Dogfood

March 12, 2009

adCenter Analytics beta closing: Goodbye, Gatineau

red-sunset-casey1 If you’re an adCenter Analytics (ACA) beta customer, or you’ve read my colleague Mel’s posting over on the adCenter Community site, you’ll know that we’ve decided to close the ACA beta program at the end of the year.

In some senses, this is a sad day for me, since ACA (then known as Gatineau) was the first project I worked on when I came to Microsoft back in 2006, and even though I moved off it early last year, I’ve stayed in close contact with the ACA team since. But in assessing my own reaction to this news, it’s important to separate out the damage to my ego from a more level-headed assessment of this news. And in the latter regard, I’m full of optimism.

I know from the time I spent on the project and from talking to the team since that we have learned a great deal about the kinds of analytical capabilities that we need to provide throughout our ad platform to enable our advertisers and publishers to get the best value out of working with us. And let me be clear: analytics is tremendously important. But this announcement reflects a conclusion that we’ve come to that, for us, providing analytics in the form of a standalone tool like ACA doesn’t present the best value or utility for our customers.

Of course, it’s not my place to be making ad hoc pronouncements about our analytics product strategy, especially not at a moment like this; so I’ve probably said enough already. But I’d like to add my personal thanks to all of you who took the time to try out ACA and provide us with valuable feedback and ideas. Hopefully we provided some value for you along the way.

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July 30, 2008

Check out the new adCenter Analytics

Even though I'm no longer working on adCenter Analytics, it still gives me great pleasure to be able to tell you that the product (formerly known as Gatineau) has had a significant upgrade and now boasts a bunch of fancy new features:

 

Path analysis

CropperCapture[7] Ever wondered how people navigate through your site from your homepage, or how they reach a particular point? The path report shows an interactive, graphical view of navigational paths from or to a particular page, helping you to understand where folks are getting lost, and giving you ideas on how to make your site more effective in getting people to do what you want them to do.

 

CropperCapture[1]Dashboard

Every good web analytics product needs a dashboard to give an at-a-glance view of essential site statistics, and now adCenter Analytics has one. The dashboard is customizable via drag-and-drop, and you can also add new dashboard "gadgets" from the gadget library.

 

 

CropperCapture[2]Improved Treemap

The treemap report, which we introduced in the last refresh of the adCenter Analytics beta, has some great enhancements in this refresh, most notably the ability to segment the treemap view by age and gender, so you can get the benefit of the treemap's easy-to-digest visualization when looking at this segmentation data, and cross-reference that with site page usage.

 

CropperCapture[3]Time trends

You can now trend many items from reports by time, such as a particular page or referrer, seeing how traffic for this item has changed over time. Great for understanding when it was that that item started to contribute (or stopped contributing) traffic to your site.

 

CropperCapture[4]More segmentation

In addition to being able to segment your reports by age or gender, you can now segment reports by age/gender composites - so you can see whether men aged 25-34 are really into your cat photos, or not.

 

Enhanced plumbing

There are also a bunch of changes we've made behind the scenes to improve the reliability and performance of adCenter Analytics. You should see a snappier, more responsive UI, and far fewer of those annoying "Microsoft adCenter is experiencing problems" messages.

 

If you already have an adCenter Analytics account, you merely have to log into your account to see the new features. If you don't, you can request an account here. My colleague Mel will be posting more about the new features over on the official adCenter Analytics blog, so stay tuned.

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March 21, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in putting your hands together to give a big Web Analytics Industry welcome to...

darrinw ...Darrin Wood. [Applause]

Darrin joins the Gatineau (ok, ok, adCenter Analytics) team fresh from a stint in the Microsoft.com web analytics team, where he's spent 18 months working with our friends at WebTrends to make sure that we have the best data about the usage of our corporate website. Prior to which, he was employed by a certain well-known firm based out of Orem, Utah. So Darrin is pretty well-traveled from a web analytics point of view, and a great addition to the Analytics team.

Darrin's going to be stepping into the hole left by the departure of Justin Carder and leading product management for adCenter Analytics. To which end, you'll start seeing him popping up in all the usual places, like May's E-metrics Summit in San Francisco. Be sure to go up and say hi.

In other news, we now have a brand spanking new blog and forum for adCenter Analytics, located within the splendidness that is our new adCenter Community site. A shout-out to Mel Carson for the ton of work he's put in on this new site - it's a great resource for our adCenter customers to learn more about search marketing on adCenter and Analytics.

Finally, if you've requested access to the beta for adCenter Analytics, and haven't yet received your invite, then your wait should soon be over. Now that our beta refresh is out and we've worked through a couple of minor teething problems, we're looking to get up to date with requests for access, so you should get an invite code in the not-too-distant future.

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February 27, 2008

What's happening tomorrow?

image

Well, something cool, hopefully. Watch this space.

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January 09, 2008

Why can't you install Gatineau? (And other questions)

floppy We've had an interesting post over on the Gatineau discussion forum from Dan Regalia. In his post, Dan asks why we've chosen to provide Gatineau as a hosted-only service, with no API or connections to Microsoft's (or anyone else's) CRM platform, and no ability to run locally. I started writing a response to Dan's post on the Gatineau forum, but given the slightly wider readership of this blog, and the broader questions that Dan raises, I thought I'd put those answers here. Dan, if you're reading this, I hope you don't mind that I've answered your question in this way. If you have further questions, you're more than welcome to contact me directly.

You can read Dan's full question here. But here's a slightly shortened version (for those of you unfamiliar with DeepMetrix, the company we acquired to build Gatineau, LiveStats is their previous product line - see www.deepmetrix.com for more information):

While Livestats was valuable as something I could run locally, and manage my log files, (5 years worth of log files) etc, I'm finding that this is no longer the case with Gatineau.  So, any website trends that I've had until I get my beta code, are basically lost.  Secondly, there is no integration points with any of my current systems, such as our CRM or custom membership providers.  I am going to assume that all I get is a javascript link that I put into my webpage (much like i do for Google) and view a bunch of canned reports.

I guess what I'm saying is that while the current version of Gatineau, as it stands, will be no better than what's currently available for free from Google, we will not have any access points for system integration, and we will not own our data.  While this may be good for a personal website, or a small business, this is not something that I would not recommend for a corporate solution.  Google at least has Urchin, which is available to host on your own servers, but integration with that system may prove to be too large of project that we want to tackle. 

I would expect though, from Microsoft Corp (not the Live franchise)  is to have something available for us (corporate developers and system integrators) to tinker with and build internal systems with, with our own bells and whistles.  I am hoping that this may be something that is part of Gatineau in the near future, if not the final release.  I wouldn't mind purchasing a 'Corporate Edition' vs. a private or small biz edition if one were available with features that were addressed above (hint hint hint)

The Question I pose to the forum is this:  What did you expect to see with Gatineau, and what did you want to do with it?

There are several interesting questions here. I'll try to pull them out and answer them below.

 

1. Why is there no installable version of Gatineau?

The best way to answer this question is to look at some of the reasons why we are introducing Gatineau, and some of the qualities of the service. Gatineau is intended to be a complement to and extension of the services we provide in our adCenter platform. For those of you who are not familiar with it, adCenter is our self-service advertising platform that allows advertisers to buy paid search and contextual ads on Microsoft's network (live.com and the MSN network).

Our advertiser customers have told us that they would like to see better analysis of the effectiveness of their advertising expenditure. We also feel that adding a useful and well-integrated analytics package to our self-serve advertising platform, we'll make that platform more attractive to advertisers. And finally, given that it is known that web analytics helps marketers to spend their online budgets more effectively, we're hopeful that the analytics capabilities in adCenter will lead to a little more money being spent in adCenter.

To achieve these goals, Gatineau needs to be tightly integrated into adCenter. And because adCenter is a hosted service, Gatineau needs to be a hosted service. Plus, there are a number of key areas of functionality (in particular, the demographic segmentation capability) which can only be delivered via a hosted service.

Now, we could (as Google has done) introduce a separate version of Gatineau which is installable, and perhaps charge for it. Doing so would certainly offer our existing LiveStats customers a smoother transition to a new product. Indeed, it's something we thought long and hard about doing. I can't say that this is something we'll never do, but for the time being (and the foreseeable future) we have taken the decision not to provide the software in this way because we feel our engineering and support resources will be more efficiently allocated against a single product. I know from my experience running engineering and support for WebAbacus that supporting an installed product is no trivial matter - and Joel Spolsky agrees with me, so there.

To address the other part of Dan's question here, we don't feel that just because we are offering Gatineau as a hosted-only service that it therefore is exactly the same as Google Analytics. After all, Omniture and Webtrends' primary offerings are also hosted services, and they compete very robustly with Google's product. We feel that the demographic data in Gatineau is a significant differentiator, as well as its custom taxonomy capabilties - and those are just beta 1 features. From beta 2 onwards, we'll be seeing the advanced visualizations that I've trailed previously, as well as integration of paid search bid data from the three major search engines. So we're confident that Gatineau's not just another "me, too" product.

 

2. Why no integration?

Another aspect of Dan's post questions whether there will be any integration hooks in Gatineau to connect it to CRM, CMS and identity systems, and the like. It is one of the slight downsides of offering a hosted web analytics service that offering integration into customers' own systems becomes more challenging - not solely from a technical point of view, but more from a data ownership perspective.

At the moment, the only information I can share in this area is that Gatineau V1 won't contain any hooks or APIs to integrate external systems; but this is certainly something we're looking at. In these deliberations we need to make some key decisions about which integration points would be most valuable for our customers and partners.

Would it be most useful to offer a souped-up/automated data export feature so that other providers of services can integrate Gatineau data into, for example, CRM systems? Or would it be more useful to provide an interface UI so that other companies can "re-skin" Gatineau and offer it as part of their own suite of online services? Or on the third hand, should Gatineau be able to import data from other systems, keyed against some provided user identifier? If you have thoughts, my comments box is only a click away (well, probably a click, a scroll, a bit more clicking, tabbing and typing, and then a final click, but you get the idea).

 

3. What's the vision for Gatineau?

As I mentioned above, Gatineau is a key extension to our advertising platform value proposition. Even before our acquisition of aQuantive, this was a 10-figure business for us. Not only are we now in the business of selling advertising space on our own properties, such as MSN and Hotmail; we also represent (i.e. resell) a huge amount of ad inventory from third parties, ranging from Facebook through to Digg, CNBC, and the publishers who participate in our DRIVEpm ad network.

To compete effectively in this business, you have to offer advertisers great tools and data to help them make smart advertising decisions which will give them the best return on investment; and you have to offer intelligence and tools to publishers to make it easy for them to maximize the value they get from their inventory.

Analytics is central to this story. For advertisers, it delivers the insights about who the audience is, and how they're behaving after they click, helping those advertisers to make better media buying decisions, and optimize their site for conversions. For publishers, analytics provides the insight into content usage across the audience base which enables the publisher to sell that content (or advertising within it) at the best price.

What this means for Gatineau and our analytics efforts going forward is that you can expect to see Analytics capability very tightly integrated with our advertising tools, for both advertisers and publishers. I can't comment on the exact form this integration will take, or the timing on specific aspects, but if you're trying to understand the direction Gatineau will take in the future, you can be sure that it will continue to serve these two audiences as a priority. After all, they're the ones paying the bills.

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November 06, 2007

What's in an ANID?

ukpassport250 I promised some time ago that I'd post more information on the process by which we get the demographic data into Gatineau. As I mentioned before, this information comes ultimately from data that people provide when they sign up for a "Live ID" to access one of Microsoft's online services, such as Messenger or Hotmail (this ID was previously known as a "Passport" ID).

I also mentioned that we are careful (to say the least) to anonymize the data before we pass it over to Gatineau. The anonymization process relies on the creation of an intermediate "Anonymous ID", or ('cos we just love acronyms), the "ANID". But how does this process work? Well, my colleagues over at Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Initiative have posted an excellent white paper which explains how the ANID works and where it fits into the overall schema of the IDs and cookies you'll get when you use our online properties. The paper's here (PDF format):

Privacy Protections in Microsoft’s Ad Serving System and the Process of “De-identification”

I have only one beef with this white paper, and that's its rather lengthy title. Read it for a clear view of how we go about protecting the privacy of our online users, whilst at the same time using behavioral and demographic data to add value to the advertising inventory that we sell on our network.

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October 29, 2007

It's here

image The wait is finally over. Beta 1 of our "Gatineau" web analytics product is finally open for business! Today, Monday October 29 (coincidentally, Justin's birthday - happy birthday, Justin), we've started sending out beta signup invitation codes.  So what can you expect in beta 1? Here's the run-down:

 

Demographic segmentation

image As previously trailed, demographic segmentation - the ability t0 compare the behavior of men vs women, or different age groups who are using your site - is a key feature of Gatineau. All of Gatineau's tabular reports support this segmentation capability, so you can compare bounce rates across segments, for example, or see which of your marketing campaigns played well with women, and which with men.

Custom taxonomies

image A neat feature of Gatineau beta 1 which hasn't had much air-time is the ability to define a custom taxonomy (i.e. site structure) as you're instrumenting your site. So, for example, if you use a CMS to manage your site, you can map the document hierarchy from your CMS into the instrumentation, and see this in the Gatineau reports. When you're viewing page reports you can then select the custom taxonomy from the "Browse" menu drop-down at the top of the report box.

Funnel Report

Funnel Of course, no web analytics product would be complete without a funnel report. We've put a bunch of effort into the one inside Gatineau - as well as providing a nice visualization of the drop-out through a defined process, it also shows the top entry points into the funnel, and the top exit destinations.

Outbound link tracking

Kinda kicking myself that I didn't mention this at E-metrics last week in DC, given that Google then announced the same functionality the next day, but beta 1 provides automatic outbound link tracking. All you have to do to enable it is set a variable when you implement your tracking script, and all outbound links will be tracked - including downloads of things like PDFs. This is key functionality for folks who use server log-based reporting tools to track this aspect of site usage, as tag-based web analytics tools have historically not been great at tracking downloads.

Inbound referrals

image Gatineau's Inbound Referrals report is pretty much what you'd expect it to be; however, it includes a very useful "Not Referred" group which shows the amount of direct traffic to the site (i.e. people typing in the URL directly, or clicking on a link in an e-mail or other non-referrer-generating source).

ROI reports

image One of Gatineau's main goals is to provide marketers with a real view of how successful their marketing activities are. Beta 1 provides four ROI reports to achieve this - a Campaign Overview report which provides an all-up picture of marketing effectiveness, and E-mail, Banner and Offline Campaigns reports which provide more detail for - you've guessed it - e-mail, banner and offline campaigns. We're still working out some technical details to integrate paid search data properly into Gatineau, and when we do, paid search (including automatic integration with Microsoft adCenter paid search) will appear in this report group.

Goal analysis

image Every website has goals - even ones which don't take money from people. Gatineau's Goals report shows how many visitors are reaching the goals you've defined for your site, so you can decide if you're being successful or not.

Client system reports

image Gatineau contains the usual array of reports about your users' location and browser set-up. So, for example, you can see whether you can design your site based upon a 1024 x 768 resolution, or whether you still need to stick to 800 x 600.

 

Other stuff you need to know

There are some other things to bear in mind about this beta. The first is, if you've requested a beta invite, you'll be on the list and will receive one in due course - but remember, some people have been in the line since January, so please be patient as we ramp up users slowly; there's no need to remind us that you're waiting.

The other thing that it's worth reiterating here is that if you don't have an adCenter account already, you'll have to pay $5 to set one up in order to get access to the beta at this stage. Yes, we know this is - how can I put this? - regrettable. It's a strictly temporary situation that has arisen for no other reason than some development timeline issues internally. As soon as we can remove the $5 requirement, we will, rest assured.

Resources & Feedback

To coincide with this beta launch, we're putting some resources in place to help you get the best out of the beta. The first is a "Web Analytics" discussion board on our adCenter forum, at the following URL:

http://forums.microsoft.com/adcenter

Secondly, we'll be posting official announcements about Gatineau on the official adCenter blog, at the following URL:

http://adcenterblog.spaces.live.com/

Thirdly, even though Gatineau's just in beta, we have support folk lined up to answer your queries. You can access this support through Gatineau's online help system. Just click the "Get more help" link in the bottom right of the help window for any Gatineau help topic (the Gatineau UI is peppered with helpful little question marks which you can click to get help about that page). We're testing out our support as well as our software in this process, so we need you to try it out and let us know what you think.

Fourthly, you can send us feedback about Gatineau using the following online form:

Gatineau Feedback Form

Please feel free to send us any feedback at all that you have about the product based upon actual usage of it. If you don't have access to Gatineau yet, or you want to give us feedback about the product in general, or the beta process, please use the forum.

And finally, if you haven't requested access to the beta yet, you can do so at the following URL:

http://advertising.microsoft.com/gatineau

And finally...

We're incredibly proud of this beta, even as we know that we have a good deal of work still to do. We hope you enjoy using the product that we've put together. And I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everybody at Microsoft who's worked on the project thus far, and also our friends outside the organization who've taken the time to give us the benefit of their opinions about the project.

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October 23, 2007

Another peek at Gatineau

justincarder Following on from my Gatineau movies last week, my colleague Justin Carder has appeared in a video interview shot by the folks over at VisitMixx, talking about Gatineau and showing some more of its functionality. Justin is becoming quite the media personality, it seems. Sadly his rise to fame comes a little late for us here - Justin is leaving Microsoft to go on to pastures new. So if you're interested in working for Microsoft and having a very significant influence on the direction of this exciting project, at a pretty darn exciting time for the company (what with the aQuantive acquisition, and all), please get in touch. Contact details on my about page.

And Justin, it's been a pleasure working with you on the Gatineau project. May you find great success with your new (ad)venture!

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October 16, 2007

The skinny on Gatineau

Another E-metrics conference draws to a close (minus me, as it happens - I'm already back in Seattle). Highlights for me included the chocolates and cigars provided (as ever) by Rene, and the hospitality shown by Jim in inviting us all back to his (absolutely enormous) room at about 12.30 am until we were kicked out by the hotel management for disturbing the other guests.

For those of you unable to come to DC to see my demo of Gatineau, or if you were there but feel like you missed something as I whizzed haphazardly through the stuff I had to show, here are some screen-cap movies of the features that I focused on in the demo. First up, logging into Gatineau:

Things to note here are that Gatineau lives within the Microsoft adCenter UI; as I've previously posted, you'll need an adCenter account to gain access to Gatineau. At the moment this means you have to give us $5, but this requirement will go away in due course.

Once you've logged in, you can set up multiple profiles to manage the web analytics data associated with the sites that you want to analyze. And, of course, in order to get data into a profile, you have to take the Gatineau tracking code and put it into your pages. Applying tracking scripts is still the #1 barrier to web analytics adoption, so we decided to make it easier by adding some automation to the process: [Note: this is a beta 2 feature]

A key thing to note about this functionality is that we've implemented it as a browser plug-in; so, although it makes an FTP connection to your web server (and therefore requires you to provide username and password information), this information isn't sent to Microsoft, and we don't store it. So there's no chance of us stealing your login, logging into your webserver, and changing all your website text to say, "Microsoft rocks!", or something like that.

Finally, here's a video of the reporting UI, showing the segmentation functionality, and something that I didn't show on Monday - the funnel report. Note that the data in this demo system is rather funky - we've been deliberately throwing all sorts of odd data at the test system to try to break it, which is why the funnel has an odd look to it. Your funnels will look like funnels, I promise!

I'm not going to post videos of the Campaign or Treemap visualizations, because they're still in development. More information on these soon. I should be able to post pretty soon about the beta 1 availability date. So watch this space...

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October 12, 2007

See you in DC

wormwood I'm off to Washington DC on Sunday (along with the rest of the web analytics industry) for the E-metrics Marketing Optimization Summit. On Monday morning at 10.30 I'll be standing up in front of the entire class (about 600 people - eek) to show how Microsoft's been getting on with its homework assignment. Wish me luck - perhaps I'll get an apple from teacher. Or maybe I'll just get pushed off the swings by Mo.

[If you're going to DC, I'll be there from late Sunday evening until Tuesday afternoon. Please do come and say hello. I'm staying at the Omni Shoreham, so you may find me in the bar there on Monday night]

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