Initial Publication Date: January 28, 2015

Analytics: Traffic to Your Web Pages

Serckit collects and reports data about use of web pages. You can find a report about traffic to a given web page within the full editing interface. This report, updated daily, includes several sorts of measurements:

  • Page Views This is simply the number of times the page has been opened in any web browser.
  • Visitors This is the number of different people who have viewed the web page. This number is generally lower than the page view number because individuals often visit a page more than once.
  • Engaged Visitors This is the subset of the visitors who were on the page for at least 30 seconds and/or downloaded a file from the page. In general, this number does a better job of reflecting the number of people who interacted meaningfully with the page. Though, for some pages (e.g. one that acts as a table of contents), a 15 second interaction may be meaningful.
  • Intensive Visitors This is the subset of the visitors who visited the page for at least 3 minutes.

You can use the interface provided to select which metrics you want to see, over what time period and the time interval on which they are aggregated (per year, per month or per day). A download option is available that gives you the raw data from the graph you've chosen.

If the page includes downloadable files or videos you'll see a list of how many times they've been downloaded or viewed  with an option to export a spreadsheet of the individual download/viewing dates for each file.

Some notes about interpreting these numbers:

  • The numbers reflect visits to live pages, not development pages. If you look at the report when editing a development page, it will actually show the numbers for the corresponding live page.
  • You'll want to be aware of when the page initially went live when interpreting past traffic numbers. Obviously there won't be any visits to a page before it was live.
  • 'Visitors' doesn't actually measure real people. It measures unique web browsers on a particular computer (e.g. Firefox). Since people may use more than one computer/browser (e.g. home computer, phone) the number of actual humans involved may be less than the visitor number. Note that if the system is able to identify multiple browsers as belonging to the same person (e.g. because they've logged into their account from both computers) then it will count as a single visitor. So 'visitors' is only an approximation for the actual number of people who have seen the page.
  • Visitor numbers can't be meaningfully summed across multiple time periods. For example, the sum of the visitor numbers for all the months in a year will not always equal the yearly total. This is because the number represents the number of unique visitors within the given time period. For example if the same single person visits a page each month, each month will show 1 unique visitor. But the yearly total will also be 1 and not 12 (the sum of the monthly numbers) since it's still just a single unique person visiting the page during the year.
  • The measurements related to the amount of time the page was viewed (the engaged and intensive categories) simply reflect the page being open in a browser. We can't be sure a human was actually looking at the page the entire time. They may have been in a different tab or out to lunch.

What to do with these numbers

  • Look for relative trends over time and between pages.
  • Compare to article level metrics available from journals. These are available from journals such as Nature and PLOS, these altmetrics often report data equivalent to Serckit page views number.
  • Don't get caught up in exact numbers as web data collection has a number of intrinsic sources of error. These include the aforementioned complications around what a 'Visitor' is as well as things like browsers with Javascript disabled not being recorded at all. It's best to think of these numbers as having large error bars. Changes in order of magnitude are probably meaningful.
  • Keep in mind these numbers may under-represent the impact of your materials. If your pages include downloadable materials (e.g. student handouts), people may be using the material repeatedly and heavily without visiting the site at all after their first visit.

How to Increase Traffic to Your Page

You want your intended audience to find and benefit from your work at appropriate moments. They are out there doing searches for the kind of material in your pages. Here are some steps you can take to help them find their way to your page at the right time.

  • Make sure the page title is descriptive and includes terms your intended audience is likely to use when searching for material of that type.
  • If you have lots of text hidden within downloadable files consider copying out/summarizing/introducing some of that text in the web page itself. This will make the page a much better target for search engines and make it easier for viewers skimming your page to understand what it offers.
  • Update your page if it describes material that has evolved. Search engines like pages that are getting updated.
  • Link to the page from elsewhere, e.g. your institutional home page. This not only provides another way for people to find the page, it also serves as a clue for search engines that your page should be ranked highly (the more websites that point to a given page, the better it must be).
  • Make sure you've filled out your profile page with a photo and bio. This page serves as another route in to the materials you've contributed.

Data About More Just Than Individual Pages

If you have a project hosted at SERC, please get in touch to learn more about options for project-level analytics data.