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Web Analytics Glossary

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Analytics – the process of measuring and analyzing the traffic to your web site is something that most site owners know they need to do. But many are so confused they don’t even know what they should be monitoring, or even what most of the terms mean. Without being able to accurately measure your Web site’s effectiveness, you’ll have no idea what you are doing right or wrong, how to improve your sales. Is this post I’ll list some of the most common web site measurements and explain what they mean to you.

  1. Hits
    If your analytics tool uses this term – get a new one. Hits is a term from the “olden days” of the web. It was a measure of everything that was downloaded and viewed. In the beginning, there were no images, no flash, no video – just content. Each time a visitor looked at one page it was one hit. But when you start adding images etc., the hit counts become so far out of whack that they really are a useless number. Most programs no longer report it.
  2. Page Views
    Just like the name sounds, this is a count of how many times the pages on your site have been viewed. In general, you want this number to grow from month to month, especially as you add new content and attract new visitors.
  3. Unique Visitors
    Most programs use cookies to maintain a count of each unique visitor to your site. We usually speak in terms of visitors, but it’s actually each machine, each web browser even. If you have both IE and Firefox on your computer and you visit the same web site in each, you count as two separate visitors, since each has its own set of cookies. The same is true if you look at a web site from your home computer and also your office computer, you again count as two visitors.
  4. Visits
    This is the count of how many times all unique visitors came to your site. This one can also be a bit tricky. In most cases a visit will expire 20-30 minutes after the last activity made by a visitor. Think of it like this; You come to a site and browse pages for several minutes and then need a glass of water. Even if your browser stays on the page while you are away, there is no activity – no mouse clicks. If you return and click before 30 minutes has passed, you are still within in the same visit. With many analytics tools even if you close the browser and shut off your machine you are still within the same visit if your return before the time limit expires. Now if you take all of these scenarios, but you do not come back and click within 30 minute, then it will count as a new visit.
  5. Pages per Visit
    This tells you the average number of pages that get viewed during each visit. Higher numbers indicate that your visitors read multiple pages before they leave.
  6. Bounce rate
    This is the percentage of visits that the visitors leaves your site from the same page they entered on. IE, if they land on and exit from on the same page without going to any other pages on your site.  You want this number to be as low as possible. Average numbers vary by industry and type of site, but if your bounce rate is 70% or higher you may have a problem.
  7. Average time on site
    Another fairly obvious one. This tells you how long people stay when they visit your site. Longer times should correlate to higher pages/visit, or possibly your post are quite long or complex.
  8. % New Visits
    Of all the visits to your site, what percentage of them came to your site for the first time. By itself, this is nearly useless. But, when paired with other stats it can be illuminating. For example, let’s compare the number of new visitors to the number of page views. If your new visitor count is high and continues to grow, but your page views remains constant that would tell you that while you are attracting visitors, they are not coming back.
  9. Traffic sources
    This tells you how visitors get to your site, providing numbers for each of three methods;

    • Direct
      These visitors came to your site by manually entering the URL of the page.
    • Referring Sites
      These visits came to you by clicking a link on another site.
    • Search engines
      Can anyone guess? This traffic comes to you from being found on the various search engines.
  10. Keywords
    On your analytics, keywords tells you not how you want your site to be find, but rather how it actually was found. Of course, we want those things to be the same.
  11. Top landing pages
    This shows you which of your pages attract the most inbound traffic
  12. Top exit pages
    The pages from which the most people leave your site

There you have it – a basic analytics glossary to help you better understand the web traffic your site is getting. Hopefully this helps things make more sense to you, if I missed a term you don’t understand, let me know in the comments.

Jack Leblond is a SEO/SEM professional working for a large corporation full time in Austin, TX. He is not a Realtor, he is our in-house SEO expert. Jack is the Director of Internet Strategy and Operations for TG (www.tgslc.org). In addition to managing the team that develops and maintains the company's multiple Web sites, he focuses on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), e-marketing and Social Media. Jack's background ranges from Submarine Sonar Technician/Instructor for the United States Navy, technical writer, pioneer in internet/intranet creation for McGraw-Hill and Times Mirror Higher Education, former Adjunct Professor for two Universities teaching web-related courses, has served as a city council member and co-founded Net-Smart, a web design and hosting company, where he managed networks and oversaw the development of hundreds of Web sites. As a free-lance SEO consultant, Jack performs SEO Site Audits for small/medium businesses that want their web sites to perform better in the search engine listings.

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Eric Bramlett

    August 24, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    From my experience 30-40% bounce rate is a good goal for a real estate site. I would recommend drilling down to your most popular pages and trying to identify problem areas that way. There are certain pages that will naturally have very high bounce rates – your blog main page (as there’s lots of information, ) and a framed IDX (as analytics can’t track clicks through a framed element) are two of the most common examples on RE sites.

  2. Joe Loomer

    August 24, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Jack – thanks for the great explanation of the individual terms – I am an infant in the SEO game and this helps me understand my site’s analytic tools much better.

    Thanks, Shipmate!

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  3. Matthew Rathbun

    August 24, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Thanks for the great review this is a good 101 resource for folks just getting started!

  4. Doug Francis

    August 25, 2009 at 9:28 am

    I check out my Google Analytics and Webmaser Tools all the time and am amazed how they can vary daily. It is odd though that my “Bounce Rate” does not seem to be tracking (flatline since 8/2)… all other numbers fluctuate daily even when I was on vacation and not on the web.

    Any thoughts?

  5. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 30, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Jack:

    Nice run down. I remember the ‘ole “HITS” days. A lot of cash was made by the early internet settlers by selling web sites with high “hit count” to people that didn’t initially understand.

    RM

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Business Finance

Will cash still be king after COVID-19?

(EDITORIAL) Physical cash has been a preferred mode of payment for many, but will COVID-19 push us to a cashless future at an even faster rate?

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No more Cash

Say goodbye to the almighty dollar, at least the paper version. Cashless is where it’s at, and COVID-19 is at least partially to thank–or blame, depending on your perspective.

Let’s face it, we were already headed that direction. Apps like Venmo, PayPal, and Apple Pay making cashless transactions painless enough that even stubborn luddites were beginning to migrate to these convenient payment methods. Then COVID-19 hit the world and suddenly, handling cash is a potential danger.

In 2020, the era of COVID-19, the thought of all the possible contaminants, traveling around on an old dollar bill makes most of us cringe. Keep your nasty sock money, boob money, and even your pocket money to yourself, sir or madam, because I’ll have none of it! Nobody knows or wants to know where your money has been. We like the idea of taking your money, sure, but not the idea of actually touching it…ewww, David. Just ewww.

There is no hard evidence that cash can transmit COVID-19 from one person to the other, but perception is a powerful agent for changing our behavior. It seems plausible, considering the alarming rate this awful disease is moving through the world. Nobody has proven it can’t move with money.

There was a time when cash was King. Everyone took cash; everyone preferred it. Of course, credit cards have been around forever, but they’ve always been just as problematic as they are convenient. Like GrubHub and similar third party food delivery apps, banks end up charging both the business and the consumer with credit cards. It’s a trap. Cash cut out the (greedy) middle man.

Plus, paying with a credit card could be a pain. Try paying a taxi driver with a credit card prior to, oh, about 2014 when Uber hit the scene big time. Most drivers refused to take cash, because credit cards take a percentage off the top. Enter rideshare companies like Uber. Then in walks Square. Next PayPal, Venmo, and Apple Pay enter the scene. Suddenly, cabbies would like you to know they now take alternate forms of payment, and with a smile.

It’s good in a way, but it may end up hurting small businesses even more in the long run. The harsh reality of this current moment is that you shouldn’t be handling cash. No less an authority than the CDC recommends contactless forms of payment whenever possible. However, those cabbies weren’t wrong.

The banking industry has been pushing for a reduced reliance on cash since the 1950s, when they came up with the idea of credit cards. It was a stroke of evil genius to come up with more ways to expedite our lifelong journey into crushing debt.

The financial titans are very, very good at what they do, at the expense of all the rest of us. The New York Times reported on the trend, noting:

“In Britain alone, retailers paid 1.3 billion pounds (about $1.7 billion) in third-party fees in 2018, up £70 million from the year before, according to the British Retail Consortium.

Payment and processing companies such as PayPal (whose stock is up about 55 percent this year) and Adyen, based in the Netherlands (up 72 percent), also stand to gain.”

All kinds of related banking-related industries stand to benefit as well. Maybe we’ll go back to spending physical cash one day, but I don’t think there’s any hurry. Fewer old grandpas are hiding their cash in their proverbial mattresses, and the younger, most tech-savvy generation seems perfectly content to use their smart phones for everything.

We get it. Convenience plus cleanliness is a sweet combo. I only wish it weren’t such a racket.

If this trend towards a cashless future continues, there may be a possibility that travelers in the future may not experience what it’s like to fumble with foreign currency, to smile and shrug and hand over a handful of bills because they have no idea how many baht, pesos, or rand those snacks are. They may not experience the realization that other countries’ bills come in different shapes and sizes, and they may not come home with the most affordable souvenirs (coins and bills).

We shall see what the future holds. Odds are, it may not be cash money, at least in the U.S. I hope the cashless movement makes room for everyone to participate without being penalized. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, people. We need to find more ways to ease the path for people, not callously profit off of them.

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Tech News

Google Maps will soon display traffic lights

(TECH NEWS) The addition of traffic light positions to Google Maps promises to boost navigation accuracy. Now you won’t run a light while looking at navigation.

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google maps traffic lights

At over 150 million monthly users, Google Maps’ value is not to be understated. With a new feature that shows traffic light positions rolling out to select devices and locations soon, one can expect that trend to continue.

A common issue with navigation via an app–especially when navigating solo–is a lack of precision that can lead to confusion, missed exits, potentially dangerous driving, and, worst of all, spilled coffee. By adding the location of traffic lights, Google Maps will improve both landmark recognition and automated navigation by providing drivers with more accessible information.

It’s worth noting a couple of arguing points, the first of which is the assertion that Google is starting from scratch on this feature. They aren’t. In fact, Japan-based Google Maps users have had access to traffic light positioning for years; Google is simply expanding the feature to include a larger number of cities and population density.

In a similar vein, Google also isn’t the first company to implement an ease-of-access feature such as this. Apple Maps has incorporated traffic light recognition since the release of iOS 13, and while its use is hit-or-miss (my iPhone 11 fails to pick up most traffic lights in my admittedly rural town of residence), the option to have Siri direct users to the nearest traffic light rather than saying “in 213.7 feet, turn left” is helpful.

That said, Apple Maps is a service which sees a little over 20 million monthly users–a far cry from Google Maps’ monthly base. For Google, accuracy and speed of updates will be paramount for a successful, routinely helpful launch.

At the time of this writing, Google plans to release the traffic light feature in New York, San Francisco, and a few other United States cities. The feature will be available on Android devices–sorry for now, Apple users–and will ideally expand to encompass most of the country if the initial release is successful.

It will be interesting to see how comprehensive Google’s coverage is and how quick the company is to adjust positioning of lights as cities do what cities do best. For now, if you have an Android device, keep an eye on your Maps app–good things are coming your way.

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Business News

Plastic bags are making a comeback, thanks to COVID-19

(BUSINESS NEWS) Plastic bags are back, whether you like it or not – at least for now.

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Plastic bags

Single use plastic bags are rising like a phoenix from the ashes of illegality all over the country, from California to New York. Reusable bags are falling out of favor in an effort to curtail the spread of COVID-19. It’s a logical step: the less something is handled, generally, the safer it is going to be. And porous paper bags are thought to have a higher potential to spread the virus through contact.

It’s worth mentioning that single use plastic bags are considerably more
environmentally efficient to manufacture compared to paper, cloth, and reusable plastic bags. Per unit, they require very little material to make and are easily mass produced. It also goes without saying that they have a very short lifespan, after which they end up sitting in landfills, littering streets, or drifting through oceans.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s hard to deny that single use plastics have the potential to be as dangerous to humans as COVID-19. Coronavirus is a very immediate existential threat to us in the United States, but the scale of the global crises that stem from the irresponsible consumption of cheap disposable goods, also cannot be overstated. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn’t going anywhere. (And did you know that it’s just one of many huge garbage patches around the world?)

So… what exactly are we going to do about the comeback of plastic bags? Because to be honest, I used to work in grocery retail, and it is difficult and often unrewarding. So, I wouldn’t exactly love handling potentially contaminated tote bags all day in the midst of a pandemic if I were still a supermarket employee. You couldn’t pay me enough to feel comfortable with that – forget minimum wage!

I used to have a plastic bag stuffed full of other plastic bags sitting in my kitchen, like American nesting dolls, before disposable plastics fell from grace. (I’m sure some of y’all know exactly what I’m talking about.) This bag of bags was never a point of pride. It got really annoying because it just kept growing. There are only so many practical home uses for the standard throw-away plastic shopping bag. Very small trash can liners; holding snarls of unused cables, another thing I accumulate for no reason; extremely low-budget packing material; one could get crafty and somehow weave them into a horrible sweater, I guess.

I don’t miss my bag of bags. I don’t want to have to deal with another. Hey, Silicon Valley? Got any disruptive ideas for this one?

Even if we concede that disposable plastics are a necessary evil in the fight against COVID-19, the fact remains that they stick around long after you’re done with them. That’s true whether you throw them out or not.

I’m not trying to direct blame anywhere. Of course businesses should do their best to keep their customers and staff safe, and if that means using plastic bags, so be it. Without clear guidance from our federal government, every part of society has been fumbling and figuring out how to keep one another healthy with the tools they’ve got at hand. (…Well, almost every part.)

The changes to the state bag bans have been cautious and temporary so far, which is a small relief. But nobody really knows how much longer the pandemic will rage on and necessitate the relaxations.

I won’t pretend that I have a sure solution. All I can really ask is that we all be extra mindful of our usage of these disposable plastic products. Let’s think creatively about what we might otherwise throw away. We must not trade one apocalypse for another.

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