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By Thomas Baekdal - April 2005

True Websites Statistics

Statistics, and in particular website statistics, is a vital tool for any website. It can tell you where to focus, where not to, what you do well, and what you don't do well and it can provide you with much needed information about who your visitors are.

But strangely enough, this is not what most statistical tools do. Instead they provide lot unnecessary false information - which only serves to fool you.

What do you really need to know?

The very first thing you want to know is "how many visitors do I have". Sounds simple, but you will get false information in most case.

Example of how 99% of all statistical tools work:

10 different people visits your site every hour/week, of which 40% revisits 5 times, 30% revisits 8 times, 20% revisits 14 times, and 10% revisits 22 times in the same period of time. How many visitors do you have? 17,472 unique visitors.

Wow! That is great, but on a closer inspection you figure something is wrong. We got 10 different people * 24 hours * 7 days. That equals 1680 unique visitors - far from the 17,472 people your statistical tool reported.

What's up?

Well. The problem is that the statistical tools include revisits in the visitor total. That is plain and simply wrong and quite devastating if you base cost/analysis on the findings.

Let's move on - pages

When you know how many visitors you have, the next thing you want to know is how many visitors read a specific page/article/product listing etc. Sounds simple too, but again most statistical tools get this completely wrong.

Page views are usually counted not in relation to the visitors (as they should), but simply by counting the number of times it is displayed on the screen. Not good.

I manage 9 different sites on a daily basis. On average, the total number of page views is 7 times higher than the number of visitors. This means that coupled with the false visitor count, your page views are way out of proportions.

A page that accounts for 20% of the total would then amount to: 24,460 page views, but you only got a total of 1680 real people.

What you really want to know is not how many times it has been displayed on screen, but how many people that have read your articles. In this case it would probably amount to about 300.

Note: If you are serious about this, you would also emit all those secondary views.

What to do?

This is the tricky part. I do not know of any products or tools that solve this. Deepmetrix's LiveStats is getting close. But it is still not good enough - especially with page views.

You could build your own, which is the path I have taken. If you cannot do that, I would recommend not to trust your stats for anything else than an indicator. If your stats go up - you are doing well. If they go down, you could be doing better.

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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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