On a shelf in my office there is a one-million-dollar-bill encased in a plastic brick frame with the date June 27, 1997 etched on the front. It was a corporate award given to me while working at a Fortune 500 firm in their Interactive Marketing department. The company had surpassed one million hits in one day on our website. I’m not really sure why I still hold on to that glass plaque. I guess I keep it as a reminder of a time when the Internet as we know it was really beginning to take off and everything was a big deal. We were embarking on a new frontier, staking our flag in the soil and the 468×60 was king.
Fast-forward ten years and it’s easy to see that a lot has changed. Today, there are companies with market capitalizations exceeding 100 billion dollars which have only been around for a few years (say hello Google). There are semi-celebrities of the online media world such as Nick Denton, Perez Hilton, and a slew of YouTubers. There are different size ad units, new consumer driven formats in the form of blogs, pod casts, video and social networks. There are new ways of doing business and yet there are still some things that have not changed – some online marketers irrelevantly focusing on “hits” rather than other, more important, metrics. As I see it, a hit don’t mean sh*t.
Every element of a web page when loaded from a server is recorded as a “hit”. This includes graphics, text, interactive items and the page itself. Go to the home page of Yahoo! on any given day and you’ll likely come up with 150 to 300+ “hits”. The reality is that a “hit” is a useful metric in determining loads being exerted by a server and that’s where its significance ends.
Today, online marketing is rich with the ability to track the micro-details which go well beyond “hits”. When considering the important metrics you should be tracking – the ones that allow for more meaningful insight from your web site, ask yourself the following (and by no means is this an all-inclusive list):
1. How many unique visitors and total visitors am I seeing over a given time frame and what is the trend of these two numbers?
2. What are the referring sources of my site’s traffic and which sources yield the most desirable traffic?
3. How much time are my visitors spending on my site?
4. Which areas of my site are visitors spending the most time and conversely, the least time on?
5. What are the exit points on my site?
6. What are the pathways or funnels that users navigate through and what does the data tell me that can help me to improve my site’s flow and navigation?
7. What are the actions/conversions taken on my site and are these desired actions?
8. Am I tracking only click-through conversions or am I tracking view-based conversions as well?
9. How am I reconciling the online activity with offline transactions?
While some of the questions are easier to answer than others, taking the right steps to answer these questions will give you more control of your campaigns, your web site, and ultimately yield a bigger payoff in the end.
So, the next time you are watching your favorite news program and the reporter mentions a celebrity that lost custody of her children and how when they broke that news, according to the reporter, it resulted in 17,000 hits to their web site in one day – grin and know that you are steps ahead of even the big media behemoths and that even they don’t always get the facts right.