Your website traffic quality is infinitely more important than quantity. Unless your business runs strictly on selling banner ads, then the amount of traffic to your website isn't really that important. At the end of the day, you're looking for metrics that give you insights about your business.
Unfortunately the most common site metrics used today are how much traffic they received in terms of unique people (“visitors") or viewed pages (“pageviews").
Imagine a supermarket owner measuring the effectiveness of her store by how many people walked through the doors in the past month. While this might be a fun stat to know, the metric does absolutely nothing for the store owner. (And these numbers would be easy to skew, too. Consider a promotion that gave away free cookies to the first 500 shoppers in the door.)
Store owners look at things they can measure, like units sold, average order price and many other factors to learn about how effective their store is. This is how we need to use our website traffic analytics, too.
A Brief History Lesson on Web Analytics
When the internet was relatively new, the standard for measuring website traffic was site “hits." These are the number of requests to the web page.
However, measuring hits wasn't very effective because any request to your website counted as a hit. If your website had 10 images, then each time the page loaded it recorded 10 hits.
You can see how this was easy to inflate the numbers: Just include a lot of files and images on your page, and every time it loaded you could lead people to believe that you had exponentially more visitors to your site than you actually did.
Next came the pageview and unique visitor. A pageview records the number of pages viewed across your website, and a unique visitor is someone who has visited your site within a given time period. To this day, these are still the defacto measurements for many businesses and their websites.
A problem with these vague measurements is that they are broad, and tell you nothing about what the people did once they landed on your website.
Better Ways to Measure Website Traffic Effectiveness
What should be of more interests is the type of people visiting your website. Currently the pageview measures the people who:
- love your brand
- hate your brand
- don't care about your brand
- mistakenly visited your website
… and everyone in between.
This is not ideal, and it's not effective. One of your goals when analyzing website traffic is to understand as much as you can about how you're serving the people who visit your websites.
The three methods below can help give you a clear indicator as to whether or not your website is meeting the needs of the people who go to our sites.
1. Bounce Rates
The bounce rate is simply the rate of people who visit your site and leave after only viewing one page. While this measurement is simple and very broad, it does a wonderful job of telling you when a page isn't giving you what visitors want. You can quickly identify pages with high or low bounce rates, which is valuable information.
For example, if you notice that a page on your site has a bounce rate of 90 percent, this means that nine out of ten people are leaving after only seeing that one page. Is the page broken? Is it poorly constructed or hard to use?
You may not know the exact reason why people are quick to leave, but by looking at your bounce rate, you can learn whether or not the page is serving your visitor's needs.
2. Session Durations
Session duration tells you how long someone stayed on the page before navigating away. This number is tricky too, because each page is different in function. For example, people often stay much longer on a blog post than your homepage, as homepages are generally designed to send people deeper into your website.
If you notice a that people are quickly leaving certain content-heavy pages, than you have a safe assumption that those pages aren't communicating well to those visitors. (You'll find that these short-session pages probably also have high bounce rates.)
Conversely if visitors spend lots of time reading and engaging on certain other pages, you know you're likely giving people what they're searching for.
3. Conversion Rates
If you could only look at one stat about your website, this is the one that I would pay attention to. A conversion rate is the rate at which people take a desired action on your site. This beautiful metric can give you great insight into how effective your website is at nudging the visitor to taking the desired action.
For most businesses, the desired action is either generating a lead or making a sale. I find it helpful to track this per page, as an aggregate number for the entire site isn't very helpful. You can drill down to specific pages and see which ones convert best. You could use this information to clean up the underperforming ones, and take lessons from the top performing ones.
Another great metric is tracking the conversion rate by source. How well are you converting with social traffic, search engines, word of mouth or other websites? How well are you converting on mobile versus desktop traffic? What about by age or other demographics of the people visiting the site? The conversion rate gives you all this valuable data.
My favorite use case is to track conversion rates by referring websites. If you determine that a referring website is converting at a high rate, you could reach out to buy advertising or create some sort of partnership to increase those inbound visits.
While generic website traffic metrics like pageviews are somewhat useful, consider using data that tells you how your website is serving the people who visit it. If you're meeting the needs of your visitors, then you'll have a better chance of turning that visitor into a lead or customer over time.