Traffic Reporting on Analytics

Unique Visitor

The unique visitor metric basically tries tho measure the number of unique people who visited the site within a given period of time. The visitor is counted exactly once for the period. Generally, the unique visitor metric is calculted for a specific period of time. Some examples are:

  • Hourly unique visitors
  • Daily unique visitors
  • Monthly unique visitors and so on.

To clarify, if I visit this blog at 10:30 am and then 6:30 pm, on the 3rd of a month and then visit at 1 pm on the 15th of the month, the report would look as follows:

Hourly unique visitors for 3rd
10-11 am : 1
6-7 pm: 1

Hourly unique visitors for 15th
1-2 pm : 1

Daily Unique visitor
3 rd of July: 1
15th of July: 1

Monthly Unique visitor
July: 1

This metric is used to loosely identify the number of unique people who saw the site. It tries to map the usage of the site to an individual human – this could help in tracking the individual behaviour.

If you have a database background, this is similar to saying “select distinct (visitor details) during the time interval chosen”


SiteCatalyst & Google Analytics: Unique visitors represent the number of unduplicated (counted only once) visitors to your website over the course of a specified time period. A unique visitor is determined with cookies.

There are some caveats to using this metric. These are quite elegantly explained at Matt Belkin’s blog.

Traffic Source Reports

This report represents the percentage of visitors who have reached the site directly (by typing the URL into the browser), referrer (from a link on some other page) and Search Engines.

This report can be seen using the option Traffic Sources > Overview.


A referrer is some other site from which a user could navigate to your site. If there is a link to any page of say Site A to your site, then the Site A refers to your site.

The report for referrer can be used to identify the behaviour of the people who are landing on your page. So for example, if you have a blog that is being referred from two of your friend’s blogs, Blog1 and Blog2, the details will show how many people were referred from each of the two sites. Say something like this:

Blog1 – 10
Blog2 – 20


SiteCatalyst: (Referrer) A domain or URL used outside of your defined domain to access your site. The Referring Domains Report and the Referrers Report break referrer data into domains and URLs so that you can view the instances that visitors access your site from a particular domain or URL. For example, if a visitor clicks a link from Site A and arrives at your site, Site A is the referrer if it is not defined as part of your domain. During SiteCatalyst implementation, your Omniture Implementation Consultant will help you to define the domains and URLs that are part of your web site.

Google Analytics: (Referrals) A referral occurs when any hyperlink is clicked on that takes a web surfer to any page or file in another website; it could be text, an image, or any other type of link. When a web surfer arrives at your site from another site, the server records the referral information in the hit log for every file requested by that surfer. If a search engine was used to obtain the link, the search engine name and any keywords used are recorded as well.

Referrer – The URL of an HTML page that refers visitors to a site.

This metric is especially useful in seeing destinations from which people are arriving on a site. As the site grows older this list tends to get bigger and bigger. Generally, it’ll probably show nothing since many people would be accessing the site directly due to word-of-mouth marketing.

Generally, for the home page, there will be a lot of “Direct” hits, if the site is well known. After that, the pages are reached using some menu or links. These are not counted as referrer since the “referring page” is also on your own site. So say, you have the site, and an about us page at If user first types the home page URL and clicks on the “About Us” link, the traffic source report will show only one hit for a “Direct” view. The navigation within the site is not recorded here.

Search Engines

People referred from the search engines are (generally) not counted in the Referrer reports. This is just to segregate the referrers from the search engines. For a search engine, the search key used can also be recorded. This in turn can be used for Search Engine Marketing.

For example, if a user hits the Group Magnet blog using the key GroupMagnet, via google, the site will have two reports as shown below.

To view the Search Engine report, the navigation is Traffic Sources > Search Engines.

To view the keyword report, the navigation is Traffic Sources > Search Engines > Keyword.

The other option is Traffic Sources > Keywords.


Google Analytics: A keyword is a database index entry that identifies a specific record or document. Keyword searching is the most common form of text search on the web. Most search engines do their text query and retrieval using keywords. Unless the author of the web document specifies the keywords for her document (this is possible by using meta tags), it’s up to the search engine to determine them. Essentially, this means that search engines pull out and index words that are believed to be significant. Words that are mentioned towards the top of a document and words that are repeated several times throughout the document are more likely to be deemed important.


Author: akshayrangananth

CDN Specialist, Web performance evangelist, and SEO tinkerer.

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