Refresh Rate: a new metric for measuring content engagement | Analytics Pros

Refresh Rate: a new metric for measuring content engagement

Posted by Caleb Whitmore on August 4, 2009

I’m excited to introduce a new metric I affectionately call… “Refresh Rate.”  After you’re done cheering and ask “what the heck is refresh rate” you can read on for the full scoop.  The more exciting thing is that I’ve collaborated with Jeremy Aube at the  Google Analytics Authorized Consulting firm ROI Revolution to integrate this metric into the  Google Analytics Report Enhancer, a Greasemonkey-based script provided by ROI Revolution for those using the Firefox browser that adds nifty features to the Google Analytics interface.

Finding the proverbial Needle in the Haystack

Many in the Web Analytics claim that Google Analytics is arguably a bit lean when it comes to content analysis.  Features like full path analysis are absent, content doesn’t report visits or visitors but instead only pageviews, unique pageviews (to clarify, unique pageviews is visits on a per-page basis) and some other value metrics.

When working with clients to analyze and understand the value of pages within their sites I’ve often struggled to find pages that jump out as problem or pints or highly valuable content.  A few months back I was experimenting on analysis and calculated a simple number, pageviews/unique pageviews, which I’ve come to call “Refresh Rate”.

Defining Refresh Rate

What is “Refresh Rate”? I loosely define it as “the average number of times a given page is viewed during each visit.”  It is a simple ratio of the number of pageviews divided by the number of unique pageviews (or visits) to the page.  Why is this important? Because if a page is viewed more times during the average visit it says something about that page: either it is a page frequently traversed (cross-over) between other pieces of desirable content, or it is a page that visitors just can’t get enough of or find particularly challenging to deal with.  In any scenario, it’s an important figure to spot.

I applied some color-coding in Excel 2007 and suddenly my report went from the equivalent of an early Atari display console to an HD flat-screen.  Ok, well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but here’s what I became excited about:

refresh rate as calculated in Excel 2007

Note how the third column, Refresh Rate, shows a starkly different picture of content than the other columns, interesting as they may be.  Using refresh rate I’m able to spot several pages with abnormal characteristics.  Something about the Sierra and Kyle 2008 recent weddings page keeps people coming back at a much higher rate then they do to other pages.  Could something on this page be more interesting than on the average page?

Refresh Rate within the Google Analytics interface

Refresh Rate scorecard screenshot

Refresh Rate scorecard screenshot

Calculating Refresh Rate in Excel is nice, but it takes a lot of work.  What about seeing this number in context within the Google Analytics interface?  It’s an easy calculation, but mentally calculating the number is a tough trick to do all day long.  Enter GAREnhancer from ROI Revolution.  I’ve worked with Jeremy on the ROI team to build this metric into the Google Analytics interface through use of the GAREnhancer Greasemonkey script.  You’ll see:

  • Refresh rate on Top Content, Pages by Title, and Content Drilldown reports
  • A nice scorecard tab that shows Refresh Rate for all the data rows within the particular report you’re viewing
  • A column showing Refresh Rate for each page

Using Refresh Rate in everyday analysis

There any number of ways using Refresh Rate can be valuable to conducting analysis.  Here are a few that I’ve come up with so far.  If you have other ideas I’d love to hear about them!

1. Refresh Rate in-context within content reports

refresh rate in the top content report

click to view a full-size image of refresh rate in the top content report

First, simply seeing it listed after pageviews and unique pageviews gives some context to how interesting a given page may be.

By analyzing content in the context of refresh rate within the GA interface you can easily spot pages that are outside the norm, or at least are viewed at an unexpected refresh rate.

refresh rate much higher for our partners page

refresh rate much higher for the “our partners” page

refresh rate lower for contact-us page

refresh rate lower for contact-us page

2. Sorting by Refresh Rate

Second, you can sort rows based on descending or ascending refresh rate values and see pages with the highest refresh rates listed easily at the top.

top content report ordered by refresh rate

3. Comparing Refresh Rate between segments

Third, when you apply advanced custom segments, you can easily spot the difference between refresh rates for various segments.


refresh rate for the homepage is higher for “paid traffic” visits than the “all visits” segment

In Conclusion…

I’ve found calculating custom metrics can be a great way to gain extra insights into website use when using Google Analytics.  If only we could create custom metrics on-the-go within the interface… Google, are you listening?

Thanks again to ROI Revolution and Jeremy Aube for collaborating on this to built it into the GAREnhancer script.  Also, thanks to Zenith Vineyard for letting me use samples from their report data – if you want to get married on a vineyard they are definitely the place to do it in the Western Hemisphere!

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