Know your Stack – Web Analytics 1.0

Web analytics – humble but oh so powerful. If you have a website, particularly if your site functions as a point of commerce, web analytics should literally be your best friend. No offense to your human best friend of course, I’m sure they’re wonderful. Your web analytics platform will be there for you in times of need – shedding light on your biggest problems, while also celebrating your greatest successes.

Since this is a deep topic, like Mariana Trench deep, we’ll step through it in 1.x increments since a single post on this topic would longer than Games of Thrones. All of them. Combined.

At the most basic level, web analytics is just counting stuff. It’s tracking the machines (a.k.a people, most of the time anyway) as they connect to your site and simply counting the stuff that they do: view a page, click a button, add something to their cart, or buy a product. Web analytics platforms, namely a two horse race at this point between Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics, are interfaces that give us as marketers the ability to see all the great stuff web analytics has counted, visualize them in charts and graphs, and run analysis to draw meaningful insights.

Let’s glaze over the integration of a web analytics platform as it’s highly technical and requires you to work with resources outside of the marketing department that can facilitate the correct configuration. It may sound obvious, but know that you’ll need to integrate your web analytics code on every single page that you want tracked.

Metrics are the stuff your web analytics platform is measuring. They can be almost anything. Metrics fit into two general categories: a set of metrics with standard definitions that any marketer on any business uses and custom metrics that are set up specifically to align with the unique needs of your business. Examples of standard metrics any digital marketer would use are visits, unique visitor, or page views: they’re universally applicable to any site and adhere to the same definitions. Custom metrics on the other hand are those metrics that you configure to your business based on your needs. They could be things like job applications for a job board, form completions for a B2B services site, or video views for a content producer.

Here’s a laundry list of standard and custom metrics to lay the groundwork for everything web analytics. And to get ready for 1.1: Report Types.

Metric Definition
Unique Visitor or Users A unique cookie or device ID tied to a machine accessing your website
Visit or session A user’s interaction with your website without an interruption of 30 minutes or more
Pageview The load of a page on your website
Bounces Users who visit only one page on your site and leave
Bounce Rate The rate at which users visit only one page on your website and leave
New Users Cookies or device IDs that were not previously tracked by your web analytics platform
Returning Users Cookies or device IDs that were previously tracked by your web analytics platform
Page depth The number of pages a user browses in a particular session on your website
Visit or session length The amount of time spent on your site during a single session


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