So you’ve got you’re new website set up but it’s not getting many hits, what do you do? A quick search online and you’ll find a plethora of websites that will offer you website submission, SEO tips and tricks and both paid and link exchange programs.
So an hour and a hundred pounds later you’ve submitted your site to dozens of search engines you’ve never heard of, downloaded an ebook that that promises the Earth in exchange for your email address and decided that meta tags and PageRank rule the Internet.
At this point I’d recommend taking a relaxing deep breath. Don’t try to rush things – you’re probably working hard enough already, just focussing your efforts in the wrong place. Now that just sounds smug, but there’s a point here. The first step is to take a good hard look at your website and work out what really matters and that’s where great tools like Google Analytics come in. Watch this video for a very Google-specific but thought provoking introduction to a nunber of “metrics” that can help you better understand your website and how visitors use it.
In other words, hits aren’t everything and knowledge is power. This doesn’t have to be in a scary bad way, it simply means that you can target your website better to suit your audience.
Going back a few years hits were still a regular measure of the success of a website. Hits are still important, but the term is often used as a generic term of discussion, like “Does the site get many hits?”. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of talk, but it’s not going to stand as a website metric when negotiating link exhanges or selling banner ads. More to the point it’s not going to be of much use to you, the site manager.
Hits:- Total traffic to your website.
- Each visitor to your website could account for a hit for evey page / item they view.
- A search engine bot could account for a large proportion of your hits, without any real persons visiting!
- Some webstat packages look at http requests ie. each time an item is requested eg. a gif, a stylesheet, a video!
Tools and services exist that can help you to filter out search engine traffic and ensure that only selected files eg. html, podcast downloads etc counted in statistics.
This is a nice measurement that separates the hits down into individual users that have visited your website. In other words, a visitor is one user that has entered your website, regardless of how many pages they might have visited. The visitor is usually recounted each time they visit ie. disconnect from your server by closing their browser or going somewhere else then return.
- A user visiting your website
- Can often be filtered to exclude search engine bots etc.
- The amount of completely different users that have visited your website during a given period.
- Usually determined by IP address. ie a user visits the site from 2 IP addresses (work / home) = 2 visits.
Pages per visit
If each visitor only looks at one page, then the hits could be similar to the visitors. This can be typical of blogs, which hook visitors from search engines such as Google or Yahoo but don’t offer much nore information on the topic. Reference tools such as Whois.net, Dictionary.com or Whatismyip.com have the same sort of “one hit wonder” traffic.
Pages per visit:
- This is the amount of pages a visitor browses whilst on your site, usually a mean average.
- A low pages per visit means that visitors don’t stick around to find out more.
Of course, you could be feeling very proud because your new site has 10 pages per visit. If you think this through for a minute and dig a little deeper into the stats then you may well find that the high pages per visit is down to your own tinkering or that of your web designer or Search Engine Marketing consultant!
In many cases, the aim would be to grab the interest of a visitor with engaging content so that they stay on your site and find out more about what you have to offer. If visitors land on your website you have a matter of seconds to grab their attention and stimulate further interest. This first impression must convine the visitor that their needs will be met; these needs vary depending on the purpose of your website but could include providing a solution to a problem, establishing trust (look and feel, certification, SSL encryption), and simply making it clear exactly what you / your website is about.
Once visitors are on your website, offer tempting links and graphics to encourage a user helpful user journey throughout the site. Good written content helps all sites retain visitors, good product search and filtering tools are essential for online shops and cleverly places “find out more” links all help improve and enhance this journey.
Websites that don’t engage the visitor have a high bounce rate. For sites such as online shops, or portal sites this is a really useful measure of a website’s success. If visitors simply “bounce” off your landing page without exploring further then you really need to look at whether you are attracting the right visitors, if your site is confusing or unatractive or worse still simply offering the wrong content and products. On the other hand, if your website is a reference site, a blog or a sinlge page “business card” then a high bounce rate is really not a problem at all.
- The percentage of visitors that leave after only viewing one page (usally the homepage).
Time on site
The time a visitor spends on your website can be very useful for larger sites such as portals that intend to provide social networking and membership services. Websites that provide lots of content that is targeted to their users in an accesible manner can score highly, for example professional communities such as www.safetyusersgroup.com, multimedia rich sites such as Youtube or Drum and Bass Arena engage users for long periods of time once they have logged on by providing large amounts of relevant or easilly filtetred content.
Your site might stimulate users by providing unique content, eye catching product graphics weavin insupporting information such as blogs, news or video that hold attention.
There are, of course many other metrics that you can use to evaluate your website’s effectiveness. What I have tried to communicate here is that all search engine marketing should be driven towards achieving your own goals – and different websites have quite different goals. They are a useful ally and must be used in context with a fair pinch of common sense.
For some less opinionated background reading take a look at some use webstat definitions.
Top tools include the free Google Analytics and Yahoo Web Analytics. Many Internet Service Providers also provide basic free tools. If you have your own server try AWStats or Webalizer and if you fancy a little web development take a look at the open source Piwik project (although there’s really no reason not to use a free service that someone like Google has already set up and hosted free for you!)