Imagine this. You're the publisher of a metropolitan newspaper, tasked with gathering statistics on how many people read your publication on a weekly basis.

Of course you count your subscriber base and your newsstand copies sold. But do you include those folks who only glanced at the newspaper headline as they passed by the newspaper box?

If you're a web designer or marketer who's counting every visitor to your site, even those who hit the home page then retreat, you're basically doing just that.

Your newspaper's advertisers, not to mention the newspaper's auditors, would take exception if you tried to tell them that those people who simply glance at the headline "count."

Certainly they matter if the concern is trying to figure out why a certain demographic isn't purchasing the paper, or if you're trying out a new design to see if it's more inviting and appealing. But what matters more in this case are the people who have the opportunity to delve deeper into the paper, reading the op-ed section and the entertainment pages, looking at the advertisements.

This notion of "readers who matter" can easily carry over to the web, translating into "visitors that matter."

Face it. Regarding your website, at any given time measuring any given component, there are simply visitors who create noise and distraction from the visitors that are actually doing something.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that you should take your log files and simply dump information on anyone who didn't buy a product or sign up for a newsletter. What I am saying is that depending on what you're looking for, and no matter what you're looking for, it's easier to see what you're doing if you don't have a fog of visitors unrelated to that task clouding your vision.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Marshall Former Netscaper John Marshall is CEO of ClickTracks, developers of web metrics software. He can be contacted at jmarshall@clicktracks.com