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Web Analytics Explained – Understanding Your Website’s Effectiveness

With each website that Element Engage provides hosting for, we provide an email report detailing your current website’s traffic statistics using the StatCounter service. This is generally sent each week, but can be sent daily or monthly as well. These reports are critical for website owners and managers to know what their websites traffic is, and the visitors it consists of. Although we cannot know who specifically is visiting our site from these stats, we can still learn a lot about them. Heres a breakdown of what everything means. The examples are from an older version of the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fames website.


The almighty number every web manager is looking for is the Unique Visits number. This simply tells you how many people came to your site in the last week. There are also numbers for First Time and Returning Visits.

The stats system uses a time window to track visitor activity. For most sites this is set at 12 hours. A unique and first time visitor is anyone who shows up in the 12 hour period. If they leave the site and then come back later, but still in this 12 hour period, they are counted as a returning visitor. If they come back to the site the next day, they are back to being a Unique and First Time Visitor again.

This can be hard to grasp, so here is an example: If 100 people come to the site, and 20 of them leave the site, but later come back before the 12 hour period is up, the numbers would be…

Unique Visitors: 100
First Time Visitors: 80
Returning Visitors: 20

The other important traffic number is Page Loads. This simply means that when a visitor comes to the site and looks around visiting, say, 7 pages before leaving, he or she will have racked up 7 Page Loads. For e-commerce or product based sites, the higher the Page Load count the better. We want our visitors to be looking around. For informational sites, its okay to have a lower Page Load number, as long as people are finding what they came looking for quickly. If your information is about your businesss services, hopefully within two or three Page Loads they either landed on the contact page or picked up the phone and called you.

Popular Pages

Popular Pages is a list of the most visited pages on your site. The home page will be right up at the top, along with any pages that are ranked well in the search engines or your most popular product. Its important to watch these statistics carefully to ensure your traffic is using the site as you intended.

Came From

This is also an important list to watch. There are only a few ways for your visitors to get to your site; typing in your domain name, finding you in a search result, or clicking on a link somewhere. One of the best ways to increase your search ranking is to have links to your site from other sites. The more popular these sites are, the more it helps your ranking. Also, say you pay for a banner ad on another website to get people to come to your site and buy your stuff. It better be showing up in the Came From list or the ad is a waste of money.

Keyword Analysis

This statistic tells you what the search terms were that people used in the search engine to find you. Usually your web address, in some form or another, will be most popular. Search engine pages are often the first page people see when they open their web browser, so instead of typing in your domain name in the address bar, they simply type it in the search box. This is a good thing, because if they dont get it quite right they will still find you.

It is critical to watch the Keyword List to ensure that people are finding you using the terms you think they should be using. If these terms arent showing up, its time to take another look at your websites wording and structure. This is referred to as On-Page Search Engine Optimization.


This statistic tries to show you the location of your visitors. Its accurate only to a point. What it really is telling you is the location of the visitors ISP, not their house or office. Its a great stat for National or Regional businesses, but if youre a local shop, it cant be relied upon too much.



The importance of this list is questionable. I am not sure why anyone would want to know what Internet Service Provider companies are most popular with your visitors. Anyway, this stat simply tells you that.



Entry Pages and Exit Pages

These are lists of the pages in which a visitor arrived at your website on or left your website. The most popular Entry Pages should be the home page or landing pages you are advertising or otherwise marketing. Exit Pages should be whatever you consider the ultimate goal of your site, whether that be the contact page or a page selling your product. If a product page is listed high in the Exit Pages, but the sales aren’t there, then you know people arent being sold. The page is not effective. Time to rethink.


Similar to City, but you can count on its accuracy much more.


Search Engines

This tells you which of the search engines are doing the best for you. It should roughly correspond with the overall popularity of the search engines in general, a stat you can view here. However, if one or another isnt living up to its billing, then the reason for this needs to be investigated.


This is a stat that us web designer people look at often. Its our job to make sure the site looks good in all of the popular web browsers (they all have their little idiosyncrasies). With the rate of advancement in mobile devices, its imperative for us to know what people are looking at the site with.

Hopefully these explanations will help you understand and leverage your website analytics. The biggest drawback to traditional types of advertising efforts is that you never really have hard numbers relating to its performance. Not true with the web. Your marketing efforts can be measure with great accuracy. Web Analytics capabilities go well beyond whats contained in the email reports. It’s information overload for many, but please let us know if you crave more. Knowing the language and understanding your visitors is the key to a well trafficked and popular website.

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