Unique visitor – Unique Meaning?

When people talk about unique visitors, are they all talking about the same thing? When people compare two different website by their Unique Visitors are they comparing equivalent things? Well I guess both answers are “probably not”. There are some important things to take into account to really understand what “Unique Visitor” means in each case.

Let’s try a definition…

“The metric Unique Visitor refers to a browser that was connected to our website at least one time in a defined period of time”.

It means that there are several factors that we need to take into consideration before analyzing or comparing Unique Visitors:

1- First of all we have different types of technology that track and interpret data in order to convert it into information, and each one do it in a different way so that data could not be exactly equal from one technology to another. The main technologies are:

a. Log File Analyzers.

b. Page Tagging Analyzers.

c. Hybrids.

d. Packet Sniffing Analyzers.

2- Second we need to take into consideration the way each single Unique Analytics tool analyze the data. No matter if different Analytics Tools are using the same technology; the displayed information will not be completely identical.

3- Third, Unique Visitors is a time related indicator so knowing how the analytics tool is taking that indicator it’s a must. The expression “the average Unique Visitors” of the market is 500.000 is not correct if we don’t know we are talking about a daily, weekly or monthly Unique Visitor.

a. Daily Unique Visitor: The same computer connected to our website at least once a day (the subsequent visits are not counted since is the same “Visitor”).

b. Weekly Unique Visitor: The same computer connected to a website al least once a Week.

c. Monthly Unique Visitor: The same computer connected to a website at least once a month.

Unfortunately the information mentioned above has no relevance if we don’t know the following:

4- The last thing we all need to know for interpret what kind of Unique Visitor are we talking about is “time base”, meaning that we need to make a distinction among taking a Calendar month or a rolling month (30 days). In the same month a Calendar Monthly Unique wont be the same to the Rolling Monthly Unique because a Calendar Monthly Unique counts the same computer connected to the site during that month, while Rolling Monthly Unique will count the same computer connected to the site during 30 days, which means that some computer could connected to the site last month so it will count as a rolling Unique Visitor until this month, but wont be a Calendar Monthly unique from this month. I hope this could be understandable, otherwise please leave me your comment.

So from now on, when someone tells you my website as “x” unique visitor, you know that information is incomplete, and what information you need to ask for in order to have a better understanding.

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