Metrics

Topic Heading

The metrics of your site are the statistics that will help you determine how well your efforts are doing in terms of generating traffic and providing the success you are looking for. Keeping track of things like daily/monthly traffic, conversions, and bounce rate is crucial if you plan on evolving your site properly and creating success based off of what is and isn't working.

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Traffic

Web traffic is the amount of data sent and received by visitors to a web site. This is determined by the number of visitors and the number of pages they visit. Sites monitor the incoming and outgoing traffic to see which parts or pages of their site are popular and if there are any apparent trends, such as one specific page being viewed mostly by people in a particular country. There are many ways to monitor this traffic and the gathered data is used to help structure sites, highlight security problems or indicate a potential lack of bandwidth because not all web traffic is good traffic.

Where does it come from? The majority of website traffic is driven by the search engines. Millions of people use search engines everyday to research various topics, buy products, and go about their daily surfing activities. Search engines use keywords to help users find relevant information and each of the major search engines has developed a unique algorithm to determine where websites are placed within the search results. When a user clicks on one of the listings in the search results, they are directed to the corresponding website and data is transferred from the website's server, thus counting the visitors towards the overall flow of traffic to that website.

Visitors/Unique Visitors

The simplified explanation of what a "unique visitor" is in terms of online traffic is that it is a way of taking specific IP addresses into account in order to eliminate visits from the same person being counted. If your site is accessed from one IP address multiple times, it is only counted as ONE unique visitor, whereas you would still see all of the visits counted in your standard "visitors" statistics. This is extremely useful to see the raw numbers of what kind of content distribution your website is accomplishing, instead of skewed numbers given by multiple visits from the same person.

Conversions

In internet marketing, conversion rate is "the ratio of visitors who convert casual content views or website visits into desired actions based on subtle or direct requests from marketers, advertisers, and content creators." Successful conversions are interpreted differently by individual marketers, advertisers, and content creators. To online retailers, for example, a successful conversion may constitute the sale of a product to a consumer whose interest in the item was initially sparked by clicking a banner advertisement. To content creators, however, a successful conversion may refer to a membership registration, newsletter subscription, software download, or other activity that occurs due to a subtle or direct request from the content creator for the visitor to take the action.

For web sites that seek to generate offline responses, for example telephone calls or foot traffic to a store, measuring conversions can be difficult because a phone call or visitor is not automatically traced to its source, such as the Yellow Pages, website, or referral. Possible solutions include asking each caller or shopper how they heard about the business and using a toll-free number on the website that forwards to the existing line.

Bandwidth

The simple explanation of bandwidth is the amount of traffic that passes between your website and other computers connected to the internet. Depending on the quality of the network provided by your hosting company, you will have higher or lower bandwidth limitations.

A basic conceptualization of bandwidth is a great start in understanding what it is, but in order to grasp the importance of it, a more in depth explanation is necessary. The internet, on a basic level, is millions of computers that are interconnected via different networks. The connections between these networks vary in size, and this is what determines the bandwidth of a particular website. “Bits” are the individual measurements that begin to make up the total bandwidth of a page, and represent individual characters. Bits are then grouped together to form words, images, or any other important information that needs to be relayed. Groups of bits are called “Bytes.”

Basically, you have a set amount of data that can be transferred between your website and the internet before your specific bandwidth plan is exceeded. For example, let’s say your website is a grocery store checkout line. In this analogy, bandwidth would be the amount of lines you have opened at any given time, and as a result, the amount of checkers needed to manage said lines. If only one line is open and there happens to be a lot of customers in the store, you would need to hire more checkers in order to allow customers to move through your store quickly. This is why it is important to understand what kind of traffic your site will be getting, and plan your bandwidth specifications accordingly, because if you aren’t paying for high enough bandwidth your costs will go up significantly when you exceed your limit. Generally, a site that is purely content will need much less bandwidth than one that is a fully operational online store.

Entry/Exit Pages

Visitors arrive at your site at a given page, usually from a link on another site. They then travel through the site and, at some point, generally follow a link off the site. Even if they are not following links, the start- and end-pages of each visit can be especially interesting because they emphasize what the visitors were looking for and what they found (or did not find.)

Entry Pages: The entry page is the first page on your site that a visitor lands on. Knowing where users are entering your site can help you understand what their first impression is. Many times you will find that your home page is not the most common entry point as you may have thought. Sometimes entry points, especially when picked up by search engines, will be indicative of what users are trying to find on your site. If users seem to be coming in at the wrong place, you might want to consider reorganizing your site or work on improving your search engine listings to better represent the information your site is meant to convey

Exit Pages: The exit page is the last page the visitor was on before they left your site, whether it was via an outbound link or by other means. The majority of exit pages are probably indicative of the destination of the visitor; what she was looking for. If you can identify certain exit pages that are obvious end-points to a search, then you might want to make navigation to those pages more prominent to help visitors find them

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is a term that represents the percentage of visitors who enter the site and "bounce" (leave the site) rather than continue viewing other pages within the same site. A "bounce" can only occur when a visitor views ONLY a single page on a website before leaving, and does not venture further into the site.

A visitor may "bounce" by:

  • Clicking on a link to a page on a different web site
  • Closing the open window or tab
  • Typing in a new URL
  • Clicking the "Back" button to leave the site
  • Encountering a session timeout