As I gathered ideas for this blog post, I did a Google search for the oft-quoted business mantra “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” The first thing I found was this article from Forbes, which attempted to dismiss the concept that business metrics are important.
The author, Liz Ryan, had some good points. In one illustration she talks about how the number of attendees at a college RA's event don't tell the whole story. An event might have 40 attendees, but most leave early because they're bored. Another might have 7 attendees that are fully engaged in a community-building conversation. The event with 40 attendees looks better on paper, although the smaller event was more successful in terms of engagement.
According to Ms. Ryan, "That’s backwards. What is the purpose of a floor event when you’re an RA – to build trust and community, right? But Godzilla can’t see that. Godzilla loves the metrics, whether they’re significant or not.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the culture of measurement. When we are measuring, we are doing something. That makes us feel productive, even if the things we measure are useless. However, I have to disagree with Ms. Ryan that business metrics and KPIs are useless altogether. As one of the commenters on the article suggests, "Just because you’re measuring incorrectly or measuring the wrong things doesn’t support the claim that metrics are not a valuable tool for business, growth or instruction."
Which KPIs for websites matter?
Through my work with Nexxtep and our clients over the past few years, I have learned some lessons about which metrics are inconsequential and which ones matter. Unfortunately there is not a magical box of metrics that every business should be tracking. The right metrics vary from industry to industry and from company to company.
Begin with the end in mind and work back from there.
What are your overall organizational goals?
Maybe you want to reduce the number of support calls that come in. You can post support documentation on your website as a part of a knowledge base or FAQ section so customers can find the answers they need on their own. You can track the success of this initiative by measuring the number of support calls and the amount of traffic hitting your knowledgebase, then see if there is a negative correlation.
The most common website goals we see involve increasing revenues, member sign ups, or donations. Who doesn’t want more revenue coming in to their organization?
Once you nail down your goals, you can determine which KPIs you need to track. Here are some of the metrics we value.
1. Conversion Rate
Your conversion rate is the percentage of people who visit your site that take a desired action (fill out contact form, download a resource, call your office, etc.). The general consensus is that a good conversion rate is 2% or more.
Why we track this: More conversions = more leads. If those leads are qualified, more leads eventually lead to more revenue.
2. Organic Search Traffic
Are you getting traffic from people searching for your services in their area (e.g.- “real estate in tallahassee” or “accountant in douglas ga”)?
Why we track this: If you optimized your website for the right keywords, organic search traffic will bring qualified potential leads to your website. Finding out which keywords people use to find your site can be tricky, because Google blocks much of this information to protect users' privacy. This article from KISSmetrics offers a few ways around Google's roadblocks (the Google Webmaster tip in this article is the easiest and quickest way to find your search queries).
3. Keyword Rankings
We use the Google Adwords Keyword Planning tool to find keywords in the “sweet spot” zone. What is the sweet spot zone? These keywords get a lot of traffic, but are not extremely competitive. In this example, "auto service" and "auto shop" are better choices since they get a lot of monthly searches, but aren't ranked "high" in competition.
Then we track our keyword rankings using a tool called Moz and identify areas to improve.
Why we track this: If our goal is to obtain traffic from targeted keywords, we need to rank highly in Google. If we aren’t on the first page (or more realistically the first 3 or 4 results), then we don’t get search traffic.
4. Page Load Times
If your page takes too long to load, visitors won’t waste their time sticking around before moving on to a competing site. Page load times are also a factor in search rankings. Since our website has a lot of dynamic features and embedded content, I keep an extra close eye on page load times to make sure we’re loading close to 2 seconds time.
Beware of Vanity Metrics
There are also “vanity” metrics (things that make you feel good about yourself but don’t indicate any kind of success for your business). I track these metrics, but I don't stay up nights worrying about them. Here are some things I would put in that category for us (and for most of the organizations I have worked with):
Number of Facebook (Twitter, Instagram, etc.) followers
Why it's a vanity metric: Social media followers tend to have a casual association with your brand. You can have 5,000 followers, but without the right content to engage them, you might only be reaching a few dozen of those followers with each post.
Website traffic (total number of people who visit your website)
Why it's a vanity metric: Measuring traffic is important, but it's more important to find the story your website traffic is telling you. Are you getting a lot of unqualified traffic that does not convert to leads? Are you getting hit with referral spam? Are you not filtering out your company's internal users who access the site? If you answered yes (or I don't know) to any of these questions, your total website traffic stats might not be telling you the whole story.
Bounce rate (number of people who visit your site and leave without visiting other pages).
Why it's a vanity metric: Much like Ms. Ryan's example with the college RA's event attendance, this number can be misleading. We have a fairly high bounce rate on our home page, but we’re OK with that. One of the primary actions we want our visitors to take is to call our office, so we have our phone number front and center, and clickable on mobile devices.
How Does Your Website Stack Up?
Are you using tools like Google Analytics to track your website's trends and activities? Do you know if your website is working for you? If not, contact us here and we will help you get to the bottom (and top!) of your website's marketing funnel.