Here at Econsultancy we’re big on data, and we believe that the best way for publishers to monetise their online audience is to properly evaluate visitors, just like the smarter retailers do. We’ve created a tool to show you how we’re trying to do this.

Called ‘Project Arachnid’, the tool is essentially a real-time visualisation of our website traffic. You can see new visitors arriving at the different sections of our website, represented by dots.

Project Arachnid

The visualisation is limited to the top-level pages of our website, as it would look too cluttered were we to index every single page. That’s not to say we don’t have the data for visitor activity on these deeper pages.

The different colours and sizes of the dot represent value. We use blue to indicate a relatively low value visitor, based on what we know about them. In some cases this isn’t very much, but we can see where on the site they are, in which part of the world they live, and the referral source, among other things.

A bright red dot indicates that they’re a high value visitor. This could be because they’re looking at one of our bigger ticket items, such as in-house training, or it could be because we know a lot more about them. Purple lives somewhere inbetween red and blue, and as such conveys a medium value. Note that the colours are relative… let Arachnid play out for a minute or so to better understand how it works.

A white circle around the dot means that they’re logged in, which allows us to see their user data. This includes things like subscription status, purchase history, content contributions, and so on. It provides a much richer view of a particular user (although we’ve obscured some of the data to make Arachnid available for public consumption). We allocated values and multipliers to each visit, as you can see by clicking on one of the dots…

The values come from a blend of data from Google Analytics, and our in-house e-commerce and CRM databases. There’s more detail on the Arachnid page. You’ll see that the average visitor to the blog is worth a mere £0.09, whereas somebody looking at the ‘Why Join’ page is worth £13.60. Multipliers kick in based on recency and frequency metrics, among other things. 

This sort of data is invaluable for marketing automation, which we’re going to be rolling out over the next year or so, and proactive customer service. We will be able to set triggers and alerts, based on real-time user activity. For example, we could instigate a live chat session, for high value visitors who are lingering on a particular page, and who may need help. Or we could send an email or training brochure to somebody who has been looking at our training courses. 

There’s a lot of scope to do smart things, based on real-time data. We remain bullish about prospects for publishers, so long as they think like retailers. It’s something that we’re trying to do, to make the most of our web traffic.

The project was the brainchild of CEO Ashley Friedlein and largely engineered by Chief Architect Tom Stuart. It allowed us to play around with HTML5, using the Canvas and WebSocket APIs. We recommend that you use Chrome or Safari to see Arachnid in action, as some other browsers do not yet properly support these new technologies.

Anyway, do check out Project Arachnid and let us know what you think.