Before you even publish your website there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. Who is your audience? What are you trying to achieve? What is more important to you, purchases or subscribers? How do you plan to measure all of these things once your site is up and running?
Success is subjective because each type of business (and each person) may measure it differently. First you need to decide what success means for your business. Then you need to build a strategy to measure that success. Create a strategy on how to collect the data you’re interested in, set clear and numeric goals so that you know concretely what you plan to achieve, and find a way to compare and assess your metrics against those goals.
Now that you know how you want to succeed you need to know what goals will get you there. Typically you’re in one of two boxes, Sales and Revenue or Engagement and Enquiries. Obviously, sales will focus on goals for online purchasing whereas engagement goals should be subscribers or contact form entries. These goals will help focus you energy into the areas of your website that matter most to the success of your company. Once you have set clearly defined goals, i.e. “We should have 500 new contact form subscriptions for the month of May.” Then you need to create a strategy to get you there and metrics to measure its success. This will also keep you from falling into the trap of believing that you’re doing well merely from site traffic or length of visitor time spent on your site overall.
You’re probably asking: what kind of metrics do I need to keep track of? Well, that depends on your business model. Let’s talk about the common metrics used in measuring website data. If you sell a tangible product you may want to focus on “Conversion Metrics”. If you rely on customer interaction and really anything other than direct sales you should focus on “Engagement Metrics”.
- Conversion Metrics: When a customer completes an action such as clicking a certain button, purchasing a product, or even submitting contact information to get a phone call that is called a “conversion”. Any time you want to track how many people are completing a certain action within your site you should measure that with a conversion tracker. You can then measure this against your goals of sales or subscriber signups or anything else that you deem necessary for the success of your site and your business.
- Engagement Metrics: Any business that deals less in a direct sale of product and more on engaging with customers should use this metric. These are used to keep track of things like how many social media mentions you received, how many pages the average customer visits before clicking away from your site, how much time a potential customer spends on your website. You can imagine these are powerful metrics to align with your specific business goals and achieve the measured success you want. Plus, even if you do sell a direct product it is always a great idea to see how your customers are interacting with your site.
- Acquisition Metrics: No matter what kind of business model you have everyone should be tracking their acquisition metrics regularly. These are the sum of visits to your site, number of potential customers who visit your site, how many new visitors you receive versus how many recurring ones, and how many links lead to your site. Any business needs people talking about it and seeing it to be successful, so be sure that you have some way of measuring these data.
Okay, so you’ve got your numbers. Now what do you do with them? A great research tactic that is used across different fields, including scientific research, is to pair your metrics to create context. Let’s say you want to really understand how many visitors you have in the context of your site traffic. Pair the metrics of your total number of visitors for the month with the total number of site visits for that month and you will see a pattern occur. Do you have a lot of recurring customers? Are you seeing a lot of single-time visitors that never come back? This helps build a profile of the kind of customers you’re attracting and allows you to change your goals and strategy accordingly.
Sometimes it’s a good thing that you don’t have a lot of visitors to your pages. You especially do not want a lot of recurring visits to a Help and Support or a Refund page. If the pages that your tracking see a lot of one-time visitors and not a lot of recurring ones and that page happens to be the product that you’re trying to sell then it sounds like you’ve got more work to do.
We’ve talked a lot about measuring success with numbers and metrics and page views. However, there is one sure-fire way to know how successful your website is even if you have all of these data: ask people. Give everyone multiple opportunities to provide feedback! Every website needs a link that says “What do you think of our site?” with a form to submit their complaints, compliments, and concerns. The happier your customers are in feedback the more you know you are providing the best possible site for their needs and successfully promoting your brand. You can also conduct focused user tests. Bring a group of people in to test the specific interactions or functions of your website that you want to measure. For instance, have them go through the process of purchasing an item or responding to a blog post on your site. Then you can ask them what they thought, what they liked and didn’t like, and ask them real-time questions that you normally wouldn’t be able to ask of a website visitor.
Finally, set aside time to talk about these metrics with your company. Take a look and digest the data so that you really are objectively measuring the success of your website. Have your team enter into discussions of what they appreciate or want to change and what feedback they have on the metrics you’ve collected thus far. The truth is, the more voices weighing in on how well you are doing, the better your site will be.