Metrics That Matter: How to Measure The Success of Your Website
As a digital agency, we continually stress the importance of having a successful website each and every day. But rarely do we talk about how to actually measure this success. There’s certainly no shortage of metrics, the hard part is finding the right ones.
Long before the age of searching for the perfect KPIs (key performance indicators), Sociologist William Bruce Cameron summed this challenge up perfectly:
“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can counted.”
Just because we can measure something, doesn’t mean it’s important. And you can’t always measure what really is important. Here are some metrics that do matter. We’ll use Google Analytics as the baseline for our examples, since it’s widely used, free and highly accurate.
One of the main goals of your site is to drive awareness about your business, products and offerings. By looking into who’s visiting your site and where they are coming from, you can better gauge how your site is performing.
At a Glance: Website Traffic
I know what you’re thinking. Website traffic is not a good indicator of your site’s success. You’re right! On it’s own, traffic should certainly not be the exclusive metric for your site’s performance (more isn’t always better).
But, when paired with other data points like bounce rate (the percentage of viewers who only view one page), average time spent on page and new and returning visitors, traffic figures help you understand if your website is growing, stagnating or declining.
For example: You launch an email campaign that drives to a single landing page. Your overall bounce rate decreases because users only viewed that one page. While some may view this decrease in bounce rate as a negative, the reality is this may be an indicator that the campaign is working to drive awareness.
Here’s a real example from an iMarc client: they came out of startup stealth mode with a big announcement. Traffic spiked, of course, but we also saw a 25% drop in the bounce rate.
While the amount of visits to your site only reveals so much, if you’re looking for a high-level snapshot of your website’s overall health, it’s a great place to start.
Deep Dive: Channel-Specific Traffic
Now take it one step further and identify where your visitors are coming from. This will help you realize which channels are working and which need to be strengthened.
To get a deeper understanding of this, the “Acquisition” section of Google Analytics will tell you the channels visitors are coming from.
- Direct: How many people visited your site directly, either from typing your URL into the browser address bar or bookmarking your page. High direct traffic is an indicator that visitors know you by name. A+ on brand awareness!
- Referrals: How many people visited your site from external links. This is any website sending traffic your way through an inbound link.
- Organic: How many people are finding your site naturally through performing a search. High organic traffic indicates good SEO work. (Go you!)
- Social: Visitors who found your website through social media. This could be from a post you put on Facebook, or through a tweet someone shared with your URL in it.
Whether you are selling to consumers or doing B2B content marketing, you can encourage engagement by providing great resources and content. To measure engagement, focus less on traffic figures and more on the story of how users are interacting with your site and content.
At a Glance: Average Time Spent
The average time a user is spending on your site isn’t a one-and-done measure of success, but put into context and it can tell you a lot about your site’s performance. For example, if a user is spending 3 minutes on the Contact Page, there’s a good chance that the form may be too long and needs to be streamlined. On the other hand, if your blog is only getting a few of seconds of engagement, perhaps it’s time to reconsider your content and how to make it more engaging.
Deep Dive: Page-Specific Metrics
To get a more complete understanding of how users are engaging with your content, take a look at page-specific metrics. Which blog posts are getting the most views? The most time spent? How about landing pages and exit pages? Rank your site’s pages by pageviews to get a good understanding where users are visiting the most.
In addition to your site analytics, you can also use your social media platform’s analytics tools to look into social engagement, such as which content is getting shared and clicked on the most:
- Twitter: Get started at https://analytics.twitter.com
- Facebook: Go to your organization’s Page, and click “Insights” at the top
- LinkedIn: Go to your Company page, and click the “Analytics” tab
Most often the fundamental goal (and job) of your site is to convert visitors into customers. Measuring the conversion rate can help you assess your success at this. (The conversion rate is the percentage of people who achieved a goal on your site — actions like completing a purchase, filling out a contact form or downloading a whitepaper.)
At a Glance: Easy-to-Measure Activities
Contact Form Submissions: Measuring contact form submissions is an obvious, but great indicator of your site’s success. If users are completing your contact form, your site has engaged them enough to prompt an inquiry and was frictionless enough to allow them to do so. However, if contact form submissions are dwindling, it could be a good time to look at the layout of the page. Are there too many steps involved? Is the contact page hard to find? Making a few minor changes could deliver a world of a difference in conversions. (Pro tip: Get it down to 3 fields.)
Resources Downloaded: If users are downloading your resources, they likely value your opinion and seek out your industry expertise. Increasing resource downloads shows that your website is doing an excellent job at promoting your thought leadership. If users aren’t downloading your resources, try focusing on your non-gated content; is it providing enough value?
Email List Subscription: Users signing up for your newsletter shows that your website is engaging users, they value your thought leadership and that they want to learn more.
Deep Dive: Lead Quality
To better understand the quality of your conversions, look beyond just analytics. Are users who are downloading your resources coming back time and time again? Are your resources being not only downloaded but also shared? What quality of leads are you getting? Leads can be broken down into three stages:
- Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL): A lead that has engaged with your marketing efforts enough to transition from marketing to sales.
- Sales Accepted Leads (SAL): Leads accepted by sales for follow up actions
- Sales Qualified Leads (SQL): Leads that have been explored by sales and converted into opportunities.
This requires digging into your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) data, but if you’re going to really understand what’s working, you have to do the work. That said, this is most important after you’ve successfully grown your site’s traffic and plucked the low-hanging fruits of traffic and engagement.
Not Everything Can Be Counted
While cold hard numbers are important to quantifying your site’s success, there are some things that simply can’t be measured through analytics. Google Analytics provides a wealth of information on the behavior of the user’s experience, but they tell you nothing about the quality of their experience: the first impression upon visiting the site, how they felt when leaving, ease of use, understanding of the company’s values and services, brand recognition, etc. Activities such as user testing can provide more insight into some of these important, but less tangible, measures of your site’s success.
Beyond Google Analytics
While I focused on mainly Google Analytics, there is a plethora of powerful tools to help you measure your website’s success. A few include:
- HubSpot: An inbound marketing and sales platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers.
- Crazy Egg: Heatmapping and visitor insights tool.
- Marketo: Marketing automation software helps marketers master the art & science of digital marketing to engage customers and prospects.
- Optimizely: Technology platform that provides the ability to conduct A/B testing, multipage and multivariate testing.