How to Make Sense of Web Analytics

Are you making the most of web analytics? Learn how you can use them to improve your small business website.

Creating a small business website or blog and publishing a few articles is only the beginning of the job. While the completion of a great-looking website is worthy of a celebration, there is plenty more to do in order to ensure your website or blog attracts and keeps your desired online audience.

To help website owners make more sense of the visits they get, a list of statistical information is available. But the collected statistics and data are meaningless if you don’t know what they mean. These statistics can easily be presented using web analytics tools found either from your web host or from a third-party web analytics company. The data presented on web analytical tools can help you make more sense of your website visitors by learning how and what to keep track of, and make better decisions of the content you post.

Making Sense of Web Analytics Terms

If you don’t know what the terms presented in your web analytics tool mean, you can’t make decisions on how to improve. Here are the most common and helpful terms you’ll find.

Hits vs. Visits
Probably the most often-asked question is “how many people see my small business website?” There is statistical data to help answer this question, but the terms and data vary significantly.

  • Hits – Many website owners like to advertise how many “hits” a website gets. However, a ‘hit’ is counted whenever a file is downloaded from the viewer. A single page may have multiple files, including the HTML coding file, a css file, photos, graphics, and other images that make up the entire content of the webpage. Each one of these files counts as a ‘hit’. You can see how a single page view can register several hits, making this data unreliable in evaluating true page view counts.
  • Visits – Any time a webpage is accessed, it registers a ‘visit’. However, the same individual can access the same web page multiple times, and it can be counted again and again.
  • Unique Visitors – This data tells a more reliable story of how many different individuals access a specific webpage. A web counter tool will store a cookie file on the computer of each individual who visits a website. That way, whenever the individual returns to the site, the counter knows it has already been logged.

    However, be aware that many savvy internet surfers will at times clear their cookie files from their browser, or even use multiple browsers to access your site. That means the cookie has no effect on counting the visitor as unique, and can skew the results.

  • Return Visitors – Along with the importance of counting Unique Visitors, you should also keep track of Return Visitors. That cookie will help your counter let you know how many visitors come back more than once.

Page Views
This data is helpful particularly for blogs. It will tell you which specific blog pages get the most views, and lets you know what kind of content is more likely to elicit views and responses.

Entry Pages
The data found here tells you where your visitors enter your site. Do most come in right at your home page? Or do they find content based on searches? (See Referrers below)

Exit Pages
Likewise, you may want to know where your visitors leave your website. Do you have a lot of exits on your checkout page? Perhaps that is an indicator that it needs to be revamped.

You may want to know where your visitors come from. This will let you know what specific website and page a visitor came from, usually by following a link. This may tell you how many visitors come from search engine results, or from your link sharing strategy. If you market your website on other sites, this can be invaluable as to how effective your paid online marketing is doing.

This data is usually presented when the referrer is a search engine. You may have agonized over choosing the keywords and phrases for your website’s SEO. However, this helpful data will let you know what exact and specific words and phrases your visitors used to find your website and its content.

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