Chapter 2. What Business Are You In?

Every web business tracks key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure how well it’s doing. While there are some universally important metrics, like performance and availability, each business has its own definitions of success. It also has its own user communities and competitors, meaning that it needs to watch the Web beyond its own sites in different ways.

Consider, for example, a search engine and an e-commerce site. The search engine wants to show people content, serve them relevant advertising, then send them on their way and make money for doing so. For a search engine, it’s good when people leave—as long as they go to the right places when they do. In fact, the sooner someone leaves the search engine for a paying advertiser’s site, the better, because that visitor has found what she was looking for.

By contrast, the e-commerce site wants people to arrive (preferably on their own, without clicking on an ad the e-commerce site will have to pay for) and to stay for as long as it takes them to fill their shopping carts with things beyond what they originally intended.

The operators of these two sites not only track different metrics, they also want different results from their visitors: one wants visitors to stay and the other wants them to leave.

That’s just for the sites they run themselves. The retailer might care about competitors’ pricing on other sites, and the search engine might want to know it has more results, or better ones, than others. ...

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