Thanks for stopping by once again to our ongoing series intended to help you learn as much as possible about your website’s analytics. At this point I’ve explained what is meant by bounce rate as well as detailing the differences between direct, organic and referral traffic. This time, as promised, we’re going to get into how all of those traffic sources are defined within your analtyics as well as detailing what exactly makes up a “page view”. Most importantly, however, I’m going to explain how you can use this information to improve your business—after all, that’s why you’re here! Ok, let’s roll up our sleeves and get things started!
So, you’ve got your website analytic report in front of and you notice the terms ‘New Visitor’ and ‘Returning Visitor’. Sounds pretty self explanatory, wouldn’t you agree? Someone visiting your site for the first time is a newbie. Those coming back for seconds, thirds or fourths are returning visitors. “Ok, Brian, I got it. Let’s move on to something a bit more complex, what do you say?” Whoa, hold on there a minute. I admire your eagerness, but we have to look at these terms a bit more closely.
Let’s say someone comes to your website and they weren’t carrying cookies from a previous visit, they would be considered a new visitor. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve never been to your site before, it just means they no longer have any Google Analytic tracking that states they did browse your site in the past. I know, you’re wondering what a ‘cookie’ in our scenario is.
A cookie is simply a string of text that is sent to a user’s browser from a website’s server every time a website is accessed. The browser then returns the cookie to the web server on future visits. Cookies are intended to improve the user experience by letting the server recall customized information. This may sound a bit suspect, but cookies are perfectly safe. Now, getting back to our example.
If a viewer has cleared their cookies since the last time they visited your site, they will be identified as a ‘New Visitor’. When you’re rolling out a new marketing campaign, say a magazine ad, PPC or email blast, you can expect to see an increase in New Visitors. If an individual is visiting your site, and it’s not the first time, and they are using the same browser, on the same computer and have yet to clear their cookies they are considered a……
Now, this person has been to your site at least once in the time period reflected in your analytics. The amount of return visitors to your site reflects how beneficial (or insignificant) your website is to the viewer—if you’re giving them reasons to return regularly, they will! It’s important to note, you will notice both Returning Visitors and New Visitors represented in your analytics as a percentage. For example, if you notice 70% of traffic to your site is noted as Returning Visitors and 30% as New Visitors, this can be an indicator that you have solid, engaging content. But remember, this is a percentage. Heaven forbid your site only had a combined total of 10 visitors, during the period you’re reviewing. That 70% of Returning Visitors would only amount to a disappointing 7 viewers that came back to your site. These numbers are relative, so keep that in mind.
Page Views & Sessions
Ok, so now let’s talk about where these new and returning visitors are going while they’re on your website. When reviewing your analytics you will very easily be able to note which of your site pages are the most popular and which ones could use a little TLC (that’s not some mysterious website term we’re going to define, it just means tender loving care!)
What can you do with this valuable information? Plenty! Say you discover your “Customer Testimonial” page is getting the most page views, perhaps you should consider adding links within the content to drive traffic to your “Contact Us” page. Maybe you discover the majority of viewers are spending a lot of time on your blog page—great! Offer a sign in form on this page, share that blog all across social media, replicate that same blog topic in a new, unique article. Now you’re getting the picture!
Also, it’s important to mention “Sessions”. The user session starts when the viewer arrives on your site and ends when they navigate away to a different URL not on your site. If the visitor leaves your site, but returns within 30 minutes, it is still considered one session. If they navigate away, and come back at any time past 30 minutes, it’s considered another session. Since the same user can have multiple sessions, it’s also important to note “Unique Sessions”—which are the number of sessions held by unique individuals (or at least, different browsers and devices). A person could be browsing your site on their phone and decide they want to continue on their desktop or tablet.
See, all of this website analytic stuff isn’t as mysterious and complicated as you thought! You’re well on your way to becoming an educated pro! Next time we’re going to talk about landing pages and exit pages.