Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Web Analytics - What happens behind the scenes !!

I was always familiar with the saying "DATA is huge and is endless". Slowly I am beginning to realize the truth behind it. After going through 12 weeks of extremely insightful BI course, I was amazed with the breadth and depth of what the course was offering. The topic web analytics is my favorite topic among the various topics being thought in the BI class since I am a web enthusiast since high school days. I was always working with web technology paradigms such as HTML, JSP, JQuery and I loved working with them. I have always been involved in developing websites and I was amazed to learn that there are tools available which helps websites to optimize their traffic.

I was first exposed to the concept of website optimization during this summer. I worked with the Digital Marketing organization of Adobe Systems on a product called Test & Target. It was previously an Omniture product and was later acquired by Adobe in 2009. I was actively involved in automating the simplified Test & Target backend which eventually reduced the time to market for the product. I am sure the goal of most e-commerce companies is to increase the conversion rate along with optimizing the website traffic. The Test & Target tool aims to help companies create multiple campaigns which  help them evaluate how each campaign performs. The evaluation can be performed across the different audiences, browsers, demography etc. This type of website optimization is called A/B testing which is widely used. This helps the companies to get an idea on how each version of the website is performing against different metrics and this helps them to increase revenue.

I am sure everyone who have used this tool to optimize their website would never know what happens behind the scenes of these tools. Since I was involved in automating the back-end of this tool I have a good idea on how these tools work which I will try to explain in the most simplest way possible. All the operations performed by the tool most of the time will have the related Application Programming Interface (API) which takes in the data from the User-Interface and passes the data to the web server. An API is an interface which helps software components to interact with each other efficiently. These API's interact with the server either through XML (SOAP) or in the URL (REST). They carry out most of the HTTP operations such as GET, POST, PUT and DELETE which helps them to interact with the server. The final computed result is again passed back to the API which renders the required output on the user-interface. This output is used by companies to track their conversion rate and determine if their goals are reached.

My work involved automating the API's which carried out multiple tasks such as testing the working of the tool against various possible metrics and dimensions. If carried out manually it would have taken a lot of time which was eliminated because of the automation carried out. I was able to appreciate the the power of the tool more after understanding the importance of web analytics in the BI class. As a part of course requirements, I used the Google analytics which helps in analyzing the website traffic and providing recommendations. This tool is also excellent, seamless and user-friendly. After using two different tools which serve to cater different needs, I am truly amazed with the concept of web analytics and the potential it offers.

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