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A Simple Guide to Web Traffic Terms for the PR World

Getting to grips with weird and wonderful analytics’ terms can be a headache for even the most experienced PR person.

There’s users and visitors, visits and views, all of which come together to form an idea of how popular an article or website is.

But 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 a glossary dedicated to terms you may come across while compiling your coverage report.

What is meant by traffic?

Online traffic refers to the flow of people visiting a website but isn’t used to measure anything specifically. If you want to measure the traffic to your site, you first need to decide what you’re about to measure — unique users, visits and so on. The other definitions in this series can help you choose what to measure.

What is a user?
What is a unique user?
What is a unique visitor?
What is a website visitor?
What are unique monthly visitors (UMVs)?
What are unique visitors per month (UVPM)?
Are they all the same thing? Yes.

The term user or unique user is the same thing as unique visitor or website visitor andrefers to a distinct device that has visited a site or 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 flipside, 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.

Unique users are usually measured monthly (often abbreviated to UMVs and UVPM), though some publications and sites will be able to tell you their yearly numbers.

What are unique users on Instagram/Facebook?

On Facebook and Instagram, unique users are individual people that have watched a story or seen one of your posts. As users are signed in, they can use profile data and so there is a higher certainty that each user is unique — regardless of the device they are using.

What is a website visit?
What is a website visitor?
Are they the same thing?

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. 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”.

Is a visit the same as a hit?

No.

A lot of people confuse a hit with a visit, but they are two very different things.

Most web pages feature a number of images and several buttons, each of which constitutes a file that is automatically downloaded when a page is loaded. A hit is the number of files “downloaded” on a site (here, a file might include photos, graphics, or a form, for example), whereas a visit is measured by one person visiting a page of a website,

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 goes to an ‘about us’ page this is two pages already counted. Page views also include repeat views of a single page by the same visitor or unique user.

Often, this is the highest metric you’ll see in a publication’s stats because it literally counts every single page view from every device. This differs 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 the 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?
What is a view?
Are these the same thing?

Yes.

Impressions — sometimes called views or ad views — are measured when an element — usually an ad- is viewed once by a visitor or when it’s displayed once on a webpage or social media feed.

Because an impression is counted each time a page is loaded or an ad 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 is reaching.

Is an impression the same a page view?

No.

Impressions are very similar to page views — but rather than counting the number of times a page is viewed, impressions looks at an element on a page (Typically this is an advert). So if the advert was on four pages of a website and a user navigates across six pages, the page views would be six and the impression four as this is how often the ad appeared on these pages.

The other difference is that impressions increase with each repeat view but page views take into account unique visitors.

What is readership?
What are site-wide metrics?
Are they the same thing?

Yes.

Site-wide metrics refer to the total readership of a site and accounts for the total number of people (or devices) that have visited a website in its entirety during a month. These can be misleading as usually the bigger the site, the bigger the readership — but then the less likely each page is 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 that they will visit all the pages on the health section too.

What is Reach?
What are Opportunities To See (OTS)?
Are these the same thing?

Yes.

Reach and OTS refer 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.

Are readership and circulation the same?

Not quite.

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 readers a publication has.

It is thought that publications have more than one reader per copy, making the figures much higher than circulation but a readership is only a prediction and without proper research behind it can often overinflate metrics.

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’ve generated at CoverageBook to predict how many visits an article will receive when you don’t have access to the analytics behind it.

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

This gives a better idea of how many people will read their 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.

How do I know what time period the terms are referring to?

Most analytics tools will measure a month as a full calendar month. If you want to check out your stats for the last month, it will show you the results from the entire previous calendar month. However, it’s worth checking with your data provider to get a more informed idea about the timeframes they show.

……

That covers most of the traffic terms that are thrown around together — but here are a few more terms you may be faced with when gather metrics for your campaign measurement

What is a unique cookie?

You’ve probably heard the term “cookie” by now in relation to website browsing. Most sites these days have a banner that pops up when you land on them asking you to accept the use of cookies.

But what is a unique cookie?

It’s certainly not a delicious chocolate chip biscuit, that’s for sure.

Instead, a unique cookie in computer terms is a tiny portion of data that’s 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 leaves, either closing the browser or going back to Google if they found you through a search listing.

Bounce rate is the % 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%.

What is a conversion?
What is a goal?
Are these the same thing?

Yes.

You can set up goals in Google Analytics. These can be a multitude of things, whether it’s signing up for email alerts, adding a product to their cart, 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?

Return on Investment (or ROI) 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 buyers 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 traffic metrics should I use?

Different people will favour different metrics, but it is usually a mixture of these that are generally used across the board for digital campaigns.

The metrics you choose should depend entirely on your objectives. Remember that no single metric is better (or more accurate at evaluating your campaign) than another, which is exactly why there are so many in the first place.

At CoverageBook we help automatically gather metrics such as Readership, Estimated Views and Domain Authority (to name a few) but it’s important to look at these alongside the objective 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 enquiries about that product, traffic to that product page and so on.

Let me know if there any more terms you’d like adding to this list and I can add them. If you want to know more about what metrics to use in PR, you may find these articles useful:

Further reading:

How to move away from big (useless) numbers in PR reporting: https://blog.coveragebook.com/how-to-move-away-from-big-useless-numbers-in-pr-reporting-54d80bc9bfcc

How to give better-estimated views for your coverage: https://blog.coveragebook.com/getting-real-how-to-give-better-estimated-visits-for-your-online-pr-coverage-6bf259c8734f

Written by —
Laura Joint

Laura Joint

Laura is a Director at CoverageBook. She writes and helps PR teams succeed in the reporting of their hard work.

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