It is imperative to understand what sort of experience visitors have with your website and specifically, how people are moving around and utilizing your site. This is essential for sites that want to attract and keep advertisers but it is also very important for product and service sites without ads. By knowing how customers get to your site, where your customers ‘travel’ through your site, how long they spend on specific pages and where they ‘exit’ you can optimize your site for the best results. By using web statistic reports you can see if changes you make to your site result in more visits and/or sales and, if your site does have ads, the advertisers can predict the revenue they will receive based on these statistics.
To help you understand this journey we have defined some of the key web statistics terms.
On-site web analytics
On-site web analytics is the study of the online behaviour of visitors to your website in order to improve its results. Web stat reports from companies, such as Webalizer, let you measure the performance of your website in a commercial context. There are several different web statistic programs available – most hosting companies include one in their packages.
Each time a web page on a site is accessed by a visitor, it counts as one page view, whether or not the same user viewed the same page 10 seconds ago.
Hit or Page Hit
Hit or Page Hit is the retrieval of any items related to a web page from the web server. A single web page can have several items, images, cascading style sheets, scripts etc., that all count as hits. For example, when a visitor calls up a web page with six images that counts as at least seven hits; one for each of the images and one for the page itself (plus possibly more if there are style sheets or scripts in the programming). There is a common misconception that a ‘hit” and a page view or even a site visit are the same thing, but clearly they’re not. When someone brags about getting a certain number of hits on his/her site, that number is really quite meaningless. The actual number of visitors to the site might be a small fraction of the hits. Page views and visits are a far better indicator of web traffic than page hits.
A visit is an individual session spent on a website consisting of one or more requests for a web stat definable unit of content (i.e., “page view”). If an individual has not taken another action (typically additional page views) on the site within a specified time period, the defined visit will terminate.
The number of individuals (filtered for spiders and robots) who visit a website within a designated timeframe. Each individual is counted only once in the unique visitor measure for the reporting period. This ‘count’ can be done in two ways: either by requesting visitors to log in or by placing cookies on each visitor’s computer.
The first page a visitor comes to on your website. This can be different for each viewer depending on how they found your site. It is often, but not always, the home page.
The last page a visitor views before leaving your site.
The length of time visitors spend on individual pages within a website and the duration of their entire visit to a site.
Referring urls or referrers
As users click on links in a website, the browser moves to the specified link and simultaneously sends along the URL of the previous page. This “sent along” URL is called a referring URL. This is quite handy in being able to see how people found your site and if external links are bringing in traffic.
Search strings are key words or phrases entered by users into a search engine, such as Google, in order to retrieve the information they need.
There are many more website metrics than those we’ve mentioned here, but these are some of the more common terms. Hopefully this sheds some light on the basics and will help you to understand how your site is performing relative to expectations on a day-to-day or month-to-month basis and how you can use that information to continually improve your website’s results.