analysis.

So, the cheap and open source tools do a nice job at making web metrics or web reporting. Very few of the tools (except at the high end) allow the ad-hoc and analytic approach.

One of the few shows focused on web analysis is Mr. Sterne’s Emetrics summits. Anyone in this space is well advised to attend, either in the US or the UK. More info here. Mr. Sterne’s books are also recommended reading. Whether you like my definitions or Mr. Sterne’s, note that we are both in the same direction and I would gladly follow any path he chooses to examine.

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