Website Statistics – Visitors, Hits etc

We are often approached by clients, and sometimes by prospects, and asked about the number of hits to their website and whether the numbers they are seeing is good or not.

While we are careful to never disclose confidential information about other clients we can, if the figures are available, take a look at them and compare them to other firms of Accountants that we are working on to give a guideline about the number of visitors.

This blog post is aimed at explaining some of the more common terms and illustrating the kind of things that you should be looking at in your website stats.  We have based this on someone who is using a common stats package (AWStats) which is run by many hosts on their servers.

Terminology

We will start by clearing up some common terms that you may see or hear bandied around when people are talking about website statistics :-

  • Hits – this is a meaningless measurement for most people.  It isn’t as you might think the number of times that a page is viewed as technically it’s the number of files accessed on the server.  A page can be made up of many files, for example there may be    a style sheet  that controls what the page looks like (font face, colour, size, background images, positions of columns etc), a menu file, a couple of images (a logo and a photo) and the actual page content (the wording on the page).  A simple page like this would be 5 hits on the (1 for the style sheet, 1 for the menu, 2 for the images and 1 for the wording).
  • Pages – this is more helpful as it is a count of the number of pages looked at on the site.
  • Visitors – a visitor is someone who comes to your site (duhh…).  But a visitor may be counted as two visitors if they come back to your site the following day (or even later the same day) as stats packages count the visitor as being a single person if the gap between them looking at pages is less than a specified time (usually about 15 – 30 minutes depending on the stats package).  Similarly if you have two people visiting your site from the same IP address (say a prospective client has a colleague looking at the site at the same time) this will only count as one visitor.
  • Unique Visitors – a “unique” is someone who has visited your site for the first time in the period that the stats package covers – so for example if I were to visit your site today and come back again tomorrow (or even later today) I would be 1 unique visitor but counted multiple times as a visitor.

The image below shows you a sample of the figures from an AWStats report.

Typical web site stats showing visitors and hits

Things to watch

There are several areas of AWStats that can prove interesting to a website owner when checking how well their website is doing (although the main criteria must be the number of enquiries or sales that the site generates).

These include the pages that have been visited (Navigation –> Viewed –> Full list ), the image below shows a typical report (with the page names blurred out for confidentiality reasons, as all the images below are).  This may not be easy to see but the columns you would be interested in are the “URL” (the page address), Visitors, Entry and Exit ones.

Looking at the image below the home page “/” has been viewed 179 times in the first three days of April, of these views 115 of them were the first page looked at by a visitor and 109 visitors left the site having looked at the home page last.  The next page has been looked at 46 times and the third page on the list has been viewed 39 times.

Pages viewed

You can get a similar report for the pages that people enter the site on (in AWStats it’s in Navigation –> Viewed –> Entry).

The next one that is normally of use is the referring sites – this shows you the sites that have sent you visitors.  If you are paying for a display advert or to be listed on a website you should see the site being listed in this area of the report (if you are not then it might be worth questioning why the money is being spent).

Finally you might want to look at the search phrases being used to find you, while this is of interest generally it can also suggest areas of your site that you might want to look at to try to improve conversion rates, for example if you have lots of people looking at your site for tax advice then make sure that the page they are landing on has an easy way for visitors to contact you.

If you look at your web site statistics on a regular basis is there anything else you look at?  We would be pleased to hear if you feel that there is anything we have missed or if you feel that anything we have said needs more explanation, just fill in the comments form below.