Web hits, visitors and impressions, oh my!

Published 10:15 am Thursday, July 3, 2008

Editor’s note: Tribune Advertising Director Crystal Miller writes a marketing column for the Tribune’s newsletter to advertisers. It is called Marketing 4 You. Today, we present the first column here. The column normally will appear in pages of submitted business items that often appear in Sunday or Monday editions.

Without extensive research how can one know the difference between Web site statistics? When you do know the difference, how do you know if you are investing your advertising budget responsibly? There is much to learn about Web site advertising. The first step is to understand basic traffic information.

Don’t be fooled by impressive numbers. For example, AlbertLeaTribune.com has 17 million hits per month and 131,000 visitors per month. However, this does not mean that 17 million or even 131,000 different people are visiting the site. Hits do not equal people and monthly numbers do incorporate daily repeat traffic. So, with this information, you have not learned how many different individuals actual visit the Web site and how many actual potential customers will see your advertisement. You need to ask questions. It never hurts to try to understand. It does hurt to miss out on a great opportunity.

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So ask:

“How many actual people are going to see my advertisement?”

“How much time is spent on the Web site viewing my advertisement?”

“How often will someone likely return and see my advertisement again?”

There may not always be a way to find your answers, but asking will never hurt. Because the Internet is growing so fast in popularity, the answers to your questions could change frequently and the person you ask may not know the answer. If someone cares about earning your trust and your business, they will find out as many answers as possible for you. Many companies might not have the technology or the knowledge to find some of your answers. Some companies will use large numbers and confuse you.

My advice: Do your research, deal with respected companies and don’t be afraid of the Internet.

How will you be charged for Internet advertising?

There are three basic ways of purchasing Web site advertising: flat rate, impression or click-through. When the advertisement is charged a flat rate you are billed a set amount per each day, week, month or year. When the advertisement is charged by impression (CPM) you are billed for how many times your advertisement is being viewed. A view is counted each time somebody visits the page with the ad or refreshes the page.

As an example, you could pay $200 each month at the rate of $4 per thousand impressions. This would mean that after 50,000 impressions ($200 divided by $4 and then multiplied by 1,000) your ad would be taken off of the site for the month. The advertisement could be placed on many pages of a Web site to offer more impressions; this is referred to as run of site.

When the advertisement is being charged by click-through you will be billed for each time an individual clicks on your advertisement to your Web site (or other destination of choice). For a personal marketing consultation or to request a Marketing 4 You topic please call me at (507) 379-3427.

Internet marketing terminology

Hits: Hits are not the number of people that visit a site. Hits are a file request in the access log of a Web server. If there are five graphics on a page, then a hit is counted for each graphic and the text (HTML). When you hear that a site generates 1 million hits in a given time; this does not reflect the number of people visiting the site.

Visitor: This varies, but generally it is one IP (individual computer) visiting your site in a 30-minute period.

Impressions: An impression is the number of times an advertisement is displayed. If 10 people visited the Web page containing the ad, you would have 10 impressions. If one person viewed it 10 times, you would still have 10 impressions.

Unique visitor: This is a visitor tracked by IP (individual computer). Each visitor is tracked only once.

Click-through: This is the process of clicking through an online advertisement to the advertiser’s destination.

CPM: This means “cost per thousand impressions” (M is the Roman numeral for 1,000). You would be paying for each 1,000 times your ad is seen.

Run of site: Abbreviated as ROS, this is a buying option in which an ad may appear on any number of pages of the target site.

Frequency cap: This is the restriction on the amount of times a specific visitor is shown a particular advertisement.

Crystal Miller is the advertising director for the Albert Lea Tribune.