Far too often people seem to get themselves in a muddle when it comes to basic web metrics; people confuse definitions all the time and in doing so, fail to realise the significance, or lack thereof, of the data they collect. I often find myself talking to people who run their own websites and don’t know the difference between page views and visits, or bounce rate and exit rate. In an attempt to tackle this problem I have collated a few of the basic terms and provided some definition and context. My future posts will start to take the basics and develop them a little further. So here it goes:
A page view is counted every time a page on your site loads.
Sometimes called a session, a visit is counted every time your site is accessed. A single visit ends when the user leaves the site or is inactive for 30 minutes.
So what is the difference between page views and visits?
A visit is only counted once when a page (or group of pages) is accessed during a session. Page views count the number of times each page is accessed.
A user enters your site via page A. They click on page B and then go back to page A. They are inactive for 30 minutes, then refresh page A before leaving the site.
Your site has had 1 unique visitor, 2 visits and 4 page views.
Page A has had 1 unique visitor, 2 visits and 3 page views.
Page B has had 1 unique visitor, 1 visit and 1 page view.
This is the number of unique people who visit your site. However, this cannot ever be 100% accurate.
Why can the number of unique visitors never be 100% accurate?
Repeat visitors are recognised by the cookie they received the first time they visited your site. Some people may have cookies disabled, or delete their cookies since last visiting your site. These people will not be recognised and will be counted as another unique visitor.
The number of unique visitors can also be over-inflated by users accessing your site from different devices. For example, a user may access your site from their home computer, their work laptop and their phone. Each of these devices will be given a different cookie and this user will be counted as 3 unique visitors.
On the contrary, multiple people can use the same device to access your site eg. a shared family computer. If cookies are enabled, they will all be counted as one unique visitor.
An entry to a page (or group of pages) is counted every time a user enters your site via this page (or one of these pages).
The entry rate is the percentage of total visits to a page (or group of pages) that were entries.
An exit from a page (or group of pages) is counted every time this page (or one of these pages) is the last page to be accessed during a visit.
The exit rate is the percentage of total visits to a page (or group of pages) that were exits.
There are different definitions for a bounce but the most common is the same as a single access visit. This is a visit to your site during which only one page is viewed.
The bounce rate is the percentage of entries that were bounced.
What is the difference between exit rate and bounce rate?
Exit Rate = Exits / Visits Bounce Rate = Bounces / Entries
The exit rate of a page (or group of pages) considers the total traffic to this page (or group of pages); the bounce rate only considers traffic that entered your site via this page (or one of these pages).
For more web analytics definitions, see Google’s list of metric definitions.
For more information and advice on how to improve bounce rates, look at this infographic: Bounce Rate Demystified.