"Count what is countable. Measure what is measureable. What is not measureable, make measureable." -- Galileo

Friday, May 29, 2009

Blank Spots in Visitor Loyalty

While things are hopping over at Plone Symposium East, I thought I'd finish up my series on Plone.org visitor statistics from Google Analytics. Tonight I'd like to discuss several under-appreciated metrics: loyalty, recency, length of visit, and depth of visit. I'm inspired by a blog posting by Avinash Kaushik that promulgated these measures for non-e-commerce websites.

Loyalty. Plone.org visitor loyalty has four modes, a mode being a local maxima in the frequency graph. A huge number of visitors (51%) come to the site only once, but then there is an up-tick after 8 visits. Of those, there is another up-tick after 25 and another after 200. From the graph, one would suspect that visitors returning more than 8 times represent a distinct population.

The long and the short of it is that Plone.org updates its content frequently with new documentation and products coming online daily. Returning visitors who come back over 200 times are clearly deeply interested in Plone. Even those who revisit just 9 times probably are users of a Plone site or owners of a simple Plone portal who need more than just a single answer to a question or the one-time download of an online reference book.

Recency. Fully 82% of all Plone.org visitors came within the past 24 hours. There is also a noticable peak in the "8-14 days ago" visitor population. These are routine visitors who make a habit of returning to Plone.org 2-4 times per month. As an action item, should the Plone community “sell” harder the value of repeat visits to our audience?

Length of Visit. About 55% of all visitors stay for less than 10 seconds. Obviously they were looking for something else and instantly recognized that their search had taken them too far afield. Of those who stayed more than a few seconds, 22% stayed for 1-3 minutes, 23% for 3-10 minutes, and 21% for 10-30 minutes.

This seems to indicate that about equal numbers of site visitors find their answer or locate their download within 180 seconds, within 300 seconds, or within a half hour. Considering the number of brief how-to's as well as the length of some tutorials, this probably is to be expected. A laudable goal for Plone.org might be to increase the under one minute population, which would indicate that site users found their answers quicker.

Kaushik states that "If you are a support website then should you be embarrassed if 20% of your audience was on the site for more than ten minutes!" Reducing the number of 10-30 minute visitors would be another excellent goal for Plone.org. That would mean that solutions to problems were becoming simpler and no longer needed lengthy, detailed tutorials. That said, I think there will always be a need for comprehensive tutorials that explain a process from start to finish in complete detail.

Of course, these metrics fail to capture those Plone users who are able to answer their own questions just due to the high usability of the Plone sites without needing to look up any online references.

Depth of Visit. As might be expected, 50% of all visitors stop after a single page. These no doubt correspond to the 51% of single-time visitors, the same ones who stay less than 10 seconds.

You'll note, however, that this is bimodal with almost 5% of all site users viewing 20 or more pages. I'm guessing these are developers and power users.

Its a testimony to Plone's internal search engine that visitors who stay beyond a single page view find what they're looking for (or if you're a pessimist, they give up) within a handful of pages. Turns out the average is 2.6 pages. That's about right for the following use-case: go to Plone.org, enter a search term, view the results page, select a relevant result and view it.

This concludes my "Blank Spots in..." tour of Plone.org statistics from Google Analytics. I'll try to get back every six months or so and see if things are moving around. With all the recent changes to the home page, I would expect to see some metrics on the move and in a positive way.

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