REVIEWER: Mark Heimberg, director of technical marketing for PennWell Corporation.
BACKGROUND: PennWell is a business-to-business publishing company, focusing on niche vertical markets, such as the semiconductor, fiber optics and optoelectronics industries. PennWell has more than 40 Web sites associated with the magazines it publishes.
PLATFORMS: HitBox Enterprise V7 is an outsourced Web analytics service.
PROBLEM SOLVED: PennWell's revenues are driven by advertising sales. It is imperative that we provide accurate Web-site activity information to our clients, but this was a cumbersome task using traditional log file software. With the amount of traffic across our sites, it would take days to batch and process reports. Also, automated agents, such as search engine spiders and content harvesters, were creating a huge problem in providing accurate traffic figures to advertisers. Because we were not able to successfully filter them with software, our numbers were not consistent from one month to the next. Our sales team would spend hours digesting the reports to account for page-view inconsistencies, taking time away from potential sales. When we began using HitBox Enterprise, this quickly changed for the better. Managers and sales staff could access information directly, without the need for IT staff to manage the process. Also, by virtue of its collection and analysis method, HitBox automatically filters activity from robots and spiders, providing us with consistent, accurate information. Because ad agencies respect HitBox numbers, our sales team has been able to boost ad renewals 25 percent. We were also able to save tens-of-thousands of dollars as well as myriad staff hours that we originally had slated for a professional auditing firm to help validate and correct the numbers.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We see the tremendous benefit of WebSideStory's outsourced service model. Maintaining additional software is not something that we have the bandwidth or desire to do. Instead of potentially spending months planning and installing software on each of our servers, HitBox took a few hours to activate. We placed code into the content of our Web sites, and HitBox immediately started to collect and report visitor information to us. WebSideStory collects no personally identifying information, which was another important consideration.
STRENGTHS: The biggest strength HitBox provides is accurate reporting. In addition to filtering out robot and spider activity, the service is able to count cached pages from proxy servers another problem area for software. The real-time reporting shows editorial and sales staff what sections of the site are getting the most traffic, allowing them to adjust the value of media buys on an ongoing basis. Editors can maintain, add or replace content based on real-time viewing patterns.
WEAKNESSES: HitBox reports provide so much detailed information that it is almost impossible to effectively use all of the statistics and drill-down capability. We focus only on the information that matters for our immediate business objectives.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We came across WebSideStory's ASP method while researching alternatives to software. This solution is more cost- effective, as there is no hardware or software to purchase; and WebSideStory handles the entire collection and analysis process. Implementing a software solution enterprise-wide is costly and does not give us the timely, accurate information we get from HitBox.
DELIVERABLES: HitBox Enterprise delivers online reports that answer questions such as: Where do my visitors come from? Where are visitors falling out of the registration process when signing up for subscriptions or newsletters? What content and sections of the site are most popular? What impact are outreach campaigns having on new subscriptions?
VENDOR SUPPORT: Working with WebSideStory is a great experience. From the time we first made contact, the staff proved not only that their product is superior, but also that they are 100 percent committed to supporting customers. We didn't need another vendor that disappears after the sale. We needed someone to work with us and help us to capitalize on the offering. I can't even begin to tell you how impressed I was the first time I spoke with a WebSideStory consultant, who asked which metrics were most important to me as a marketing professional. By the end of the call, I had been shown how to gain useful understanding of the value of Web analytics. The best part of working with HitBox is having confidence in the information and hearing our sales staff say: "Once I showed them our HitBox data, the contract was a done deal."
DOCUMENTATION: Documentation is ample but not overwhelming. Each feature of the product is defined clearly and is complete with screen captures to help guide you through. I can obtain a copy online via the WebSideStory client extranet, where I can also submit questions and suggestions for future functionality. For a service with such a robust feature set, implementation and running reports couldn't be easier.
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