Five Basic Traffic Metrics Explained
If you look at traffic in terms of Website Analytics, it actually comprises five different ingredients:
- Sessions (also called visits): a session is any one person visiting your website any one time. Let's say I visit your site 10 times in one week, my visits count as 10 sessions, whether I stayed on your side for 5 min. or one hour.
- Unique visitors (also called uniques if you want to sound terribly professional): a unique visitor is any one person visiting your website any number of times during a defined timeframe. For example, if I had to visit your site 10 times in a week, I still count as only one unique visitor.
- Pageviews: eight-page use is defined as anyone visits to. One page on your site, one time. A page must have a unique address, or URL. If I visit your homepage but then click a link and visit, contactus.HTML, those are two pageviews.
- Time on Site: this is defined as the total amount of time one visitor spends on your site in the course of a single session. Average time on site is an invaluable measure off visit quality and visitor interest.
- Referrers: if I click a link on Google.com and land on your site, then Google is the referrer.
Any traffic reporting toolset showing website analytics, even the most basic, must provide these five metrics. These five metrics typically show up right on the first page or dashboard of your website analytics package, whether you are using Google analytics or cpanel awstats.
Website Analytics Broken Down
A session is defined as anyone visits to your website, therefore sessions are a good measure off-site use and load. If you think about sessions as foot traffic in the traditional retail store, the same people my go in and out of the store, but that does not matter. If the store is full it's full.
Don't use sessions to measure following:
- Audience size: if someone visits, leaves, and then returns to your website many times, one person can generate multiple sessions in any time period. So, sessions can be far higher than unique visits.
- Add performance: advertising, whether pay per click ads, e-mail, banners, or other creative elements is created to bring you new customers. Because sessions don't differentiate between new and repeat visitors, they are not a good measure of add performance.
Using sessions to measure the following:
- Conversion rates based on foot traffic: if you want to know how many visits it takes to get a sale or a lead, you need to know how many sessions you get in a given time period.
- General interest in your website: even though one person can generate many sessions, sessions are still a great way to see how much interest you are generating.
- Peak Times day, month or year: many businesses are cyclical by day or season. Peaks or lows in sessions might put a pattern that tells you the customers are more active at a specific time of day or year.
Some website analytics experts, give sessions a bad reputation. This means that people often times focus more on unique visitors, but sessions do provide valuable information.
Checking Unique Visitors
Unique visitors reports are a good measure of audience size, add performance, and the effect of blog mentions.
Don't use unique visitors to measure the following:
- Visitor interest: unique visits a day to tell you how many people come to your site. On its own, it tells you nothing about how much they like the site. Combine the state that was page views and time on site to make that kind of analysis.
- Overall site activity: if 100 unique visitors come to your site in a week, that might seem like a small group. However, if they each come to the site 100 times, that's 10,000 sessions. Use sessions to check site activity, not unique visitors.
Use unique visitors to measure:
- Audience size: unique visitors are a great absolute measure of your audience in a given time frame. After all, 10,000 sessions are great. If this represents only 100 unique visitors though, your audience isn't that big.
- Changes over time: watch unique visitors over time. If your audience suddenly doubles in size after that local news coverage, you know that story had an impact.
- Comparison with sessions: a single visit the generating 10 sessions in a week bestowal anyone unique visitor. By comparing unique visits with sessions, you can see how many folks who tend to your site more than once.
So now you see how these metrics build on each other? Sessions alone all useful, as are unique visitors, but sessions compared with unique visitors is even better.
If unique visitors are the people, then page views are the footprints. Pageviews are the measure of interest in specific areas of your website. Most website analytics tools will give you a few different ways to look at page views.
Don't use page views to measure
- Audience size: One visitor may view 100 pages, while another may only look at one. Having one customer who walks to your store and looks at every product isn't as good as having 10 look at a few products each. The same holds true for the web. Page views are not a good measure of audience size.
Use Page Used to Measure:
- Visitor interest: combined with the visitor data, page views are a great reflection of visitor interest. If someone stays on your website and looks at 10 pages, chances are that visitor is more interested than someone stays on your website and looks at a new one page.
- Content performance: pages that get more page views are better performers. They also tell you what your audience wants to hear. A page that gets 4000 views in a month is probably drawing more interest than a page that gets 1000.
Tracking Time on Site
Time on site is a useful metric when combined with page views, visits, sessions, and average time. Together, they give a more complete view of site performance and user interest. Consider the examples in the following sections:
- If average time on site plunged: you might have gotten a lot of new visitors, but they were far less interested and probably won't give you much long term benefit.
- If average time on site stayed constant: then those additional visitors spent at least as much time on your site as the rest.
Referrers complete the basic traffic reporting toolset. A referrer is a webpage that points to your website. When someone clicks a link, that webpage becomes a referrer. Referrer spamming many flavors,
- A traditional webpage that might have a link to your site.
- A link in an e-mail that someone reads in a web based e-mail reader, like Hotmail or Gmail.
- A search result on a search engine.
So, a referrer tells you where visitors came from when they reached your website.
This brings us to the end of our tutorial on website analytics, hopefully you have get some insight in understanding how to read your traffic stats. Whether you are using Google analytics or AWStats in your cpanel if you don't know what you are looking at your wasting your time. So I suggest that you become very familiar with your traffic metrics.