Key Web Analytics Metrics and Reporting

  |  August 17, 2012   |  Comments   |  

A starter's guide to web analytics reporting. Part one in a series.

Your analytics team may be using one of the following web analytics software/tools for reporting website metrics and analyzing visitors:

  • You're using one of the free web analytics tools/software that is provided by search engines: e.g., Google Analytics or Baidu Analytics.
  • You're using one of the paid solutions: e.g., Adobe/Omniture Site Catalyst or Webtrends.
  • You're using one of the paid solutions that is specifically localized for the Chinese market: e.g., 99Click or Gridsum.
  • You have built your own in-house web analytics through an open source software Piwik.

No matter which web analytics solution you are using for your online business, you will have to first define your key metrics and create a set of basic reports.

Key Metrics

Visitors: Visitors or unique visitors are the number of individuals (i.e., unique) persons who have visited your website in a specific time period. Each individual is counted only once in the unique visitor measure for the specific reporting period, but a single visitor can trigger more than one visit to a website.

The unique visitor metric isn't additive, i.e., visitors cannot be added together over any time period, over page views, or over any content groups because their activities would have been over-counted.

Visits: A visit is a unique session and can consist of more than one website page view. Visits are initiated when any user visits your website.

A single session's timeout period is 30 minutes, according to the industry standard of web analytics. When a user visits your website, leaves, and then returns in 30 minutes from her original visit, all the activities of this user will be attributed to the original session as a single session.

Page Views: The number of times a web page is viewed by visitors. Additional page views can be triggered by the same visitor when visiting the same page more than once, e.g., when the visitor reloads/refresh the same web page, or when a visitor navigates to a different web page and then returns to the original web page.

Unique Page Views: The total number of unique visitors to a given web page during a single session.

New Visitors: A new visitor is someone who visits a website for the first time in a specific time period.

Returning Visitors: A returning visitor is someone who has previously visited your website, and visits your website again, all in a specific time period.

Bounce Rate: Bounces have to do with visitors and landing pages (or entrance pages) where bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits to your website.

When a visitor leaves your website from the entrance pages (or landing pages), it is a bounce. Bounces are the number of single-page visits to your website, regardless of the number of times the web page is viewed.

Exit Rate: Exits are the number of visitors that leave your site. Exit rate is the percentage of site exits that occurred from your website. Exit rate will always be identical to the number of visits when applied over your whole website.

Clicks: Usually refers to paid search - e.g., when someone searches on Google and clicks on an ad.

Note that clicks are never equal to visits. For example, a user clicks on a banner ad on a web page and then immediately closes the browser. This user action created one click but no visit to the destination website, as the banner ad's destination web page hasn't opened at all and therefore the web analytics tools/software on that web page was unable to record that specific visit.

Key Metrics Comparison

Let's review the key metrics by comparing similar metrics:

1. Visitors vs. Visits 2. Visits vs. Page Views 3. Page Views vs. Unique Page Views 4. New Visitors vs. Returning Visitors 5. Bounce Rate vs. Exit Rate 6. Clicks vs. Visits

So now, do you fully understand the difference between each pair of metrics above?

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Gordon  Choi

Gordon Choi has paid search experience in Google AdWords and Baidu since 2003; Yahoo/Bing since 2002 and SEO and web analytics experience since 2005 across China, Asia, U.S., U.K. and Australian markets. He gathered China Internet experience through working in-house at and and now specializes in setting up SEM/SEO strategies, managing online campaign operations, and implementing web analytics solutions for clients.

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