Understanding Unique Visitors, Making It More Reliable and How to Get More

Kevin Duong - September 23, 2019 - 0 comments

What are unique visitors?

A unique visitor is a person who visits a website within a predetermined period. (A common measure is months.) The word person is noteworthy here since some traffic comes from bots!

Some, such as Google, refer to it as users instead of visitors. However, the terms are interchangeable.

Regardless if the person visits this specific site one or one thousand times during the period, they are considered one unique visitor. As for that one or one thousand times? Those are classified as pageviews.

Why are unique visitors important?

It’s a metric for your site, and by extension, brand and company’s popularity. For instance, an increase in the number of unique visitors from one period to the next would most likely be a positive development. It can be indicative of your brand’s growth, which might have translated into sales too. Speaking of growth, companies could use a high or increasing unique visitors number persuade potential investors for new funding.

You can also use unique visitors in conjunction with pageviews to analyze your site’s performance. Some sites should ideally have a high pageview/unique visitor ratio, such as news outlets. So a low ratio for this would mean they have issues, whether it’s content or design.

Why unique visitors is not a completely reliable metric

Ask yourself this—which websites do you visit most often? Do you visit these sites strictly on a single device? For instance, your desktop, laptop, mobile phone, tablet? Probably a combination of these, right?

Well, congratulations! You’ve inflated the unique visitors number for these sites. You are obviously one person; however, each device you use to view is counted as a different visitor.

As you can tell from our previous example, there are other situations where you could inadvertently affect a site’s unique visitors number. For the devices we mentioned above, you might share some, such as a family computer or tablet. So, in this case, the number would be underrepresented since it’s a single device with multiple users.

Let’s shift to the workplace. There’s a good chance you use a different computer at work but access some of the same sites (work-related or otherwise!). Perhaps you use a work-issued mobile phone too. Now we’re back to over-representing the total.

To get technical for a bit, some further things can complicate matters. One thing you’ve probably experienced is a website asking for your permission to use cookies. Well, each browser uses its own cookie. So for each separate browser you use to view the same site (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari, etc.), that would count you as multiple users. And as the image below illustrates, you can clear your cookies too. This would cause them to count you as multiple unique visitors if you browse the same site again within the reporting period.

(Image via Brooks Bell)

How you can make unique visitors more reliable

As you’ve probably realized by now, unique visitors is far from a perfect metric measurement-wise. However, the essence of what it’s trying to measure remains important. Although the total itself isn’t 100% accurate, it can still be useful, serving as a baseline for comparison.

Depending on your audiences’ viewing habits, your total unique visitors could be slightly, or even significantly skewed. One way to counterbalance this is to set a threshold when comparing numbers from one period to the next. The purpose of this would be to account for the noise. Hypothetically, let’s use 3%. And let’s say the difference in your unique visitors from last month to this month was only 2%. Then, you would chalk up the difference to differing device usage, rather than actual growth or decline.

Promise Media makes a good point that typical monthly comparison can contain too much volatility from uncontrollable factors. Occasions such as holidays, severe weather and big promotional events can substantially skew the number of unique visitors.

As such, for a monthly comparison, it would be prudent to set up a threshold as we suggested above to account for these fluctuating factors. And it would be wise not to put too much emphasis on a single month’s performance. A longer timeline would see these uncontrollable factors even out. As such, a quarterly, semi-annual or annual comparison would provide more reliable and accurate numbers for analysis.

How you can get more unique visitors

Here’s an idea—if you want your site to attract more unique visitors, you should start treating your visitors as if they’re unique!

As we’ve explained in great detail here, consumers want to feel that they’re unique, termed” Wantedness” by a Wunderman study. This is resulting in greater prominence for personalization and one-to-one marketing.

You can make your visitors feel unique when they’re on your website by showing them content that’s tailor-made for them.

Since we talked a lot about the use of multiple devices distorting the unique visitors metric, let’s use it for our example. A company selling sleeves and cases for laptops and phones could customize their website so that each audience segment sees more relevant content. For someone viewing their site on their laptop, the company could personalize the homepage so that it shows only laptop products above the fold with a corresponding CTA. Then, for mobile visitors, show only phone products, with a smaller and mobile-friendly CTA button.

Sounds pretty cool, right?

If you think your customers will feel the same, then try happylane, our website personalization platform. It will enable you to segment your visitors, leads and customers by device, traffic source, location, campaign and more. Then, you’ll be able to seamlessly switch images, text and CTAs to suit all your different audiences.

Since you’re reading about unique visitors, there’s a good chance you’re interested in numbers, so you’ll love our analytics. You’ll get graphics and data on what your visitors like the most about your website.

And the best part about happylane? It’s Free to use.

Make your unique visitors feel unique today.

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