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The Most Important Web Analytics Metrics and KPIs, Explained

Have you ever logged into Google Analytics and felt instantly overwhelmed? There’s a bunch of names and numbers, many of which are presumably important in a digital marketing context, but you have no idea where to start. You see things like exit rate percentage and traffic sources while scratching your head and wondering, “Should I be tracking all of these?”

Trust us: you’re not alone. There are hoards of business owners and fresh-faced marketers asking themselves the same question. Sure, many web analytics platforms offer to track a veritable cornucopia of metrics and KPIs, but more isn’t always better.

To remedy that, we’ve compiled a list of the most important web metrics and KPIs you should be tracking. We’ll tell you what they do, how they’re calculated, and why they’re useful, so you can spend more time tracking them instead of wasting time looking for them.

Table of Contents

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate tells you the percentage of website visitors who view one page on your site before leaving (“bouncing”). This metric is calculated by taking the total number of one-page visits and dividing it by the total number of website entries.

Generally, you want a low bounce rate — that indicates people are engaging with your content. But if your bounce rate is high, you can take steps to lower it by changing the content of a page or including a CTA button to initiate an actionable response that takes people further into the site.

“Not all bounce rates are created equal, however.”

Not all bounce rates are created equal, however. Google Analytics, for example, categorizes a user who engages with a single page on your site as a bounce whether they spend 10 seconds or 10 minutes on that page. But we think that someone who spends 10 minutes on one page is still a worthy visitor.

That’s why, at Parse.ly, we think it’s more useful to track “engaged time.” Engaged time tells you the amount of time someone viewed a single page on your site before leaving, so you can get a more detailed assessment of your bounces.

We break engaged time down into four categories: mis-clicks (under 15 seconds), passer-bys (15-30 seconds), short-stays (30-60 seconds), and long-stays (over 60 seconds).

While mis-clicks can almost always be classified as bad visits because of how short they are, the three other site visit classifications are each varying levels of good visits. Passer-bys can mean someone is skimming the content on your page while short-stays and long-stays translate into someone being truly engaged.

Engaged time breakdown for media Source: Parse.ly Blog Post

Download our Authority Report to get a full synopsis of our research data and learn more about how engaged time can track site visits more accurately than a traditional bounce rate.

Pageviews

Pageviews tells you the total number of pages viewed on your website. A single pageview is counted anytime a site page is loaded by a user’s browser. This metric is automatically calculated by web analytics platforms such as Google Analytics.

Pageviews can help you understand website volume by measuring how many people have viewed individual pages on your site, which gives you more insight into your overall website traffic. The more pageviews your site has, the more visibility your content is getting.

Sessions

An individual session measures a series of interactions that a visitor has with your site. And the Sessions metric tells you the total number of sessions carried out on your website. In Google Analytics, a session begins when a page is loaded and when it ends, either when the user leaves the site or after 30 minutes of inactivity.

GA Screenshot

Sessions give you a high-level view of what new visitors and returning visitors are doing on your website in terms of pages viewed and time spent on them. Google Analytics changed the name of this metric from “visits” to “sessions” in 2014. It was done rather quietly, so there are still some who think they’re different metrics when, in fact, they’re the same.

There are two other key metrics that fall under the sessions umbrella: average session duration and pages/session.

Average Session Duration

Average session duration tells you the average amount of time sessions on your website last. This is different from engaged time because it shows how long users are on the site as whole, not how long they engage with individual pages. The goal is to have a high average session duration time. A high average session duration generally indicates that users are engaging with you in a meaningful way.

A short session duration reveals potential gaps in the user journey on the website. If visitors, on average, spend only 15 seconds on the website, it may be a red flag. You have to make adjustments to both content and technical components to address the short session time.

Pages/Session

Pages/Session tell you the average number of pages viewed during a session. The ultimate goal is to have people searching through multiple pages on your website so that they’re taking steps to complete a conversion. With the exception of landing pages, users generally have to visit more than one web page to complete that conversion. If your Pages/Sessions are low, that means this goal is not being accomplished properly.

Conversion Rate

A conversion occurs when a desired goal has been met, such as making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or downloading an ebook. So your conversion rate tells you how frequently users carry out or reach the desired goal. It’s calculated by taking your total number of conversions, dividing it by your total number of sessions, and then multiplying by 100 to give you a percentage.

Conversion rate is a key metric for top-level performance because the goal of your website should always be to drive visitors toward an action. It’s important to recognize that there’s a wide range of conversions you can include within your site content as well. Your site should have a customer-journey strategy to direct users toward this conversion.

Engagement

Engagement is the most elusive web analytics metric. Traditionally, it has been difficult to track because it usually encompasses several different metrics. Google Analytics uses metrics like bounce rate, conversion rate, pageviews, and sessions to calculate your website’s engagement rate — but Parse.ly can track it in a more accurate way.

Parse.ly tracks specific engagement metrics that Google Analytics doesn’t track by default. These include metrics like total engaged minutes, average engaged minutes, and average engaged minutes for new and returning visitors. Parse.ly’s engagement metrics give you critical insight into how your content is performing in real time.

Our analytics platform uses a web analytics feature known as a “heartbeat” pixel. With this feature, we can determine user engagement with your content by producing a signal that lets our system know whether a user is still engaged or not. Engaged time is defined by a browser tab being open and other page engagement, like a cursor moving, scrolling, clicking, or video playing.

On the other hand, Google Analytics can only track engaged time based on a user’s entry event and exit event — essentially, when they enter and leave a page. It can’t tell you what’s happening once a user is on a page.

Additional web analytics metrics you should be tracking

Most analytics platforms on the market can help you track the aforementioned metrics to some degree, but those metrics don’t always paint a full picture of your website’s content performance. But at Parse.ly, we track additional, more complex analytics, including the following:

Engaged time by topic

This metric can help you understand what topics are your most powerful engagement tools so that you can continue creating quality content within that subject matter and give customers what they really want.

Parse.ly Dashboard Sections Screenshot

Top posts today

This metric organizes your content by what piece has the most page views on any given day. This can help if there are posts that may be higher or lower in pageviews that you want to share on social media channels and support with more promotion.

Parse.ly Dashboard Posts Screenshot

Pageviews by author

This metric tells you not only tells how many pageviews a piece of content is generating but also who the author is. You can use this information to find out how different authors on your site are performing.

Parse.ly Dashboard Top Authors Screenshot

Get the web analytics you need for your business

Parse.ly can give you access to these advanced metrics, KPIs, and more, with ease. Our content analytics platform is designed to help businesses improve their content and attract more customers.

Talk to a content analytics expert at Parse.ly today to find out more.