Definition: Visits, or sessions, is a metric used to measure the total number of times a user navigates to a website. Visits are an important digital marketing metric that is used in tandem with conversion rate to gauge the performance of an online store.

How to interpret and measure visits

Visits are an important measurement of an ecommerce store's ability to draw in users. But like any web metric, it cannot be viewed in a vacuum. Visits are dependent on many external factors and internal marketing strategies. Some important considerations:

  • Where are visits coming from? One source may be improving, while another decreases and drags down overall performance. By segmenting traffic, you can see which channels do the best job of bringing in visits — and where there's room for improvement.
  • Is traffic converting? All the visits in the world don't mean anything if they don't generate sales. Once traffic is segmented, insights can be drawn based on conversion performance across various channels.
  • What other factors are contributing to spikes or decreases in traffic? The natural ebb and flow of search traffic, known as "seasonality," is an important consideration when interpreting visits. Expect visits to increase dramatically around Cyber Monday and fall substantially on Thanksgiving, for example. Other influencers include offline advertisements and third-party mentions. Online businesses featured on Shark Tank have been known to see exponential short-term traffic boosts.

The distinction between Visits and Unique Visits

In most analytics platforms, visits by the same user are counted towards the overall tally. Unique visits, on the other hand, measure the number of distinct individuals who go to the website. This metric is sometimes perceived as more valuable than the aggregate number of visits because the data cannot be skewed by power users.

Online businesses often measure and compare both the total and unique visits made to their website. Unique visits are especially important because they represent the number of individuals who visit the website in a particular frame of time.

For example, John Smith visits a website five times while Jane Doe visits the same site one time. The number of visits is six, while the number of unique visits is only two. On a broader scale, this distinction can significantly distort data when only total visits are considered. Understanding the percentage of unique visits relative to the total is an effective way for ecommerce businesses to evaluate their retention rates and ability to bring back old customers.

Going beyond visits and unique visits

Once a business quantifies its unique visitors, it should expand its efforts to tabulate the number of repeat visitors. If the total number of repeat visitors increases over time, it is an indication that people are connecting with a brand. An ever-increasing rate of repeat visitors is an indication that the website is compelling enough to become “sticky”. Methods for improving repeat visitors include helpful blog content, videos, and a fresh selection of products.


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