Web Site Traffic Metrics
Below are the original proposed definitions from my site optimization research conducted from 1998 to 2000. These ideas ended up bundled into the Marketers Common Sense Guide to
eMetrics, download PDF here. If you're looking for customer analysis, check out the
Drilling Down book sample here.
Visitor Quality: Audience / Content Match
Take Rates on Key Action Items
(now referred to as Conversion Rate)
Percent of Unique Visitors engaging in the activity desired.
This is a measure of how compelling your offerings are
to the audience you get at the site, and how well you are marketing to
The accuracy of the absolute
Take Rate number depends on how accurate your Unique Visitors are as
explained above. Accuracy is not your prime concern.
What really matters is the relative
measurement - does this percentage go up or
down over time? As you
test different locations in the site, link titles, subscription
methods, traffic generating ideas, advertising copy and placement,
paid search links, PPC ads, and so forth, can you continuously keep
the Take Rate rising?
How can you improve the match between what you offer and the visitors
coming to the site? If
the Take Rate is rising, you are improving this match.
If the Take Rate is Falling, the opposite is true.
Repeat Visitor Share
Percent Unique Visitors coming back over
time. This can vary
dramatically based on the Session Length variable and the
period of time you are running you report for.
Most sites want their visitors to come back, so the Repeat Rate
is something you want to see rise over time.
If it doesn't, you are not improving the quality of your
content / products or the ability to attract visitors who actually
like your content / products.
Once you pick at Session Length variable and time frame to run your
report over (a day, a week, a month) don't change them or you lose the
track-ability of this metric.
Heavy User Share
Percent of Visits involving very high page view counts.
If you are targeting your visitors properly (and the
site is easy to use, see Engagement metrics below) this metric should
increase over time. If
for some reason you don't want people to view a lot of pages in a
session (this might be true for commerce sites), you want this number
Committed Visitor Share
Committed Visitor Index
Percent of very long visits, similar in nature to Heavy User
Penetration above, only using time-based visits instead of Page
Views. If you want
visitors to stick around for a long time, you want to see this metric
move higher. If you want them to be able to do their business
efficiently and move on, you want this metric moving lower over time.
Virtually all catalog-type B2C commerce sites would want this
metric moving down over time. Community, Game, and Auction sites probably want it
moving up over time. Are
you attracting the right kind of Visitors?
Ratio of Page Views to Visits for only
very long visits, a very important metric for most sites because
it combines Page Views and Time.
If you are getting long Visits with light Page Views, in most
cases, something is wrong or your pages are very long and content
heavy. Visitors may be
leaving the browser to go make a sandwich while your pages load.
Typically, you want to see a lot of page views in a long visit,
and you will if you are attracting the right visitors to your site by
focusing your marketing efforts.
Committed Visitor Volume
Percent of total Page Views on the site viewed by Visitors with very
long visit behavior. For an advertising-driven site, this
is a metric bound to get attention, because it speaks to the overall
quality of a page view. If you have 100,000 page views and only 1% of them can be
attributed to visitors who stick around for a while, in most cases you
are attracting the wrong audience, and this audience is not really
worth much. Most sites
would want to see this percentage rising over time.
Navigation / Page Layout / Clicks to Buy
Visitor Engagement Index
This is Sessions divided by Unique Visitors, indicating the tendency
for multiple sessions on the part of users.
Unlike "repeat visitors," this metric gives you a
feel for the "intensity" of repeating behavior.
If you have a very targeted audience of the same people who
come back over an over again, the index will be well over 1. If
you have no repeat visitors, it will be very close to 1, meaning
almost every visitor has one session.
Whether you want this metric to trend up or down depends on the
site. Content sites
probably want to see multiple sessions per visitor, and want this
number to pop higher; commerce sites might want it as close to 1 as
Note: if you
suspect users interact with your site over multiple sessions in
a relatively short amount of time (1 hour) to
accomplish one task (e.g. shopping from work), and
you know you are getting pretty accurate Unique Visitor counts
using cookies, you might want to play around with the Session Length
variable to more closely capture the actual behavior of a customer.
As you increase Session Length, this index falls towards
Reject Rate: Home Page
(now referred to as Bounce Rate)
Percent of Visitors who requested the Home page and then left.
This metric the king of the site metrics described here;
if you have time to track only one thing, track this one (assuming
your home page is the top entry page.)
If you have other high volume entry pages, they should be
tracked instead of or in addition to the Home page.
For any site you can imagine, if visitors are not making it
past the home page or other high volume entry page, something is
wrong. If the marketing
is on target, the problem centers on usability - visitors simply can
not find what they want to find, or the design (including the way
offers are presented, the speed of page load, the copy in text links)
is simply not working. If the site design is a usable one, and the call to action easy to find, then the problem is traffic quality - a marketing issue.
metric is especially effective for hunting down copy problems on a
specific page. Unquestionably, falling percentages are good here.
Reject Rate: All Pages
Scanning Visitor Share
(now referred to as Bounce Rate)
Percent Visitors who Viewed any page once and then left, this metric
frequently ties to broad navigation or design issues.
While focusing on top entry pages is more important in the
short term because that is where the traffic is happening, this more
global metric is likely to point to global design flaws in navigation
or page layout. When you
make global design changes, pay attention to this one - you want it to
be forever falling.
Percent of Visits lasting only a minute or less.
We know people using the web scan for information; if
this percentage is rising over time, you need to be thinking about how
scan-able your pages are. Are
you using "call out" headings, breaking up paragraphs into
smaller chunks, highlighting important words and concepts, helping
guide visitors to what they want to know?
Perhaps you should consider a more directed navigation system,
rather than relying on Search of the site, which frequently is not
very helpful. Most sites
want the visitor to stay more than a minute, unless the intent of the
site is to provide constantly updated bullet-point info (like stock
quotes). Use the Scanner
Penetration along with the Scanner Index below to find figure out if
people are completing useful scans or are just getting fed up and
Scanning Visitor Index
Scanning Visitor Volume
Pages scanned in a one minute or less visit.
The closer this index is to 1 page, the less useful people
are finding your site - they're just reading one page and leaving.
This could signal navigation problems (or poor targets from
marketing). If you make
significant navigation or design changes, look to this index to rise.
If it falls, you have hurt your usability and should look for
ways to improve it.
Percent of total site page views completed
in visits of one minute or less.
Depending on what your site is for, you might want this
percentage to rise or fall over time.
For a content site, you probably want it to fall.
For a commerce site, it depends on the business.
Most sites will want to see this percentage fall over time.
If you are an advertising-driven site, a rise in scanner page
volume may not be in your long-term interests, because it implies even
thought you are getting more page views, the quality of the audience
creating these page views may be falling.
If you want to learn how to use these metrics and others to improve
the profitability of a web site, you can get started by downloading
the Visitor Quality / Engagement Calculator for WebTrends at the link
If you're in a hurry and want the whole story wrapped up in a
package, get the 76 page Guide to Web Analytics right