Lynn Serafinn explains how a deep analysis of your visitors, page views and bounce rate can help you understand the effectiveness of your blog marketing.
One of the business and marketing services we offer our clients is blogging support. As part of that service, we review their blog statistics every six weeks, to get a better idea of how well our marketing efforts are working. While just the WORD statistics can make many business owners’ eyes glaze over, I find them fascinating. I like to look at them from different angles, and try to understand the underlying picture they are painting.
For statistics to be genuinely useful business tools, they cannot be examined solely on a quantitative level. You have to know how to get the ‘juice’ out of them, and how to turn numbers into qualitative information that speaks about how your audience is engaging with your brand. So, in the next two articles, I’ll be taking you on a whistle-stop tour of some of the basic statistics for your blog, and what they can tell you.
The ideas I’ll be sharing are taken from ‘Chapter 16: Pay Attention to Stats’ of my upcoming book The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging, which I am aiming to launch in January 2016 (you can get a sneak peek of it if you click the link). While abridged from what I share in the book, these two articles will hopefully provide some useful tips and insights.
To monitor and review your blog statistics, you have to start by choosing the right analytic tools. While I talk about these in the book, for the purpose of these articles, I don’t want to launch into a comparison of the various tools available. Rather, for those of you who do not have one in place, below are three free analytic tools that can perform the functions we’ll be examining. Of course, there are many others from which to choose.
- Google Analytics – http://piwik.org/
- Piwik – http://piwik.org/
- AWSTATS – typically available from your control panel (cpanel) via your web host.
Visits (or Visitors)
Depending on which analytic tool you use, this parameter is called either ‘visits’ or ‘visitors’. This refers to the number of times people have come to your website (per day, month or year), regardless of how many unique/individual people it represents. For example, if one person comes to your site four times over the course of a month, it counts as four visits. Simply landing on your website qualifies as a ‘visit’, regardless of how much time they spent on it.
For this figure to have any meaning, it has to be evaluated in conjunction with the next four parameters – unique visitors, page views, bounce rate and average time on site.
The ‘unique visitors’ parameter is the number of individual people who visit your site during the selected time period. Well, technically, it is the number of IP addresses (individual computers or mobile devices) that have accessed your site. ‘Unique visitors’ differs from ‘visits’ because one person/computer might log into your website multiple times on the same day/month. Conversely, one person might log into the same website from multiple computers or mobile devices. Here are two examples demonstrating how these two possibilities might show up in a site’s statistics:
- A public computer at a cybercafé counts as one IP address. If 100 people a month view The New York Times online every day for a month on the same public computer, it would count as one unique visitor, but 3,000 monthly visits.
- Let’s say you regularly read a specific blog once every week, sometimes on your home PC and sometimes on your mobile phone. On that site’s stats, it would show up as two unique visitors, but four monthly visits.
As the term implies, pages views represents the number of pages people opened during a selected time period (per day, month or year). Notice that I said ‘opened’, not ‘read’. Just because someone clicked on a link does not mean they actually read the content. (We’ll come back to this very important point in Part 2 of this article series.)
The ratio between page views, visits and unique visitors can tell us a lot about how our readers are consuming our content. For example, if your stats reveal you have had 1,000 unique visitors, 4,000 visits and 8,000 page views over the past month, it would tell you that – on average – each of your readers comes to your site four times a month, and reads two articles every time they are there. Of course, averages never tell the actual story. What is more likely true is that about 70% of your 1,000 unique visitors viewed your site for less than a minute and then clicked away without returning, and a small percentage (10% or less) consumed several articles in one sitting, or perhaps bookmarked an article to reread it later that month.
The only way to get a clearer picture of what might actually be happening is to look at this ratio in the context of two more parameters – bounce rate and time spent on site.
Years ago when I first heard the term ‘bounce rate’, it scared me. I thought it meant something was wrong with my site, causing people to receive an error page. Fortunately, ‘bounce rate’ doesn’t mean your site is broken; but a consistently high bounce rate is still not something you want to see in your stats.
‘Bounce rate’ refers to the percentage of your blog visits in which only a single page was viewed. In other words, if someone comes to your site, looks at one page and then leaves without checking out anything else on your site, that’s called a ‘bounce’.
Analysts frequently make a big deal about bounce rate, saying that a high bounce rate is always a sign that visitors are not interested in your content. But, again, without context a bounce in and of itself doesn’t tell us much. Here are a few different scenarios, ALL of which would show up as a ‘bounce’:
- A visitor landed on your site, took one look at it and clicked away without bothering to read your article.
- A new visitor read one of your articles from beginning to end. They didn’t feel the need to read anything else during that visit, but they liked the article so much they ended up subscribing to your blog so they could get future updates.
- One of your regular blog visitors came to read your latest article. They didn’t read anything else because they’ve already read it all!
- A new or returning visitor checked out one of your blog posts. They were on their way to work and didn’t have time to read it, so they bookmarked it to come back to later.
As you can see, not all ‘bounces’ are created equal. In my opinion, only the first of these examples is an actual ‘bounce’. While, as a rule of thumb, you want to see your bounce rate go DOWN over time, you cannot really evaluate the impact of this figure without considering the other statistics, including ‘average time spent on site’, which we’ll look at in the next article.
SOMETHING TO BEAR IN MIND: There is another possible cause for pages to ‘bounce’ – comment spammers. Most comment spammers use robots that simply land on your site, leave a spam comment and leave. While that might be a relief to know, you should also bear in mind that comment spammers are probably also responsible for a certain percentage of your other statistics, e.g. unique visitors, visits and page views. While many analytic tools are able to tell the different between a legitimate viewer and a robot, your stats may include visits from these insidious invaders.
A Few Calculations
All of these statistics must be looked at collectively to get a feel for their possible meaning. For example, let’s say your stats for last month looked like this:
- Unique visitors = 5,000
- Visits = 10,000
- Page views = 20,000
- Bounce rate = 75%
Now let’s see how these stats work together to form a clearer picture of what’s going on:
- How many times did our visitors come to our site last month? Statistically, we can see that on average, each of our unique visitors visits our site twice a month (10,000 divided by 5,000) and views a total of four pages per month (20,000 page views divided by 5,000). Most analytic tools will calculate this figure for you. However, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
- How many times did our visitors REALLY come to our site last month? Going deeper requires looking at the bounce rate. A bounce rate of 75% means that only 25% of our 10,000 visits resulted in more than one page been accessed. 25% of 10,000 is 2,500. Thus 2,500 visits resulted in more than one page view.
- How much content did our visitors REALLY look at when they came to our site? To get a better idea of what that means, we could then subtract all the visits that contained only ONE page view (7,500) from the total page views (20,000), giving us a remainder of 12,500. That figure represents the number of pages accessed on those 2,500 visits where more than one page was accessed. If we then divide 12,500 by 2,500, we can estimate that an average of five pages were accessed on each of these visits.
- How many people does this REALLY represent? The answer to that question is more difficult to pin down. As we said earlier, due to fact that people access our webpages from so many different points of origin these days, the ‘unique visitors’ figure probably does not give us an accurate picture of how many people are actually viewing our site. But if we were to ignore those inevitable discrepancies and take them at face value, I would be inclined to subtract the 75% bounce rate from the unique visitor total, leaving us with a figure of 1,250 unique visitors who viewed more than one page that month.
Putting all that together, we might estimate that about 1,250 individual visitors each came to our site on two separate occasions last month, during which time they accessed a total of about ten pages.
In real life, however, it is far more likely that a small percentage of these 1,250 individuals were significantly more engaged than the others. And as we said, many of those ‘unique’ individuals are likely to be the same person, accessing your site from different locations. Thus, your 5,000 unique visitors might actually boil down to about 500 – 1000 (5% – 10%) actively engaged readers.
Admittedly, I am being intentionally conservative with those figures. Many modern marketers talk about an ’80/20 principle’, meaning that the top 20% of your audience are the most likely to be the most engaged.
So that leads us to the next logical question:
To answer that question, we’d need to look at another set of statistics, measuring the amount of time our readers spend on our site.
That’s what we’ll be looking at in Part 2 of this short guide to blog statistics. I think you’ll be fascinated by what the actual numbers reveal. I know I was…but I confess I’m geeky that way.
If you’re not already subscribed to this blog, I invite you to do so, so you will be sure to receive Part 2 via email when it comes out in a few days’ time. I promise it will give you a real feeling for that ‘juiciness’ of your blog stats, which I mentioned at the top of this article.
And, hey, you just might learn to love statistics.
Update 6 October 2015: Here’s the link to Part 2: “Blog Visitors – Just HOW Engaged Are Your Top 10%?”
24 September 2015
P.S.: If you’re thinking you’d like to get some help in creating a blogging strategy that can help grow your socially-conscious, independent business, have a look at our Platform Building package and other services on our ‘Work With Us’ page. Then, drop us a line via the CONTACT form on this site to request a free 30-minute Skype consultation.
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LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketing strategist, social media expert, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.
Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project, an independent marketing consultancy created to support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their businesses ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.
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