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How to Measure a Website's Success

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Usability expert Jakob Nielsen (pictured above) has a must-read article for anyone running a web site or investing in online businesses. He writes:

...ever-more users are arriving deep within websites rather than entering them through the homepage...

For many sites, the deep-dip increase has an unfortunate consequence: much bigger bounce rates.

The bounce rate is defined as the percentage of visitors who turn around at the entry page and immediately leave the site. Such visitors "bounce" out and never see additional pages.

Given growing bounce rates, we must stop using "unique visitors" as a metric for site success. Site tourists who leave a site immediately ratchet up the unique visitor count, but don't contribute long-term value.

On the contrary, bouncers should be considered a negative statistic: the site failed to engage them enough to entice even a second pageview.

To measure site success, you should count only loyal users who return repeatedly...

Chasing higher unique-visitor counts will undermine your long-term positioning because you'll design gimmicks rather than build features that bring people back and turn them into devotees and customers.

At Seeking Alpha, we focus on two metrics of user engagement: average time on site and page views per visit. Average time on site this month is over 14 minutes per visit; but that number includes those who Jakob Nielsen calls "site tourists".

Those who came directly to Seeking Alpha this month spent an average of 22 minutes per visit.

The chart below shows the second broad metric for user engagement -- page views per visit.

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