How many people visit your website each week? Whatever your answer, it is probably wrong. Big time.
For a start, different analytics programs report traffic in completely different ways. Google Analytics might tell you that you had 500 unique visitors this week, whereas your web server log file might say it is 2,000 and an alternative analysis from somewhere like Clicky might say you had 800 unique visitors. Who do you believe?
None of them.
The situation is made worse by recent data which shows that almost 62% of ALL web traffic is not by humans at all, but by robot software, “bots”. And the study shows the proportion of non-human traffic on the web is growing, year on year. In fact, since 2012 there has been a 21% increase in bot traffic online.
Now, don’t panic. Much of this automated traffic is good – it is generated by search engines discovering your web pages or tracking software ensuring your site software operates correctly. In addition, even if the bot is negative, such as some hacking tool, your site security software shuts the door in its face.
The real problem is that your analytics software records these bot visits, which can make you think your website is more popular than it is. Of course, you can generate analytics reports that attempt to remove bot visits, giving you a clearer picture. However, some bots can fool the analytics software. And that means you also end up being fooled by the data about your website.
So, what can you do about it and how can you really interpret your analytics software?
The answer is to ignore raw numbers and look at trends.
Also, look at the numbers that really matter. The number of visits you get is largely not relevant as much as what those visitors do. After all, you could get a million visitors a day but not one of them buys a thing from you. All that happens is your ego is polished and your halo gets a shine. Yet, you could have a website that attracts just one visitor who spends a million quid with you. Your website cannot boast much traffic and your friends might say “you only get one visitor a month?” But you can smile back at them, happy with the positive state of your bank account.
Measure the right thing and you can forget about being concerned about all those bots making you think your web traffic greater than it actually is.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+