SEO: 5 web metrics you need to know

On July 10, 2011, in Search Engines, by Lola B


 

Keep it simple

The  internet, with its accompanying jargon, can be slightly overwhelming.   The solution is to identify the terms you are most likely to use  and come across on a regular basis and leave the rest to the experts. These five metrics are probably your best bet.

 1. Hits

 Hits are the total number of HTTP requests that were sent to your server during a specific period of time eg day, week month, and year. HTTP or Hypertext Transfer Protocol is a set of rules and guidelines that browsers and web servers use to chat with each other. When you type “www.google.com” in your browser, it will send a request to a specific ‘name server’ asking what is the IP address of the web server that is hosting that domain. This is because computers don’t recognize domain names (e.g., google.com), only binary code and no; you don’t need to know binary code. Once the browser knows the IP address, it will an HTTP request to that web server, asking for the page that you want to access, and this will generate what is referred to as a hit. The web server will then check whether the page that you want to access exists or not. If it does, the server will send the page (which could be an HTML document, for example) back to your browser. Your browser will then analyze that page, trying to find objects that are needed to complete the page. Those objects can be images, style sheets, scripts etc. If these additional objects exist, the browser will send a further HTTP request for each of them, and these would be counted as hits, too. So you are now thinking that you should include more of these on your website, I hope. So, if your HTML page has four images within it, every time someone visits your page your server would see 5 HTTP requests, one for the page and the additional 4 for the images and you would be credited on your web analytics program with 5 hits.

 2. Files

 Files are hits where data is actually sent back to the user. Most of the time a hit will also generate a file, with two exceptions: when the user requests a page that doesn’t exist in which case only a 404 error will be sent back; and when the user requests a page that is already cached in his browser, in which case no data will be sent to him since he already has it. Those exceptions will only generate hits and not files.

 3. Page Views

 A page views are also referred to as page impressions. They are generated every time a user views a page on your website. If the user arrives on your home page and then proceeds to read your “About” page and one internal article, this person will generate three page views. For this reason it is good to keep your visitors on your site for as long as possible, for example by using internal links. I prefer using page views rather than hits because hits are affected by the number of objects inside each page. Imagine you have two websites, one that only uses text inside one of its pages, and one that has lots of images, say 20 on one of its pages. The webpage with the 20 images would have disproportionately more hits registered against it than the webpage with just text, even if the same number of people visited the one page on both of the websites. A high number of hits do not translate to high traffic.

 4. Visits

 A visit, is generated when the user requests the first page from your website. If that same user keeps requesting the same or new pages, it will still be considered the same visit. Most web analytics programs have a timeout period that is used to separate different visits. This is usually set to 30 minutes, so if a user requests a first page now and a second page within 29 minutes, it will be counted as one single visit. If, however, he requests a first page now and a second page after 45 minutes, it will be counted as two visits.

 5. Unique Visitors

The number of unique visitors on a website is the number of individual computers that accessed it during a specific time frame. If a person visits your website 3 different times in a day (more than 30 minutes apart), you would have 3 visits but only 1 unique visitor. Along with page views, a unique visitor is one of the most important web metrics because it is a measure of the real reach of your website. Some analytics programs will calculate the unique visitors differently. For instance, they will estimate that number by checking how many different IP addresses sent requests to your server. This method is not reliable, however, because some networks allow many users to share the same IP address, and this would lead the analytics program to underestimate the number of unique visitors. The ‘best practice’ way of tracking the number of unique visitors on a website is by placing a cookie on each user that visits the site. An Internet cookie is basically a piece of text or code that a web server can store in the computer of the users who visit it. A user ID would be placed on your computer, and that same ID would be stored on a local database. Should you visit the site again, the web server would know that you had been there before.

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ABOUT

Ihubbusiness is an information hub for small businesses who wish to learn about internet marketing. The site was founded by Lola Bailey in 2010. Lola is a member of the Institute of Digital Marketing and has over 20 years sales and marketing experience. She is also a full-time copywriter at www.write-upcommunications.co.uk, a copywriter consultancy which she founded. Email: editor@ihubbusiness.co.uk

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