As Super Bowl Sunday approaches, it’s clear that most people have football on the brain. As an Analyst, I have analytics on my mind most of the day, but football is also one of my passions. Because of this, I decided to combine two of my favorite things to help you understand “the game of analytics” in football terms.

Possessions are like Acquisition


How you acquire visitors to your website is equivalent to how you acquire possessions in football. There are different ways to acquire traffic to your website just like there are different ways to acquire the ball.

Direct Traffic is just like possessing the ball via a kickoff. You have little control over how these visitors come to the site in terms of internet marketing. Like the guarantee of a first or second half kickoff some visitors are loyal and are going to visit your site no matter what. This traffic is acquired through your pre-game preparation…Also known as offline marketing.

Referral Traffic is like possessing the ball after the defense has forced the opposing team to punt. Its not the best case scenario like a turnover, but a shutdown defense can get you the ball back just as well as a ball-hawking defense. You can acquire referral traffic by posting links in sources such as Social Media, Forums, News Articles, Email Campaigns, etc. Building links is just like having your defense accumulate sacks, stops in the backfield, and forcing incompletions.

Search Traffic is like acquiring the ball after your defense forces a takeaway (or turnover). Just like a defense in football consists of a defensive front and secondary, so also should your search strategy consist of a good mix of organic and paid search.

Having a great SEO strategy is like having an awesome front seven in football. A disruptive defense up front can force fumbles to setup a short field or even score via a safety or return touchdown. In the same way, an excellent presence in Organic Search can land visitors deeper within your site. With proper SEO, the deeper they land the more likely they’ll be able to find what they are looking for and even convert. This is just like a football team having an easier time reaching the endzone with a shorter field.

In addition, your Paid Search Traffic is like having a ball-hawking secondary. Yes, its is true you have now allowed the opposing offense to get a pass away or run past your defensive front. However, because your secondary is so good they are also capable of intercepting passes or forcing fumbles causing a short field for your offense. The same is true for Paid Search, if you have an excellent PPC strategy then you can land visitors deep within your site and increase the likelihood of conversion. You can test which landing pages lead to a higher conversion rate just like you can line up in different defenses to see which work the best.

Engagement Metrics are like Offensive Stats

Now that you have the football on offense. What are you going to do with it? What is the ultimate goal of your website?

Metrics in Football Terms

Visits as we outlined above are like possessions. How many times did you have the football? This really means nothing unless you can get the visitor to engage or convert. What purpose are they on the site for? What do you want them to accomplish on their visit? 

Pageviews are like plays. Is this really an effective metric to show that visitors are engaging? The answer to that is no. For example, if you orchestrate a 20 play drive in football is it still successful if it does not end with your team scoring? Absolutely not. This is the same as if a visitor looks at 20 pages and leaves without fulfilling the goal of the website. There may be another visitor that views 2 pages and converts right away. Long Drive, Short Drive it does not mean anything unless it ends in a score.

Bounces for the most part are the equivalent to a three-and-out in football. Like I said above its great to have visitors, but if they are not accomplishing anything then your website is failing. A visitor viewing one page and leaving is almost always an indication of this.

Pages Per Visit is like the stat yards per play. Typically the higher your average yards per play is the more successful your offense is, but this is not always the case. If you pick up huge chunks of yardage, but fumble the football away at the goal line what have you accomplished? The same is true for this metric. You typically want visitors to view multiple pages, but if they are viewing a lot of pages on average and not engaging then you are not profiting from their visit.

Average Visit Duration is like time of possession. If you hold the ball for 10 minutes on a drive that does not produce points then you have accomplished nothing. Similarly if your visitors are staying on the site for long periods of time and not converting then your site is failing its intended goal. Just like in football, a team that wins time of possession is not guaranteed to win the game. A visit that lasts 50 seconds and converts is more successful to your site than a visitor who spends 15 minutes on your site not engaging and leaves without returning.

Micro Conversions are like first downs. While these are not the ultimate goal of your website, micro conversions help lead visitors to macro conversions. Just like in football, if a team strings together a drive with several first downs it can go a long way in leading that team to scoring. These micro conversions can come in the form of Newsletter Signups, Contact Form Submissions, etc.

Macro Conversions are like touchdowns. This is the ultimate goal of your website just like the ultimate goal of any drive in football is to reach the endzone. First you need to establish the main goal of your website and then you need to measure that goal in analytics. If you are an E-Commerce website the ultimate goal is to get visitors to purchase. If you are an informational website perhaps the ultimate goal is to have visitors fill out a form in order to receive more information or a quote. Whatever it is you are wanting visitors to accomplish on your site is the touchdown of analytics. Just like in football, nothing is more crushing to your competitors than reaching the macro conversion endzone.

The Ultimate Goal is Scoring (Conversions)

Remember that the ultimate goal of your website should not be to bring in more visits, but to bring in more quality converting visitors. While it is good to see visitors engage by viewing more pages and staying longer, the ultimate goal is to get them to convert. There are many ways to acquire visitors to your site so make sure you take advantage of the mediums you can control through SEO, Link Building, Email Campaigns, etc. to bring in quality visitors. Remember that winning in the stats does not mean that you are winning on the scoreboard just like improving cliche metrics does not always translate into conversions.