If we could really measure anything, the great web metric to measure would be quality of a visitor. Knowing what exactly is going on inside the head of whoever is visiting your site tells you whether or not you should analyze their data. Because we can never read minds we have to find another way to measure quality.
Quality of a visitor will never be 100% accurate because there are a million quantitative and qualitative factors pushing against it. With qualitative factors like emotional state of a buyer for example, and quantitative factors like how many visits did you get vs. online sales can make web metrics “mystical.” In the blog, Web Metrics Demystified by Avinash Kaushik, it is explained how complex web data is not useful if only one person can make sense of it. What this means is if you cannot explain how the data all comes together and results in good business then your metrics are still too complex and you don’t really understand them.
While we know we need visits that is not where the measuring ends. Business Grow is a marketing blog and in their article Four Online Marketing Metrics to Obsess About, visits are explained as a vanity metric because they are meaningless without other data to back them up and prove their quality.
Comparing visits to time on site, average pages per visit, bounce rate, and returning visits is one way of proving the quality of a visit. But you still are left unsure if the user actually meant to be on your site. Tabbing is a very common occurrence on the internet today. Tabbing is when you have multiple webpages open in different tabs. This act causes websites to be open for long periods of time, essentially increasing the average time on the site from an analytics standpoint but essentially undermining the process of using time on site as the determining factor.
The tangible answer to finding a great web metric is to set up goals and measure conversions. For example a goal could be someone came to the site and subscribed to the newsletter. Goals measure user action. If a user is taking an action like subscribing to your newsletter (or for ecommerce adding something to a cart) then you know they are interested in you and your brand and you can focus on marketing to them. While goals don’t cover everything and they don’t tell you what the user is thinking, they are the closest thing to it.