Stellar Startups: Through the Internet’s looking glass

ClickTale ‘watches’ how anonymous users interact with webpages, analyzes the information and then helps owners design more successful sites.

By DAVID SHAMAH
November 28, 2011 22:16
website's heat map

website heat map_311. (photo credit: Courtesy ClickTale)

 
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Little kids often think there is someone watching them from the other side (or even the inside) of the TV screen. It makes sense, actually – if you can see them, they should be able to see you! Of course, as we grow up, we learn that those “people” are actually electronically transmitted images, and unlike in the novel 1984, the TV set cannot “see” what you’re doing.

Of course, the same holds true for the Internet – not! Believe it or not, the folks on the other side of many websites can see exactly what you are doing at any given moment: what you’re looking at, where you’re clicking (or not clicking), how long you are watching a page, the thing you find most interesting on their site – in other words, just about every aspect of your interaction with their site!

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No worries, though. Unlike in George Orwell’s nightmarish world, the people “watching” you from the other side of the Internet aren’t interested in your political opinions; they’re interested in selling you stuff (or using your presence on their site to otherwise earn money or some other reward). They work night and day just to get you to visit their web pages and take the specific action their sites seek – fill out a form, buy a product, watch an ad or click on a link.

A whole industry – web analytics – has sprung up to help site owners figure out what it takes to keep you surfing on their site, analyzing information about your Internet session (checking out where you were before you came to their site, what you clicked on while visiting, how long you stayed on the site, etc.).

But while most analytic systems “essentially just do visitor counting,” the system offered by Ramat Gan-based ClickTale (http://www.clicktale.com) is far more comprehensive, says Shmuli Goldberg, ClickTale’s senior technology evangelist.

“We don’t focus on how many people came to a page, or even where they came from. Instead, we analyze everything a guest does on the web page, allowing site owners to improve their sites, increasing the conversion rate for the site significantly.”

For websites, it really is all about the “conversion rate” – getting a visitor to the site to take a specific action. On some sites, that would entail getting someone to buy a product. On another, it could mean holding a user’s attention longer in order to enable the site to serve up more ads. On a third site, it could mean promoting a user to download a document, click on a Facebook “like” or sign up for an e-mail newsletter. In all cases, says Goldberg, ClickTale has what the site owner needs – detailed information on what a site guest did or didn’t do, complete with statistics, graphs, heat maps (showing the areas that users found most attractive, known as the “hot” parts of a webpage) and even video recordings of specific web sessions!

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ClickTale does all this by supplying sites with a small piece of Javascript (which doesn’t affect the site’s loading speed, the company says) that captures every mouse move, click, scroll and keystroke that a visitor makes inside a webpage. The script rechecks the movement of the mouse every few milliseconds, and keeps track of all actions. It then sends this information back in a highly compressed package to the ClickTale servers (the company hosts all the information and does all the work), where it is sliced, diced, and otherwise analyzed in dozens of different ways.

It should be stressed that the information is sent back anonymously; ClickTale does not record IP addresses or any other data that could identify individual users.

So, if a commerce site wants to know why they are getting a lot of users checking out their product on their site, but are losing them before they pay at checkout, they can examine ClickTale reports showing where they drop out. If they see that many users closed the page before clicking on the “checkout” button, it could be that the design of that pre-pay page is unfriendly or has a bug. If they find that most users actually filled in their name but dropped out before filling in their credit card information, they might need to examine their credit card info box – maybe it only has room for 15 digits, instead of the required 16!

The information provided by ClickTale lets the site check out the problem and fix it. In fact, if they want, site owners can watch the actual session of a particular (again, anonymous) user and see the user experience from the “other side”- thanks to ClickTale’s video recording of user sessions.

“It’s a great tool for site owners to see how users interact with their sites, finding the one or two bugs that prevent customers from using the site the way the owner is expecting,” says Goldberg. “The whole ClickTale system helps them understand what users do or don’t do with their sites, giving them information on problems – and advantages – they can use to improve their user experience,” increasing that all-important conversion rate.

And it works, says Goldberg, who points to thousands of case studies ClickTale has gathered showing conversion rate improvements of between 20% and 200%!

“Today, everyone expects a firstclass user experience on every website, and if they don’t get it on the first or second try, they’re gone,” says Goldberg.

“Our aim is to keep users on the site to accomplish the thing they set out to do, ensuring that site owners can give users the experience they expect.”

But for a real indication of Click- Tale’s abilities, all you have to do is look at the company’s client list. Right now, ClickTale has a whopping 70,000 customers all over the world – including some of the biggest and most important websites in their fields, from LinkedIn to Groupon to Proctor and Gamble to Target to many, many others, even bigger and more famous.

“We’ve been doubling in size every eight months, and we soon expect to hit 100,000 customers,” says Goldberg.

Moreover, a new filtering system being introduced by ClickTale that allows site owners to track users anonymously over time and “type” (lurkers, researchers, etc.) will sweeten the pot even more for sites that aren’t yet members of the ClickTale family.

ClickTale is a true Israeli success story, with all its operations, including back-end and sales, taking place in its local offices. Click- Tale was founded in June 2006 by Dr. Tal Schwartz (CEO) and Arik Yavilevich (CTO) in a garage in Haifa.

It grew slowly for its first couple of years, and then ballooned in 2008 and 2009. Now, ClickTale is a major international player in web analytics, keeping users on sites longer and making sure they enjoy themselves while they are there.

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