Common Web Metrics

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

Public Legal Education and Information (PLEI) Web Metrics

April 25, 2013, The Public Legal Education and Information Working Group adopted the following definitions of terms used to measure and analyze web usage. These were adapted from Avinash Kaushik's Web Analytics: An hour a Day, and Wikipedia's definitions for web analytics.

The PLEI Working Group is made up of representatives from the BC Ministry of Justice, Courthouse Libraries BC, Justice Education Society, Law Foundation of BC, Legal Services Society, People’s Law School, and PovNet.

January 23, 2015 - updated to reflect new language used in Google Analytics. Reviewed by Clicklaw Steering Committee and circulated to PLEI Working Group in January.

Common Web Metrics
Term Definition Why you'd measure it Notes
Session A session is the period of time a user is actively engaged with your website, app, etc. All usage data (Screen Views, Events, Ecommerce, etc.) is associated with a session. Sessions and users are terms introduced in 2014, replacing visits and unique visitors. Visits and unique visitors “form the bedrock of all your computations, every single one of them. It is really important that you get them right.” Sessions are the single most important measure to track.
Users Users that have had at least one session within the selected date range. Includes both new and returning users. It is an attempt to understand (1) how many “people” are coming to the website, and (2) sessions from repeat users as compared to new users. A user can be identified by using a cookie that has been placed on the computer by the site page code. With the newest version of Google Analytics code called Universal Analytics, a user can also be identified using a method called User ID, which tracks a user across devices. For example, a visit on a phone and another visit on a computer three days later will be counted as two unique users in a standard Google Analytics implementation even if they happen with an account sign-in, but with User ID they will be counted as only one user with an account sign-in.
Page views The number of pages viewed or requested during a session. It is an attempt to understand the engagement of users with the site – more page views per session would suggest more engagement. The concept of the page is fading. All pages are not created equal (for example, a blog might list 10 articles on one page or 1 article on one page), and a page view doesn’t fully measure rich media experiences.
Average session duration The average amount of time that users spend on the site during a session. Also called time on site, length of session or session duration. It is an attempt to understand the engagement of users with the site – longer time on site would suggest more engagement. This metric can be complicated by the fact that analytics programs can not measure the length of the final page view. This drawback is particularly problematic for sites that have the information the user is seeking on the page where the user lands (in other words, the session consists of viewing one page): there is no way to know whether the user spent 30 seconds or 30 minutes on that page.
Bounce rate The percentage of sessions that are single page sessions. For a content site, a low bounce rate (e.g., below 35%) can be an indicator that users are highly engaged with the site, as it suggests that most users are accessing multiple pages. Bounce rate is of questionable value for sites where users are likely to find what they are looking for on the entry page. For a portal site, which aims to drive traffic to other sites, a high bounce rate can actually be an indicator that the site is effectively linking users from their entry page on the portal site to an external site.
Conversion rate - goals, events A conversion is where a user successfully completes a goal defined in a web analytics program such as Google Analytics. A conversion rate can be a good way to measure whether users are achieving the purpose the site is designed to support. An example of a conversion on Clicklaw is when a user clicks through to an external resource from a contributor organization. Each site will have its own – and varying – goals and conversion rates.
Hits A request for a file from the web server. You should not be measuring hits. The number of hits is very misleading and dramatically overestimates popularity. A single web page typically consists of multiple (often dozens) of discrete files, each of which is counted as a hit as the page is downloaded, so the number of hits is really an arbitrary number more reflective of the complexity of individual pages on the website than the site's actual popularity. The total number of sessions or users provides a more realistic and accurate assessment of site popularity.

Further definitions

Portal/aggregator website: A website whose primary purpose is to bring information together from diverse sources in a uniform way. A website that links to content hosted on other sites. Also known as a directory site.

Content website: A website whose primary purpose is to produce, maintain and host content – for example, substantive legal information about a topic, a series of videos on a topic, or a series of self-help guides.

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