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Susan Kistler on Evaluating Website Traffic

I am Susan Kistler, AEA’s Executive Director and aea365 Saturday contributor. Recently, we took a look at the traffic on AEA’s web assets – our website, aea365, TIG websites, etc. I thought that I would share a few things that we learned along the way.

Lesson Learned – Visitors: Website traffic is subject to a number of challenges in tracking; however, key indicators that are widely used include:

  • Visits – the number of visits to a site within the timeframe
  • Unique Visitors – the number of visitors to a  site within the timeframe

In theory, unique visitors counts each person only once, and does not count a visitor a second time upon her or his returning days or weeks or months later. In practice, counting unique visitors relies on each visitor using the same cookies for subsequent visits, and assumes that two people aren’t using the same computer and cookies and aren’t surfing anonymously or with cookies turned off. Tracking unique visitors is an inexact science at best.

For the period July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012, Google Analytics tracked over 550,000 visits and over 285,000 unique visitors for the AEA website.

AEA Website Traffic July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012 Compared to 1 Year Prior

Year-to-year changes are displayed in green above. Visits were up 23% and unique visitors up 31% during that time period, a substantial year-to-year growth.

Lesson Learned – Content Use: Another avenue to examine to understand AEA website use is unique pageviews, which counts the number of times a page is viewed while counting only once visits to a particular page from a particular user on a given session. As an example, if someone searches the AEA conference program, she may return repeatedly to the search page. Her visit to the search page would be counted only once regardless of the number of times that she returns during that session, but the responses to the search – each representing a unique conference panel perhaps – would each be counted the first time visited during that session.

The following table represents unique pageviews for various sections of the AEA website, aggregating unique visits to multiple pages within that section (with the exception of the AEA homepage which stands alone).

AEA Website Content – Sections With Unique Pageviewsin Excess of 20,000 Views Between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012

The career center dominates AEA site use, and there we find aea365 in the third spot with over 118,000 pageviews in the one year period. Thank you readers!


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