How to Interpret the Statistics for Your Blog
To understand what you’re looking at when you scan the web statistics or server logs for your blog, you need to know a series of terms. Most web analytics software uses these terms, but you should always check to see how the software’s creators define measurements. web analytics software tends to use these terms in the same way, but not always.
The most important ones for bloggers are page views, unique visitors, and repeat visitors. Together, these three statistics give you the most accurate picture of how many visitors your blog receives and what they do while they visit.
A hit is an official request from a web browser for a file from the web server. The file can be an HTML file or a movie file. Essentially, accessing any file available on a web server to the surfing public counts as a hit.
Any given web page causes multiple hits on the server when it loads, even though it’s only one page. Multiple files are actually called to display the page: the HTML file; any associated style documents; and all the image files. If an HTML file has five images, it counts as six hits — one for the HTML file and five for each image.
A lot of people think that hits indicate the number of website visitors or even the number of pages viewed, but hits don’t even come close to measuring those kinds of figures. Hits are pretty meaningless if you’re trying to understand how many visitors you have, but they can help you get a feel for the traffic load that your site puts on the web server.
A page view is normally defined as a page within a web server log. If the web browser requests an HTML file, the log records that as a single request, even if the server needs several files to display the page. Each time the web browser loads a page of your site, it counts as a page view. Page views are a valuable measurement because you can get a better understanding of how people actually use your site.
Advertisers are often very interested in the number of page views on a website (more is better), and most bloggers consider a high page-view number something to brag about.
Unique visitors are just what they sound like — individual visitors who come to your website. The analytics software counts them only once, no matter how many pages they view or how many times they visit.
When you’re looking at the number of unique visitors your blog gets, take a look at what time period the analytics software refers to. Fifty unique visitors in one day is, of course, a much bigger deal than 50 unique visitors in a month.
Repeat visitors are blog readers who visit your site on more than one occasion and, usually, visit multiple pages. Pay attention, just as with unique visitors, to the time period this repeat-visitor number covers.
You can see a graph that breaks down the percentages of first-time visitors to repeat visitors on the web statistics tool StatCounter.
Most stat software tracks errors, instances when your visitors get an actual error message when they try to do something on your site or when they try to view a page that doesn’t exist anymore (or never did).
Track your error logs to find out where visitors are having problems — and be sure to fix the errors.