Web analytics is a method of collecting data from the web to measure the performance and usage of websites. It’s not just a practice for the IT department to assist with the maintenance of the company website—It is also an incredibly useful tool when it comes to marketing.
Web analytics can help marketers assess the impact that a particular marketing or advertising campaign has on a website’s activity (say it has driven more traffic or improved conversions, for example). It is also a useful practice for informing market research, as you can examine traffic flows to determine what is popular among your audience.
The most commonly used web analytics tool is Google Analytics, which is free to install onto your website. If you’ve used Google Analytics before or done any research into web analytics, then you’ll know there is a lot of jargon and important web analytics terms to get your head around.
To help you get a handle on the basics of web analytics to inform your marketing activities, here are some key web analytics terms and metrics that you should understand.
A hit refers to any file or item being downloaded from a web server. This item could be a whole web page, or parts of a web page such as images, videos, text, etc. Because of this, multiple hits can be recorded from a single pageview.
Pageviews are the number of pages viewed on your site, and can be recorded per visitor or per session as well as in total. Pages don’t have to be unique to count as a new pageview, so if someone navigates back and forth between two webpages, these will count as a new pageview with each navigation.
A session counts as an entire visit to a website. So, if someone spends 30 minutes browsing your site and visits multiple pages before navigating away, this is recorded as a single session. The same person can record multiple sessions if they revisit the site after their session times out.
Google Analytics reports where traffic to your site has originated from, i.e. how people landed on your site. Key traffic sources are:
Cookies are the primary method for measuring traffic to a website and the behavior of users online. A cookie is a piece of data that is stored in a user’s browser after visiting a website. This cookie will remain in that browser for a specified period of time, or until cookies are manually deleted by the user.
Although there are a lot of complexities to web analytics, these basic key web analytics terms should give you enough background knowledge to get started with analyzing your website activity. Gaining insights into this area will provide you with additional tools to inform your marketing activity and optimization.