Visits or Visitors.. Top Web Analytics Training Questions Webtrends Hears

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“Should I look at Visits or Visitors? Which one matters?”
Okay, this is a question I get a lot in my training classes. And the answer begins as all good answers do in the field of analytics: It depends.
I know you hate to hear that, but it’s true. I tend to answer this question with other questions, such as:
What goal(s) do you have for this page/site/campaign? 
Obviously, if your goal is to entice former customers/readers/donors/whatever back to the site, your returning visitor count (and percentage of new versus returning) is the important metric. If, though, you’re trying to grow awareness of a brand or offering, visits may be a better indicator (think, for example, about the percentage of visits that see that brand or offering!).
What is your team used to seeing?
If they’ve become used to using visits, it may be best to stick with that metric for a while (at least long enough to educate them on why visitors might be a better indicator of success if, in fact, it is). Likewise, if they’ve been looking at the visitor numbers for the past year, you’ll need some time to introduce them to another metric and explain why they should consider it as well. There’s context to build — context your team may not have yet.
Who do you need to convince, and what do they think is important?
I know, I know – we don’t want to make decisions based solely on what other people think is important, but realistically, we need to consider our audience and their expertise and expectations.
What analytics solutions did you look at before?
This matters more than you might think. Webtrends counts visits and visitors differently than other tools out there; in fact, we allow your administrators to customize (somewhat) how we get these numbers. If you’ve been looking at “unique visitors” in Google, for example don’t be surprised to find your Webtrends numbers show a radical change (up or down is possible!). Don’t start throwing out visitor numbers until you get a much clearer picture of how they’re being counted in your implementation, as you won’t be ready to answer the questions that will inevitably arise.
These questions, in my opinion, are pretty important in deciding which metric you should look at to measure success. The limit here, though, is that these questions reflect only my experience. They don’t finally answer the question — but they get you to think about your business and your responsibilities as an analyst.
So expect a follow-up blog post. We’re putting out feelers to people inside the company, asking them when visits matter and when visitors matter. As soon as we get a few answers compiled, I’ll share them with you!
How would you answer?
In the meantime, how would you respond if someone asked YOU the question? “Visits or visitors? Which should we be looking at?”

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