May 14, 2009

Five Numbers to Check Each Week


Hostway Team

There are many ways to get an overall snapshot of your Web site’s success and customers’ behavior, but sometimes it feels like you have to be a mathematician to understand all the graphs and numbers. To help you make sense of the numbers, we got one of Hostway’s online marketing specialists to identify the five most important Web site analytics you need to evaluate the success of your site and how to interpret them. The graphs shown in this article were generated from an analytics program called Urchin, version 5. You can find similar measurements in other analytics software or purchase an Urchin account.

Analytic #1: Sessions

What is it?

A customer—we’ll call him Bob—Googles your keywords and clicks the link to your Web site in the search results. That click equals one session on your site. Bob scans your home page, clicks the back button in his browser, visits a competitor, doesn’t like what he sees and returns to your home page. Chalk up another session to Bob.

What it tells you:

The sessions number in your analytics tells you how many times your site has been visited, with repeat visitors included. If you look at the sessions graph below, you will see the number of sessions a sample Web site received over a one week period (1) plus the numbers broken down by day in the bar graph (2). Sessions

Analytic #2: Unique Visitors

What is it?

Now, let’s assume Bob was the only visitor to your Web site today. If you look at the number of unique visitors, you will see the number one. Your Web analytics software recognized Bob’s second visit to your site as coming from the same computer. It counted two sessions, but recorded only one unique visitor.

What it tells you:

This number shows how popular your Web site is. As you see this number grow, stay flat or shrink, you can tell how successful your marketing efforts have been. If you sell ad space on your Web site, this is the number your potential advertisers will be interested in knowing. Although it’s labeled Visitors by Day, the graph below shows your total unique visitors for the week (1) first-time unique visitors each day (2) and your returning unique visitors broken down by day (3).
Unique Visitors

Analytic #3: Pageviews

What is it?

Again, assuming Bob was the only visitor to your Web site today, let’s say he sees something he likes on your home page and clicks a link leading to another page on your Web site. Then he clicks the back button on his browser, returning to your home page. When you look at your analytics for that day, you’ll see three pageviews. A pageview is a request to load a single page of your Web site. Bob’s pageviews are: 1. your home page, 2. the second page he visited and 3. your home page again.

What it tells you:

Pageviews are useful in two ways. First, they show you how many pages are visited on your site. Second, when you divide this number by the number of visitors, you can find out on average how many pages each visitor views—the higher the number, the better. Pageviews tell you that the visitors you’re attracting with your marketing efforts are indeed interested in the content on your Web site. A low number might indicate that you’re attracting the wrong audience (time to refine your marketing efforts) or the content on your Web site isn’t generating interest (time to make changes to your Web site messaging). On the graph below, you’ll see the total number of pageviews for the week (1) and a daily breakdown of pageviews in the bar graph (2). Pageviews

Analytic #4: Length of Session

What is it?

Did Bob read the content on your home page before he clicked away? Looking at the average time he spent on your site will help you form an answer. The longer the average length of session, the more likely Bob read your content.

What it tells you:

This is a good measure of your Web site’s performance. When visitors spend more time on your Web site, it probably means you’ve identified the right audience and engaged them with relevant content. In the graph below, you can see that for the week selected, most of the visitors’ sessions lasted between 0 and 10 seconds (1). The rest of the bars show how long the remainder of visitors spent on the site. Length of Session

Analytic #5: Bounce Rate

What is it?

Now, if Bob clicked your link in search engine results, landed on your home page and clicked away without visiting any other page on your site, you would have registered one bounce. When you look in your Web analytics, you’d see a single bounce, then the bounce rate, which equals the number of bounces divided by the number of entrances to your Web site.

What it tells you:

Your bounce rate can tell you two things: whether your marketing efforts are driving the right people to your Web site and whether you provide content that your audience is interested in. A high bounce rate (roughly above 40% for a small business Web site) may indicate that you need to change your marketing efforts or change your Web site messaging. In the graph below, you can see the example site had an excellent bounce rate of 11.23% (1) for the week selected. Bounce Rate

So there you have it—analytics made easy. With these five numbers, you can ramp up your marketing efforts and find out at a glance what’s working for you and what’s not.

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