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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.

Written By

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.

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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