4 Essential Web Metric Terms Bloggers Need to Know

[This is part of the Blogger's Guide to Earning More with Google Adsense.]

There are a few other definitions that you should be familiar with if you’re going to make any sense of Google Adsense (and web analytics as a whole) and how you’re doing, especially as we move into areas of optimization and testing.

As we all know the most important thing for you and your growing blog is traffic – but not just any type of traffic, you need organic traffic!

But you’ll need to make sure that you’re familiar with and comfortable with a few terms and definitions related to traffic and general web metrics – and I can never be too certain nor assume that the audience I have here is well-versed and/or familiar these terms.

Some of you may already have a firm grasp on this terminology so feel free to skip this post altogether – but for those that need a quick intro or for those that need a good refresher here you go! We’re going to be using these terms very frequently so it’s in your best interest to know exactly what we’re talking about!

Oh, and before we start it’s absolutely critical that you have some sort of web analytics system in place, especially Google Analytics! Don’t forget as any optimization that we do will require you to jump into that system (at least)!

1. Hits

You may here this term a lot but I’ll tell you that most people use it incorrectly and they typically mean one of the other terms when they say “hits” – it is most simply understood as the total number of requests for information (HTTP) that were sent to your server.

They are typically calculated in days, weeks, months, and so on.

If a person just visits a website there are nearly always more than one hit to the web server. For example, if you visit a website with 5 images embedded in the HTML, 1 CSS stylesheet, 3 javascripts, then you have 10 hits (5 requests for images plus 1 request for the stylesheet plus 3 requests for javascript plus one request for the page).

As you can imagine your blog’s server get’s “hit” a lot for requests every time one of your visitors take a look at your blog!

2. Visits (or Session)

This term, which is also called a “session” is created when your visitor first requests a page from your blog and/or website.

If that user continues to hang out at your blog it’s still the same “visit.” Think of it as heading to the Zoo: You have are visiting the Zoo one time but perhaps multiple places (pages) within the zoo. It’s still just one visit though. Eventually you will leave and that concludes your one visit.

Now most analytics systems and programs have a “timeout” period so that if a user visits one time within that period, leaves, and heads back outside of that first time period it’ll count as another visit. Many applications use 30 minutes as their timeout period.

3. Unique Visits

Oftentimes confused with just Visits above you now have the Unique Visits metric to consider. Unique visits are the number of independent and unique computers that accessed a particular site and/or page over a certain period of time.

Using the same Zoo example above, if you visit the Zoo one day 3 times (at 9:00am, leave at 10:00am, come back at 3:00pm, leave at 4:00pm, and then at 8:00pm and leave at 9:00pm) that would be 3 visits but only 1 unique visit for that day.

You may publish multiple posts every single day on your blog and every time a specific user comes back that day it’s considered just one unique visit, regardless of how many times they’ve been there during that 24 hour period.

For many, this is the true measure of reach and value for a blog and website – that’s why you’ll hear requests for Unique Visits often to create a value approximation for a property.

It’s worth noting that different analytics applications measure these things differently sometimes tracking IP addresses, DHC protocols, cookies, and others.

4. Pageviews (Impression)

You here this term often and even I’ve used it many times in this blog – a pageview (or page view) can also be called an “impression” (especially when related to advertising) is created every time one of your visitors views a page on your blog.

If they visit your homepage, jump to the first article, then click your About Page, and then click on one of your Series Posts and then on another post within that series you have 5 pageviews (did you count them all?).

Pageviews, for a lot of people, helps determine the popularity of a blog but does not necessarily mean that it has a large reach (see Unique Visits). Many people use pageviews as the definitive metric (which is dangerous) for evaluation and valuation. Just be careful to know what you’re sharing and what you’re measuring!

[This is part of the Blogger's Guide to Earning More with Google Adsense.]

  • http://www.stevefogg.com Steven Fogg

    Great post John, I’ve always wanted a plain English explanation of these terms and the differences. You could do a google analytics special that would make sense of all the mumbo jumbo on that! I can’t tell what they mean!

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      sure thing bro!

      it took me forever to get to know these… so i know that many others need a good review!

  • http://www.justcris.com Cris Ferreira

    John, thanks for clearing up these terms. I had an idea what they meant, now I know.
    One that I still am not sure I understand is “bounce rate”. I will search for previous articles to see if you’re talked about it already.
    Thanks!

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      sure thing cris! thanks for your support!

  • http://www.usedtiresblog.com Jean

    Hi John, that’s a really good clarification of these terms. I agree that a hit is often misused unknowingly by a lot of people and is still the most popular term to convey what are more correctly visits or unique visits.

    -Jean

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      it’s not that i’m upset that people get the terms wrong… at least for a time.. but it hurts me to see people lose opportunity or competitive advantages if they don’t know what they are talking about.

  • http://blog.bradkindercoaching.com Brad Kinder

    Thanks for the info. I learned a new term and got some clarification on another. :)

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      sure thing brad!

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

    John, so sorry – I’ve been taking care of some other things and need to work now on catching up on my Tentblogger!

    I did have a question: do impressions take into account whether someone actually has an ad on their screen or just whether it’s on the page? In other words: if an ad was at the bottom of a long page, would it still be counted as an impression even if the user never scrolled down to see it?
    I assume it’s a moot point since most impression-based advertisers may insist on being placed high up.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      yes. it’s still counted. it’s based on page load.