‘How do I measure my website’s success?’, It’s a bit like saying, ‘how long is a piece of string?’. But if you define your website’s goals from the outset, measuring its success becomes a lot easier.
Define your Goals
Every website has a different purpose; be it to sell your products or services online, inform or entertain your users, increase engagement or attract new customers, be specific.
e.g. My goal is to get clients to fill in the contact form OR my goal is for visitors to read my blog articles.
By clearly setting the goals of what you want your website to achieve, you can start to understand all the figures that Analytics spits out at you.
Understand your Analytics
First of all, make sure that you have Google Analytics, and that it is tracking correctly on your site. Analytics is just one of the many tools out there that you can use, but it is the first you should implement on your website. It will provide insights into:
- Customer engagement metrics: time spent on site, time spent on page, how many pages are looked at per visit.
- Conversion metrics: number of users signed up to your newsletter, number of users filling in a form, number of users using download links, number of sales and more.
- Customer behaviour metrics: a user’s flow through the site, abandoned shopping carts and partially filled-out forms, what pages they leave the site from and more.
- Acquisition metrics: number of gross visits, number of unique visits, new vs. returning visitors, landing pages and more.
Beware of Vanity Metrics
Many people or SEO companies will say, ‘the website is doing really well’, however, understanding your analytics also takes some work. On the surface, your website has just reached its millionth visitor, but how is traffic month to month, is it declining? Make sure you check your data and compare it with last month or even the previous year to determine long term trends.
- Combine metrics: Don’t just look at the time users are staying on the website, but combine it with the number of pages they’re looking at while on the site, this will give you a much better picture of what users are really doing.
- Remember Context: When most website owners see a high Bounce Rate they freak out. There are lots of factors that contribute to a high bounce rate, as it might not actually be a goal on your site to have users browse other pages. e.g. Wikipedia has a very high bounce rate, this is due to a user usually just Googling a question and the Wikipedia answer turns up in search results. This doesn’t mean that Wikipedia has done a bad job, it actually means that the user has found the information that they were looking for straight away and had no need to search further on the site. Take all data with a pinch of salt.
Metrics that Matter
As noted before, take all data with a pinch of salt, it can all be analysed to within an inch of its life, so while you shouldn’t take the figures at face value, be careful not to read into it too much as all you can really do with Google Analytics is make educated guesses as to a user’s thinking and actions.
Some metrics that really do matter:
- Conversion rate: To figure this out, you need to set up goals in Analytics. This marks a certain action that a user makes on the site as a conversion, be it filling in a form or completing an online checkout.
- Exit pages: See which pages your users mostly leave your site from to work out how to improve your sales funnel. Bear in mind that some pages are natural exits. Like a ‘thank you’ page or the ‘contact us’ page.
- Unique visitors: This is a valuable statistic as Sessions will tell you the total number of sessions over a given period but some users may have visited more than once, and Pageviews will tell you the total number of pages viewed but some visitors may have looked at multiple pages, some more than once.
- Referrals: This metric shows you when and where your referral traffic is coming from. Building a number of high quality inbound and outbound links and asking your clients to link back to you too is all beneficial for your website’s domain authority and ranking.
- Search queries: Shows you exactly what people have typed in for Google to show your site in the search results. This information can help with marketing and SEO.
- Average time spent: be it on a page, or the site in total. This metric helps you to measure the quality of your site and areas where you can improve your content or usability.
Measure both Macro and Micro conversions
Some website owners will just look at the big picture and think ‘my website isn’t making any sales, I must be doing something wrong’. By just looking at your Macro conversions, or lack thereof, you could be missing out on opportunities to improve. A micro conversion, like a contact form submission, free download or newsletter subscription can give you great insights too. It may be that the user is interested in your products but just not ready to purchase yet, so they’re downloading your online catalogue to browse through or signing up to your regular newsletter, to stay updated on any sales or specials you may have coming up.
Earlier, I mentioned that Google Analytics is just one of the many tools you can use. Google paints a great overall picture, but if you’re more visually inclined and trying to understand at what points a user gets frustrated or decides to abandon their shopping cart, Usability Testing can be priceless.
Usability testing takes on many forms, from A/B testing to eye-tracking tests:
- Moderated testing: can either be in person or remote. Both involve the facilitator watching/ listening and asking the participant probing questions.
- Unmoderated testing: involves using software like Loop11 or WhatUsersDo to set tasks for participants to complete. You can collect a lot of data relatively quickly and it’s a lot cheaper than doing in-house testing. The only downside is that you cannot interact with the participant.
There are a lot of different ways that you can measure your website’s success. The most important thing is to know what your goals are to measure from. By having these clearly set, you can achieve your set website goals and improve on them.