Web Stats Simplified

Article on How to Use Your Web Site Statistics Package

Web Analytics - Know Your Site Performance

It is important to know how your business is doing. Easily said, but work pressures make it difficult for many site owners to study the web statistics for their site. Plus, the language of web statistics can be very confusing, with a vast number of technical terms, many of them very similar.

We hope the following simple steps will help you to select the key measures and start a regular process for reviewing your site statistics.

1. Choose your web analytics package

This is the easy part. There are many effective web stats packages available, including MatrixStats, Webalizer and AW Stats. Google analytics is now widely adopted – it is intuitive and easy to use.

2. Decide which key metrics you want to track

Web analysis packages can have dozens of data points, and some have extensive technical glossaries. However, the key step is deciding what you are looking for. We suggest you focus initially on answering the following three questions:

  • How many visitors are you getting -  and what is the trend?
  • Where did they come from – eg from search engines/directories, and using what terms?
  • What did they do on your site – eg how long did they stay, which pages did they visit?
     

Our glossary below covers a fairly wide range of key measures, and we explain in each case why they are relevant. They address the three key questions above, namely:      

  • How many visitors?                 - review “Visits, Unique Visitors”
  • Where did they come from?   - check “Referrers, Referrals”
  • What did they do?                    -  review “Entry, Exit pages”

3. Fix your site stats review process

We suggest a monthly process may work best initially, but to fully understand the factors behind the visitor trends, we suggest you also track each month:

a) Google Page Rank of your key pages - and of your 3 key competitors
b) The volume of Google backlinks, ie the links into your site - affects your site Page Rank
c) The rankings of your site in the key search engines - strongly influenced by (a) and (b)

This enables you to review your site stats as part of your overall site promotion programme.

4. Get professional help to select your keywords, and optimise your site text

Checking your site position in the search engines, or reviewing “referrers” or “direct requests” (see glossary below) is meaningless, unless you have selected your keywords effectively. Use a professional web promotion company to handle this – it will save you a lot of wasted time and effort later.

Then follow your monthly promotion programme to keep your site moving up the rankings (see 3 above).

5. Free Consultation

If your site performance is worrying you, we will always provide without commitment, a free search engine consultation, and provide continuing support in site management, including web stats reviews.

WEB ANALYTICS GLOSSARY

Visits (Total Visitors/Visitors) – records all the site sessions (see below) during a particular time period.

A critical measure – should be monitored closely.

Sessions (Visitor Sessions) – defined period of interaction between a visitor and your site. Session ends when the user leaves your site, or after 30 minutes of inactivity.

Useful measure – if you have a high volume of very short visits, it can mean your content doesn’t match your search terms, or your site content, or your proposition may be weak.

Visitors (Unique Visitors/Sites) – visits from individual IP addresses  in defined time period - it is the IP address being counted, not people, eg if 3 people share a PC to visit a site it counts as one unique visit.

Valuable measure – records repeat visitors to your site.

Visit Duration – records how long an individual visitor stayed on your site.

A key measure – tells you how “sticky” your site is, ie whether your site engages your visitors enough for them to explore your site, or just click off immediately.

Page Views (Views/Page Impressions) – the number of pages clicked/viewed by your site visitors, ie when the actual page has been requested, not individual items or images, on the page.

Useful indicator of total traffic volume on your site. Also, dividing visitor numbers by pages viewed gives average number of pages viewed per visitor. If figure is low, you should review the site content – ie why aren’t they visiting more of your pages?

Hits – any access to a web page is a hit.

Of little practical use – images viewed on the page, or visits by search engine spiders and robots, all count as hits. Hit volumes can exceed actual site visitors by 90% or more.

Entry – records the page on which visitors entered your site.

Valuable measure – reflects the ranking achieved by those pages in the search engines, and interest in the page topic – are they the pages you want as your top landing pages?

Exits – the page from which visitors leave your site.

Can indicate a page which is causing visitor frustration.  If you have too many single page visits, and if they are exiting from an entry page, a site review is needed.

Referrers (Referring Sites) – the URL of the web page or search engine that visitors clicked on to reach your site.

Worth watching closely – when you filter out your own internal URLs, you can see the external URLs, including search engines, which bring you traffic.

Referrals – happens when hyperlink (whether text, image or other link) is clicked on another site, to take a visitor to your site. On such visits to your site the web server records  the link, search engine and keywords.

Direct Requests records how many people entered your site URL in their browser, ie rather than arriving via a referring site (see above).

Keywords (Search Terms) - tells you which keywords your visitors entered to find your pages via the search engines.

Key information – tells you whether your keywords are working for you, or whether visitors used keywords you had not originally considered.

Search Strings – Search Terms are all the keywords used, listed individually, but Search Strings give you the full phrases – they are thus more useful than Search Terms.

Sites – shows the sites your visitors come from – if they visit 4 times in a month, that counts as one visit.

User Agents – gives the name of the browser being used by visitors to your site, eg Explorer, Opera etc.

Countries – tells you which countries your visitors come from.

Definitely worth checking – eg if volumes surprise you, should you consider adding some translated text to your site?

Clickstream Analysis – detailed analysis of site visitor patterns, ie which pages they visited and in what sequence – reflects the mouse clicks made by users – hence  “clickstream”.


Dave Abernethy
Managing Director
Net Commerce Solutions
Specialist web site promotion consultants

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