Sessions, page views, unique visitors, new visitors, repeat visitors, referrers, external referrers, internal referrers, bounce rates, click-through rate, organic keywords, paid keyword, session duration... Welcome to the wonderful world of online analytics. And yes, these words actually have significance when it comes to keeping an eye on your website’s traffic patterns. Understanding what influences these numbers will give your business valuable insight towards improving your online marketing.
Back in the 90s a very popular web metric was “hits.” As in a “hit” to the server or page. Now while the term may have captured the coolness of the high-tech pop-culture surrounding the new medium, it really wasn’t all that helpful. Any element or file on a web page is usually registered as a “hit.” If my home page contained nine image files, my home page would register 10 hits — one for the web page itself, and nine for the image files. As web pages and coding evolved, you might have thousands of hits per page; but what does that really mean? So people would create their own benchmarks based on bloated hit counts to develop their own averages for their sites and extrapolate this from that and on and on the painful explanation would go. Hits were okay to give you an idea of activity on your site, but nothing really accurate in terms of how many people were actually visiting your site or what they were doing.
Everyone has their own opinions about which numbers are most significant and which stats package is the best. And like with any stats, they can be used or abused, learned from or manipulated.
For the last decade or so web metrics and analytics have most definitely improved. You can learn a lot about your customers, how to make your business’ e-commerce experience more effective, which of your web features have the most traction, which websites your customers are coming from, how long they browse and this is really the basics, pretty much standard with any web stats package. Just imagine what Google, Facebook and Apple have on us — better yet, don’t.
There are several different metrics used in the online world across the vast digital landscape of e-commerce, porn and cat videos. Some are more important than others depending on your business. If I’m running an e-boutique, I’m interested in metrics that tell me about my customers’ shopping experience and what’s selling. If I’m a U.S. distributor, I’d be looking at what sales tools my retailers are utilizing. A blogger or social media marketer might look at stats that measure audience engagement, a B2B manufacturer might be looking at global traffic patterns (among other things), and a performer might be looking at video downloads, or social media shares. The point of this paragraph of amazing examples is to make sure that you go in knowing what metrics are meaningful for your business/website and what are not.
Everyone has their own opinions about which numbers are most significant and which stats package is the best. And like with any stats, they can be used or abused, learned from or manipulated. You can use stats to show whatever you want — at least for a little while. At the end of the day, the numbers don’t lie. However, just like with news, it’s better to have multiple sources for your information. It’s not unusual to have four different sources tell you four different things — then again, you may have five sources telling you one thing, and a sixth telling you something different. Is that an aberration? Could be — or it could be something the other sources aren’t recognizing — this is why you have multiple sources, to get an overall picture.
Here’s a quick primer of online metric terms that you may find helpful and/or interesting to apply to your website(s).
A session is a measure of a “visit.” For example, I head over to JoeBlowsSite.com. While I’m there I click the “About Joe” page, the “Services” page, I send Joe an email on the “Contact Joe” page and I leave the site. That’s a session.
This is just what it sounds like. When a page is accessed or viewed. The Joe Blow “About Joe” page for example, might have received 400 page views last month but only 100 sessions.
This is to determine how many different users are accessing JoeBlowsSite.com. Everyone wants more unique visitors or customers obviously, not just Joe and the staff accessing the website. This is an important number to keep in mind if you’re testing your website and notice spikes in traffic — you’d have a lot of the same users (your staff).
An external referrer is an outside website, page, email, or social media channel sending your website traffic. Joe posted a link on his company Facebook page, people clicked it and because of that, Facebook is registering in Joe’s stats as an “external referrer.”
An internal referrer is a link from inside the website. Joe has a killer tower ad running in the sidebar promoting his new widget repair service, and people are clicking it.
When people get of your site immediately after entering, without exploring anything — or “bounce.” For example, me instantly leaving JoeBlowsSite.com upon discovering it was porn-free, contributed to Joe’s high bounce rate.
Get to know your web stats and keep an eye on the online metrics that will benefit your business the most.
Brian Sofer is the digital marketing director for Pipedream Products. A marketer for over 20 years, Sofer has implemented effective integrated marketing strategies for a diverse range of clients in the adult, music, action sports and smoke industries.