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Life time visitor tracking

page tagging or log analysis?

     
10:39 am on Jun 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

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One of the most important features for me in any analytics service is the ability to track visitors historically. I know this can be achieved by using persistent cookies (set up server side, then log analysis tool can extract the data).

But what about page tagging solutions? Is there any way they can track visitors over time? I need to know what the original referrer was for any key action (sale order) no matter how many times they revisit the site.

Can this be done with page tagging analytics or is it just log analysers?

If it camn be done, how is it done? Can a remote service use their own persistent cookies? How does it work?

10:48 am on June 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Absolutely. A remote system that collects data from tagged pages can give out a cookie of its own, and usually does.

We use WebTrends page tagging and I can tell you it has an advantage over logs that doesn't often get mentioned - the persistent cookie value gets into the tagging logs on the first hit, even for a first-time visitor. So, if somebody comes to the site for the first time and leaves from the first page, but returns some other day, the original one page visit gets linked to the return visit. You can't do this with logs because a new cookie doesn't get into the logs until the 2nd hit.

I don't know if other page tagging solutions do this. Maybe they all do; I just know WebTrends.

One disadvantage of page tagging cookies using third-party hosting is that they will be third party cookies from the point of view of the visitor. This means a lot of your visitors won't get cookied at all (20% on some of the sites I work with). However, WebTrends and possibly others have come up with a way for a third party data collector (like WebTrends) to give out a cookie that is a first party cookie from the point of view of the visitor. The rejection rate for these is far, far lower than for third party cookies.

Again, I don't know if WebTrends is the only vendor to have a first party cookie solution for third party data collection on tagged pages. Maybe they all do.

11:20 am on June 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Thanks, I sticky mailed you on a similar subject but I think you may have just answered both questions for me.

I've used WT before so I might look at that again. Presumably the other page tagging services(Clicktracks etc) work in the same way?

12:32 pm on June 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I honestly don't know if they do. I think the first party cookie is somewhat unique to WebTrends; they've patented it or something.
9:29 pm on June 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

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But what about page tagging solutions? Is there any way they can track visitors over time? I need to know what the original referrer was for any key action (sale order) no matter how many times they revisit the site.

I wouldn't depend on the ability to track a majority of your users through persistent cookies, because people delete cookies after a while.

8:35 am on June 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I think the first party cookie is somewhat unique to WebTrends

Not to give Webtrends a freebie advert.... Indextools uses first party cookies too.

3:47 pm on June 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Good to know. I was trying to be tentative.