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  • The difference between Sessions and Pageviews (and what really matters)

    by Louisa Claire

    Post image for The difference between Sessions and Pageviews (and what really matters)

    Social Media ROI and understanding blog metrics are hot, and dare I say it, confusing topics. Google Analytics can be totally befuddingly so today I’m going to tell you the tale of two blogs in an attempt to explain them. What I want you to see is as we explore “sessions vs pageviews” (formerly called “Unique Visitors vs Total Pageviews) is why there’s more to understanding a blogger’s influence than numbers alone…

    Before we get started, if you aren’t yet using Google Analytics to track the traffic on your site then you need to get it installed asap. Google Analytics is the industry standard when it comes to traffic and using an alternative can make comparing your traffic with the average a bit like comparing apple and oranges. There’s really no time to waste with this so if you haven’t got it installed just google “Installing Google Analytics on {insert your blog platform here e.g. blogger, wordpress etc…} tutorial” and you will find loads of great tutorials to show you how to do it.

    Once your set up and running you will start to gather loads of information about who is visiting your blog – things like where they live, whether they are male or female, what leads them to your site (do they come from Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google Search, via a direct link etc…) and so much more. You will also find out how many people come, how long they spend on your site, what the most popular posts are on your blog and how many pages they look at on your site. Google Analytics is a data geeks dream! But, even for those of us who prefer the ‘big picture’ we can find out so much truly useful information to help us grow our blog and serve our readers.

    Today I want to focus specifically on the issue of ‘reach’. That is, how many people are coming to your blog.

    When it comes to working with brands these are the numbers you will hear people talking about the most. They are often called ‘vanity metrics’ because of the way the make you feel!

    google analytics sessions or pageviews

     

    Before we get started let’s outline the key terms:

    Sessions: Formerly called “visits”, a session tracks the interactions that take place on your blog within a certain timeframe. The timeframe is usually set so that a session ends once there has been 30minutes of inactivity, ie. you might be reading this blog post now and then go on to read a few more on the blog. Once you have stopped interacting with this site for 30minutes the sessions will be over. If you came back 1hour later to read another post then a new session would be logged.

    Users: Formerly called “unique visitors” this is number of individual visitors who have at least one session within the chosen timeframe (ie the past month).

    Total Pageviews: This is the total number of pages that users looked at on your blog within the chosen timeframe.

     

    Feeling confused? Let’s break it down…

    1 person comes to your site and spends 25minutes reading 5 blog posts (each on their own page). The number of “pageviews” is 5, the number of “users” is 1 and the number of “sessions” is 1.

    OR

    1 person comes to your site and spends 25 minutes reading 5 blog posts (each on their own page) and then gets a phone call – they are on the phone for 35 minutes and when they get off the phone they return to your blog to finish reading the last post. The number of “pageviews” is 5, the number of “users” is 1 and the number of “sessions” is 2 (because there was over 30minutes of inactivity from the reader while they were on your site).

    Over the course of a month these figures are added together giving you an indication of both how many visitors/eyeballs your site has had and pages they have looked at.

    So what does this mean for working with brands?

    Many advertising/marketing/PR agencies are primarily concerned with the “Users” figure  – that is,  the number of unique people that views your content as this is what they can report back to their clients about how far reaching their campaign was. Often you will see blog advertising and sponsored post rates based on around this number because it is seen as the key indicator of a blogger’s reach (and influence). Because reach dominates spend when it comes to traditional media, this idea has carried over into blogger relations.

    I see things a bit differently and want to use the tale of two blogs to tell you why. (These blogs are fictional but the trends in each are based on real blogs)

     

    The Tale Of Two Bloggers

    Meet Suzie, she’s a lovely lass who has been blogging for the last couple of years. Over that time she’s amassed a decent number of monthly pageviews – around 40,000 in fact.

    Now meet Brad, a lovely bloke and a mad keen blogger who writes every day. His blog is currently bringing in traffic of 90,000 pagviews a month. Impressive, yes?

    If all you look at is one number, all you get is one perspective.

    While Susie’s blog is bringing in 40,000 pageviews per month she gets ‘only’ 11,000 users to her site. Her analytics tell her that each visitor spends an average of 12minutes on her site.

    Brad on the other hand has 90,000 pageviews per month but an impressive 78,000 uniques. His analytics tell him that each visitor spends about 1minute on his site.

    What does that mean exactly?

    It means that both Brad and Suzie are reaching their audiences in very different ways.

    Every time someone come’s to Suzie’s blog they visit, on average, 3.6 pages and spend over 12 minutes on the site. This means that Suzie’s readership are regular, loyal and heavily invested in what she is saying. This is not just great for Suzie, it’s also great for any businesses/brands that she chooses to partner with as they will be reaching an audience who is truly connected with Suzie.

    Brad’s blog is different; most people coming to his blog only look at the one page and don’t stay for very long. While Brad is reaching a lot more people than Suzie (78,000/month to Suzie’s 11,000/month) their level of connection to him as the author, and thus his influence over them probably isn’t as strong as Suzie’s is.

    Brad’s blog is clearly reaching a lot of people regularly BUT Suzie is also reaching a steady number of people and the numbers would indicate that her readers have a high investment in her personally. Though she may not get as many “eyeballs”, the ones she does get are listening closely. To dismiss her, or even to think that her blog is “worth less” or “less influential” than Brad’s is to see things very one dimensionally. Some may say that her blog is even more influential than Brad’s because of the level of connection she has with her readers…

    To think that reach is the most important way to work with a blogger is to misunderstand the power of blogging. It doesn’t make sense to look at in this way because blogging isn’t about eyeballs, but about the influence and connection a blogger has with their audience – knowing how many unique visitors come to a site is only one teeny, tiny part of a bloggers reach – their true value is in their community and as I’ve tried to show here, we can’t get an idea of what that is by one number alone. We need to view bloggers and blogging more holistically and develop ways that demonstrate both tangibly and intuitively the connection a blogger has with their readers.

    Looking at only one metric, only gives you one part of the picture.

    Agree or Disagree? What do you think is most important when it comes to blog metrics?


    { 33 comments… read them below or add one }

    Rebecca

    Totally agree – it is not all about the number of visitors but what they do when they are there, if they engage in other ways (e.g. social media) or even comment.
    Rebecca recently posted..Inspired to writeMy Profile

    Reply

    Louisa Claire

    Thanks Becci, it’s great to hear from a PR professional who is looking at blogs in this way.

    Reply

    Leanne @ Uber Simplicity

    Louisa thank you so much for explaining this clearly. I’m a relative new blogger, and I have been wondering what it exactly meant.
    Leanne @ Uber Simplicity recently posted..saturday night cookingMy Profile

    Reply

    Louisa Claire

    So glad it helped Leanne!

    Reply

    Jen

    Absolutely agree. I think all of the numbers are important to give brands a good overview of a website/blog and their connection to their audience.

    Reply

    Louisa Claire

    Thanks Jen, it’s much more holisitc and ultimately insightful to look at the bigger picture.

    Reply

    Jeanie

    Absolutely agree! I’m always thrilled by the visitors that have viewed a number of pages. I equate that to they were interested and wanted more of the blog. I bet there the ones that come back or subscribe too! Obviously the more people I can get doing that the better.
    Jeanie recently posted..Creative Design Market, Wintergarden GeelongMy Profile

    Reply

    Louisa Claire

    Definitely!!

    Reply

    Ai Sakura

    Agree and that’s exactly why my one of my blog goals this year was to build community :)
    Ai Sakura recently posted..Singapore National Day 2012: 5 Things to do with KidsMy Profile

    Reply

    Louisa Claire

    That’s a great goal to have! How’s it been going? Have you found any strategies working particularly well for you?

    Reply

    Wee Birdy

    Great post, Louisa and I absolutely agree that reader loyalty and trust is more important this sheer numbers. But I was blown away by your example – is 12 minutes based on a real example? I thought 2 minutes was generally pretty good. Wow!
    Wee Birdy recently posted..It’s Wee Birdy’s 5th birthday! Win a picnic set by Anorak!My Profile

    Reply

    Louisa Claire

    Hi Rebecca, you make a good point – 2minutes is not bad, perhaps I should have made that a more extreme number but yes, 12 minutes (and more) are real examples. x

    Reply

    Kelly Exeter

    What a great post Louisa! Beautifully explained!
    Kelly Exeter recently posted..What is a life less frantic anyway?My Profile

    Reply

    Louisa Claire

    Thanks Kelly! x

    Reply

    Genevieve Atkinson

    Great reminder that its not all about the numbers. Especially in blogging, as if I think about me personally, heaps of sites I visit I might read only a couple of lines, it’s totally different level of engagement and buy in from me, if I read the whole article. The time spent on the site is totally significant with blogs, if only there was also a way to track if they read to the end.

    Reply

    Louisa Claire

    In some ways I guess the tracking is done by time on site, conversions, conversations etc… so true that the numbers don’t paint the whole picture!

    Reply

    Laney @ Crash Test Mummy

    I agree with the example, with one caveat (maybe a couple!).

    If Suzie’s 3.6 pages are 3.6 different pages then yes, I agree the reader is more likely engaged and her reader activity is likely to be more valuable than that based on sheer numbers. However, if it is the same page visited multiple times ie someone hitting the refresh button waiting for a linky to come up, then you can see the flaw here.

    Another point to note is the brand’s objectives. If their primary objective is awareness then they are going to want to reach as many eyeballs as possible, and they’d be as interested in pageviews as unique visitors. If it is acquisition they’re interested in, then they would probably be better investing in a blog like Suzie’s where her influence will help them succeed with a call to action.

    That’s my two cents anyway, for what it’s worth ;)
    Laney @ Crash Test Mummy recently posted..Crash Test: Taking photos in New YorkMy Profile

    Reply

    Louisa Claire

    Thanks Laney! I hadn’t thought of the refresh option but it does reinforce the idea that numbers aren’t everything – you’d have to be looking at other site elements such a load time, engagement etc.. but I think that looking at both uniques and total give a better picture of a blogger’s graph than just looking at the one. As for eyeballs, I kind of agree but at the same time if a brand has chosen a blogger simply because they get more pageviews without considering the brand alignment and the quality of the readership then I’m not convinced that they will achieve their awareness goal simply by going that route. Is there a difference between getting on a high traffic site and getting on a site where the author is going to actually drive awareness I wonder? (well, actually I don’t really wonder – clearly I think there is ;) )

    Reply

    Scott

    I definitely agree that engagement is the better focus, even from the numbers perspective that eCommerce sites need to focus on to stay viable. The metric that isn’t considered by a lot of Media sites is Conversions… A site with better engagement and trust from their audience is more likely to have that audience actually consider taking further actions based on their recommendations or reviews.
    My involvement with some big directory sites that promote their huge visitor and pageview numbers is that the actual click through to our site is poor. So as you said, higher pageviews per visitor and time on site should be considered important metrics, and this could be further enhanced with metrics on Conversions. In the case of a Media site or Blog, a Conversion would be the click through rate to external resources or an advertisers site.
    A site with defined conversions and published click through rates would give me more confidence to advertise on their site. I would then use sales conversions on our website to complete the picture and determine the long term viability of advertising rates. Conversions on our site that meet or are higher than our average conversion rate would show the Blog is sending relevant potential customers to our site.

    Reply

    Louisa Claire

    Scott, I was simply amazed to see your comment pop up. Either you are incredibly socially media savvy and have found this site because of our recent transactions with your business (which given the quality and insight in your comment I have to assume is the case), or you have just fluked up on us and really know your stuff! Either way, it’s very impressive!! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and for making such a great comment regarding conversions – there’s a lot in that. I also feel that for SME’s the goals for blogger engagement have to go deeper than for a larger business simply because the work that has to be done in the area of awareness is bigger. Finding that true alignment with a site can be harder to do but once achieved can yield some pretty amazing results!

    Reply

    Fi @ Stiletto Media

    Love this post Louisa! I was only just trying to explain this to a client the other day. In the case of working with mum bloggers, when brands align themselves with influential, trusted bloggers I can see why having a much more engaged readership would be more important if their target is to convert more sales and build trust for a brand. Whereas if the objcetive is to simply increase brand awareness the blogger with the larger audience will be able to reach more readers and more effectively meet the brand’s target.
    Fi @ Stiletto Media recently posted..Developing a social media strategy: ObjectivesMy Profile

    Reply

    Louisa Claire

    Yep, definitely (with my one comment about the larger audience thing being made below with Laney’s comment – I think we still need to ensure that there’s really good brand alignment with the blogger with more reach in order to make sure the message cuts through – I know you know that but I think it can be a point easily lost with businesses in the quest for numbers).

    Reply

    Seana Smith

    Hello there, thanks for this. I’d love it if you could put in more real life examples too. I’ve never heard of a 12 minute average – aarrghhh!!

    I get heaps of traffic from Google and the bounce rate is high. Recipes are especially so, people can read a recipe for 4 minutes and then bounce straight off. I do this on other recipe sites too so mustn’t grumble!!

    Also I do think that single topic blogs draw deeper engagement, and in many ways feel I ought to be more niche in my niches BUT… that’s just not me…
    Seana Smith recently posted..A Golden Rule For Beach House WeekendsMy Profile

    Reply

    Evelyn (CottonCandyDiva)

    I agree!…and it makes sense. 50 people that come back to your blog, is way better than 200 that may only read one post!
    Evelyn (CottonCandyDiva) recently posted..Anne Hathaway Oscars 2013 Makeup lookMy Profile

    Reply

    Norlin

    I agree. Although a lot of PRs and brands only ever focus on the Unique Visitors, for my own personal gain or rather knowledge on how my blog is doing, I look at everything. The UV, Pageviews, bounce rate (so I know how long they stay and read my posts), and how many new vs returning visitors I get because really, you’d want to retain your regular readers as well as get new ones. And it’s always helpful to gauge if your returning visitors increase over time too. I guess for me it’s more about the quality than the UV quantity (even though that’s just as important). It’s important for a lot of brands and PRs to realise that blogs are NOT like magazines. They often equate UV to circulation. Whereas with blogs, it’s not just about getting the word out there, it’s about how the readers react, engage and rate about what’s being shared.
    Norlin recently posted..Fashion & Beauty Tips & TricksMy Profile

    Reply

    Janet @ Redland City Living

    Great article – you have encouraged me that the lovely community that exists on my blog is something I should celebrate and share with potential advertisers/ sponsors!
    Janet @ Redland City Living recently posted..Jacked off about JacketsMy Profile

    Reply

    Seana Smith

    Hello, me again, can I put in a request?? I’d love to read a post looking deeper at this subject and giving advice. I’d love to read about a wide range of the blogs we know and love, looking at their figures and loyalty etc. I’d put my hand up!

    Bloggers don’t talk much about stats and I wish more would. All part of the live and learn.

    Reply

    bec

    I totally agree – I am currently trying to encourage readers to spend more time on my blog to get mine ‘time spent’ up. I would rather 10,000 unique views a month instead of 100,000 its just more quality readers.

    Reply

    Lyn - A Hole in my Shoe

    What an interesting read, I am new to blogging and trying to learn as much as I can, so thank you.
    Lyn – A Hole in my Shoe recently posted..Morning in MontmartreMy Profile

    Reply

    shannel

    i have been blogging for 5 months and i love it, im not too sure about the numbers im driving to me 250643 is my pages so far this month and i have 3999 visits. i seem to be getting very popular and am loving it. thanks for thisblog its kindof made me feel good

    Reply

    Osy Stylediarybyosy

    My goal and desire is to have loyal readers who are invested in me personally. But i think for brands, it might be different because the more reach you have, the more people will know about them if they work with you.
    Osy Stylediarybyosy recently posted..Chocolate beauty with ShopTheMint and GiveawayMy Profile

    Reply

    Louisa Claire

    I actually think that loyal fans will trump disengaged eyeballs – the challenge is to be able to show brands why your smaller reach offers them real value!

    Reply

    Sarah @theroutinequeen

    As Oprah would say, big ‘ah ha’ moment being has right here. All of this stuff confuses the heck out of me so thank you thank you for breaking it down and it explaining it in terms I understand!

    Reply

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