In the world of search engine optimization (or search engine marketing), you can't be that effective without the use of some type of analytics. Google Analytics (which is free) is the most popular, but analytics in general are built into several website platforms. However, these are often misunderstood and misused.
The analytics data provide feedback about your web pages that can help you make future decisions and changes to improve your inbound marketing effectiveness. Analytics users sometimes confuse success with a lot of "hits" to their site. It is exciting to see large numbers, but look behind the data to see how it's generated.
There are a ton of different metrics to discuss, but let's look at 3 basic but popular ones that can be confusing:
- Unique Visitor - This is the smallest number of these three and counts only the individual visitor to the site. If you had a family of 4, and each person visited the same site on their respective computers, that would count as 4 unique visitors.
- Visits - As the next largest number, a visit is someone viewing as many pages as they want on your site during a defined session. In the family of 4 example, if Mom goes to the same site every day for 5 days, that would count as 5 visits. If she stepped away from the computer for more than 30 minutes with your site up on the screen, and then came back to look at more pages, that would count as an additional visit.
- Pageviews - This is the largest number of the three and the one that gets people really excited. However, it's probably the least useful (other than for getting the pom-poms out). A Pageview is any view of a page during a visit. Let's say you have 5 pages on your site, and Dad goes to each page and then goes back through each of them again in the same visit. This would be 10 page views.
So in this case, we have 1 unique visitor during 1 visit viewing 5 pages 2 times each. Now, get your wristwatch calculators out, I'm taking this example a little further. If Dad did the exact same thing tomorrow as he did today, you'd have 1 unique visitor, 2 visits, and 20 page views. Extra credit will be issued for those who calculate this out for four weeks of daily Dad visits.
If you truly want to know more about how well you are engaging your visitors, use these 3 top-level metrics:
- Content: Pages - This will show you the most popular pages on your site, and if you know how these visitors reached the page, you can take related actions to get more people to your site.
- Pages Per Visit - If your site averages around 1 page per visit, your visitors are not really engaged. In general, the higher the number, the better (though too high and they may not be finding what they need quickly).
- New vs. Returning Visitors - There is a balance to be struck here, as each extreme of all new or all returning visitors doesn't help your business grow. "New" visitors indicates your effectiveness of getting people to your site, and "Returning" visitors is a gauge of how much value they get from your site.
In the coming weeks, we'll talk more about linking your inbound marketing strategy to your analytics, especially around keywords. For now, think about what you'd like your visitors to get out of your site. Are you using analytics now? How? Please share your experience in the comments section below.