Google Research

Forecasting Web Page Views: Methods and Observations

JMLR, vol. 9(Oct) (2008), pp. 2217-2250


Web sites must forecast Web page views in order to plan computer resource allocation and estimate upcoming revenue and advertising growth. In this paper, we focus on extracting trends and seasonal patterns from page view series, two dominant factors in the variation of such series. We investigate the Holt-Winters procedure and a state space model for making relatively short-term prediction. It is found that Web page views exhibit strong impulsive changes occasionally. The impulses cause large prediction errors long after their occurrences. A method is developed to identify impulses and to alleviate their damage on prediction. We also develop a long-range trend and season extraction method, namely the Elastic Smooth Season Fitting (ESSF) algorithm, to compute scalable and smooth yearly seasons. ESSF derives the yearly season by minimizing the residual sum of squares under smoothness regularization, a quadratic optimization problem. It is shown that for long-term prediction, ESSF improves accuracy significantly over other methods that ignore the yearly seasonality.

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