Measuring Where Your Website Stands

Donovan Cronkhite
President, RJM

Posted On November 12, 2012

One of the great privileges that RjM has enjoyed over the years is to have built well over 200 websites for businesses of different sizes serving a variety of industries in many of the fifty states. This allows us to take a look at online trends at a macro level that many people will never be able to see. We can see where the trend lines are pointing, but often individual businesses have no way to compare themselves to their peer group. That's about to change.

This year, RjM completed its first comprehensive website review and we're sharing the results with you. We're not naming names, but businesses will now be able to see how well they're performing among a similar peer group. The statistics are derived from the analytic reports of 119 different websites from July 15, 2011 to July 14, 2012. These businesses include a wide array of employees and a variety of industries - manufacturing, community organizations, consumer goods, health care, construction, insurance and tourism are all represented among others. They represent a diverse cross section of the business community that operates outside of Wall Street and Silicon Valley.

The Mean and the Average.

Google Analytics reports are notoriously overloaded with more information than many businesses know what to do with. Many of these analytics are unique to the business, but we found twenty figures that are important no matter what business you're in.

Starting with the Basics

The question that will inevitably always be asked when talking about a website is, "how many people visit our site?" For many, it's the base measurable of success. What we found was a wide variance in how many people visited a website. This difference is most likely due to a wide variety of reasons, many that we'll discuss later. Our most heavily trafficked website pulled in well over 10,000 visitors per month and our lowest were pulling in single digits per month. With many popular websites within the study, this pushed the average number of visitors to over 6,000 per year, or 500 per month. Don't fear if your business isn't bringing in those numbers, however. When factoring the median number, or the true middle of the entire data set, RjM found that the number of visitors that one can expect per month is much lower, roughly in the 200 per month range.

  Average Mo. Avg. Median Mo. Median Low High
Unique Visitors 6,220 518 1,945 162 1 130,434


You might think after seeing those statistics that you have to be a large website generating a lot of traffic each month to be successful. What RjM found hidden in the analytics, however, is that each website, no matter the traffic level, performs about the same. People tend to act the same no matter how large or well known a business is. This finding showed itself in the next three statistics that we looked at: pages per visit, average visit duration and bounce rate. While the absolute high and low numbers reach both ends of the scale, the median and the average were almost identical, illustrating that sites large and small share the same visitor behavior.

One of the longest standing misconceptions of online behavior is how long a visitor stays on your website. Many people will guess that the average visitor stays for a considerable amount of time on the site, clicking pages and reading copy. If you're worried that your time on site is only a minute or two and that people are only seeing one or two pages, don't worry, you're completely average. For over 100 different websites, very few could pull a visitor in for more than a few minutes, putting the average visit time just below two minutes. The bounce rate, or the percentage of people that will enter on one page and leave from it, will hover near 50% for almost every site. The more curious will only visit about three of those pages you've invested in.

  Average Median Low High
Pages per Visit 2.96 2.75 1 19.13
Average Visit 1:58 1:11 0:00 11:00
Bounce Rate 49.98% 46.09% 0.34% 91.67%


How Sticky Is Your Site?

Since we know that website visitors don't stay for very long, we can at least hope that they come back. What our survey told us was that businesses should start looking to invest in materials that provide a visitor feedback loop because visitors won't come back on their own. Websites don't generally automatically produce return tickets. Over the course of a year, expect that 75% of all your site visitors will be people who have visited once. The remainder will come back many times over the course of a week or month.

  Average Median Low High
New Visitors 74.93% 79.22% 25% 95.8%
Returning Visitors 25.06% 20.70% 4.2% 78.57%


The Transition to Mobile

These days, the Internet is rarely farther away than a reach into your pocket. With the rise in smartphone technology, surfing the web while standing in line at that grocery store or while on the beach isn't uncommon. The stats for mobile visitors mirror the statistics for overall web traffic with glaring disparities between large and small sites in overall traffic numbers, but very little difference in how the user acts when there. While the average number of mobile visitors is skewed by the high traffic sites, the average and median time on site and pages per visit are almost identical.


  Average Median Low High
Mobile Visitors 1,190 274 1 30,838
Pages per Visit 2.14 2.07 1 12.95
Visit Duration 1:23 1:22 0:01 8:51


Bringing Them In

It's inevitable that sooner or later the topic of search engine optimization will come up when discussing a business's website. While emphasis is often placed on organic search traffic, there are many ways to drive traffic to your website - search, referrals, direct traffic, campaigns and social. Each source brings its own set of advantages and each is important in the global view of increasing traffic to your website. Let's first take a look at the traffic that search engines bring to your site, both organic and paid.

  Average Median Low High
% of Search Traffic 57.46% 63.13% 8.21% 87.46%
Organic Search Visits 5,618 1,768 8 118,077
O.S. Pages per Visit 3.10 2.82 1.25 21.25
O.S. Avg. Visit Time 1:57 1:48 0:43 11:33
Paid Search Visits 1,478.4 184.5 110 11,604
P.S. Pages per Visit 2.95 2.28 1.43 10.77
P.S. Avg. Visit Time 1:46 1:06 0:12 8:50


Search still dominates as the number one method in which visitors find a website. Close to two-thirds of all traffic comes through a search engine, mostly Google and Bing. While efforts can be made to use other sources to bring in traffic, this illustrates why search engine optimization is such a common topic. In fact, search engines bring so much traffic in that the pages per visit and average visit time numbers for this source come close to mirroring that of the entire site.

Search traffic is broken down into two segments - organic and paid. Organic search is any traffic coming from search engines that you don't directly pay for. This includes any listings in the center section of the search engine results. It is input into and ranked by the search engine companies, and while you have the ability to make changes to your website in the hopes of getting better results here, you have no direct control on what goes in your website, or how high your website ranks. Paid search traffic is anything that you directly purchase within the search engine. This includes the advertising, which often looks similar to the organic search rankings, listed on the right side of the search engine results and in the bar at the very top of the page.

Of course, if you are struggling to bring in organic traffic, it's possible to purchase your way to the first page of results. Surprisingly, only 10 of the 119 sites are taking advantage of this marketing opportunity. Of these ten, only three are committing any considerable budget to the effort, leading to a wide disparity in the average and median numbers for paid search. The effect that these ten companies are seeing, though, is increased traffic brought to their site through an inexpensive method that is very close to the same quality of traffic that the site holds as a whole.

The other ways that traffic can come into a website would be through referral traffic (links from other websites), direct traffic (domain name typed directly into a browser), campaigns (eNewsletters or other tracked marketing efforts), or social media. These sources make up a much smaller portion of the overall traffic, but they're important to look at as well.


  Average Median Low High
% of Referral Traffic 20.29% 14.86% 5.22% 68.42%
% of Direct Traffic 22.15% 17.84% 6.42% 77.94%
% of Campaigns 0.10% 0% 0% 6.44%
Social Referral Visits 125 13 0 5,313



While most businesses rely on the search engine, these numbers do tell us that many businesses may not be ranking well for search engines. Of the twenty least trafficked websites in the study, only three of them brought in over 50% of their total traffic via search engines. This illustrates that lacking a prominent search engine ranking will put incredible pressure on a business to use outside marketing efforts to generate traffic to their website. While referral traffic plays a part in overall search engine rankings, and direct traffic, campaigns, and social visits can all indicate the strength of the overall marketing campaign, these correlations between overall traffic and the percentage of search engine traffic shows us just how important search engines are. While they continue to update and increase the effectiveness of how they rank websites within the rankings, many business owners fail to update their sites along with these changes. While a site may have ranked highly in the past, updates by the search engines themselves have regulated older sites to back markers in the traffic driving game.

Be sure to check back in as we release the second two parts to our web study!

Read Part 2 : What the Numbers Tell Us 

Read Part 3 : The Grande Finale