"Visitors to the site", or let's start from the beginning
We all know that website traffic is the number of people, known as users, who visit the website. The more the better. Are you sure about it? Is each visit a new user? Is a large number of users an immediate success of the website? What should make us happy and what should not about our "guests"?
First of all, let's try to organize the basics.
What do we mean by "website visits"? Most often, we want to display different pages that are part of one website. The site is published on one domain, for example www.mybeautifulsearesort.com. Pages are its parts with unique URLs, for example the Contact page at www.mybeautifulsearesort.com/contact or the Terms & Conditions page at www.mybeautifulsearesort.com/regulamin. The home page is usually the address with only the domain name, i.e. www.mybeautifulsearesort.com. What are "visits" or "website visits"? It is usually a session, i.e. user interactions with the website in one time period. For example, I enter the address www.mybeautifulsearesort.com in my browser, go to this website, read articles, display a page with T&C, send a contact form, and then leave. The time from entry to exit is one session. If I had not closed the MyBeautifulSeaResort tab, but I would have stopped doing anything on it, the session would be automatically closed after 30 minutes without any action. During a session, when I navigate from the home page to other pages of the site, when I open each page, a pageview request is being sent to the website server. Unique pageviews are the number of times a specific URL has been viewed (e.g. www.mybeautifulsearesort.com/contact), regardless of whether it took place during one or more sessions. And now it's clear that not every session is a new user, because if I return to MyBeautifulSeaResort, a new session will start after an hour of break, and I am not a new user, but a returning user.
Why do we need all these terms? They sound a bit technical, maybe not very natural at first, but they allow you to organize the vocabulary with which we describe activities on the Internet. Thanks to them, we can all accurately describe the phenomena we are talking about and ask questions in a clear way to understand each other. I will add new, "professional" terms from time to time.
Large and small traffic – what does it mean
Let's assume that MyBeautifulSeaResort received a lot of sessions during the last week. The website is fresh, but the owner, Blogger, has linked it to several Facebook groups, his Instagram profile, and LinkedIn and it looks like people have started to keep coming. Blogger noted that from ten sessions in the first days, traffic jumped to nearly a hundred sessions the following week. Should he already be satisfied, because his blog has achieved immediate success and thousands of new users are getting ready to enter the Resort?
The joy is undeniable, but the work has only begun. Users came from various sources to see the new blog, but now he has to check if they just dropped by for a moment or actually viewed more pages in one session.
Did the session last more than one minute?
Which page was the exit one and which one did they visit most often?
And did they come back during these days or are all users only one-time visitors?
After checking these things, Blogger can compare the actual traffic data of the site with what he imagined about its users and consider whether it is already a success.
How to measure website traffic?
Let’s get back to the program itself - regardless of whether it is Google Analytics or the "statistics" page built into the administration panel, it has a form of reports in which data is collected, for example, the aforementioned page views, the number of unique page views, start time, the duration of the session and very interesting - the bounce rate, i.e. during how many sessions - compared to all - the user only entered this page, but did not go to any other page. I am using the example of a free Google Analytics program because it is the closest to me and I have spent the last four years helping website owners to use it correctly.
Analytics collects data and breaks it down into different reports. Based on them, Blogger can analyse and find out, for example, that the majority of the returning users are people from the coast, women and men in the 25-34 and 35-44 age groups. On the other hand, people from large cities usually visited single visits and did not browse many pages. How is this possible? In his articles, Blogger describes how he started running a house by the sea, his adventures with renovations and first guests, he gives very specific information on the companies he works with, so it looks like he has gained the interest of other guesthouse owners who read his articles as a trade press.
Was that what he meant to achieve or did he rather want to unconventionally encourage tourists to spend time at his place?
This will remain Blogger's sweet secret for now, and let's go back to the pages closer to us.
There are many interesting reports in Google Analytics and they are described in this article, because the analysis of the collected data can give you really surprising and important information for website optimisation. In addition to the basic information collected from the page views, you can use this tool to create goals that will check specific user activities that you are particularly interested in. If the website is your portfolio, then you want the right people to contact you - by setting the appropriate target, you can check from which other websites people visits yours, who ends up on the Contact page, what are their location, what pages they watched during sessions on your site. If you have a store, you may be particularly interested in information about transactions, as well as about sessions that were ended by dropping off the basket. Or maybe you run a blog about Norwegian language and teach it? Then, you can pay particular attention to the data on article views and the duration of the session during which the user reads the published texts.
Data collected and what next?
Naturally, it's a pleasure to learn something new, especially about traffic to your site. However, data is primarily used to improve something. If users don't visit the Contact page that interests you, maybe you need to make it easier for them to find it? If customers do not finish their purchases and leave a full basket, first of all we check what stopped them at this stage of order, because maybe the delivery price is too high, maybe the order form is too complex, or maybe the page is not loading fast and the customers don’t want to wait for it? What about Norwegian fans who visit the site but don't read the articles? Maybe the font is too decorative and discouraging? Or is it too small?
We are constantly making changes to our sites and it is important that we do so based on reliable data. Such data can be provided by analytical programs such as Google Analytics. If you already use it and have any questions, feel free to contact me on Facebook, where I post articles on this topic and answer your questions. If you do not know Analytics yet, but want to start using it, you may be interested in the course I teach: Google Analytics from scratch.
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If you have questions or topics that are not covered here, and you are particularly interested in, send me a message, I will be happy to help.