Savvy website owners know that certain measures from free analytics services carry more weight than others. Your first foray into google analytics can be quite confusing because there are many features and measures to occupy your time with. However, not all the measures offered will be relevant to your website. Relevant measures give you a sense of how well a website engages with your audience. The relevance of a measure depends on what sort of engagement you wish to see from your site’s viewership.
A ‘visit’ is essentially a browsing session on your website, and every time someone accesses your website constitutes a browsing session. During this browsing session different pages on your site may be accessed. Visits expire when the session ends, and this happens via time expiration or campaign change. A browsing session terminates after 30 minutes of inactivity, or at midnight. Any new activity will be considered a new browsing session, and thus a new visit. Campaign change is a fancy way of saying Google search. Whenever someone accesses your site from a search engine or a referring website, the way the user got to the site, or campaign, changes. Thus each time someone accesses your site through a certain campaign a new visit occurs. The visitors metric doesn’t tell you how many people your site engages, more so how much engagement overall your site sees. You may track visitors if you care more about each individual opportunity for conversion, each visit, and not necessarily the number of new IP addresses, or people, that land on your page.
Since visits make up the number of browsing sessions en large on your website, unique visits make up the number of unique IP addresses that view your website once. An IP address only counts as a unique visitor it’s first time on your website. Anytime after the IP address will only count as a new browsing session. This measure helps determine how many actual people view your website. Whereas one person behind a computer screen can count as several visits, they can only count for one unique visit, unless they visit the site again from a different IP address. Tracking the number of unique visitors your website receives can be helpful if you are trying to estimate the size of your audience, or how well known your site’s topic is.
This measure helps you see how users engage with your site during a visit. Pageviews track how many times in a browser session users click on different pages. If a user starts at your homepage, clicks your about page, and then clicks your contact page before exiting the site that counts as three pageviews. Pageview totals and average pageview per visit are great metrics to consult if you’re concerned with measuring how interactive/user friendly your site is. If users barely average 2 pages per visit, then you may want to change your site’s navigation to be more easily accessible. Pageviews also help ensure users view a certain part of your site. If that part of your site can’t be accessed without first switching from your homepage to your about page, you can check pageviews to see how many people view at least two pages. If this number is low, you may consider placing the info in the about page somewhere on the homepage.
User departure can tell you a lot, so make sure to pay attention to bounce rates. Bounce rates track browsing session where the user exits your site after only viewing one page. Normally when someone bounces your content either wasn’t what they were looking for, your site wasn’t loading fast enough, or they didn’t like what they saw, whether it be because of design, content, or navigation troubles. Examining bounce rates can be imperative to improving aspects of your website.
Another important metric to assess is the average amount of time users spend in a session on your site. The higher this average the more engaged your users are with your site. If you increase the average time spent on your site you will see dividends with regard to your pageviews metric, because the longer people stay on your site the better chance they will view all or most of your site’s pages. Pairing your bounce rate and average time metrics can be a big help when assessing site engagement.
The road to mastering web analytics can be challenging at first, but paying attention to some of these simple metrics can be a good place to start. Taking these first steps can be a great way to determine how to best optimize your website.