By Amit Kursija Jan 13, 2012 0

Learn to Measure Your Website Properly

If you want to get the most benefit out of web metrics or analytics, you should learn several of the most frequently used terms and their meanings. Comprehending these web analytics terms will ensure that you understand what information you lack and what you are measuring in general.

“Hits”

Perhaps, this is one of the most employed web analytic terms. Unfortunately, it as well is one of the most misused terms in the area. If we refer to Wikipedia, we find out that a “hit” in web analytics means “any request for a file from a web server.”

This basically means that each request made to a web server can be taken into account as a hit:

– Every image downloaded for display on an Internet page is a hit. For instance, a simple web page has four images, thus the server will receive five hits.

– Requesting secondary files, such as JavaScript or CSS are also considered as hits.

When a visitor views your page, you can get hundreds of hits from that one person. An “About” article normally makes above 30 hits to the server.

In a business context, hits aren’t a reliable web analytics form. They don’t actually provide any useful information. They come in handy only, if you are a web server admin and are trying to find out why a page is loading slowly.

Hence, don’t use the “hits” term lest you want to tell your audience that you are a rookie to web metrics and web analytics.

Page Views

“Page views” refer to the successful document loading from a web server by a visitor. Page views normally don’t involve error pages and views performed by robots.

Page views are an attempt to calculate the amount of documents viewed by your website visitors. This normally includes the following:

– Documents, such as *.doc, *.pdf, *.xls

– Plain text files, such as *.txt

– Script files, such as *.cgi, *.pl

– Web pages, such as *.htm, *.html, *.asp, *.php files

Files that are normally considered as “parts” of an Internet page, but aren’t the complete content piece are not counted as page views. These files include scripts, images, CSS, and at times video and sound files.

Page views are employed to communicate the popularity of your web page or site. They usually represent what is described as “lots of hits.” Page views are not the amount of people visiting your website. In order to count your visitors, you’ll need to learn the next thing described in this article.

Sessions/User Sessions/Visits

A visit refers to a collection of documents reviewed by a certain IP address and user-agent combination (or the actual logged in client, if you have logins) during a pre-determined time unit. In other words, it is an attempt to measure how a visitor strolls through your website. A visit is meant to measure the actions of a visitor, instead of measuring the particular technical features of the downloaded data.

Usually, visits are measured as any click amount within 30 minutes simultaneously. For instance, if you go to a website and take a 20 minute break, then return and click some links on this website, it would still be counted as one visit. The point is that any website visitor, who hasn’t clicked a link for 30 minutes, is considered leaving it.

The problem is that this system assumes a very strict browsing mode. That is, people visit a website, wander through 3-6 web pages, and then leave the site. This could be the case for some of us, but think of a person that is browsing from their office. They can start browsing and then makes a pause for an important phone call. The person comes back in 45 minutes and continues browsing from the same page he stopped at. By this rigid method of visit count, their activity would be considered as 2 website visits, although they never actually left it.

This is not a serious issue, but it’s important to know what’s measured and understand that it is just an approximation of actuality.

Unique Visitors

“Unique visitor refers to a person – normally determined by IP and user-agent – that has visited your website within a pre-identified time frame. These are the real people visiting the website and they may only be calculated one time during the period of time. This time frame can be each day, each week, each month, the academic year, or any other period you determine.

If you visit a website one time today and then once again two days from now, when the site’s timeframe measurement is 1 week, you would be only counted once. In case the measurement is daily, you would be counted for each day you visited the website.

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