Today, website performance is aligned to the health of your business, and if you’re not tracking and refining your onsite efforts, you’re hurting both. Where to start? In the past, we’ve written about the top seven metrics that matter in website performance, and now, we’re digging in again to see what’s changed.
As always, it’s important to clearly understand and document your business goals as they relate to your website. After goal-setting, determine how you’ll measure website performance through the establishment of KPIs and benchmarks. Which website metrics are the most relevant for your site and matter the most for your business and goals? What benchmarks can you set within each metric and aim to achieve?
Below, we took a second look at the most important metrics to measure site performance by, again detailing engagement, retention, loyalty and most importantly, what's referred to as conversions. Conversions are predetermined actions deemed desirable to your company based on your site’s capabilities. The most classic example of a conversion is completing a purchase if your site allows for e-commerce activity, but other actions, such as downloading a whitepaper or submitting a form, can also be classified as conversions.
After you’ve clearly defined what a conversion consists of on each page or on your site overall, it’s time to start measuring how well your site is doing through these nine indicative web metrics.
- Traffic Sources. It’s still just as important to have a diverse number of sources for incoming traffic. That way you will know which channels are most effective at drawing your audience, creating conversions and which ones you should concentrate on improving. While there is no specific number of page visits or proportion of site traffic to gauge success by, a good indicator is to benchmark against competitor sites and monitor increases month-over-month and year-over-year for growth progression.
In the past, we outlined three primary sources of traffic: direct, organic search and referral. Today, depending on your marketing efforts, your primary sources could be coming from a number of places, including:
- Direct traffic – the visits that come from a user typing your url directly into their browser’s address bar.
- Organic search traffic – the visits that come as a result of a search query a user has made through search engines such as Google or Yahoo!. Organic search can be categorized as unpaid or paid (campaign traffic) if the visitor clicked on an ad that resulted from the query search.
- Social traffic - the visits that have come from a social network like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter.
- Email traffic - visits that originated from an email or a link tagged with an email parameter.
- Referral traffic – the visits that come because your site was mentioned and hyperlinked on another site or blog. <p>With referral traffic, it’s important to take a look at which websites are sending the most traffic to your site, and determine if those visitors are your ideal audience. Then, understand which sites you’d like to receive traffic and targeted visitors from, and consider developing a backlink strategy to garner or detract visitors from those sites. <p>Backlinks from a variety of reputable websites play a large role in your domain authority, or how highly you’ll rank and appear in organic searches, and are important to consider in combination with overall
All of these traffic sources are important but they might be associated with varying levels of consumption and conversion dependent on how far along the buyer’s journey the visitor is. This allows you to make adjustments based on the source proven to be most effective for you.
Unique Visitor Conversion. In most cases, the way a first-time visitor interacts with your site is quite different from how a returning visitor will interact with it. To improve first-time visitors’ conversions, (like downloads, subscriptions, purchases, etc.) it is helpful to analyze them separately from the conversion rates of returning visitors or pre-established customers. Looking through the lens of the new visitor and determining what they first see when they arrive on your site will show you where improvements in user experience need to be made. Site usability goes a long way toward reducing bounce rates — the number of visitors who come to your site and immediately leave — for new visitors.
Return Visitor Conversion. There are two critical considerations within this metric. The first of these is understanding the reason for a visitor’s return and the second is identifying whether the visitor converted on their first visit. If they did not, it is important to learn why not and how you can convert them on their second visit. On a positive note, even if someone didn’t convert as a new visitor, your site interested them enough that they chose to return. Now that they like you, you can analyze their onsite behavior and use what you’ve learned to figure out how to increase your return visitor conversion rate.
Interactions Per Visit. Even if your visitors don’t convert, monitoring their behavior on your site, in terms of how they interact, is important. There are a number of sub-metrics that you can check to analyze this. For example, what are the page view rates (or number of pages each new visitor views) per session for unique visitors? How much time do visitors spend on each page, and which pages garner the highest traffic? Each interaction is an important consideration, the goal being not only to increase overall interactions, but also to determine the most effective way to leverage these interactions into visitor conversions.
Cost Per Conversion. One of the most important website metrics to consider is your cost per conversion: how much it costs to acquire a lead or make a sale. Your cost per conversion informs your return on investment (ROI) and can be calculated by dividing the total marketing or digital campaign costs by total number of conversions. It doesn’t matter that you have high conversion rates and high value per visit if your cost per conversion is so high that it reduces your net income to zero or even results in a loss. While trying to increase conversion, keep your costs per conversion and overall margins in mind. This will allow you to ensure an appropriate threshold for cost per conversion.
Bounce Rate. The bounce rate measures content efficacy and user engagement. It’s the rate at which new visitors visit a page on your site and immediately click away without doing anything. You don’t want high bounce rates, because they indicate the visitors spent very little time on the site and had no interactions with it. Most of the time, your goal is to minimize your visitor bounce rate. <p>However there are a variety of explanations for high bounce rates, and it’s important to understand why they’re occurring. Perhaps it’s high because you’re using weak or irrelevant sources of traffic. The visitor may have realized your page wasn’t relevant to what they were searching for, or your business wasn’t applicable to their needs. Maybe there were functionality problems or your landing pages weren't properly optimized for visitor conversions in terms of, say, how long it takes for the pages to load, how much is dedicated to ad display, if it allows for mobile and tablet compatibility, or for their general ease of use. <p>On the other hand, high bounce rates might also indicate high usability. Here, you’ll want to examine the bounce rates for individual pages, as it is possible the visitor immediately found what he or she was seeking (like a whitepaper or an article) and then left because the task was completed.
Time On Site (Average Session Duration). How long do your visitors spend on your site in total? Typically, the more relevant your site is to the visitor, the longer they’ll stay. On certain pages, like those involved in clicking through to an end goal or purchase decision, it may make sense for visitors to spend less time. On others, like long-form content and blog posts, the less time on site, the more likely they’re skimming your content or disinterested. Usually, the more pages a user visits onsite and the longer their overall session duration, the better.
Exit Pages. Exit pages will tell you where visitors are on your site when they leave. In many cases, your final call to action (CTA) or conversion may occur multiple pages into the process. To maximize conversions, it is wise to examine your exits and uncover the stage in the process during which your visitors are exiting the site or abandoning their shopping carts, if the site provides ecommerce features. Only then can the process be modified and optimized to better fit conversion. Aim to capture leads and encourage conversion on pages that you either intend to be exit pages, or those you notice incurring a high exit rate, as exit pages are unavoidable. Additionally, look at which pages on your site have the highest exit rates, and try to decipher what might be prompting them to exit.
Social Sharing. Lastly, nothing measures how powerful your page content is than how often it’s shared. Social shares are any type of affirmation or propagation of your content on a social platform. Shares, retweets, likes and +1’s increase overall traffic and are a testament to the quality of your content. For brands with a longer sales funnel, social shares reaffirm loyalty along the way to conversion and when your cost per conversion is high. Unlike most web metrics, social shares cannot be measured within Google Analytics, but within social platforms and through various tools often integrated into your site’s content management system (CMS).
Once you’ve weighed and selected which web metrics matter most, it’s time to begin tracking so you can refine both individual pages on your site and your overall conversion strategy — as well as begin mapping. You must map out the actions and direction you intend visitors to take when they reach your site, to ensure an impression becomes a conversion fluidly.
Also remember that no one website metric stands alone, and each can only be fully understood within the context of others and the goals of the site.
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