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A client recently came to us wondering why one of their web pages had such a high reload or refresh rate. They were really worried that their sales were suffering as a result of a usability or technical issue on a particular product description page.

We took a look at the situation and determined that it wasn't an issue with the product page, but with how their analytics program was reporting the user's behavior. This particular product page had a long description that made use of anchor links to would take the user to information further down the page, and back to the top. Every time a visitor clicked an anchor link it was treated as a page reload/refresh.

So what they learned from this was that users were taking advantage of their anchor links to navigate through there content. Our review of the usability of this page compared to their other pages gave us no reason to believe that the refresh/reload rate was higher for a usability or technical reason compared to their other product pages. As an aside we have made recommendations based on this review to improve their product pages so that anchor links would not be required.

The moral of this story is that it is very important to understand how your analytics vendor reports and calculates its results. The definitions that web analytics vendors use are different from each other and it is very likely that from one vendor to another you will not be comparing apples to apples even when you are comparing bounce rates to bounce rates (is bounce rate calculated as a page that is entered and exited from without any other pages being visited, or is it calculated based on the amount of time spent on the page or site).

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