Understanding Site Statistics: Tracking Visitors

Published on March 21, 2006 at 12:52 PM EST
In the Discussions category.

Some people want a pastry, some want waffles, and others want a big breakfast complete with hash browns. Learn to give the people what they want!

For most of us, logging in to view our web site’s latest statistics is nothing more than a way to stroke our ego: “Numbers are going up!” If you dig a little and think about what you’re seeing, though, you’ll find that you’ve got some valuable data, telling you exactly what you need to know to make a super-site!

Understanding Site Statistics is a short series to help you learn how to pick out some great details about your visitors and your web site’s health. Try answering some of the following questions about your web site.

Any statistics tool should be able to give you good data, but I’m mostly using SlimStat and Mint, as I wrote in Monitoring Site Statistics.

In this series:

Tracking Visitors


Hopefully, your visitors are sticking around to see at least a couple of pages. Being able to track what they are doing can offer some good insight:

  • Have your visitors found what they are looking for? If somebody didn’t find what they wanted and decided to look around for a better page, that’s a valuable visitor whom you don’t want to disappoint. Evaluate whether links are appropriately placed and consider writing some content that might better suit the visitor’s wants. Typically, I see these visitors land on a page through a search then quickly more to a category archive, then leave.
  • Are they just bouncing around from page to page—and not spending much time on each page? If they’re only on each page for a second or two, maybe they aren’t finding what they want. Firstly, I’d evaluate what led them there: if viewing a category archive and going to the individual entry archive, consider what brought them there. For example if you display only the entry title, maybe it’s not descriptive enough to let the visitor know what he needs.
  • Are they bouncing from page to page—and spending more than a few seconds on each page? This is great! They are on long enough to read more than just the title, so they’ve found content they might like. These people are most likely to be (or become) repeat readers. Look for trends: do other visitors also visit those same pages repeatedly? This becomes an opportunity to write more posts on that topic.

Tracking visitors with SlimStat is easy using the Paths view. Mint offers a much superior option in the Session Tracker Pepper, which gives a by-the-second breakdown.