Dear Jeff,

My webmaster says our SEO efforts are not resulting in a significant number of new visitors, but our average number of visits per visitor is high. Is the number of repeat visits significant, or should I be more concerned about the lack of new visitors?

--Name withheld by request

Quick note: Most of the questions I receive from readers focus on Web and financial metrics (there's a list of some at the bottom of this post.) I think that's a good thing: The more critically you think about your business, the better.

Average number of visits per visitor (AVPV) measures how many visitors to your site return, and how many times they return, in a specific period of time.  In general terms, the higher the average the more successfully you are engaging your visitors.

Here's the formula: AVPV = total visitors / number of unique visitors

For example, say 5,000 total visitors landed on your site last month. Four thousand of those were unique visitors.  5,000/4,000 = 1.25, so your AVPV was 1.25.

Is that a good number? It depends. If your site is information-based 1.25 visits per visitor may be low; some blogs average 10 or 20 or more average visits per visitor.  (Some major sites average even more.)

If your site is a niche blog, your AVPV could be high because your content is highly relevant--but only to a small group of people: You don't have a lot of fans but the fans you have are loyal.

The key is to measure AVPV over time. Adding relevant content on a frequent basis should increase AVPV. But don't change too many variables at once: If you add a lot of content but also double your efforts to bring in new visitors (and do so in a relatively untargeted way), your AVPV may stay flat because you will naturally attract a number of new visitors who look around and decide your site isn't for them.

Also keep in mind the nature of your site. Say you sell products. If your products require a lot of thought on the part of buyers (like if you sell expensive stuff), expect a high AVPV as people come back again and again to think through a potential purchase. If you sell lower-priced, impulse items, your AVPV should be low because visitors should come, look, and buy.

If you make money through advertising, a high AVPV indicates you have loyal visitors that advertisers may covet. If you provide customer support, hopefully your AVPV is low because visitors get their problems resolved, once and for all, and don't need to return.

That's why, where AVPV is concerned, the answer to the question, "Is that a good number?" depends. In general terms, your AVPV will probably stay relatively flat if your site has been up for at least six to nine months and you haven't made major changes in marketing or content.

As with any other metric or result, first decide what needs to happen--and then work hard to make that happen.

More answers to common Web & finance questions: