Analytics Metrics Explained

If you’re a business owner you will no doubt use analytics, I mean, how could you not? When using analytics you will also receive analytic reports that are full of percentages that may as well be hieroglyphics if you yourself do not work in marketing.

But as complicated as analytics reports can seem they are fairly straight forward if you know what you’re looking at. This simple guide will explain all the basic metrics of a report and help better your understanding of what action (if any) needs to be taken.

After reading this post you should understand:

1.    What the basic metrics are including:
• What are visits
•    What are page views
•    What is a bounce rate
•    What is a pages/visit
•    What does time on site mean
2.    What are the possible reasons for high numbers in some metrics
3.    Whether a high/low number in certain metrics indicates a problem
4.    What the differences are between direct, search and referral traffic

What are visits?

Visits, this metric is fairly self explanatory. Visits are the number of people that visited your site in that given period (usually monthly or quarterly) within the analytic rules in order to count as one visit. A visit does not mean that the person only viewed one page, a visit can have multiple page views, or a page path e.g. went to a website viewed various products, added them to the basket and checked out. This would only be counted as one visit.

When does one visit end and another begin?

A visit will end when the session times out or when the visitor leaves the site.

Ways the session times out:

1.    At midnight/ end of the day
2.    After 30 minutes of inactivity

The same person can make multiple visits if they leave one session and come back again via another campaign.
What are page views?

This is one of the simplest of all the metrics, a page view is how many times a page was loaded by a browser, multiple page views count (same page viewed by the same person multiple times in one session, so if they refresh their browser it is a new page view).

What is a bounce rate?

A bounce rate is the percentage of people that visited a page and left via that same page without any further movement into your website. Certain pages on websites will have high bounce rates, for instance a contact us page, as people will have found what they were looking for and left. A high bounce rate on other pages that you would not expect are the main page, if a high bounce rate is present on the main page it can indicate a problem. See “High bounce rate?” paragraph for details.

What is a pages/visit?

This the average number of pages viewed per visit, multiple page visits by the same person are counted. This can be very helpful in assessing the user friendliness of a site and if information is easy to find. See “High pages/visit rate?” paragraph for details.

What does time on site mean?

This metric is completely self explanatory. It is the average time spent per visit during that period (usually monthly or quarterly).

High number of visits?

Excellent! This means people are finding your site okay.

High number of page views?

If the page views are high it can mean that there is a demand for your website and the products or content on it and if this is reflected in the time spent on page, then this is great and your website is working very well.

It can however be an indicator that your website isn’t working well at all, if a high rate is present coupled with a short amount of time spent on each page then it can mean that the visitor isn’t finding what they are looking for and are searching frantically for it. In this case the design or content may need changing to better aid user friendliness.

High bounce rate?

There are a number of reasons for this:

•    You are running a single page site.
•    Site design is unappealing or untrustworthy.
•    The information the visitor was looking for is found immediately.
•    Your keywords may need changing to better reflect the content (not what the visitor was looking for).
•    Your keywords are causing confusion ( a word with the same spelling as an existing well known product e.g. Oakley sunglasses, Oakley wood services, people search the term “Oakley” and click on your page believing it is what they were looking for and isn’t.
•    User behaviour, a user may bookmark a page and visit numerous times as they are deciding if they want to buy the product/service.

High pages/visit rate?

Normally means that people are interested in the content and are looking at a good number of pages, hopefully buying a lot of things as they go!
It can, however mean that they can’t find what they are looking for and content may need adapting or design changing, e.g. more specific and clearly accessible categories.

High time on site?

It could be high due to people not being able to find what they are looking for or simply that they are interested in the content.

There are however, problems with the way this metric is recorded, these problems are shown below:

•    If a visitor never interacts with the landing page (first page visited) but still spends time reading it and then bookmarks it and leaves, it will not be recorded as any time spent on site but will be recorded as a bounce.
•    If a visitor does go from the landing page further in to the site to a second page but doesn’t interact with the second page, the time will be recorded by Google from the last interaction (the move to the second page) therefore it will not record the time the visitor spent on the second page just the first.

What is direct traffic?

As its name states it is traffic that is direct to the URL, someone types your site name into the URL box and goes to your main page.

What is search traffic?

There are two types of search traffic:

1.    Organic search traffic
2.    Paid search traffic

Organic search traffic (sometimes called non-paid traffic) is traffic from search engines, e.g. someone types “men’s shoes” into Google and finds your website selling men’s shoes.

Paid search traffic refers to traffic from adwords that you have set up e.g. pay-per click campaigns.

Monitoring what keywords are bringing people to your site is vital for deciding a market strategy and where to invest and cut funding, e.g. if your brand name has high competition for organic traffic than you may need to invest more in adwords.

What is referral traffic?

Referral traffic is when a user clicks on a link from another source/website and lands on your website. Common places to get referral traffic from include blogs, social media and email campaigns. Monitoring referral traffic is a great way to see if you need to have more of a presence on social media, in blog posts and whether any affiliates you have running are worth the cost.

You should now have a basic understanding of an analytics report and be able to see if there are any problems you may need to address. Every business needs analytics to succeed so it’s always good to stay on top of the metrics (called jargon by most people).

If you have any questions or more to add then please leave a comment below.