Web Analytics Demystified: A Beginner’s Guide to Page Views, Unique Visitors, and Conversion Rates – And What The Numbers Mean for Your Business
by Andrew Millar
It’s important to take steps to analyze your website and understand whether it is performing to its full potential. The Internet is a powerful and marvelous piece of technology, but just as you have the ability to reach vast numbers of potential customers, so do they have the ability to go to other service or product providers with the greatest of ease. No matter how good your site might be, you have to chart and understand what people are doing on it. Let’s demystify web analytics. Among the metrics used for this end, three of the primary ones are page views, unique visitors, and conversion rates. Understanding these is a great start to assessing your site and what you might need to focus on to improve it.
Page Views are the easiest to explain, because they are exactly what they sound like: The number of times a given page is seen in a given time period. More specifically it refers to the number of times someone has requested the page be loaded, but this distinction isn’t really important for our purposes. Note also that page views are different from ‘hits’, which are counted for each file requested – so a page with several pictures would have one page view, but numerous page hits.
Page views by themselves are of only modest importance. It is a handy metric when compared across different times of day, days of the week, or throughout the year, but it doesn’t actually tell you too much about what people are doing on your site. For that you must use other measurements. Onward with our web analytics demystified!
Unique visitors (often also known as unique users) is also fairly self-explanatory, as it tells you how many distinct users have accessed your site in the given time period. So, if you’re measuring them over a period of a month, someone who visits your site every Friday will generate four page views, but be counted as only one unique visitors.
Why is this important? Well, the main reason is to understand your users’ behavior on your site. Depending on what you provide the importance of this may vary, but generally speaking more unique users is better, and can be combined with page views to get a grasp of overall activity. However, there is one major shortcoming, which is that the measurement is more accurately of particular browsers and computers, so what looks like two unique users may simply be a single person on two different devices, or conversely a family computer might have several users but only look like one. Now do you see why it’s important to demystify web analytics?
This is a vital measurement for any business-based website. The idea is to measure how many of your users are converted into paying customers, whether they are buying a product or subscribing to a service. It’s obviously easy to judge how many paying customers you get and what they buy; the challenge is in combining those with the above two metrics to figure out how successful your site is at actually convincing people to pay.
Conversion rates are typically very low for websites, so understanding the strongest and weakest areas of your site for this is hugely useful. For example, you can compare a page’s conversion rates with and without particular features like customer reviews or live chat with a company representative. Using these comparisons it is possible to refine your website and improve sales.
These three measurements are just part of a comprehensive and effective web presence, but with these web analytics demystified it helps you understand, at a glance, some of the most important metrics by which your Internet presence can be judged.