Understanding your website statistics  

Fundamentally the conversation with your audience looks like this:  

1) You publish something on social media or make a change to your website.

2) Your action results in a response from your audience

3) You analyze your website statistics and see that new traffic is positively correlated with the actions you took

This section aims to teach you the terminology of your website statistics in order to help you draw valuable insights into the interaction between you and your audience.

How to Use Google Analytics

The actions they take and the results they seek are always correlated in the minds of marketers. We see new traffic or comments almost instantly when we post a blog or tweet.

Google Analytics is one of the essential tools for marketing conversations. Google Analytics provides a powerful tool for tracking your website’s traffic, including referrals and search engine activity. You are still likely to be able to correlate your marketing efforts with the new traffic on your website even if you are not a “math person.” With some perseverance and patience, you will eventually be able to do that.

Setting up an Account

You will need to create a gmail account if you don’t already have one.  There’s no difference between using it for mail or not. Through it, you can access a wide range of free services, including Google Analytics.  Grab a copy today.

The next step should be left to your web designer.  Give your Google email account administrator rights and ask them to set up Google Analytics on your website.  

Vocabulary development

While Google Analytics is improving, its user interface is likely to undergo more changes.  As a result, I will not go into specific detail on how to use the site once you have logged in.  During the coming years, web statistics vocabulary isn’t likely to change too much, so we’ll be focusing on it. Find a video explaining how Google Analytics works on youtube when you’re ready to start analyzing your data.  

You should monitor these essential things:

  1. Bounce Rate

Bounce rate refers to the percentage of visitors leaving after only viewing one page on your website. The bounce rate on a page indicates poor performance. A landing page that bounces a high percentage of visitors should always be on the lookout for. People are literally leaving your website due to these ineffective pages.  Comparing your high-bounce pages to your low-bounce pages is a great way to find out what’s working for your visitors and what isn’t.

  1. Conversion Rate

An individual’s conversion rate is the number of people who submitted a form or made a purchase from that page. You can compare this statistic between the different landing pages on your website. Your landing pages are usually the first thing visitors will see when they arrive on your site, so it is vital that they convert visitors into leads or sales.

Sources of traffic

Where your site’s traffic comes from as well as their first arrival date can be found in your traffic sources. The increase in organic search volume could be of interest if you’ve been trying to improve your search engine ranking. Your eagerness to see a rise in social media referral traffic from social media sites and blogs is understandable if you are active with social media promotion.


If you check your site keywords, you can see what terms people are searching for when they find your site through a search engine. Using this method will allow you to learn what people were actually searching for when they stumbled upon your website. If you search for your company name within the top three or four results, you will get an insight into what people are searching for when they come to your site. Then you might have found a keyword that isn’t very competitive if you’re getting traffic around a keyword you haven’t optimized for. Consider developing more content around the key phrase if it is relevant to your business.

New and Returning Visitors

A fundamental metric to track is the number of unique visitors. As of today, it is still used to measure the overall traffic to a site and is especially important for sites that depend heavily on advertising revenues. In actuality, a unique visitor is defined as “the number of inferred individual people, within a designated reporting interval, with activity consisting of one or more visits to a site. For the reporting period, each individual is counted only once in the unique visitor measure.”

Does that sound easy? Web statistics make it difficult to simply count the number of people visiting each page.

Nowadays, many Web analytics systems use “cookies” to identify “people.” Cookies are small text files stored on your computer when you visit a web page.  Usually, by referring back to the site that created them, you can find out what information they have about you and your visit. It is one of the reasons web analytics systems write cookies to determine if a visitor has already visited the website.  A return visitor is counted rather than a new visitor when the system checks to see if the cookie is there. That system has a serious flaw:

First-party cookies are commonly used in analytics systems. This metric must be interpreted with caution since cookies do not always correspond to people. I don’t count people the way I count cookies. What are the reasons? A website can be accessed by multiple devices or through multiple browsers, blocking tracking cookies and deleting cookies. Thus, the number of unique visitors can be understated or overstated. These reasons will generally lead to inflated unique visitor counts.

A recent project we did for a client allowed us to assess how many cookies we could associate with each unique account number. Almost 10 percent of accounts were associated with more than one cookie, but only 10 percent accounted for about 30 percent of all cookies. Therefore, we are wary of using absolute numbers in calculating unique visitors. As my old boss used to say, “A trend is a friend.” Assuming there hasn’t been a huge shift in cookie usage or the number of devices being used, it’s safe to assume that any change over time reflects a trend.

A second important characteristic of unique visitors is that it is not addable. Each unique visitor counts just a certain amount of traffic for a certain amount of time, for example a day, week, or month. Some people still add up the unique visitors over the course of the week to get the weekly unique visitor count. That’s not right. I am counted every time I visit on Monday; on Thursday, I am counted again when I visit again. I would be counted twice if I add to each day or week all the unique visitor counts on that day. The result of adding up the individual daily figures would be an increase in weekly figures. It’s important to find out how your Web analytics system calculates unique visitors for different time periods, as some perform better than others.

New vs. Returning Visitors

The new vs. repeat visitor metrics need to also be viewed carefully because of the cookie issues outlined above. When a device does not have one of the tracking cookies used by a Web analytics system, a visitor to a website is considered new. In the absence of a cookie (assuming the device enables cookies), a new one is sent to the device. Having a cookie on a device means that it gets treated as a return visit.

It becomes a problem when the consumer returns to the website after deleting the cookies, visiting with a different device, or using a new browser. While she may have previously visited the site, her device doesn’t have a cookie, so the Web analytics system will treat her as a new visitor. This causes an overestimation of the proportion of new visitors. Nevertheless, since a change in behavior has been observed over time, it probably is a reflection of real underlying behavior.

The source of Web analytics data is an important reminder as more and more businesspeople are exposed to it in reports and dashboards. I’ll analyze next time how ratios and averages are used and abused. In the meantime…

The duration of the project

Your viewers will spend an average amount of time on your site if this is a measure.  You can derive these numbers from either the level of engagement in your content or the number of lost visitors to your website.  

Count of views per page

An individual’s page views are measured by the number of pages he or she views on your website. A good statistic to look at regularly is the average number of pages viewed by each visitor.

Referring Sites

It’s always important to know where your referrals come from.  The referring sites area of your statistics will show the amount of traffic coming in from referrals.  Near the top of the report will be a single backslash “/” which will usually account for the largest percentage of traffic.  This reprints user who is just typing in your website address into their browsers to get to you directly. This will strongly indicate the percentage of your users who are aware of your site because of some previous knowledge of your business or an offline marketing source such as a business card.