Analytics & Testing

What’s a Hit? And other Analytics Jargon

Last week I took the day off of work and attended Webcamp, a regional conference on Internet Technology. Though I was an independent speaker (on blogging), I learned a lot about areas that aren’t my bailiwick. My success in blogging has largely been due to passion and a great technical aptitude. Blogging requires me to be a jack of all trades but master of none. Conferences like this help me to hone my skills in areas of weakness!

One of the sessions that I really enjoyed was on Web Analytics. I had never noticed it before, but the term ‘hits’ has really been dying over recent years. When folks ask me how many ‘hits’ I get, I actually answer with my ‘unique visits’ statistic, not the actual number of hits. I actually don’t know how many hits I get. This was confusing to many of the business professionals that attended the conference as well – they’ve been hearing ‘hits’ for years. I think as you move further up the ladder away from the techies and towards the boardroom, ‘hits’ is still a common term. That needs to change.

What’s a Hit?

A ‘hit’ is really a useless measure (as energetically described by the Web Analytics pro, Julie Hunter, that spoke). Hits refers literally how many requests were made of your server. In the good ol’ days, this was a great measurement since a web page was usually an independent entity. Once upon a time, images were the exception, not the rule. Requesting a web page literally displayed a single full web page. That’s not the case anymore.

As web technology has evolved, though, so have web pages and their ability to organize content and tools efficiently. When my home page loads, the browser actually makes 17 requests!!! Images, style sheets, javascript files, advertisements, widgets, etc., etc. No less than 5 of those requests were made directly to my web server. So… if I were basing my success on ‘hits’, I would be exaggerating my actual visitors by at least a multiple of 4.

Analytics Packages are Downplaying Hits

Login to your favorite Analytics package (I like Google Analytics and Clicky) and you won’t find ‘hits’ anywhere. Thankfully, the Analytics professionals are finally paying attention to the metrics that matter most. Clicky even adds your feed statistics from the Feedburner API to your reporting!

Here are the key performance metrics to watch for your Web Site:

  1. Visits or Unique Visits – to the best of their ability, Analytics providers will track individuals that come to your website that have never been there before. The methodology is not foolproof since I can visit a website on two different computers (or even two different browsers) and get counted more than once. Users can also block tracking of their visits by killing Cookies (little files that sites place on your PC to keep track of you… don’t worry – they’re actually pretty useful). However, comparisons of log files to Analytics packages that capture stats via Javascript see negligible differences.
  2. Pageviews – Pageviews are the total number of full pages that are loaded throughout all the visits and within the timespan you are measuring.
  3. Pages per Visit – Pageviews are important when you’re taking a clean look at how many of your visitors actually stick around. 7 visitors and 7 pageviews? That means each visitor only read one page. As a blogger, my Pageviews are much lower than I’d like, so monitoring them is imporant. Great content and linking between posts will keep visitors around or attract them to other posts. You’ll see many links within my posts as well as som erelated posts in my sidebar… those are there to try to keep folks around. The more they stick around, the better I’m doing!
  4. New Visitor Rate – Out of everyone that visits your web site, this is a count of the ones that have never visited in a percentage format. I like to keep an eye on this number as well… as long as I can maintain my existing visitors and push new ones, that means I’m retaining readers and growing.
  5. Bounce Rate – These are the folks that visit your site and bail out. This normally means they just weren’t finding what they were looking for. Keep an eye on this… it may be that you’re getting incorrectly indexed for your content or your content stinks. Make sure you promote what you are and then stick to it. That will keep folks around.
  6. Average Time On Site – Like Pages per Visit, the more the better, right? For me, sure. However, for a website where I’m selling something, this could mean that my site is a pain in the butt to navigate and I need to do some work. Making people move around your site uncomfortably may increase your average time on site, but they’ll never come back.
  7. Conversions – within the ecommerce world, a ‘conversion’ is usually a purchase. It means they came, they found, they bought! For a blog like mine, it may mean they clicked on an advertisement, made a speaking engagement request, or downloaded a pamphlet. What’s the goal of your blog or website? Are you actually measuring that as a conversion? You should be! Within Analytics packages, conversions are normally measured by programmatically adding ‘Goals’ to your site in the Analytics package with some specific code in your confirmation pages. (ie. Thanks for downloading!). It’s not always the easiest thing to do… Seth agrees.

And of course, if you still don’t get it – be sure to stop by Webcamp! This post was actually inspired by a great conversation I was having with my good friend, JD Walton at the BlackinBusiness blog. I’m trying to be a good coach to JD – but he’s learning this stuff faster than I can throw it at him! I’ve had JD on Google Analytics since his blog’s inception, but he’s ready to begin analyzing his own stats already!

6 Comments

  1. 1

    Doug, you are in the top 3000 in the world, 2200 and change. I am fortunate to have you as a coach. I have broaden my topics so a more diverse community can benefit from my business experiences which include being a Global VP for both sales and marketing. Your energy and intellect and people skills are only outdone by your understanding of blogs from a strategic and tactical vantage point. You have the know how that will help people grow traffic and business grow revenue and profit. You border on genius

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    Hi Thanks for this article on clearing up some Whats? I am new to this side of the Web I usually just browse but now I am a wannabe webmaster running two arcade sites to break myself in for bigger and better stuff. What a learning experience!!

    Great articles!

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