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How to Understand Visits Versus Page Views in Analytics

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Publishers who understand the difference between visits versus page views will gain a critical insight with website analytics.

Visitors “visit” a website one or more times. A “page view” is what the visitor sees via a browser. Visitors “view” one or more pages during a visit.

But there is much more to visits versus page views than that simple paragraph. Publishers who learn the difference will find that connecting the two metrics will lead to better websites.

What is a Website Visit?

Computers visit a website, but not all computers have people at the other end of them. Automated spiders also visit websites; some of them are there for good reasons and some for bad.

Spiders from search engines are there for good reasons. They are looking for new content or changes in existing content so they can update their search indexes. Spiders from spammers and hackers are there for obviously bad reasons. Good hosting companies will block some of them. Attentive website publishers will block most of the other bad ones.

A well-protected website will have mostly people who visit. But people don’t always visit from the same computer. They can visit from their computer at work and again when they are home at night or on weekends. So a visit is not the same as a unique visitor.

Likewise, think of a website “visit” as usually but not always a person coming there with a browser. Fortunately, Google Analytics blocks out most spiders in its metric reports.

What is a Page View?

As the first paragraph says, people “view” one or more pages during a visit. They may view part of a page or all of it. They may stay on the page a matter of seconds, minutes or even longer if they walk away from their computer while the page is displaying.

Analytics software will record the view if the visitor is on the page long enough to load the analytics tracking script. Like visit tracking, most analytics software such as Google Analytics won’t record page views from spiders because they (and publishers) care only about actual people who view pages. They can identify the visitor type based in part on whether the visitor is using a browser.

Pages per visit” is a crucial analytics concept that also helps publishers understand visits versus page views. The higher the pages per visit, the better. High pages per visit indicates quality visits. The more pages the visitor views, the more the site is engaging them and signaling quality to search engines. High pages per visit also offers more opportunities for the visitors to view ads, make a transaction or do something else that benefits the website’s purpose.

Ultimately, publishers aim for a growing number of visitors who visit more often and increase their pages per visit.

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