What is Web Analytics?
Web Analytics is the collection, analysis, and reporting of information about Internet traffic on your Web site. Telligent Analytics 3.x introduces all three stages of this process for use with your Telligent Evolution site.
How is data collected?
Telligent Evolution includes an additional assembly (ExtendedAnalytics.dll) that runs on your community site to collect traffic information. This assembly includes an HttpModule that subscribes to the End Request event of every page request, then records detailed information about each request made to the community site.
This module uses an additional user cookie for tracking unique users and returning visitors. If a user logs in, the cookie is tied directly to his/her site membership account - adding the ability to report on views by specific community members.
The module includes a configurable queue which collects requests. These requests are then written to the database in bulk. The ExtendedAnalytics.config file allows you to specify how often these items are written to the database. If necessary, the files can be written to a separate database. For larger communities, it is recommended the requests be frequently written out and that they be stored in a separate database.
Configuration options include the ability to:
- Specify how frequently requests are written to the database
- Specify a separate database connection string for storage of Telligent Analytics data
- Specify additional file extensions to record other than .asp, .aspx, .htm, .html
- Specify specific files to ignore (example: dynamicstyle.aspx)
- Specify whether or not to record postbacks as unique requests
- Install a SQL job to clear old requests from the database (presumably after the requests have been imported into Telligent Analytics)
This module is unique to the Telligent Evolution / Telligent Enterprise brand and is not compatible with other Web sites.
How does this approach differ from other Web Analytics solutions?
The most common approaches to recording Web Analytics statistics include:
- IIS log parsing
These approaches are typical because a tool built on one or both of these technologies can be applied to a large customer base regardless of the server type or Web application type being run (e.g., HTML, PHP, ASP.NET, etc.).
Some drawbacks of these technologies:
- IIS log parsing is difficult to do successfully and is often imprecise. In IIS logs, a single page view is typically represented as several requests because the log file includes requests for every component of a page (i.e., images, style sheets, page controls, etc.).
Because Telligent Analytics targets a specific technology and specific application, we are able to leverage technologies specific to ASP.NET and information specific to Telligent platforms that allow access to more precise information about each request. For example, because we integrate the ExtendedAnalytics module directly with the Telligent platform application, we are able to record additional information about each request by:
- Tying visits directly to a logged-in user
- Recording real page titles along with URLs
- Gathering community/context-specific information about the page requested (i.e., Which community group, section, and post(s) are associated with the page?)
The statistics gathered by each different method of collecting Web Analytics statistics can vary greatly. We selected an HttpModule approach because the limited scope of this solution allows us greater control over each request - and ultimately results in greater accuracy.
How is the data stored?
The ExtendedAnalytics module stores data in raw request format in the specified database to ensure that the processing time and storage space consumed are both minimized.
Even though a minimal amount of data for each request is stored, the amount of space needed to house all page requests for an extended amount of time can be quite large (although, note, it is unique to the amount of traffic your community receives). Allocate additional space for storing your Web Analytics data. It is also recommended that the cleanup job (see CleanupJob.sql) be installed to delete old records and free storage space.
How is the data analyzed?
Requests are imported into the Analytics database through a series of tasks, which include but are not limited to: WebAnalyticsRawData and WebAnalyticsBulkProcessingTask. These unique tasks process and organize requests based on user and session information. Information about individual views, statistics on page requests, and browser and referrer information are also processed as part of these tasks.
Telligent Analytics makes use of page views to more accurately reflect true page views for actual user visits. The Web Analytics tasks differentiate between browser views, RSS views, and robot or crawler views; it then stores each of these types separately in the Analytics database for reporting. The primary means of differentiating between these types is through intelligent parsing of the Http User Agent string passed with the request.
Pre-calculated roll-up data is used for page views as well as topics and sentiment.
In the directory where you install the Telligent Analytics 3.x tasks, there is a configuration file named WebAnalytics.config. This holds the current list of regular expressions used to identify common user agent strings, broken out by category. It may be necessary to update this file periodically as new user agents are introduced. Check the Telligent Web site periodically for published updates to this file.
The Web Analytics task is intended to be run frequently. Out of the box, this task is configured to run once every hour. The resulting reports in Telligent Analytics will be close to real-time (only off by at most one hour). The interval between executions is also configurable.
What reports are included?
Telligent Analytics 3.x includes a comprehensive set of reports built around views, visitors, pages, and referrers. Here is a list of the different sections of reports included with Telligent Analytics 3.x:
- Page views
- RSS page views
- Most-viewed pages
- Total visitors
- Time on site
- Depth of visit
- Visitor frequency
- Visitor recency
- Exit ratio
- Browser usage
- Search keywords
- Traffic sources
A note about Web Analytics if you are running a Telligent Evolution Mobile site
If you elected to install your Telligent Evolution Mobile site as a child site of the Telligent Evolution site (for example, mobile.mycommunity.com) and you are also running Web Analytics on your community, you will need to add a remove statement for Web Analytics to your mobile site's web.config file. Locate the following module and add the highlighted line:
<remove name="Telligent.Evolution" />
You need to make this change because the site is already inheriting the module from the community.