Web Analytics

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Web Analytics Terminology

What's a Hit?

A 'hit' is really a useless measure. Hits refers literally how many requests were made of your server. In the good ol' days, this was a great measurement since a web page was usually an independent entity. Once upon a time, images were the exception, not the rule. Requesting a web page literally displayed a single full web page. That's not the case anymore.

As web technology has evolved, though, so have web pages and their ability to organize content and tools efficiently. When my home page loads, the browser actually makes 17 requests!!! Images, style sheets, javascript files, advertisements, widgets, etc., etc. No less than 5 of those requests were made directly to my web server. So... if I were basing my success on 'hits', I would be exaggerating my actual visitors by at least a multiple of 4.

Analytics Packages are Downplaying Hits

Login to your favorite Analytics package (I like Google Analytics and Clicky) and you won't find 'hits' anywhere. Thankfully, the Analytics professionals are finally paying attention to the metrics that matter most. Clicky even adds your feed statistics from the Feedburner API to your reporting!

Here are the key performance metrics to watch for your Web Site:

  • Visits or Unique Visits - to the best of their ability, Analytics providers will track individuals that come to your website that have never been there before. The methodology is not foolproof since I can visit a website on two different computers (or even two different browsers) and get counted more than once. Users can also block tracking of their visits by killing Cookies (little files that sites place on your PC to keep track of you... don't worry - they're actually pretty useful). However, comparisons of log files to Analytics packages that capture stats via Javascript see negligible differences.
  • Pageviews - Pageviews are the total number of full pages that are loaded throughout all the visits and within the timespan you are measuring.
  • Pages per Visit - Pageviews are important when you're taking a clean look at how many of your visitors actually stick around. 7 visitors and 7 pageviews? That means each visitor only read one page. As a blogger, my Pageviews are much lower than I'd like, so monitoring them is imporant. Great content and linking between posts will keep visitors around or attract them to other posts. You'll see many links within my posts as well as som erelated posts in my sidebar... those are there to try to keep folks around. The more they stick around, the better I'm doing!
  • New Visitor Rate - Out of everyone that visits your web site, this is a count of the ones that have never visited in a percentage format. I like to keep an eye on this number as well... as long as I can maintain my existing visitors and push new ones, that means I'm retaining readers and growing.
  • Bounce Rate - These are the folks that visit your site and bail out. This normally means they just weren't finding what they were looking for. Keep an eye on this... it may be that you're getting incorrectly indexed for your content or your content stinks. Make sure you promote what you are and then stick to it. That will keep folks around.
  • Average Time On Site - Like Pages per Visit, the more the better, right? For me, sure. However, for a website where I'm selling something, this could mean that my site is a pain in the butt to navigate and I need to do some work. Making people move around your site uncomfortably may increase your average time on site, but they'll never come back.
  • Conversions - within the ecommerce world, a 'conversion' is usually a purchase. It means they came, they found, they bought! For a blog like mine, it may mean they clicked on an advertisement, made a speaking engagement request, or downloaded a pamphlet. What's the goal of your blog or website? Are you actually measuring that as a conversion? You should be! Within Analytics packages, conversions are normally measured by programmatically adding 'Goals' to your site in the Analytics package with some specific code in your confirmation pages. (ie. Thanks for downloading!).

Originally posted at The Marketing Technology Blog

Web Analytics Books

Web Analytics Articles at The Marketing Technology Blog

  • Google Analytics - how to track a page hosted outside your site
  • Google Analytics - tracking category popularity in WordPress using Google Analytics
  • Web Analytics - how bad do Analytics packages overstate the number of visitiors?

Web Analytics Online Resources

Web Analytics Conferences

Web Analytics Organizations

Web Analytics Providers

Mobile Analytics Providers

Web Analytics Solutions

About the Web Analytics Page

Page owned and operated by Douglas A. Karr, The Marketing Technology Blog

See my other pages: Email Marketing and Corporate Blogging