12 Days of Christmas – Day 9 (Unique Visits)

9,000 Unique Visitors

Before we delve too far into the intimate details of Google Analytics and all things “Unique Visitors,” there are a few things I need to get off my chest. As Turn The Page’s resident motorcycle riding, cigar smoking, rum drinking resident bachelor I have to say that when it comes to The Twelve Days of Christmas, excluding the nine maids a milking is a true crime against humanity. Just saying.

Now that we’ve officially established that I’m definitely not a prince even among the non-princely, let’s get down to the only reason anyone in their right mind would choose to peruse my attempts at literary diatribe, Google Analytics Unique Visitors.

What are Unique Visitors?

First, let’s tackle the question of what are Unique Visitors? And, how does Google, that John D. Rockefeller of the web world, comes up with its magical little numbers?

Unique Visitors are a function of those wild little cookies you’re always hearing about when talking about web browsers. Unfortunately for me and my inner fat kid, web browser cookies have nothing to do with those Girl Scout Thin Mints I love far too much.

Browser cookies are bits of information stored in Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, or whatever other browser you use to surf the digital highway. The underlying goal of cookies is to shorten the time it takes to load your favorite web pages. The first time you visit a website, a “crumb” from one of those cookies is placed in your browser and unless you clear them, it lets Google know it’s not your first time on the site. Every time someone visits a site and there isn’t one of those delicious cookies in the browser, Google Analytics tags them as a “Unique Visitor.”

The unique visitors number helps give you an idea of how many new people are stopping by. Great you say, but what happens is someone clears their cookies? There lies the fly in the ointment.

Take Caution When Comparing Unique Visitors

Google’s Unique Visitors  statistic is not the Holy Bible in terms of new visitors. To bring it into perspective let’s look at an example.

  • On Monday, Lindy, the Turn The Page Christmas Elf, visits your website on her home computer using Apple’s Safari browser. This is unique visitor number one.
  • Knowing Apple products (yes Amy Driver, this is here just for you), Safari crashes and our favorite elf reloads your page using Firefox, which would represent unique visitor number two.
  • At work Lindy the Elf visits your website on her work computer establishing unique visitor number three.
  • Now let’s say her employer clears the cookies from all their computers daily. This means when Elf Lindy visits your site again the following morn, even though she uses the same computer, it becomes unique visitor number four. That’s right, one true unique visitor counted four times. So how do we interpret the unique visitors statistic if it’s off?

Use the Statistic From a 10,000 Foot View

Use the unique visitors statistic to gain a 10,000 foot view of the overall trend of your website. Be aware that if you try to read too deeply into that analytic, you can muck the whole thing up. There’s a level of innate inaccuracy within this tool. You need to look at the number over a longer period of time with a larger sample size. This should help to average out the switching of browsers and/or use of multiple computers and give you a more accurate perspective of the overall trend. Okay, now that we’ve cleared the air on that there’s still a landmine or two that needs to be avoided.

What Matters is What You’re Doing with your Unique Visitors

What really counts is what you’re doing with all these unique visitors. In the end it’s really about conversions. Bare with me, I’m going to revert back to my company bachelor status in a muddled attempt to make it all clear.

If I head out to the bar on Friday with the intent of meeting a fair maiden, hit on every single one of the nine maids a milking and fail to get a single one of their phone numbers, how successful have I been? Not very.

So, in the world of online marketing, at the end of the day, you need to be looking toward your conversion goals (i.e. the date next Friday after I collected all nine maids’ phone numbers).

Set a Goal of Return Visitors on Your Website

My final lesson is to not be so focused on the idea of new visitors that you forget that one of the biggest goals is getting them to come back and turn into something other than a unique visitor. You want them to request a quote, buy a product, click on your blog, or call you. That’s the ultimate goal of your website.

As always I hope this helps and if you’re one of the nine maids and you’re reading this, you have no idea how upset I was when Rob cut you out of Turn The Page’s Twelve Days of Christmas. The good news is if you shoot me an email we can sit down over a glass of wine and I’m positive together we can convince Rob to include you next year. Happy holidays and put a little rum in your eggnog for me.

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