How You Can Benefit From Website Metrics

I recently posted on how popular and important website metrics are and promised a follow up on some of the kinds of information that can be gleaned from web traffic reports.

This is being presented on a need to know basis.  You NEED to know this!

There are plenty of packages that can tell you almost anything about website visitors.  Today’s report on sales for "Cyber Monday" included the tidbit that 60% of all online sales were coming from work computers.  It’s easy to believe.  The media spent a good portion of the days reporting on the cost of lost productivity due to online shopping.

You may not be able to tell how many visitors are left-handed cigar afficianados with a 12th grade education and 2.2 average kids per household, but for most SMBs, there are very interesting and useful metrics to be gleaned from a web traffic report.  Bigger firms may buy a metrics package and install it on their web server.  Any ISP (Internet Service Provider) or web host should offer a package, sometimes at an additional cost, that gives you basic information.  There are free and low-cost vendors who will allow you to add a small piece of code in the background of your site for tracking certain metrics.  Google Analytics is a free service that provides a ton of information on how people find your site and how they use it.  Great information for revising your online strategies!  Many SMBs would do well learn how to use it or a similar application.

Google Analytics came on the scene after Google acquired a product called Measure Map in 2006.  The service also has some elements of a longtime metrics package called Urchin, which Google bought in 2005. 

One of the most basic of web metrics is the number of visitors to a site or "Visits."  Monitoring that can help you decide the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.  But as with many metrics, you can slice and dice your way thru this information, including knowledge of how many of those visitors visited just once and how many returned, what referring site or search engine brought them to the site, and even they keywords they used in those search engines to find the site.

Next, are Pageviews or the total number of pages all visitors viewed.  But even more telling are the number of Pages/Visit, which is simply the total pageviews divided by total visitors to see how many pages visitors look at on average.  You can learn what pages are most viewed on your site and which ones are viewed the least.  That can help you when it comes time to assessing the ease of navigation thru the site, whether your content needs tweaking, your offer modified or how landing pages are used.

Many times, the Home or "index" page is the most popular page on a site.  But we had a humane society we once did work for and found that the page listing all the dogs available for adoption was viewed the most.  Why?  Because it was bookmarked.  People would check to see if dogs had been adopted or what new ones came in without necessarily looking at other pages.  I would use that information to put some sort of callout on the Dogs page to get people to sample other pages, sign up to volunteer, donate, etc.  If they sold site sponsorship, I might charge more to advertise on that page than one less viewed.

Another useful metric is Average Time on Site.  The more time they spend on the site, the better.  It means you have something they are interested in.  Large changes is Average Time can be a good indicator or how well you’re resonating with your visitor.

In the Analytics example I’m looking at as I write this, Average Time on Site is 1:47.  Depending on your website, this can either be decent or dreadful.  But monitoring it over time is a good indication of how much people are using your site – as is the number of return visitors!

All website metrics can be viewed over a period of time or you can zero in on a particular day.  And comparing the total for a period of time (like a month) to the previous month or the same month last year can be very informative, as well.

Bounce Rate can give you insights to your site’s success.  Bounce Rate is the percentage of visitors who leave your site without looking at any other pages.  They just view one page.  Obviously, the lower the Bounce Rate, the better.  If your Bounce Rate is high, your Pages/Visit and Average Time on Site will be negatively affected.  There are a number of reasons why Bounce Rate is high and ways to lower it.  Contact us and we’ll tell you how.  Same goes for improving the number of visitors, average pageviews, etc.

We’ve only scratched the surface.  We’ll dig a little further in an upcoming post.  In fact, it’ll probably need to be several future posts!

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