I am trying to make a prediction on the number of visitors of a website and am wondering if it can be done based only on categorical time variables. I received some guidance on how to structure my input after a question on Stack Overflow, but I still can't make predictions close to the real values, no matter what I've tried and how I've combined the data.

Here are the variables in my dataset:

  • website_id

  • date_int - would act as a time index

  • month - would be used for seasonal effect

  • type - variable derived from the response variable (number of visits), representing the size of the website by calculating an average of number of visits (ranges from 1 to 5).

  • D1, D2, D3, D4, D5, D6 - variables used to capture the "seasonal effect" for the day of week.

  • visits

I'm leaving also a link to a sample data in case it might be relevant: train.csv.

This is what the code I've tried in R looks like.

train = read.csv("trainData.csv", header = TRUE)

dates <- as.factor(train$date_int)

months <- as.factor(train$month)

model<-glm(visits ~ dates + type , train, family=poisson)

P = predict(model, newdata = train, type = "response")
imp = round(P)

I'm new to R, but from what I've seen, all the examples, even those that should be similar (like estimating sales), use other variables beside those categorical time variables. I don't have other features to base my prediction on, so I feel the need to ask if a prediction can even be made using the input given in this situation?

  • $\begingroup$ How far into the future do you wish to predict? $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Apr 11, 2016 at 21:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Quickly looking at your data, you have a great deal of heterogeneity across the websites (e.g., take a look at plot(train$website_id, train$visits)). This is at least one reason for your poor predictions. I think you need to think more about the data generating process and dig deeper into your data before worrying about predictive models. $\endgroup$ Apr 11, 2016 at 21:56

1 Answer 1


I recommend reading "Forecasting: principles and practice" https://www.otexts.org/fpp/8/2 and there are good R libs for handling your data. Using those tools, I would generate a unique forecast for each website.

WWWusage=ts(train$visits[train$website_id==w],frequency = 7)
fit <- auto.arima(WWWusage)

So to build all of them:

for(w in sort(unique(train$website_id))){
    fit <- auto.arima(WWWusage)

enter image description here

If you want to get some insight on how autoregression works, I wrote this code:

train = read.csv("/tmp/trainData.csv", header = TRUE)
repair=function(x) { if(length(x)==0) return(NA); return(x);}
for(b in seq(7*5,7*9,7)){
    for(r in 1:nrow(train)){ #slow way to do this
                                          & train$date_int==(train[r,'date_int']-b)])
      return( sqrt(sum((x-y)^2)/(length(x)-k)))

train$months <- as.factor(train$month)

model<-glm(visits ~. , train, family=poisson)

P = predict(model, newdata = train, type = "response")
imp = round(P)

Here is the poisson model:

glm(formula = visits ~ date_int + D1 + D2 + D3 + D4 + D5 + D6 + 
    backshift35 + backshift42 + backshift49 + backshift56 + backshift63 + 
    months, family = poisson, data = train)

Deviance Residuals: 
    Min       1Q   Median       3Q      Max  
-72.386   -4.389    1.126    6.912   54.939  

              Estimate Std. Error z value Pr(>|z|)    
(Intercept)  1.003e+01  2.405e-02 416.935  < 2e-16 ***
date_int    -3.380e-03  1.125e-04 -30.044  < 2e-16 ***
D1          -4.000e-02  3.425e-03 -11.680  < 2e-16 ***
D2           7.957e-01  9.623e-03  82.686  < 2e-16 ***
D3           6.755e-01  8.258e-03  81.800  < 2e-16 ***
D4           6.502e-01  7.997e-03  81.299  < 2e-16 ***
D5           5.791e-01  7.470e-03  77.530  < 2e-16 ***
D6           4.544e-01  6.173e-03  73.602  < 2e-16 ***
backshift35  9.173e-06  5.502e-07  16.671  < 2e-16 ***
backshift42 -1.368e-05  5.191e-07 -26.353  < 2e-16 ***
backshift49  1.408e-06  5.656e-07   2.489  0.01280 *  
backshift56 -2.305e-05  6.010e-07 -38.358  < 2e-16 ***
backshift63  1.957e-06  6.035e-07   3.242  0.00119 ** 
months9     -3.231e-01  1.332e-02 -24.258  < 2e-16 ***
months10    -2.589e-01  1.070e-02 -24.192  < 2e-16 ***
months11    -2.907e-01  7.710e-03 -37.706  < 2e-16 ***
months12    -3.915e-01  4.577e-03 -85.529  < 2e-16 ***
Signif. codes:  0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1

(Dispersion parameter for poisson family taken to be 1)

    Null deviance: 157970  on 134  degrees of freedom
Residual deviance:  39894  on 118  degrees of freedom
AIC: 41448

Number of Fisher Scoring iterations: 4

You can try different values of website_id (w). I had backshift start at 5 weeks ago which allows you to easily forecast 5 weeks, but you can forecast farther than that by making predictions based on predictions.

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ For the predict function the same data the model was trained with was used as a sort of test data, so the values should be an optimistic representation, but there are websites(from what I saw those who have values close to 0 or those that have 0 values from beginning to end) where the difference between the values that the regression preddicts and the actual values is quite big, could this be improved in some way? The regression seems to work only for larger data in this case, am I mistaken? $\endgroup$ Apr 12, 2016 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ Of course it can be improved. For those little visits website, I doubt it is poisson. Btw, at least you could "tip" my answer by giving it an up vote. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Apr 13, 2016 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, thought I accepted it. It is exactly what I was looking for $\endgroup$ Apr 13, 2016 at 20:31

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