Web Analytics using R , Google Analytics and TS Forecasting

This is a continuation of the previous post on using Google Analytics .

Now that we have downloaded and plotted the data- we try and fit time series to the website data to forecast future traffic.

Some observations-

1) Google Analytics has 0 predictive analytics, it is just descriptive analytics and data visualization models (including the recent social analytics). However you can very well add in basic TS function using R to the GA API.

Why do people look at Website Analytics? To know today’s traffic and derive insights for the Future

2) Web Data clearly follows a 7 day peak and trough for weekly effects (weekdays and weekends), this is also true for hourly data …and this can be used for smoothing historic web data for future forecast.

3) On an advanced level, any hugely popular viral posts can be called a level shift (not drift) and accoringly dampened.

Test and Control!

Similarly using ARIMAX, we can factor in quantity and tag of posts as X regressor variables.

and now the code-( dont laugh at the simplicity please, I am just tinkering and playing with data here!)

You need to copy and paste the code at the bottom of   this post  http://www.decisionstats.com/using-google-analytics-with-r/ if you want to download your GA data down first.

Note I am using lubridate ,forecast and timeSeries packages in this section.

#Plotting the Traffic  plot(ga.data$data[,2],type="l") 


#Using package lubridate to convert character dates into time
names(dataset1) <- make.names(names(dataset1))
dataset2 <- ts(dataset1$ga.visitors,start=0,frequency = frequency(dataset1$ga.visitors), names=dataset1$ga.date)

 #Note I am splitting the data into test and control here


bb=SMA(dataset2,n=7)#We are doing a simple moving average for every 7 days. Note this can be 24 hrs for hourly data, or 30 days for daily data for month # 

to month comparison or 12 months for annual
#We notice that Web Analytics needs sommethening for every 7 thday as there is some relation to traffic on weekedays /weekends /same time last week

plot(bb,type="l",main="Using Seven Day Moving Average for Web Visitors")
plot(dataset2,main="Original Data")

Created by Pretty R at inside-R.org

Though I still wonder why the R query, gA R code /package could not be on the cloud (why it  needs to be downloaded)– cloud computing Gs?

Also how about adding some MORE predictive analytics to Google Analytics, chaps!

To be continued-

auto.arima() and forecasts!!!

cross validations!!!

and adapting the idiosyncratic periods and cycles  of web analytics to time series !!

Interview Zach Goldberg, Google Prediction API

Here is an interview with Zach Goldberg, who is the product manager of Google Prediction API, the next generation machine learning analytics-as-an-api service state of the art cloud computing model building browser app.
Ajay- Describe your journey in science and technology from high school to your current job at Google.

Zach- First, thanks so much for the opportunity to do this interview Ajay!  My personal journey started in college where I worked at a startup named Invite Media.   From there I transferred to the Associate Product Manager (APM) program at Google.  The APM program is a two year rotational program.  I did my first year working in display advertising.  After that I rotated to work on the Prediction API.

Ajay- How does the Google Prediction API help an average business analytics customer who is already using enterprise software , servers to generate his business forecasts. How does Google Prediction API fit in or complement other APIs in the Google API suite.

Zach- The Google Prediction API is a cloud based machine learning API.  We offer the ability for anybody to sign up and within a few minutes have their data uploaded to the cloud, a model built and an API to make predictions from anywhere. Traditionally the task of implementing predictive analytics inside an application required a fair amount of domain knowledge; you had to know a fair bit about machine learning to make it work.  With the Google Prediction API you only need to know how to use an online REST API to get started.

You can learn more about how we help businesses by watching our video and going to our project website.

Ajay-  What are the additional use cases of Google Prediction API that you think traditional enterprise software in business analytics ignore, or are not so strong on.  What use cases would you suggest NOT using Google Prediction API for an enterprise.

Zach- We are living in a world that is changing rapidly thanks to technology.  Storing, accessing, and managing information is much easier and more affordable than it was even a few years ago.  That creates exciting opportunities for companies, and we hope the Prediction API will help them derive value from their data.

The Prediction API focuses on providing predictive solutions to two types of problems: regression and classification. Businesses facing problems where there is sufficient data to describe an underlying pattern in either of these two areas can expect to derive value from using the Prediction API.

Ajay- What are your separate incentives to teach about Google APIs  to academic or researchers in universities globally.

Zach- I’d refer you to our university relations page

Google thrives on academic curiosity. While we do significant in-house research and engineering, we also maintain strong relations with leading academic institutions world-wide pursuing research in areas of common interest. As part of our mission to build the most advanced and usable methods for information access, we support university research, technological innovation and the teaching and learning experience through a variety of programs.

Ajay- What is the biggest challenge you face while communicating about Google Prediction API to traditional users of enterprise software.

Zach- Businesses often expect that implementing predictive analytics is going to be very expensive and require a lot of resources.  Many have already begun investing heavily in this area.  Quite often we’re faced with surprise, and even skepticism, when they see the simplicity of the Google Prediction API.  We work really hard to provide a very powerful solution and take care of the complexity of building high quality models behind the scenes so businesses can focus more on building their business and less on machine learning.



Towards better Statistical Interfaces

I was just walking about the U Tenn campus thinking about my next month departure from the school back to India when I ran into Bob Muenchen , head of the Stats consulting centre and more famously the author of ” R for SAS and SPSS users” . Bob mentioned that the edition for R for Stata should be ready for next month. It was also his idea for the article on Red R.

In fact what perplexes users of statistical software like me is why complex softwares like R or SAS choose interfaces that are clearly not as well designed in simplicity as they are in statistical rigor. I think SPSS to some extent and JMP to a much greater extent represent well designed user interfaces. While Rattle , R Commander , R Analytical Flow and Red R are examples for R interfaces SAS also invested in the Enterprise class interfaces.

On all these I belive there is a much greater need for say a Pro UI designer and clean it up. I was reading Prof Maeda’s laws of simplicity ( see http://lawsofsimplicity.com ) and just comparing and contrasting that with some of the softwares I end up using.

The Principles of Reduce ( Shrink, Hide , Embody ) and Organize ( Sort , Label , Integrate and Priortize ) need to be looked into by the Chief Software Interface designers for analytics and BI. While attempts to create more and more robust and faster algorithms and prettier dashboards are important is it not important to simplify the process and procedures to do so . The software which is easier to learn and pick up will tend to have an edge over less visually designed softwares. Keeping it simple helped Apple in the retail electronics and software , it needs to be seen who or which enterprise BI or BA software will make attempts to do the same. An ideal stats or BI interface should be simple and powerful enough to be used by decision makers directly on occasion rather rely on the middleware of analysts and consultants solely.