Defining basic terms will help web site owners and webmasters find web analytics useful.


#1 Get the Basics Out of the Way

Defining basic terms will help web site owners and webmasters find web analytics useful.

  • Visits is the number of sessions on a website, the number of times someone interacted with a site.
  • Bounce Rate is the percentage of single-page visits or number of visitors who left instantly from the entrance page.
  • Page View is the instance that a page is loaded by a browser.
  • Average Time on Site is how long visitors stay on a site.
  • % New Visits is how many sessions or interactions were from first-time visitors.

#2 Understand Traffic Sources

Once you get the basics, find out where people are coming from.

  • Direct traffic is composed of visitors coming to a website by typing in the URL of that website or from a bookmark. Some people also call this “default traffic” or “ambient traffic.”
  • Referring URLs are other websites sending traffic to a website. These can be from banner ads or campaigns, and they can include blogs or affiliates that link to a site.
  • Search engines are – you know – Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask, others. This subset includes both organic and paid (PPC/SEM) traffic.
  • Other means campaigns that have run: email, direct marketing, and so on.

#3 Determine Which Reports Mean the Most

Learn how to read data and make use of reports.

  • Look for trends and see where growth is coming from in the last three to six months. Is it from free traffic? Paid traffic? Have efforts to get people through other channels succeeded?
  • Drill down to specific websites that send traffic and, of course, to keywords and key phrases that are sending traffic. Both of those help make sense of customer intent.
  • Improve pages that need attention. Pages with a high Bounce Rate are not delivering on the promise that drives customers to a site.
  • Make sure an ad campaign’s keywords are not leading to high Bounce Rates and are delivering on an intended action or conversion.
  • Search for surprises in your data, such as unexpected or unusual patterns.
  • Identify and label goal pages in order to calculate return on investment.

#4 Walk in Their Shoes

Experience a website as a visitor.

  • Look for clusters of heavy clicks, links that ultimately drive high conversions and items that connect with people. Do more people convert on a site if they click on product comparison on the homepage, or do they go directly to a product page?
  • Follow the heavy clicks and see what people do next.
  • Check out referrers to each page. It may explain bounce and exit rates.

#5 Focus on Outcomes

Measure and evangelize your data, and take action.

  • Identify needed improvements to your pages.
  • Consider merchandizing, cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.
  • Answer the question: why does a website exist? Then go through the four steps mentioned above to identify the two or three key metrics that help measure those outcomes.

By Vinoaj Vijeyakumaar, Customer Solutions Engineer, Google Inc