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Determining the Right Metric of Success for Your Website

In the offline world, measuring the success of your business is easy. You can tell if things are going well by how often the phone rings, how many customers come to your store and make purchases, or by simply looking at your profit and loss statement.  Measuring success online, however, is rarely that cut and dry. Online analytical tools such as Google Analytics provide an overwhelming amount of data that may make determining the performance of your website difficult. With that in mind, it is imperative that you define what online success means to your website and then structure your analytics data accordingly.

Through my experience working with a variety of different clients, finding the one metric that matters the most to the performance of your site is the key to gaining meaningful insights from your website and minimizing the extraneous metrics that cloud the overall picture.  Ultimately, tracking total traffic or page views may create a nice looking graph but if they do not correlate with the overall success of your site, they are purely fluff. By focusing in on one key and actionable metric in which your site‘s growth is positively correlated, you will be able to gain deeper, more valuable insights from your data and in turn take the necessary steps to continually improve that metric.

While talking about finding the one key metric to track in web analytics is easy in theory, actually doing it is a different matter entirely.  Although determining what should be tracked through analytics is tied to the purpose and type of your website, the process of reaching that determination is universal. With every internet marketing client I work with, the process typically involves the following two steps:

  1. Defining the Goal for Your Website
    Ultimately, as a website owner, you are trying to determine what data is important enough to track in your site analytics. That question is entirely dependent on what you are trying to accomplish online. It is important to determine why you created a website in the first place. In reaching that determination, it is helpful to ask yourself one question: Why was your website brought into existence? Typically, most sites are created to do one of three things:
    • Create online awareness of your organization or product
    • Serve as an information source for the general public
    • Market and sell services or goods
  2. Tracking the Data Relevant to Your Goals
    After determining the purpose of your site you now have a clear picture of how you define success. For an online retail site, the key success metrics will be different than those of a blog or other informative site. Taking the aforementioned three types of sites, we will explore the key metric typically associated with each to help you gauge what you need to track. Although it is important for any type of site to understand from what sources they are getting traffic, these metrics should be a priority for websites whose main purpose is to raise brand awareness as it gives you an accurate picture of the amount of people who were exposed to your brand.
    • Acquisition Metrics: Acquisition metrics track how visitors come to your website.  The three key acquisition metrics are:
      • Organic Search Traffic: Organic traffic is the number of people who came to your site through a search engine such as Google or Bing.
      • Referral Traffic: This metric shows you how many visitors came to your site through a link on another website.
      • Paid Traffic: The paid traffic metric is important if you are running online ad campaigns as it allows you to determine how effective they are at driving traffic to your site.
    • Engagement Metrics: Engagement metrics track just that, the degree to which visitors engage with your site. Any visitor that comes to your site can either remain on your site or leave immediately. These metrics tend to be a priority for informative sites, blogs, and news sites that drive their revenue from ads displayed on their site. Engagement metrics allow you to constantly tweak your content and improve any pages with high bounce rates in real time in order to consistently improve the site experience and achieve the results you want. The following three metrics allow you to gauge their level of engagement:
      • Pages Per Visit: By tracking how many pages each visitor clicks on while they are on your site, you can determine whether or not the site has enough content to keep them clicking through rather than exiting.
      • Time Onsite: A visitor’s time on your site gives you a tremendous amount of insight into how engaging and relevant they find the site’s content. If visitors are spending a great deal of time on your site and clicking through pages, you can safely assume they are very much engaged with what you are offering.
      • Bounce Rate: Simply defined, the bounce rate is the percentage of people who come to your site and leave before clicking on anything. The lower your bounce rate, the more engaged visitors are with your site and the greater certainty you can have that you are reaching your desired audience.
    • Conversion Metrics:  A conversion can be loosely defined as any desired action taken by a visitor on your site. That action can be anything from filling out a contact form, downloading a file, or purchasing a product. Google Analytics presents conversion data as a percentage of the overall visitors who performed your desired action. Conversions are the priority measurements for e-commerce but can also be of value to service firms looking to engage with current customers or potential prospects.

    After reading this, I hope you come away with a better understanding of how to articulate what type of analytics data is most important to your business. It is important to remember that the types of metrics that will be most valuable to your business are more often than not dictated by your goals for the website. While I have only scratched the surface in terms of the power of data to guide your business decisions and influence your site performance, it was my intention to simply get you pointed in the right direction. Once you have the goals for your site in mind and are tracking the relevant metrics, you will find that it is then much easier to develop a successful online strategy for your business as you let the data guide you.