Posts Tagged ‘analytics


Hit Me Again! Visit Metrics Explained

Here’s how long we’ve been doing this SEO stuff: when we started, the only statistic anybody seemed to care a whit about was “hits.” As in “Cool, we got 4,323 hits last month,” or “Can you get my hit count up by 20%?” Since it seemed like a direct, easy to count measure of a web page’s performance, counting hits became a universal sport. Sites were graded and judged purely on the basis of how many hits they got.

It took a while before folks began to understand what a “hit” actually was. And then it became clear that a hit was a pretty ambiguous way to measure site activity. So we moved to “eyeballs.” And then to “uniques.” And so on.

The truth of it is, of course, more complicated than any of that. There are a number of different ways to look at visits, and the best picture you can get will be a synthesis of several of these analytic methods. Luckily, Google Analytics comes with a good variety of visit metrics—enough to give most webmasters all the data they need to make important decisions like which page to put that cat-with-an-ice-cream-headache video the CEO loves so much.

Here, in a nutshell, is a partial list of important visit metrics defined and explained.

abandonment rate: A measure of the percentage of visitors that begin some defined process (such as placing an order or filling out a questionnaire) but stop before completing it. This is a very good metric to keep an eye on if you are doing ecommerce of any sort—it can help you figure out where there might be barriers that prevent interested customers from completing a purchase.

bounce rate: A measure of the percentage of visits that discover the site, then leave after seeing only one page. This metric can help show whether your content is relevant to the searches leading to it, interesting enough to capture visitor attention, and designed in such as way as to appeal to casual guests.

conversion rate: A measure of the percentage of visitors who complete some defined process such as placing an order, or filling out a contact form. Any visitor action can be declared a “conversion.”

depth of visit: A measure of the number of pages viewed by any given visitor during a specific visit. This metric can help indicate how appealing a site is—kind of the opposite of “bounce rate.” It can also be a bit deceptive, though, as high depth-of-visit numbers can sometimes be a warning that the targeted site content is difficult to locate or buried beneath too many links.

hit: The number of requests to the web server placed by the visitor’s browser. The reason this measure is not very useful is that a single page can require many requests in order to load. Each image, script, widget, sprite, or include required by the page will count as a hit, making complex pages seem more popular than simple ones with the same number of actual visitors.

loyalty: A measure of the number of visitors who are returning to the site after an initial visit, and the number of times they’ve returned. This is a good way to understand how well social marketing, brand recognition, and loyalty incentive programs are working.

new visit: The number of visits to a site that are first time visitors. While this is a good number to be aware of, it should also be noted that visitors who do not accept cookies (such as those who leave their browsers’ security settings on maximum) will always show as new.

visit: A measure of the number of times the website has been loading into a browser. Also known as eyeballs. This is a better measure of traffic than “hits” as it gives a more accurate picture of how many people are interacting with a site.

pageview: The number of pages within a site that are viewed during visits. A high number of pageviews is generally considered positive, although may indicate certain issues. (see depth of visit.)

recency: A measure of how close together returning visits are spaced. This can help you understand the effect of special promotions or timed events and can also be a good way to watch for sudden declines in interest caused by changes to the site or other factors.

time on page:  A measure of the amount of time visitors spend on the site. Also known as length of visit.  This is a useful way of tracking the appeal of content—people tend to stay longer if they are interested in what they see—but can also indicate pages that have too much content, layout that’s too complicated, or pages that take too long to fully load.

unique visit: A measure of the number of different individuals who have viewed the page during a given timeframe. This number discounts return visits to show only the unique potential customers that have visited.

All of the above metrics are available through Google Analytics. We definitely recommend that anyone doing business online get started on GA as soon as possible. More importantly, we suggest that everyone using GA learn how to use it, how to interpret the data, and then how to use the knowledge to improve site performance.