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Web Analytics and Traffic Terms for PRs and Marketers – A Simple Guide

Getting to grips with the weird and wonderful world of analytics terminology can be a real headache for even the most experienced PR person or marketer.

Ever mixed up terms like users, visitors, visits, and views? It happens to the best of us. While these terms may sound alike, they all hold distinct meanings.

So how do you know what term refers to what metric? And how do you even begin to determine what’s important and what can be taken with a pinch of salt?

We’ve got you covered with all the essential knowledge you need to decipher those elusive data points, interpret your findings, and make informed decisions about your work.

Below are answers to some of the most common questions the CoverageBook support team gets asked about web analytics, traffic, and metrics.

What is meant by traffic?

Online traffic is a descriptive term referring to the flow of people visiting a website but isn’t used to measure anything specifically. It represents the number of people who visit a website, the pages they view, and the actions they take while navigating through the site. 

If you want to measure the traffic to your site, you first need to decide what you’re about to measure. These can include:

  • Unique users – an individual user who visits a website within a specific time period, typically measured within a 24-hour window or over a longer period of time like a month. Each visitor is only counted once regardless of how many times they visit
  • Visits – the number of times users access a website within a specific period. Each time a user initiates a new session by accessing the website, it is counted as a new visit.

The other definitions in this series can help you choose what to measure and what will be important to your stakeholders.

Is a unique user the same as a unique visitor?

The term user or unique user is the same thing as a unique visitor or website visitor and refers to a distinct device that has visited a site or article.

A unique user can also be referred to as:

  • A unique visitor
  • A website visitor
  • Unique monthly visitors (UMVs)
  • Unique visitors per month (UVPM)
  • Actual reach (in the context of an article)

Laptops, mobiles, and tablets are all considered different devices. Here, it’s worth noting that the term “device” is used rather than “person”, and that’s because several different people can all look at an article or page on the same device but they will only be counted once.

On the flip side, if someone looks at a website page on their phone and then goes back to the same page on their laptop at home, it’s counted as two unique visitors.

This core metric is usually measured monthly (often abbreviated to UMVs and UVPM), although some publications and sites will share their yearly numbers.

In advertising, an ad unique user refers to somebody who has made at least one ad impression.

What are unique visitors per month (UVPM)?

Unique visitors per month (or UVPM) refers to the number of people who have visited a website at least once over the time period of one month. If somebody visits a site once a week, they would only count as one unique visitor regardless of how many weeks are in the month. Equally, if somebody landed on your website once, and immediately bounced, they would also count as one unique visitor.

UVPM is a handy metric for finding out how many people are interested in your product or service, and gives you a more accurate view of this, since it only counts each person once.

Is a website visit the same as a website visitor?

No. A website visitor is essentially the same as a unique user. Each individual device that accesses a page is considered a “visitor”. Each device — whether that’s a mobile, a tablet, a laptop, or a desktop — is only counted once in a visitor count.

Website visits, however, are different. A visit is a burst of activity by a valid browser. Visits are counted each time that a user visits the site. So if the same user visits 5 times then there would be 5 visits.

Google Analytics calls visits sessions, which they refer to as ‘group of user interactions with your website that take place within a given time frame’.

What is the difference between a hit and a visit?

A lot of people confuse a hit with a visit, but they are two very different things. A hit refers to the number of resources or files downloaded from a server during a visit (these could be photos, graphics, or a form, for example) whereas a visit is only counted once and refers to a person who enters your website, regardless of the number of pages they navigate between.

If someone visits a webpage that has 15 photos and 3 buttons, the analytics will show there as being 18 hits but just 1 visit.

What is a page view?

Page views refer to the number of pages that have been viewed on a website. If one person reaches a homepage, then navigates to an ‘about us’ page, two pages would have already been counted. Page views also include repeat views of a single page by the same visitor or unique user.

Page views differ from a website visitor or a unique user, both of which don’t count each and every page the visitor navigates to. Say, for example, someone visits five pages of a website from their mobile phone over a period of a day. The unique user count would record just one visitor (because there was just one device), while the page view count would read as five (because the visitor browsed five pages).

What is an impression?

Impressions — sometimes called views (or ad views in the advertising world) — are measured when an element is displayed on a webpage or social media feed. Impressions are not the same as views. Just because your content showed up on someone’s feed, it doesn’t mean it was actively viewed by them.

Because an impression is counted each time a page is loaded or an ad or piece of content is displayed on a page, it increases with each repeat view. You’ll mostly see the term impression used in line with an estimate of how many people a particular ad or post is reaching.

It can be difficult to know the true amount of impressions a piece of earned media has had since only the publisher will have access to this data. Because of this, CoverageBook created a fancy ‘Estimated Coverage Views’ metric which uses an algorithm to estimate how many views a piece of coverage will get in its lifetime.

Is an impression the same as a page view?

No. Impressions are very similar to page views — but rather than counting the number of times a page is viewed, impressions look at an element on a page (typically this is an advert) and how many times this piece of content has been served to an audience.

If an advert was displayed on four pages of a website and a user navigated across six pages, the page views would be six and the impressions would be four as this is how often the ad appeared on these pages and was served to the audience.

What is opportunity to see (OTS)?

Opportunity to see or OTS is a metric that refers to the number of people that are exposed to a piece of coverage or an ad. It’s important to note that it doesn’t take into account exactly how many people saw it, but instead how many people might have the opportunity to see it.

For example, a brand might have 80,000 followers on Twitter. Their reach on Twitter would be measured as 80,000 even though it’s highly unlikely every single one of those followers would see their updates.

What is readership? 

Readership refers to the estimated number of people who have actually read a publication. This figure usually takes into account the number of readers across multiple platforms, for example, The Daily Mail is a daily newspaper here in the UK but also has a popular online news website – Mail Online.

The bigger the site, the bigger the readership, which means each page is less likely to be seen. For instance, the readership of a site that has news, sports, and health sections will be a sum of the visits to each of the sections, however, it is unlikely that if someone enters a site to read the sports section they will visit all the pages on the health section too.

What is the difference between readership and circulation?

While readership and circulation are often terms thrown around interchangeably, there is a slight difference between the two. Circulation measures how many copies of a publication are distributed, while readership is an estimation of how many people have actually consumed and digested the content of a publication.

Readership is always greater than circulation because it is assumed that more than one person usually reads a printed version of a publication because they are often given to friends, left on trains etc. With this in mind, it’s always important to remember that readership is only an estimate. Without proper quantitative research and analysis, readership figures can only be guessed so are often overinflated.

What is Domain Authority?

Domain Authority (DA) is a calculation provided by a third-party called Moz and is an indication of the influence of a website in search engines. Sites are given a score out of 100, with 100 being the highest.

As Domain Authority looks at the influence of a site specifically in search engines, it is often used by search agencies to give their clients an indication of the quality of their link-building efforts.

What are estimated coverage views?

Estimated coverage views are a metric we generated at CoverageBook to predict how many visits an article has likely received. We created this metric because you do not typically have access to the third-party data needed to quantify actual coverage views.

We do this using a proprietary algorithm that takes into account a publication’s total number of visits, its popularity and size, and the placement of the article.

This gives a better idea of how many people have actually read a piece of coverage compared to simply sharing a publication’s readership as a whole – which covers their entire website rather than just at the article level.

What is AVE?

AVE stands for Advertising Value Equivalent and is a bit of a sore point in the PR world. It basically refers to the act of putting an ad value to earned media content to show what it’s “worth”.

Traditionally it’s worked out by taking the column size of the coverage and working out how much it would cost to have an ad across that same space. However, it is based on rate cards rather than what adverts actually cost, doesn’t take into account context and there is often also a multiplier included too. The result is a number with no real meaning. It’s a pretty flawed approach and one that’s frowned upon in the PR industry.

What is a unique cookie?

It’s certainly not a delicious chocolate chip biscuit, that’s for sure. A unique cookie in computer terms is a tiny portion of data generated when you visit a website which is then saved to your browser. Its purpose is to retain information about you, whether that’s a password, email address, actions you took, or items you bought.

What does bounce rate refer to?

Bounce rate is determined by how many pages someone visits while on a site. A visitor ‘bounces’ off your site when they look at just one page and then leave, either closing the browser or going back to Google if they found you through a search listing.

Bounce rate refers to the percentage of pageviews where the visitor bounces. If a visitor looks at just one page and then leaves, the bounce rate will be high, but if someone looks at five pages or twenty pages, the bounce rate will be lower, which is the ultimate goal!

So if you had 100 visitors and 10 of them only looked at one page before bouncing you would have a bounce rate of 10%.

Is a conversion the same as a goal?

A conversion is a specific type of goal. You can set up goals in Google Analytics. These can be a multitude of actions including signing up for email alerts, adding a product to their cart, activating a free trial, or buying something. Usually, conversions have to be manually set up to track specific behaviours. Once a goal is completed, it is called a conversion.

What is ROI in PR and marketing?

Return on Investment (or ROI) usually measures the net profit you gain on an investment you’ve laid out. For example, if you pay out £1,000 for an ad and that ad directly gets you £4,000 in sales, that investment has a high ROI as you’ve essentially gained £3,000 from the activity.

The problem with determining ROI is that there are usually multiple factors influencing a buyer’s motivation from the PR creating brand awareness to the final ad they clicked on so ROI can rarely be attributed to one marketing activity.

What metrics should I use?

The metrics you choose should depend entirely on your objectives and your campaigns. No single metric is better (or more accurate at evaluating your campaign) than another. It is always important to understand your campaign goals and objectives, and how these relate back to those of the organisation, company, or client you’re working with.

At CoverageBook we help automatically gather metrics as Readership, Estimated Views and Domain Authority (to name a few) but it’s important to look at these alongside the objectives of your campaign. For instance, if your campaign was to generate sales of a particular product you may also want to look at sales and inquiries about the product, traffic to product pages and so on. At the end of the day, your measurement metrics need to relate to the outcomes you are pursuing.

Coveragebook uses a variety of metrics from places including SimilarWeb and Moz to accurately measure the impact of your PR activity – you can find out more about the metrics we use here.

Discover how CoverageBook’s metrics can help elevate your PR reporting

Written by —
Rebecca Fitzgerald

Rebecca Fitzgerald

Marketing Executive at CoverageBook