One of the beautiful things about web publishing is the feedback. We know, pretty quickly, who’s clicking on what and how much time they’re spending there. The system’s not exactly foolproof, but it’s pretty good; the downside, of course, is it’s all too easy to spend way too much time playing with Google Analytics rather than doing everything else on your to-do list.
But I know that the world of web stats can be confusing for a lot of people. To start with, I wanted to give definitions of some common acronyms/words so that you have a better idea of what you’re reading when you look at site statistics. It’s likely that I’ve left some out, so please let me know in the comments and I’ll expand the post.
• UVs/unique visitors: The number of different people that visited your site in a particular time period (usually a month). An industry standard to measure a site’s reach. In this number, each visitor is counted only once, no matter how many times they visited the site. Stats tools aren’t omniscient, so often UVs actually translates into unique computers rather than unique people (if more than one person in a household view a site, it’s counted only once); on the other hand, if you’re looking at a site from home and at work, you count as two UVs even though you’re one person.
• Total visits: The number of visits to your site in a particular time period (usually a month). So if someone visits your site seven days out of that month, it counts as seven visits.
• Pageviews: The total number of your pages that were viewed in a time period (also usually a month). Total visits times average pages per visitor should equal total pageviews.
• Pages per visitor: The number of pages each visitor viewed on your site before they left (closed their browser, moved to a different site). A high number of pages per visitor is said to indicate high engagement – readers wanting to spend lots of time and read lots of articles – although my theory is that high pages per visitor often means it’s hard for people to find what they want and they end up clicking around a lot before they reach their goal. (Forcing people to click several times to get to your “contact us” form is a good way to increase both pages per visitor and user annoyance, which is so far not measured by Google Analytics.) Pages per visitor is usually quoted as an average but you can often dig through your sites to get real numbers: e.g., 70% of visitors viewed only one page, 10% viewed two, 15% viewed three, 5% viewed four or more, etc.
• Bounce rate: The percentage of visitors who entered and left on a certain page. If a page on your site has a bounce rate of 70%, it means 70% of the people who entered on that page (either through a link from elsewhere or through typing it in) left before going anywhere else on your site.
• Landing page: The page a visitor entered on – in other words, the first page of your site that they saw on any particular visit.
• Exit page: The last page a visitor viewed before leaving your site.