Business Website Statistics to Watch - dummies

Business Website Statistics to Watch

By Jan Zimmerman

Of the many, many website statistics that are available, the following key parameters provide valuable information for every business. Compare them by month or week, depending on the statistical package you use. Sites with heavy traffic justify daily, or even hourly, reviews.

Some packages might use slightly different terms but measure the same elements. (These definitions apply to whichever time frame you choose.) This list describes the key statistics to track:

  • Visits: The number of distinct user sessions that take place; in other words, the number of times your website is viewed. It’s your total traffic to the site. Different stat packages may define a new visit after different frames; many users go back and forth among websites several times. Most statistical packages delete visits made by search engine spiders or robots because these devices artificially inflate the number of visits.

  • Unique visitors: The number of user sessions from different computers. (Stats can track users’ IP addresses but not who’s sitting at the machine.) This number is smaller than the total number of visits; the difference represents repeat visits, which are extremely valuable. To assess your success in drawing people back to your site, you might want to track repeat visits as a percentage of all visits.

  • Page views: The total number of distinct web pages downloaded — that is, displayed on the screen.

  • Page views per visit: The number of pages shown divided by the total number of visits. The more pages viewed, the longer the user is on the site and the stickier your site is. If more than half your visitors leave before viewing two pages, you have a problem capturing viewers’ attention and interest.

    This key parameter correlates roughly to time onsite. Time measurement can be misleading, however, because it doesn’t consider what happens if people leave a browser window open when they go to lunch or leave at the end of the day.

  • URLs viewed: The number of times each individual page of your site is viewed (downloaded). It’s helpful to know not only which pages are popular but also which ones aren’t. The latter might be caused by lack of interest or perhaps a lack of contextual links or calls to action that pull someone to that page.

    This statistic is handy to count thank-you pages for contact forms or other pages that are part of your conversion equation.

  • Referrers: The websites or pages that generated links to your site. Some statistical packages include links between onsite pages in this list. If you have an active, inbound link campaign, you can easily see which links are driving traffic your way.

    You might also discover links from previously unknown sources. To distinguish links from multiple online ads in your analytics, you can always insert /?src=X at the end of the destination URL, where X represents the source of the ad or any other distinguishing feature you want to track.

  • Search engines: Which search engines generated links to your site based on appearance in natural search results.

  • Conversion rate: A number that’s calculated as a percentage. The denominator is total visits; you decide on the numerator, whether it’s number of sales, number of contact forms, e-mails or calls generated from the site, or newsletter subscribers, for example.

Unless you have quite a large site, monitoring statistics monthly or quarterly is usually sufficient. You might check more often when you first open your site and whenever you initiate a specific web marketing activity.

Most statistical packages have an administrative setup, allowing your programmer to change the default values for certain statistics. If you don’t see what you want, ask! For instance, some packages display the page views for only the 25 most visited URLs. If you have a larger site, set that parameter to display the results for all your pages.