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Digital media measurement terms defined

Digital measurement terminology

With the growth of digital and social marketing, there seems to be a proliferation of terms and names for metrics that should be simple. But all of the terminology can become quite confusing, and it really just muddles the data.

Should pageviews and views be the same number? What’s realistically comparable to a unique visitor? Impressions? And don’t even get me started on how every company, platform or system use multiple terms to indicate the same thing. Can’t we all just get along? Today, I hope to clear up a few common misconceptions:

Impressions versus Reach

Impressions vs. reach – The key difference here lies with how people are counted. Impressions counts the total number of times an ad is served or a message is seen by a person. If I see the same ad five times, all five of those times will fall under impressions.

Reach, on the other hand, counts only unique people who have been exposed to an ad or message. I can see an ad 100 times, and I will only be counted once in a reach metric.

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Visits versus Views

Visits vs. views – Visits are usually defined as the number of times a person visits a website, and each time a person visits a site they will have a different session. Depending on how visits are measured, a new session may be started if you accidentally click and leave the site or close a browser, and then return.

Views refer to the number of pages or places on a website that are visited during any given session. If I go to a home page, then the about page and then back to home page, I’ve visited the site once, but three views should be counted. Most likely, views will be much higher than visitors as people click around your website during the same session.

New versus Returning Visitors

New vs. returning visitors – Each time a person visits a website, they will likely collect cookies or other tracking codes. These will then allow that website to recognize when the visitor comes back, and classify them as a returning visitor. Cookies most often have expiration dates on them, so if you wait too long between visits, you may be counted as a new visitor.

New visitors are simply those who visit a website and do not have code or cookies to indicate they have visited before. This data may not always be accurate as cookies may be cleared by a user to protect their data. Luckily for measurers, not many people clear their cookies on a regular basis.

Bounce rates

Why bounce rate isn’t necessarily bad – Bounce rate is most often presented as a percentage of total visits. It indicates the number of visitors who leave the website before they click around. For example, if I visits a blog, read some articles on the front page, and then leave, I will counted among visitors who have “bounced.”

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If instead, I read something on the front page, and then click to another page on the site, say the about page, I will not be counted among bouncers. Depending on how content is shared and displayed on your website, a high bounce rate may not necessarily be a bad thing. If your newest content is easily accessed without clicking, you may see a great bounce rate even though visitors are reading and consuming your content. Tracking metrics like time on site can help to give a clearer picture of how users are navigating your site.

What other metrics are confusing to you? Which terms seem to indicate the same thing but are never the same number? There are so many out there, and I’ll help to sort them out for you.

Written By

Rebecca is a passionate UNC graduate, and a biochemist-turned-communications professional, she spends her days as a senior social media analyst at Digitas in Chicago, specialized social media monitoring and measurement best practices. She is continually excited to explore additional facets of digital measurement like traditional Web analytics, search metrics and integrated data models.



  1. Prof. Manish Parihar

    December 19, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    Thanks Rebecca for a wonderful article.

    most of the so called social media experts forget to enlighten their clients about how their investments into social media marketing strategies can be actually measured..

    the entire exercise is like shooting in the dark..

    effective and efficient measurement is the key for sustainable ROI in all fields of marketing.

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