Understanding Web Traffic Terms

web analytics termsWith the internet and social media becoming an integral part of any marketing campaign these days, it’s important to educate yourself on the various web traffic terms you will no doubt encounter. The following are collection of the most common terms used when talking about web traffic; some useful, and others not so much (smoke and mirrors).

Click-through rate (CTR): CTR is the ratio of users who click on a specific link to the number of total users who view a page, email, or advertisement. It is commonly used to measure the success of an online advertising campaign for a particular website as well as the effectiveness of email campaigns.

Entry/Exit Pages: The first and last pages of a website viewed by a visitor.

Hits: Measuring traffics in hits usually returns a proudly large number. Hits are also known as requests and it’s the total number of files loaded when a single page is requested from a web server. So how are hits calculated? Picture this – a single web page with 20 images (background and other graphic elements, banners, etc.) is loaded, that’s 20 hits for starters. The web page also has 10 photos, that’s another 10 hits. If you add up the CSS files, Javascript files and all the external files, each time a web page is loaded, it can easily build up more than 50 hits. If you clear you cache, reload the page, another 50+ hits again. Hits are rarely used to to judge a website’s traffic nowadays as they are not really accurate. The numbers are big and certainly cool, but generally useless.

Impressions: Impression is more or less a marketing term, normally calculated in bulk of 1000. It counts how many times an element (image, text, video) appears on a web page. If an advertiser is paying $3/CPM (Cost Per Thousand Impressions), that means it is costing $3 when a banner appears 1000 times on web page(s).

IP Address: A number which identifies the location of a client (web surfer) on the Internet. In theory this is a unique number which can be used to identify separate visitors. (Note: You can view your current IP address here.)

Page Views: Pageviews is a calculation of how many times a page is viewed. Say a visitor lands on your main page, that’s one pageview. Same visitor clicks to About Us page, that’s another pageview. By dividing total pageviews with total unique visitors, you can get an idea how many pageviews each visitor generates.

Session: A unique visit.

Unique Visit: One visit to a website by one visitor. The visitor may view any number of pages during a visit. If the visitor leaves and comes back later, this counts as a second unique visit. Exactly how much time needs to elapse between visits in order to count as a new visit depends on the way the analysing software is configured. The JICWEBS definition for a visit is that it is a series of page requests with a gap of no more than 30 minutes between each one.  If someone asks for a page 31 minutes after the preceding page, it must be counted as a new visit.

Unique Visitor: A single person who visits a website, no matter how many times. If a person visits a site a hundred times in a month, they are still counted as a single unique visitor. Unfortunately this is far from accurate.  Every single person inside the Ford Corporation has the same IP address and they all go onto the web from the same gateway in Chicago (even the 88,000 in Europe).  Corporations hide internal IP addresses for valid security reasons.  Most people in Ford have the same browser and operating system (what Ford call the Global Client).  Thus, according to the official standards, more than 320,000 people are the same unique visitor.  This will hold true for any corporation with shared internet access and a common standard for their workstations.