3 Ways to Measure the Performance of Your Website

Every now and then I read or hear about a website that recorded so many hits last month. If you knew what that number meant, your response would likely be the same as mine: “So what?”

It’s important to keep track of how your site is doing – one of the big advantages of a website (from a Return-On-Investment perspective) is that you can tell exactly how it performs. Such results are not so easy to measure with conventional media. But you need to understand what you’re actually tracking.

Definitions

Lets get some of the geeky jargon out of the way.

  1. Sessions.
    One person stitting down looking at five pages on your website counts as one session. That same person coming back tomorrow counts as a new, second session. This number is important as it tells you how many people are “walking through the door”. (This is also known as User Sessions.)
  2. Page Views.
    That one person, who looked at five pages, counts as five page views (or impressions). That’s simple enough, and if you divide the number of page views by the number of sessions, you’ll get the average number of pages each visitor looks at.
  3. Hits.
    Ahhh…. My favourite. It’s my favourite because you can make it look really impressive but it doesn’t actually mean anything! In geeky terms, a hit is a request for a file. In English, each page of text you see will be one hit. Then count another hit for each photo or image that appears on the page. And then perhaps one for what’s known as a “stylesheet”, and then maybe another one for a “javascript” file…

Most buttons consist of at least one image, and it’s not unusual for the graphics that make up the visual aspect of a website to be split into several images as well. So it’s not hard to generate quite a lot of hits.

An exercise

I went through this exercise for a client recently. Their home page generates 27 hits, and one of their internal pages worked out at 48 hits. So if one person looks at their home page, and then goes to this particular interior page, that would be:

  • 1 user session
  • 2 page views, and
  • 75 hits!!!

The bonus is we can inflate the number of hits easily – one example is breaking each photo into two images and sitting them side-by-side. Two hits for the price of one!

Count wisely

Every website should have some sort of measurement system that records page views and user sessions. At the very least. (Note: the useless “You are visitor number 12345” that you see on the bottom of some pages doesn’t qualify here either!)

If you’re looking for impressive numbers to show the boss, use Hits. If you’re seriously interested in how your website is performing, count Sessions and Page Views. If you don’t have access to this sort of information, how can you tell if your investment is paying off? You can’t improve what you don’t measure.

And don’t forget: 64% of all statistics are made up on the spot! 😉

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