Collecting site-visitor activity data

Site-visitor activity data captured in web analytics systems records the number of visitors on the site and the paths or clickstreams they take through the site as they visit different content.

In the early days of internet marketing, in the mid 1990s, this information we typically collected using log files. This server-based log file is added to every time a user downloads a piece of information (a hit) and is analyzed using a log file analyzer.

Despite their wide use in the media, hits are not a useful measure of website effectiveness since if a page consists of 10 graphics, plus text, this is recorded as 11 hits. Page impression or page views and unique visitors are better measures of site activity. Auditing companies such as ABC electronic (abce.org.uk), which audit sites for the purpose of providing a number of visitors to a site to advertisers, use unique visitors and page impression as the main measures.

Information giving detailed knowledge of customer behavior that can be reported by web analytics include:
Page per visit (PPV) – the average number of pages viewed per visitor to a site (this is indicative of engagement with a site since the longer a visitor stays on a ‘sticky site’, the higher this value will be). PPV is a more accurate indication of stickiness than duration on a site in minutes since this figure is skewed upwards by visitors who arrive on site and are inactive before their session times out at 30 minutes.
Visits per (unique) visitor (VPV) – this suggests the frequency of site visits. Readers will realize that this value is dependent on the period that data are collected over. These data are reported for a month during which time one would not expect many returning visitors. So it is often more relevant to represent these data across a quarter or year.

  • Top pages
  • Entry and exit pages
  • Path of clickstream analysis showing the sequence of pages viewed
  • Country of visitor origin (dependent on the location of their ISP)
  • Browser and operating system used
  • Referring URL and domain (where the visitor came from)

Strengths

  • Greater accuracy than server-based analysis
  • Counts all users, cf. panel approach

Weaknesses

  • Relatively expensive method
  • Similar weaknesses to server-based technique apart from accuracy
  • Limited demographic information

Chaffey, D. and Ellis-Chadwick, F., 2012. Digital marketing: strategy, implementation and practice (Vol. 5). Harlow: Pearson.

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