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Web Site Traffic Metrics

Below are the original proposed definitions from my site optimization research conducted from 1998 to 2000. These ideas ended up bundled into the Marketers Common Sense Guide to eMetrics, download PDF here. If you're looking for customer analysis, check out the Drilling Down book sample here.

Visitor Quality: Audience / Content Match

Take Rates on Key Action Items
(now commonly referred to as Conversion Rate)

Percent of Unique Visitors engaging in the activity desired.  This is a measure of how compelling your offerings are to the audience you get at the site, and how well you are marketing to them.  

The accuracy of the absolute Take Rate number depends on how accurate your Unique Visitors are as explained above.  Accuracy is not your prime concern.  What really matters is the relative measurement - does this percentage go up or down over time?  As you test different locations in the site, link titles, subscription methods, traffic generating ideas, advertising copy and placement, paid search links, PPC ads, and so forth, can you continuously keep the Take Rate rising?

How can you improve the match between what you offer and the visitors coming to the site?  If the Take Rate is rising, you are improving this match.  If the Take Rate is Falling, the opposite is true.

Repeat Visitor Share
Percent  Unique Visitors coming back over time.  This can vary dramatically based on the Session Length variable and the period of time you are running you report for.  Most sites want their visitors to come back, so the Repeat Rate is something you want to see rise over time.  If it doesn't, you are not improving the quality of your content / products or the ability to attract visitors who actually like your content / products.  

Once you pick at Session Length variable and time frame to run your report over (a day, a week, a month) don't change them or you lose the track-ability of this metric.

Heavy User Share 
Percent of Visits involving very high page view counts.  If you are targeting your visitors properly (and
the site is easy to use, see Engagement metrics below) this metric should increase over time.  If for some reason you don't want people to view a lot of pages in a session (this might be true for commerce sites), you want this number to decrease.

Committed Visitor Share  
of very long visits, similar in nature to Heavy User Penetration above, only using time-based
visits instead of Page Views.  If you want visitors to stick around for a long time, you want to see this metric move higher.  If you want them to be able to do their business efficiently and move on, you want this metric moving lower over time.  Virtually all catalog-type B2C commerce sites would want this metric moving down over time.   Community, Game, and Auction sites probably want it moving up over time.  Are you attracting the right kind of Visitors?

Committed Visitor Index 
Ratio of Page Views to Visits for
only very long visits, a very important metric for most sites because it combines Page Views and Time.  If you are getting long Visits with light Page Views, in most cases, something is wrong or your pages are very long and content heavy.  Visitors may be leaving the browser to go make a sandwich while your pages load.  Typically, you want to see a lot of page views in a long visit, and you will if you are attracting the right visitors to your site by focusing your marketing efforts.

Committed Visitor Volume 
Percent of total Page Views on the site viewed by Visitors with very long visit behavior. 
For an advertising-driven site, this is a metric bound to get attention, because it speaks to the overall quality of a page view.  If you have 100,000 page views and only 1% of them can be attributed to visitors who stick around for a while, in most cases you are attracting the wrong audience, and this audience is not really worth much.  Most sites would want to see this percentage rising over time.

Visitor Engagement: Navigation / Page Layout / Clicks to Buy

Visitor Engagement Index 
This is Sessions divided by Unique Visitors, indicating the tendency for multiple sessions
on the part of users.  Unlike "repeat visitors", this metric gives you a feel for the "intensity" of repeating behavior.  If you have a very targeted audience of the same people who come back over an over again, the index will be  well over 1.  If you have no repeat visitors, it will be very close to 1, meaning almost every visitor has one session.  Whether you want this metric to trend up or down depends on the site.  Content sites probably want to see multiple sessions per visitor, and want this number to pop higher; commerce sites might want it as close to 1 as possible. 

Note: if you suspect users interact with your site over multiple sessions in a relatively short amount of time (1 hour) to accomplish one task (e.g. shopping from work), and you know you are getting pretty accurate Unique Visitor counts using cookies, you might want to play around with the Session Length variable to more closely capture the actual behavior of a customer.  As you increase Session Length, this index falls towards 1. 

Reject Rate: Home Page
(now commonly referred to as Bounce Rate)

Percent of Visitors who requested the Home page and then left.  This metric the king of the site metrics described here; if you have time to track only one thing, track this one (assuming your home page is the top entry page.)  If you have other high volume entry pages, they should be tracked instead of or in addition to the Home page.  For any site you can imagine, if visitors are not making it past the home page or other high volume entry page, something is wrong.  If the marketing is on target, the problem centers on usability - visitors simply can not find what they want to find, or the design (including the way offers are presented, the speed of page load, the copy in text links) is simply not working.  If the site design is a usable one, and the call to action easy to find, then the problem is traffic quality - a marketing issue.  This metric is especially effective for hunting down copy problems on a specific page.  Unquestionably, falling percentages are good here. 

Reject Rate: All Pages
(now commonly referred to as Bounce Rate) 
Percent Visitors who Viewed any page once and then left, this metric frequently ties to broad
navigation or design issues.  While focusing on top entry pages is more important in the short term because that is where the traffic is happening, this more global metric is likely to point to global design flaws in navigation or page layout.  When you make global design changes, pay attention to this one - you want it to be forever falling. 

Scanning Visitor Share 
Percent of Visits lasting only a minute or less.  We know people using the web scan for information;
if this percentage is rising over time, you need to be thinking about how scan-able your pages are.  Are you using "call out" headings, breaking up paragraphs into smaller chunks, highlighting important words and concepts, helping guide visitors to what they want to know?  Perhaps you should consider a more directed navigation system, rather than relying on Search of the site, which frequently is not very helpful.  Most sites want the visitor to stay more than a minute, unless the intent of the site is to provide constantly updated bullet-point info (like stock quotes). Use the Scanner Penetration along with the Scanner Index below to find figure out if people are completing useful scans or are just getting fed up and leaving the web site.

Scanning Visitor Index 
Pages scanned in a one minute or less visit.  The closer this index is to 1 page, the less useful
people are finding your site - they're just reading one page and leaving.  This could signal navigation problems (or poor targets from marketing).  If you make significant navigation or design changes, look to this index to rise.  If it falls, you have hurt your usability and should look for ways to improve it. 

Scanning Visitor Volume 
Percent of total site page views completed in visits of one minute or less.  Depending on what your site is for, you might want this percentage to rise or fall over time.  For a content site, you probably want it to fall.  For a  commerce site, it depends on the business.  Most sites will want to see this percentage fall over time.  If you are an advertising-driven site, a rise in scanner page volume may not be in your long-term interests, because it implies even thought you are getting more page views, the quality of the audience creating these page views may be falling.

If you want to learn how to use these metrics and others to improve the profitability of a web site, you can get started by downloading the Visitor Quality / Engagement Calculator for WebTrends at the link below.

What would you like to do now?

Download the Visitor Quality / Engagement Calculator for WebTrends

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