If your website forms a key part of your marketing strategy then you need to be sure it is providing you with value for money. Your website needs to perform well for three key reasons; high search ranking, a great visitor experience and great profitability.
These pillars form the basis of a good online proposition and the simple truth is that you can attract all the visitors you like to your website, but if they fail to convert to customers because they find it slow to load and difficult to use then they’ll just go away and find a better site.
The major search engines understand this and to a large extent, they base their search engine results (SERPs) on the quality of visitor experience, which encompasses everything from load times to a pleasant brand experience. This means that a good quality site that performs well and serves the kind of information that visitors are looking for will rank higher in the SERPs which in turn brings in more visitors.
And of course, more visitors and a great website experience mean more profitability.
So the question is, what types of information should you track to know that your website is performing well?
Choosing your KPIs
The starting point to having a high performing site is to have a series of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will show you at a glance how your site is performing. As this graphic from Chaffey and Patron shows, identifying and starting the KPI tracking process leads to a much more defined and scientific approach further down the road.
One of the great things about the web is that it’s possible to collect thousands of different types of information but it’s important to note that not every metric is a KPI. Some things may be interesting to know but aren’t ‘Key’ in terms of site (and ultimately sales) performance.
The message is simple; choose only a few things that make the most difference to your business rather than trying to track absolutely everything. In the final analysis, KPIs need to relate to sales performance.
Also, make sure that each metric you track has a lever attached. This means that there is something you can do to change the outcome. An example of a bad KPI would be the domain name registration fee which is pretty much the same across all providers (so you can’t change it) and has no effect on the sales performance of your site.
So here are a few really good metrics that could form KPIs for your website.
1) Site visitors
Counting your site visitors sounds obvious but isn’t as simple as it seems at first sight. Don’t get caught out by thinking that the number of visitors your site gets is the same as the numbers shown on the basic analytics apps on your website back end.
The problem here is that often a basic tracker will count every single click, whether that be a bot, a returning customer or a brand new human visit and when you consider that as much as 37% of web traffic could be bots, then you can see why it is important to get the numbers right.
Whilst it may be flattering to think that you are getting 1000 visitors an hour, it’s not so impressive if you realize that 999 of them are bots. The problem of course is that if you also measure things like conversion rate per visitor then this also gets skewed by incorrect visitor counts. Use a website traffic checker to ensure that your visitor count is accurate and make sure you have things like Google analytics tags in place to make sure you are counting correctly.
2) Bounce rate
Google wants to know that it is serving its users with the most relevant search results and one of the ways it does that is to analyze bounce rate. What they realized was that if they served a really useful page that answered the visitors’ questions and was relevant to the subject then they would go on to read more information from that site. If the result wasn’t relevant then the visitor would simply check out the page for a few seconds and then go somewhere else.
In other words, they would bounce.
So Google introduced ‘bounce rate’ as a way of assessing whether a site did what it thought it did. It’s important that your bounce rate is as low as possible so that you are in with a chance of getting a high SERPS placement, but it’s also important from the point of view of your advertising and publicity.
Imagine if your company was spending $1,000 per month on advertising and every single visitor it acquired read one page for 10 seconds and then went away. That would suggest that your advertising wasn’t bringing in your target customer or that your content isn’t of good quality and so the bounce rate can be a clear sign that your marketing is failing. Bounce rate is exceptionally important for working out if your website is delivering the information that your customer needs and ultimately if it is more likely to convert into a sale.
3) Time on page
Is the content you are putting out useful and relevant? Do your potential customers get value from your work? Does your work build your credibility and make people more likely to think of you as a supplier?
If you write 2,000 words on a particular subject but your potential customers are only sticking around for 20 seconds then it is a clear sign that they aren’t finding your output engaging and useful.
If you find that people read to the end of the article and then go on to read another then you are definitely hitting the spot. Put simply, if people are spending a lot of time on a page then the likelihood is that they are finding it helpful in some way.
4) Returning visitors
If people visit your site once and never return then that’s a clear sign that your content isn’t doing what it should. Maybe the visitor can’t find what they want, maybe your advertising gets people along under false pretenses or maybe your site takes forever to load.
But whatever the reason, if you only ever see people once then it is unlikely that your marketing and website are doing what they should.
Conversely, people who visit again and again are much more likely to become evangelists for your brand.
5) Top exit pages
Is there one particular page that visitors exit from?
Is it because it’s a dead end with no menu items to click on? Is it because there’s no Call To Action (CTA)? Is it because something you have written has annoyed them? Understanding where your visitors are leaving from can highlight any pages that have particular technical or structural problems and can also show up issues with the sales methods you are employing.
After all, if you don’t ask someone to sign up to a mailing list or book an appointment then they aren’t likely to!
6) Sales per customer
Measuring the sales per customer is important because it gives you a clear sign of the value of customer acquisition.
This has a simple but vitally important use; if you sell $50 on average per customer, but it costs you $100 to acquire them then you need to look at your business model! Of course in many industries, this is a more complex calculation. For example, how do you measure the value of a subscription sign up or of a returning customer?
You may need to spend some time in the company of your accountant to come up with accurate numbers but as our example shows, understanding the numbers is vitally important.
7) Page load times
Page load times are one of the most important metrics that Google uses to choose search rankings so if you want to obtain a high placement then you need to have a rapid site but they are important at a customer level too.
The Financial Times carried out a series of tests on page load times on their site and what they found was remarkable. They showed that by introducing a series of delays, their conversion rate dropped markedly and not only that, their visitor engagement rate also dropped.
Why is this important? The FT knows that higher user engagement means a higher subscription renewal rate. In other words the shorter your page load times the more you sell. This is a good example of where a metric may not initially seem to be related to profitability but is actually at the root of revenue generation.
8) Device source
Back in the day, it wasn’t important to know what method your customers were choosing to visit your website but today it is more important than ever, especially since the new Google Analytics update. Today, more than 50% of the worlds’ internet traffic is generated by mobile devices and in some places, it can be up to 70%. When you consider that as late as 2015 it was only 30%, then you can see the rapid nature of the change.
The type of device your site is viewed on makes a big difference to the user experience and so it is important that you understand whether people are using desktops, tablets or phones and how that affects what they do on your site.
For example, do you have a high percentage of users on mobile devices but most of your sales come from desktops? If so there may be a problem with the usability of your site on smartphones.
9) Conversion rate
The final result you are looking for from visitors is for them to convert in some way. A “conversion” means different things for different companies and may even vary depending upon the particular campaign you are running. For example, you may run a content campaign that seeks to get people to sign up to a mailing list, but the next campaign you run has the aim of selling off last year’s product model quickly. In the first case, a conversion is a mailing list sign up, in the second a sale of a physical item.
We put this last because the ultimate aim of all of your website metrics is to achieve a conversion of some sort, otherwise your site is just a vanity project. What’s interesting is that companies on average spend $80 on attracting visitors but only $1 on converting them to customers. If you are selling physical or download products then conversions are probably easy to assess but what if you are selling offline services?
You may choose to use a proxy metric like appointment booking or you could use an offline method of working out how many sales you have made that have initially been sourced through web interaction.
This is just the start
It’s important to note that choosing which website metrics to track is just the start of the process. Once you have chosen your metrics then you need to test different aspects of your site to prove which elements make positive differences to your SERPs and conversion rates.
Understanding customer behavior on your site by analyzing metrics is a fundamental step when you want to refine your business model and develop a more profitable web presence. Knowing what your customers are looking for and giving them the best experience possible on your site will improve your conversion rate and consequently your profitability. Having a site that loads quickly and has content that is relevant, engaging and useful will lead to greater usage by your customers and as a result higher ranking in the SERPs.
Take the first step now. Sit down and work out what metrics are your KPIs and you could see a massive change in your website performance.