Before I learned "Web Analytics", I was stupid at this area.
For example, I only knew and obsessed with "PageView", I got angry for Google not putting "pageviews" as the default selected metric in "Google Analytics", instead, it uses "visits".
Let Them Go
A page view (PV) or page impression is a request to load a single HTML file (web page) of an Internet site. (Wikipedia)
Yes, from the early days of web, we all obsessed about "page views", it is a calculation of how many times a page is viewed, so, more "page views" means more "famous" your site is, or more opportunity for someone to click your ads.
But now it's Web 2.0, we have AJAX, Flash, online videos, which are all traffic but not web pages, in them, "page views" lost it's significance, and we often aggregated metrics during analysis, for example, "visits" can be aggregated into "new visits" and "returning visits" to help the site analysis, but aggregating "page views" is useless.
Exit rate essentially represents the percentage of visitors to a site who actively click away to a different site from a specific page. Wikipedia
This metric shows the leakage from a website, "Why do people leave from this page?" "We should fix this page to prevent people leaving".
But wait, everyone who came to your website has to leave, they might browse around and leave from an arbitrary page, or they might sign up or buy something then leave from the same page.
Obviously, those are not all failure, if you use "exit rate" to determine whether the page is "good" or "bad", you might hold a wrong key. But "exit analysis" actually is important, don't worry, "bounce rate" is our guy, we'll talk it later.
Let Them In
Google's right, "Visits" is that important, "Visits" and "Visitors" can be found prominently in nearly all web analytics tools.
"Visits" reports the fact that someone came to your website and spent some time browsing before leaving, it's real, from it you can get how many people comes to your website.
"Unique Visitors" is approximately the number of people visiting a website, it will be daily unique visitors, weekly unique visitors, monthly unique visitors, or any arbitrary time period.
Both of them shows the popularity of a website was, also, they can be aggregated according to cities, languages, browsers or even screen resolutions, they're powerful, and most important, actionable.
The next fundamental metric is time, "Time on Site" measures the time visitors spent on the website during a visit and "Time on Page" measures the time visitors spent on an individual page.
"Visits" are just counters, but "Time" provides more details, once you understand exactly how time is spent, you can make more informed decisions.
Now not only you know how many times people visited, but also the time they spent. What's next?
Have you forgotten the "exit analysis"?
Bounce Rate represents the percentage of visitors who enter the site and "bounce" (leave the site) rather than continue viewing other pages within the same site. Wikipedia
If you got a rate of 86%, it meant 86% of people who came to your site refused to give it a pathetic click. Almost all websites no matter what kind of business they are running want people to stay, so, "bounce rate" is highly actionable, if it's high, well, your site stink, you'd better fix. If it's low, you may have a chance to be successful. But keep reading.
You also can aggregate "bounce rate" to your top landing page, then which page not doing there job can be identified. Also, it can be used to measure the keyword quality from search engine, if it's 99%, the keyword you are optimizing might be inappropriate, or the landing page really sucks. Fix ASAP.
PS, "bounce rate" is not suitable for blog analysis, since blogs often has high rate, because people often read one post and leave, but this is not a failure, it's the way we read blog posts. We have other ways to analyze blogs below.
Let Them Rule
There are also other metrics, and you can also make segments by aggregating metrics, then the figures and numbers are increasingly large, you might fall in "analysis for analysis", it's a waste of time. Keep your goals in mind, choose less than 5 dominate metrics and read the meanings.
Conversion Rate is the ratio of visitors who convert casual content views or website visits into desired actions based on subtle or direct requests from marketers, advertisers, and content creators. Wikipedia
"Conversion Rate" is defined as outcomes divided by unique visitors. What's the outcomes?
It's the goal of your website, if your business is social media, you might want people to sign-up, if you runs a commercial website, you might like people buying your stuff.
Maybe you are a blogger, what's your outcomes?
People read your posts, people read your other posts. You can set two goals.
"'Time on Page' greater than 2 minutes", which shows the times people actually read your post,
"People click your 'Archives' link" to discover other posts of yours.
Those are the outcomes.