Back in the good old days, Yahoo looked like this, all you needed was a hit counter on the bottom of your home page and the data collection world was your oyster. But then things started to get complicated. Good, but complicated. We bagged the ticker for more advanced tracking systems that monitored how long customers spent on our sites, where they navigated in from, and how they navigated the site once they got there.
But the world keeps rolling along, and now those analytical methods that we considered cutting edge just several years ago are now being pushed aside in favor of more accuurate methodologies.
Today, we’ll say goodbye to four outdated forms of web analytics that are ready to go the way of the BetaMax and New Coke.
1. Page views. Once upon a time, having huge page view numbers made you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The bigger the number, the better you felt. But times have change and now bigger might not necessarily mean better. If your site’s navigation is less than optimal, it may take them more page views to get where they need to be. If your user interface is perfectly optimized, visitors may only need a few page views to make their purchase and move along. There’s just no way to for sure, and that’s why we’re bidding page views a fond adieu.
2. Hit traffic. Hits were another reliable measure in the early days of web analytics. The relationship was simple, a hit could be translated as a single page request because there was always a one-on-one relationship between the data on the page and what was being reported back to the server. Now, images, videos and other forms of media all co-exist on on a single page. One visit to page may represent 30 or 40 “hits”. It’s just not the metric it used to be.
3. Exit pages. We used to look at the last page people visited before leaving the site as a means of determining what part of our UI wasn’t working properly. If people left after viewing the About Us page, the logical went, the About Us must be substandard. Now we realize that visitors arrive and depart from a site for a number of different reasons. And if they leave the site, it might not be due to the fact that things went wrong – it may be because they found exactly what they were looking for and continue on with the rest of their day.
4. Repeat Engagement. When people return to your site often, is it because you have the greatest content in the world, or because they have to take a deep breath before coming back and trying to find what they are looking for yet again? And if they come to site only once and then never return, is that because your UI was an offense to the human soul, or did they find what they were looking for effortlessly and then never need to come back? The answer to both these questions is “you don’t know” and that is why engagement is no longer the tool it once was.
The Next Generation of Web Analytics
So what are the tools we are going to use in the future to evaluate site traffic? The answer may be “none whatsoever.” Moving forward, we want to examine conversions and click density and the rate at which individuals complete tasks on the site. These are the more advanced measures of site effectiveness that will help us run and monitor our web presence more effectively.