These days, search engines and web analytics companies provide tools that allow companies to glean so many statistics from users, it’s easy to get lost in the details of visitor data. However, unique visitors – a stat that became an industry stalwart more than a decade ago – is still a crucial indicator to determine a site’s relative popularity, and should have the attention of any small business looking to improve its return on investment.
The unique visitors metric – measuring how many individual users visit a site within a given period, usually a month – is used by companies to determine activity and interaction on a website. This information is highly useful to provide a look into seasonal trends that can help you craft messaging and website improvements for your business.
Analytics tools can provide further information thanks to unique identifiers such as cookies. Among other things, these tell you what type of device is being used to access your website – important information if you want to stay on top of usage trends.
Those browsing trends are forcing more and more companies to pay attention to mobile: By the end of 2014, mobile commerce in the U.S. will grow an estimated 63 percent to around $34.2 billion, up from $21 billion in 2012, according to the Internet Retailer 2014 Mobile 500 list. Mobile will account for nearly 13 percent of all U.S. e-commerce sales, up from just over nine percent in 2012, according to the Mobile 500. In fact, to better reflect that web traffic no longer means stationary users logged into a desktop computers, Google Analytics recently changed the terms it uses to describe site traffic – visits are now called "sessions" and unique visitors are called "users."
Simply put, the more unique visitors visit a website, the more mileage they get, whether it’s simply more exposure, more potential for sales, or donations – whatever your endgame is.
Here are several additional metrics that matter, available through the free Google Analytics tool:
- Page views: The aggregate total of pages viewed by visitors in a given period. If your page views are similar to your unique visitor count, you need to worry about bounce rate.
- Bounce rate: This stat measures the number of visitors who land on your page and leave without taking an action. For example, if 100 visitors visit your page and 55 leave immediately before doing anything, you have a bounce rate of 55 percent. A healthy bounce rate is critical to your conversion rate; if your bounce rate is too high, you’re not doing enough to engage your visitors.
- Conversion rate: Conversion is the goal you have for visitors, whether that is for them to buy something, sign up for a free newsletter or download a white paper. If you receive 100 unique visitors and 10 of them complete the goal, then your conversion rate is 10 percent. If you feel your conversion rate is too low, analyze alternative calls to action, or revisit the basics of the product being offered.
- Traffic source: Where do your visitors come from before they land on your page? Traffic sources might include paid searches such as Google AdWords, social websites, email campaign and organic search, among others. Keeping track of your traffic sources gives you a sense of how to allocate your advertising expenditures to promote your business.
- Location: Where do the bulk of your site’s visitors come from? Does that match your expectations? Depending on your market, you may want to create language- or region-specific landing pages to increase conversion rates.
Knowing which marketing techniques are affecting traffic to your website can help guide future marketing campaigns that can lead to an increase in your bottom line. This also means less money wasted on ineffective marketing by tailoring campaigns to users based on the analytics above.
Along with unique visitors, many crucial indicators can be tracked using free programs, such as Google Analytics, providing the insight needed to make marketing more efficient and improve your bottom line.
What other stats or tools do you use to analyze web traffic?