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Web Site Measurement Hacks
By Eric T. Peterson
August 2005
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HACK
#58
Use the Entry, Exit, and Single-Access Page Report
When you boil it down, your ability to understand visitor interaction with individual pages is one of the most important things you'll do with your web measurement application. Knowing where visitors enter and exit your site, and which pages are least engaging, is fundamental to this knowledge.
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Depending on your site goals, there are a number of different metrics and reports you will want to review. It is however extremely unlikely that you won't take a close interest in your entry pages, exit pages, and single-access pages. No online marketing program is complete without taking a close look at one or all of these page reports, as the information they provide about leakage, slippage, and stickiness in your site is absolutely invaluable. Fortunately, no matter what web measurement tool you are using, these three reports are part of the standard report set.

Entry Pages

An entry pages report displays the most commonly used pages for entering the site. This is the first page that visitors see when they come to your site. Upon reviewing this report, you may be surprised to learn that 100 percent of your site visitors don't enter the site through the home page. In fact, they may not even see the home page at all during their visit.

There are a number of reasons why people enter the site through pages other than the home page, including:

  • Search engine results that point to internal pages

  • Campaign landing pages of all types, including offline promotions

  • Bookmarks

  • URL passing among friends or colleagues or designed viral marketing efforts

  • False entries

From this list, the final entry ("false entries") is the one element that should be of concern to Internet marketers and is worth a deeper look. False entries are usually caused by cached pages, missing tracking (for tag-based solutions), and the technical expiration of a visit when the visitor was still engaged.

Exit Pages

Exit pages are the last pages people view before they leave the site. The same principles apply to "false exits," which we described above as "false entries." It is important to understand that all visitors to your site ultimately leave your site, and they have to leave from some page. Also, there are good places and poor places for people to exit the site, based on your overall site goals.

It can be misleading to look only at the top few pages listed in the entry and exit page reports. Take a few minutes and compare the top 20 pages viewed on your site and the top 20 exit pages on your site. In many cases, the pages that receive the most traffic also record the highest number of exits. The better way to look at it is to create an exit ratio report—a comparison of page visits to page exits ().

Figure 1. Exit page ratio report

You can create this report within Excel as part of your normal key performance indicators and sort the pages on the site from those with the highest exit ratio to the lowest.

When looking at the exit ratios, it is helpful to break the pages into different categories. The most common categories include:

Home page

From an exit standpoint, your home page should be considered unique from all other pages on the site. Typically, a home page exit rate of less than 20 percent is desirable, indicating that the majority of visitors are clicking deeper into the site.

WARNING

Be aware that many sites that offer private login sections drop people to the home page when they select "log out," driving up the home page exit rate significantly.

Destination pages

These content pages provide the information that users seek.

Transition pages

The only purpose of these pages is to provide options for people who are looking for deeper content on the site. Consider a banking site that has a main product page that lists all the products—it does not really provide any information, but it helps direct people to the specific product pages.

Within each of these, we are looking for:

Natural exit pages

This is where we expect people to leave. It may be the confirmation page of a shopping cart or the page with a completed lead conversion form.

"Unnatural" exit pages

These are key conversion or transitional pages where you don't want to lose visitors.

Look through the important conversion pages recording high exit ratios and for pages that influence the most site visitors. Focus on improving these pages to reduce the exit ratio. You can strengthen calls to action, improve navigation, and cross sell other content on the site.

Single-Access Pages

Single-access pages are really just a combination of an entry and an exit without viewing any other pages on the site. A page is recorded as a single-access page if a visitor comes to a site, views only one page, and then exits. It is recorded as an entry to the site, an exit from the site, and a single-accesspage visit. These types of pages are almost always recorded by your measurement application and reported in a "single-access page" report ().

Figure 2. Single-access pages report

These can be a real problem: you have done all the things you need to do to drive people to your site: they come, view one page, and then leave. It is difficult to come up with a scenario when viewing a single page on a site can be considered a positive for the site owner—no matter what your business model. When calculating exit ratios, look at what percentage are single-access pages.

You can work to improve these pages the same way you address pages with high exit ratios. You need to move people from those pages recording high single page visits to other pages on your site. We aren't going to eliminate single-access pages all together—that is not our intent—rather, we are just trying to drive more people further into the site so we have a better chance of convincing them to convert.

Unfortunately, many single-access page visits come through search engines, campaigns, and pay-per-click campaigns. And guess what—you may pay top dollar for those campaign visits that click over once and instantly bail. This is another good reason to track campaign ROI through to conversion rather than just clicks.

It is easy to see how these three metrics are related, and the importance of understanding them on their own as well as together. Depending on your site and overall site goals, there are a number of ways you can use this information to improve site performance.

Using All Three Reports Together

While each report is powerful on its own, two very important ratios can be generated on a per-page basis that form useful key performance indicators.


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