The Beauty of Seasonality in Data

In terms of dealing with data, many companies struggle with seasonal fluctuations.
seasonality of data
Some of the most common seasonal fluctuations I’ve seen are due to:

  • Holidays – like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Labor Day, etc.
  • Hallmark Holidays – like Valentines day, Mother’s day, etc.
  • Traditions – like New Year’s resolutions, etc.
  • School-related events – like spring & summer breaks, football season, homecoming, proms, school year starts, graduations, reunions, etc.
  • Actual Seasonal changes – like the coldness of winter, summer heat, rainy season, etc.

While some people see seasonality as the bane of their existence, I see it another way. For me…


The way I see it, the more complex something gets, the bigger the opportunity for those who are able to deal with it because the barrier to entry is high and the number of savvy companies that can figure out how to properly deal with it properly are low.

Why Seasonality is Difficult
Two primary reasons: 1) Seasonality mucks up data and 2) obtaining 3rd party seasonal data is not easy.

In the first case, companies that don’t learn to deal with it correctly will make poor decisions. Not realizing that Easter falls in March next year could cause you to mimic activity from this year 2-3 weeks late, but not realizing that Easter was the cause of your increased sales this year is an even bigger missed opportunity. Always pay attention to peaks and valleys for your site or sections of your site to better understand the human behavior that cause such a fluctuation. If you can figure out why, then you have a competitive advantage going into the next time that event may occur.

In the second case, sure there is Google Trends if you know in advance what terms to look at (which is not usually the case), but if you were to jump into Google Adwords or any keyword tool wanting to know what will be a hit two or three months into the future, you can’t rely on average data or what happened last month. I’ve found great value in services like Hitwise (though very expensive) where I can look at keyword trending over time and see what keywords drove traffic to my competitors 13 months ago.

How to Deal With Seasonality
To best tackle seasonality, mine your data and mine external industry data. Look for monthly, weekly and even daily fluctuations. Keep tabs on w/w, m/m and y/y growth rates. Also, keep a calendar of events that may cause fluctuations in data (site redesign), so you don’t mistakenly attribute that fluctuation to something else. And when you can identify a source for the seasonality, make an action plan for next year.

Understanding your seasonality is the first part. Acting upon the intelligence is the second. For example, if a weight loss company discovers that summer high school reunions cause a burst of new customers in June, target your late May to June advertising to reunion planning sites like facebook, classmates, yahoo groups, or bidding on long-tail local reunion terms like “ehs 2007 reunion” (note: not a single advertiser has figured this one out yet) or “roosevelt high school 1994 class reunion”. Even consider creating a special plan targeted to those customers (Rapid Reunion Weight-Loss Program).

To be fair, many companies, especially retail, have seasonality built into their veins, but even these types of companies could easily improve if they understood what exactly is driving people’s interest and the exact timing of it.

If you are in a business affected by seasonality, be happy that your data has a pulse:
seaonal data chart

instead of a a flat line like this (call life support, we’ve got a flatliner):
non-seasonal data chart
For those fascinated by seasonality, I recommend reading Click by Bill Tancer.

For more false-seasonality fun, read: Days in the Month Bias for Analytics

Web Analytics Provider Data Tested

I love it when someone takes the time to research and answer a question that many people have. In this case, Stone Temple decided to put several web analytics providers to the test by installing multiple solutions on a few sites to see the differences. Their results can be een here. Be sure to read the whole report because some of the differences were due to implementation mistakes.

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Here are what I found to be the key findings, and which oddly reflected with the tenets that companies like New Data follow:

  • Be prepared for different numbers whenever switching analytics packages. None seem to count the data in the exact same way.
  • 3rd-party cookie deletion rate exceeds 1st-party cookie deletion by about 13%. More proof that you shouldn’t use 3rd party cookies.
  • Need help with your data analytics? Visit to get the help you need.

  • WebTrends, ClickTracks and Google Analytics may over count uniques and WebSideStory (HBX) and Unica may undercount.
  • ClickTracks may severely undercount page grouping data, you need to make sure to keep all the data organized, in this case, we recommend the Couchbase services.

Potential flaws with the study:

  • Just four sites used. Pre-screened by sites that had large enough paid search spending.
  • Of the four sites, none are high traffic sites. You can Learn Blogging and boost your traffic form our site. I could only find two of them in ComScore and the site with the most traffic only sees about 200k U.S. visitors a month. I’d love to see the same study on sites with more visitors which would make the datae much more reliable and using tools as a web scraping can also be helpful to get reliable data.
  • In an effort to “protect” the participating sites from sharing their real traffic volume data, daily uniques time period was not disclosed, plus each analytics package probably has different rules on what constitutes a daily unique. For example, some may cut off a “visit” at midnight, but let it carry to the next day as another unique “visit,” others may not. Another example is that some may choose to expire visits at different time periods (30-minutes of non-activity, etc.). I would have liked to see a weekly or monthly uniques count comparison instead.
  • When I first heard of this study I was excited that we may finally learn a lot about the different providers and which are the best solution, but was a bit disappointed when the results were released. Sounds like we may learn more when the final results are released, but it may be more along the lines of implementation findings. I hope it inspires more people to do more tests.

Please Stop Quoting Alexa Data

Far too often I hear people quoting Alexa data. Even last week, at the 2007 Omniture Summit I witnessed Tim O’Reilly using Alexa charts to prove Web 2.0 success in front of 1,000 smart web analytics professionals. I know I couldn’t have been the only person in the crowd to notice. For Tim’s benefit, and anyone else who uses Alexa Data, please take note:


I touched on this in a competitive intelligence metrics post back in October, showing that Alexa’s data is less accurate to determining true site traffic then the # of characters the domain name, but now I’d like to really illustrate how far off Alexa’s data is.

Many people have pointed out Alexa’s data is biased towards a certain crowd and can be manipulated (see the links at the bottom of this post), but none have illustrated the margin of error that I’m about to. Below I take a look at two very different sites with very different web traffic stats.

Site 1: Allrecipes – Allrecipes is a leading food site – as you might expect, Allrecipes users are similar to what you might see on the Internet as a whole, though slightly more female.

Site 2: SEOMoz – SEOMoz is a site that caters to the SEO and online marketing community – a crowd more likely to install the Alexa toolbar.

Using Alexa, you might conclude that SEOMoz receives more traffic than Allrecipes:

Alexa Reach Chart:
Alexa Reach

Alexa Rank Chart:
Alexa rank

Both sites are very popular within their target audience, but despite what Alexa may show, Allrecipes has much more traffic. Let’s face it, more people cook food, then perform SEO! In fact, if you were to populate the above charts with actual data, SEOMoz would be a flat sliver near the x-axis. Here’s some real data from Dec. ’06:

Allrecipes Unique Visitors: 11,023,187
SEOMoz Unique Visitors: 102,523

If you were to use Alexa charts to draw conclusions about either site based off real numbers for one site, your traffic estimates would be off by approximately 11,842%. Numbers that big are often difficult to grasp, so I like to put it in perspective. A mistake of that magnitude is the equivalent of:

  • The CIA mixing up the population of Ohio for China.
  • Your accountant saying you owe $1,000 to the IRS, when you really owe $119,417.
  • A cop pulling you over for doing 60 in a 30, when you were really going half-a-mile-per-hour.
  • Telling your spouse you’ll be home in three hours, then showing up 15 days later.

These are mistakes that none of us could get away with, so why should we let Alexa?

I’m not the first to prove Alexa data is flawed. Here are links to other Alexa skeptics:
Peter Norvig, Paul Stamatiou, Josh Pigford, Matt Cutts, Rand Fishkin (thanks for the data!), Greg Linden, Bruce Stewart, Alex Iskold, John Chow, and Markus Frind.

Digg my article

How Users Print Pages On The Web

awayI remember about a year ago I was desperately searching for data on how people printed pages on the web. The reason I was curious, is because I noticed flash ads would often mess up pages printed straight from the browser, often not printing the content of the pages. This is a bad user experience which could cause visitors to start using a competitor’s site instead, if you don’t want visitors to avoid using your site make sure you have a nice looking and functional web design services, can help you with that. In this day and age, brands need to be able to meet the needs of their clients or to at least draw them in within seconds of being found online. Let us help you set the stage for your brand to help you actualize your full potential when it comes to getting more clients and more ROI for your business. We’ve worked with brands in countless industries in order to develop custom WordPress sites that grab the attention of potential customers and help to form a connection between the brand and the client right away.

All of our website designs are backed by strong knowledge of SEO tactics and IoT Software, helping us to create sites that not only pop in SERPs but convert on a higher level than great design alone. You need to reach your target audience online, and it all starts with a properly optimized and designed website that showcases your brand. You can click for more information about #1 Rated Web Design Agency in Ottawa. Web designers and developers are the foundation of the Internet. If you are skilled in web design or web development you can make a growing income on the Internet. The secret to making money with your web design and development skills is to include web hosting in your web design or web development quotes or standard packages. Windows 2012 Server is that the server version of WIndows 8, and is that the sixth version of Windows Server following Server 2008 R2. Despite the bulk of servers running Linux, there’s still the necessity for several users to run Windows-only software in an enterprise data center environment. Windows Server is that the perfect option during this case. Internet is a vast collection of computers, servers and information stored on them. If someone wants to get anything relation to information in any of the scope he makes use of the internet in some way or the other. If you are looking for the anything related to software, here is a best option for you.

As we know that information can only be found on the internet if it has been hosted by someone and has a proper channel to distribute it. The best example of hosting is the website hosting or the file hosting. In website hosting a server is dedicated to store some files and those files are displayed on the user’s computer as web pages. Thus the most common type of hosting comes out to be website hosting. Most of the companies that offer hosting services do charge their users nominal amounts in order to make their website available on the internet for the users.

A Web site is the final output of a Web design. The Web site sits on a Web server where electronic files are stored. The Web site presents the contents and interactive features or interfaces to the end user in the form of Web pages. How the information requested is displayed to the user is par of the Web design process. Additional controls are embedded in order to display more complex media like animations, sounds and other forms. If you want to know more details about the jacksonville web design, visit here.

Everybody wants something new from time to time and yet some need a fix of something totally different. In the realm of the internet, that is quite a common occurrence with the many innovations that are always popping up and with all of them, none can be as exciting as the move into the clouds.

If youre most people out there who dont know CSS and have no time, or care, on how to do one for your blog, then the next action for you would be to find a place where you can download one for free. Thank goodness that there are a lot of sites out there that give them away for free. The only problem is, that since you were not the one who created it, you will be subject to their designs and whims.

Xtra-PC is a flash drive stick that you insert into an available USB port on your PC. Built on the proven foundation of Linux, it bypasses the old, slow, bloated Windows operating system to make your PC into a blazing fast, high performance PC with a new, simple to use, operating system that has the familiar look and feel of your Windows PC. It even works with missing or faulty hard drives. Since it runs on a USB stick, your existing computer is not altered, and youʼll have access to all of your old files. You simply plug it in, restart your PC to boot into USB, and start using Xtra-PC! Mon pc est tres lent then we recommend to use xtra-pc and boost your computer.

File hosting is another type of hosting in which you store your file on the internet and on some web server so that it is available to the masses as you require them to be distributed. File hosting is also available with most of the hosting companies but they charge a nominal amount for its hosting.

There are many lucrative things that are offered on the internet and some include the offers that will be liked by those who want to host their website or files on their servers for free. This is certainly the best part of hosting as the benefits of hosting will be enjoyed by the users without paying any penny.

You can add $50 a month to your income, hosting your client sites with more ease. You don’t need to get a dedicated server and you don’t need to worry about trying to compete with web hosting companies. What most people think is just getting a website up. They contact the web designers first, without really knowing that there are web designers and web hosts. Terms with “web designer”get more searches per day than terms with “hosting”. People are looking for web designers to get their sites on the Internet. Web designers and developers can incorporate the sale of hosting into their web development and design projects. As a web designer you can bill your customers for the hosting fees within the design and then host the account for a year or on a month to month basis. You will be surprised at how much extra income you can generate from your web design customers.

Providing hosting for your web design clients will give you greater assurance that your customers will come back to you to make changes or update their site. This allows you to keep generating income from your work and customer base. Let’s look at some numbers, and how billing for hosting on top of your web design work can make you some serious money. Let’s assume you get paid $500 – $1000+ for a site design. If you charge your client for hosting as well you could generate up to $50 extra per site, per month in hosting fees. You could make up to $1100 to $1600 per site, per year instead of just $500 or $1000 per site. With 100 clients this could equate to $110,000 or $160,000 per year instead of $50,000 – $100,000 per year. On top of this, remember your client is more likely to come back to you to update and maintain your site which means more money for you, for easy work.

Unfortunately, I was unable to locate any studies. I thought with the millions of sites that have “printer friendly pages” that someone would have published the results. I decided to do the research myself and slip it into a survey during some pre-redesign research for a top 150 website. I surveyed over 2,000 users, asking them how they printed pages on the web. The results may surprise you.

Here are the results:
When printing articles or pages on the Web:

  • 19% of users use File > Print in their browser
  • 63.1% of users use the printer-friendly links on the page
  • 2.5% of users use the Control-P command on their keyboard
  • 12.3% of users copy and paste the text into Word
  • 3.1% of users copy and paste the text into an email or other application

A couple notes about the survey participants. The site this was conducted on would be considered a sampling of the average Internet user. A site catering to web-savvy users would have different results. The site has also long had “printer-friendly” links, so long-time users would be more likely to use them. To remove some of the long-term user bias, here are the same results but filtered by only users who have used the site for less than 3 months (over 375 users).

Here are the results for newer users:
When printing articles or pages on the Web:

  • 25.3% of users use File > Print in their browser
  • 49% of users use the printer-friendly links on the page
  • 3.1% of users use the Control-P command on their keyboard
  • 17.5% of users copy and paste the text into Word
  • 5% of users copy and paste the text into an email or other application

I realize a survey isn’t the most accurate method to get at this data, but this data is difficult to collect any other way because it is impossible to track anything other then the printer-friendly pages of a site without conducting an expensive in-person behavioral study (preferably on the users own computer).

If you know of any other research on this topic, please share it in the comments.

Must-read Interview of Marissa Mayer

Over at SearchEngineLand, Gord Hotchkiss launches his new column “Just Behave” with what I would characterize as one of the most informative Google interviews I’ve ever read. It’s a shame it was posted on a Friday. Check out the Marissa Mayer interview.

The interview confirms a number of theories I’ve had, especially about their one-box results and how and when they decide to show sponsored results in the left column. We already knew their ranking algorithms were far superior to MSN and Yahoo, but they’ve even got well-designed algorithms to decide where to place ads on a given search, whether to show news and if they should give a site in the organic results the magic one-box (the one that shows multiple links for the top site).

Google’s attention to user-experience is the main reason Yahoo and MSN haven’t caught up. MSN continues to focus on selling ads rather than improving the search experience. MSN is banking on IE 7 and adding MSN search to more MSN properties as their primary methods for increasing market share, but it won’t work because the search experience is so poor.

Beefing up the MSN AdCenter abilities won’t help either. Advertisers are already impressed with AdCenter, but they want more traffic. MSN’s focus is terribly off and I won’t be surprised if MSN’s market share in the search industry contines to slide. Here’s a key indicator: right now MSN is hiring 49 engineers for AdCenter, but only 9 for Live Search!