Basic Web Traffic Data Definitions

Views, Visits, and Visitors… Oh My!

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Interpreting your website’s analytics correctly is the first step in being able to improve the experience for your visitors. Since it’s easy to get these terms confused, I decided to put together a little cheat sheet so you can make educated and data-backed decisions when creating marketing goals. Here are the basic web traffic data definitions every marketer should know.

You will find that each of these categories is included in your Google Analytics Overview. Keep in mind that some SEO tools have different names for each of these but the data remains the same.

Visits

Generally speaking, a visit is when a person reaches your website from outside of your domain. Only one visit is attributed to a visitor no matter how many pages they go to on your website.

Visitor

A visitor is someone who visits your site. Users are counted by a complicated calculation involving cookies, but you can segment your analytics by timeframes for a more accurate representation of the number of individuals that visited during the time.

Session

According to Google, “a session is the period of time a user is actively engaged with your website.” In other words, it’s a container for a visitor’s activity within a certain time frame. A session is similar to a visit in that one session can include multiple pageviews (see below). It differs in that it involves a time frame. For Google, the default is set at 30 minutes. This can be adjusted.

A session ends and a new one begins when the user does one of three things – is inactive for 30 minutes and then active again; a user arrives via a campaign, leaves, and then returns via a different campaign; or the clock strikes midnight.

Pageviews

A pageview is each time a page is loaded by a browser. Pageviews are counted multiple times, so if a person refreshes their browser, that counts as two pageviews. If a person went to your homepage, clicked on your About Us page, and then went to your Contact Us page, that would count as three separate views.

Pageviews are the key to knowing if and how people move through your website. Do they just visit your homepage and bounce off or do they click around to find more information?

Unique Pageviews

Unique Pageviews totals the pageviews generated by the same user during the same session. Whether the visitor views the page once during their visit or five times, the number of unique pageviews will be recorded as just one.

New vs. Returning Visitors

This report shows the ratio of new to returning users by the number and percentage of sessions. New users have never been to your website while returning users have visited your site in the past. This helps you gauge whether you’re seeing new or repeat customers.

The only downside to this report is that Google uses cookies to track visitors, so if someone clears the cookies from their browser, they’re register as a new visitor again. Also, cookies are stored on one device, so a visit from a computer and a visit from a mobile phone by the same person would count as two new visitors.

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