13 Core Metrics To Measure Your Website Success

By azfar on October 6, 2016

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Here’s something that might surprise you: most businesses under utilize their websites.

Seriously.

Nearly half of small business owners don’t even have one. In the 2016, that’s laughable. Yelp recently did a study that found 85% of people use the internet to find local businesses.

Studies show that nearly half of all business owners doesn't have websites for their business.

Studies show that nearly half of all business owners doesn’t have websites for their business.

Given the internet is where most people make their initial inquiries, this means a business without a web presence may as well not exist to the vast majority of the population.

Of those small businesses that do have websites (less than half, remember), most are virtual business cards with a few perfunctory details and a phone number or email address.

This was good enough in 2001, fifteen years ago, but now, it basically amounts to throwing money away.

I can hear the objections already. “Creating a great website requires investment with no clear return!”, “Nobody knows what will be successful online, other avenues are more predictable!”

Well, I’m here to tell you that this is simply no longer the case.

It’s completely understandable that entrepreneurs and small business owners aren’t going to be experts in web development strategy and implementation.

All your passion and energy is going into your Big Idea. I get that. I respect that.

But with a little development, an outsourced skeleton crew, a little maintenance and promotion, a website can offer the biggest and best return on investment of any avenue.

A business website can be your main source of sales. A business website is capable of pulling in traffic from search engines, online ads and social media, in far greater volumes than any other single resource you have.

“But even if I do all that, there’s still no way to tell if it’s working!”

Well, I’m here to tell you otherwise. With multiple tools and metrics, I’m going to guide you through exactly how you can begin to measure website success in a quantifiable and measurable way.

What’s more, I’ll explain how doing so will help you unlock the route to investment, development, troubleshooting, and more.

By using measurable data to create and evolve strategy, you’ll be able to improve website performance and finally start seeing the results you’ve been looking for.

I’m going to start at the very beginning, establishing how your site can get sales, before hammering the holy trinity of metrics: visitors, reads, and engagement.

How A Website Can Generate Sales – Step By Step

ability to generate sales is a good way of measuring a website success

A good website should generate sales or at least contribute greatly to them.

It’s important I start from the beginning. If your website is simply a tick box on your list of modern business requirements, you need to open your eyes to the wasted potential.

Websites can generate sales through several very important methods. These create a step by step roadmap to how to convert visitors to purchasers.

  1. Getting potential customers to visit the website – If you have a website, this is probably why you have it. It’s the most basic reason people invest in a server and a handsome WordPress theme. This is only the beginning, but it’s a very important reason to get one if you haven’t already.
  2. Getting the visitors to stay, read and return to the website – This is where things start to get interesting. Customer lifetime value is a huge factor in modern business. You shouldn’t only be looking at getting a single sale from any one customer. You want people shopping with you for life. That starts by building trust and authority within your field. You want to be a content provider that can help enrich your customer’s lives in more ways than just your product or service.
  3. Getting returning visitors to engage with your website – This is the next level again. Once you’ve hooked your customers with great content and added value, you want to transition this into getting them to take actions. That first action is the all-important one, and it comes in many forms depending on the industry, the product or the service. More on this later.
  4. Getting engaging visitors to purchase – The pièce de résistance, and the whole point of this gameplan. Once you have habituated your users to being active participants, making a purchase becomes just another activity. Maximizing that activity is your end goal, and creating opportunities for people to make purchases becomes your goal.

Now you have your basic roadmap, know that the effectiveness of every step in this process is measurable. Even better, it’s all measurable using Google Analytics, a free tool that will become fundamental to your only success as you progress.

While I won’t delve into Google Analytics too much here, know that there’s a superb beginners guide from Moz that will teach you exactly how to use it, from set up to execution.

Instead of looking at the technicalities, we’ll look at what you want to be measuring, why, and what it can tell you.

Do People Come to Your Website?

Getting people to discover and visit your website is the first step in making a website successful

Getting people to discover and visit your website is the first step in making a website successful

Making sure that people find and visit your website is paramount. Otherwise, it’s a tree falling in the forest with no one there to hear it.

This requires various approaches, including SEO, local optimization, content promotion, online advertising, mobile optimization and more. We’ve covered many of these topics on this very blog, but that’s not our focus today.

Today you want to be able to answer the question above, and do it in detail. Having a large number of visitors is a great litmus test. It’s a signaller that demonstrates how popular and influential a website is.

This kind of popular endorsement will make you look more legitimate, more established, and therefore more of an authority.

Traffic

You can measure traffic to your website using Google Analytics. But what are you looking for?

  • Organic – Organic traffic is traffic that has found you through search engines. This kind of traffic is almost always coming to your site for content, so it’s a good idea to have some. You will see a limited amount of organic traffic looking for products and services. This source of traffic will increase if and when you create and optimize web content as part of an SEO strategy. The more search engines like your site, the more people they’ll put it in front of and the more people will be introduced to you when looking for what you provide.
  • Referral – Referral Traffic comes from links posted on other websites that leading to your content, products or services. These usually come from reviews or recommendations, or references in blog like this. This gives you an indication of how many people are talking about you to others, and how big their influence is.
  • Direct/None – This traffic comes from people putting the URL straight into the browser, from bookmarks or autocompletes. This also accounts for uncategorized or undetermined source of traffic.

Now you know where it comes from, what else can you find out about it?

New Sessions

New sessions will help you understand what percentage of your total visits are first time visits, and what percentage are returning visits. A high amount of new sessions means a greater number of potential customers.

If you have more returning visits than first time visits, that means the same group of people are coming back to your website. That’s a good thing – it means your engagement strategies are working.

That said, you will always need new people to join and expand that group of loyal users, so you want to make sure you strike the right balance between new sessions and returning customers.

Knowing the split will allow you to determine where your focus should be – low first time visits and you need to strike out into new markets and communities, really high first time visits and you need to focus on retaining the audience you’ve already built.

New Users

New users will tell you the actual amount of first time visitors that have come to your site. To be able to make use of this information, you also need to look at your conversions.

After all, if you’re getting hundreds of new visitors but only a couple of strong leads from them, then traffic isn’t your problem – engagement is. Conversely, if you have ten people visit the site but all become strong leads, then conversion isn’t your problem, getting exposure is.

Do People Read Your Website?

Next, you'd want to know out of all visitors, how many actually sticks and read your contents.

Next, you’d want to know out of all visitors, how many actually sticks and read your contents.

Unfortunately, the number of sessions is only the barest data you can get. In order to know if people are actually reading what they find there, we have to go deeper.

The important thing with sessions is that you’ve got them through the door. Now, you need to assess if they’re actually reading the content and engaging. So how do you track that?

Time On Page

This will help you assess how much time, on average, a user spends on a given page. The ideal time spent on a page varies on the length of the page, the difficulty of the page, and the level of interest it generates. I covered mastering the balance of these forces in a previous article, if you want to know how to make sure you’re performing well on this level.

  • No time on page – Starting at the bottom, traffic that spends no time at all on a page simples means users didn’t even take a glance. Don’t let this worry you however – these are usually as a result of misclicks on SERP or referral links.
  • Low time on page – This is actually the worst. I haven’t stated a number because it’s all relative to the content posted. Seth Godin writes five line blogs, so he’s not expecting 20 minute sessions. But, if you have a page that should take ten minutes to read and users are spending 1-2 minutes on that page, people are either skim-reading or skipping to the end. Not good. It’s inevitable in small quantities, but if this becomes the majority of your traffic, it can be a clear indicator to get better at presentation and engagement.
  • High time on page – If your time on page either matches or exceeds your estimate, then you know you’re hitting high quality traffic with high engagement. This content has fulfilled or exceeded their expectations in order to hold them on your site. People want to process the content thoroughly. Good job.

Pages Per Session

PPS helps you understand more about what users are doing from the moment they come to the site to the moment they leave.

Generally the more pages people visited the better, but it can also be an indicator of dissatisfaction – if people have to visit six pages to find what they’re looking for, that points to a poor user experience.

Checking what pages they actually were will give you a better idea as to which one it’s pointing to.

Bounce Rate

The bounce rate enables you to track how many people read only one page before leaving your site.

Again, this can be good or bad, and there’s a way to tell.
Quick Bounce – A quick bounce means people have looked, decided it’s not for them, and left because they didn’t find what they were looking for. Disappointing.
Long Bounce – A users has spent a lot of time on a single page and is so satisfied by what they discovered they require no further investigation. Huzzah!

Entrance

An entrance shows you what page people started their session on. You might think this would be the home page, when in fact that’s rarely the case, especially with referral traffic. This gives you a fast and easy understanding of what content is bringing in the traffic for the first time.

Exit

This allows you track what pages are the last one’s people have open before closing the tab, the window, or navigating away. If there’s a page with a disproportionate number of exits, you’ve probably identified a problem that could use your attention.

Do People Engage With Your Website?

Next question to ask is, does your readers simply reads or do they take some action as well?

Next question to ask is, does your readers simply reads or do they take some action as well?

So now you know if people are coming to your site and when they do, if they’re spending time on it reading.

Great. But often, so much emphasis is put on these stages by SEO bloggers that small businesses may think this is the endgame. We’re only half way there!

The next, and more important thing we need to track is transforming people from silent observers to active participants and contributors to the site. Fortunately, there are several ways to gauge this important aspect of site performance.

Subscription and Conversion Rates

We touched on this earlier, and now it’s time to get into the details. One of the best ways to encourage visitors to keep coming back is to encourage them to opt in to an email subscription.

This allows you to update people with your latest content directly from within their inbox. This means people don’t have to remember to check your site regularly – they’re notified when it’s worth them coming back.

Your ability to convert visitors into subscribers is an indication of how successful your site is being on your behalf.

To calculate the number of conversions, simply look at your number of subscribers relative to your number of new users. If it’s a tiny proportion then you have more work to do.

Comments

Despite common knowledge suggesting one should “never read the comments section”, people can’t help themselves. Having an active comments section is a great way to measure engagement, especially on thorny topics that offer no easy answers.

Tracking comment participation is a useful litmus as to how engaged your users are. Indeed, many online authors look to promote comments as much as possible, even featuring them in updates to articles, in order to encourage more discussion.

Social Shares

Social shares offer a similar litmus but on a different dimension. While comments tell you how many people who have read the article were moved by it, social shares tell you how willing those same people are to recommend the content. We’ve talked about the psychology of social sharing before, and one of the biggest reasons people share content is because it reinforces their image and confirms or expands their pre-existing beliefs.

As such, social shares allow you to see how well you are tapping into and mirroring your audience personas. It also allows you to understand what kind of content is viral, and what your strongest pages are for driving additional referral traffic.

Downloads

Downloads are an incredibly useful tool, and one you should consider if you haven’t offered them already. Free downloads including e-books and guides, educational resources, free trials or ‘freemium’ packages are a Trojan horse (in the Greek rather than Computing sense!) that can help you massively enhance your relationship with a potential customer.
However, in order to reach the action potential for a download, your visitors must have a strong interest and a clear demand for your products and services. As such, the number of downloads you get tells you how well your website is engaging and converting people from visitors to participants.

Do People Purchase From Your Website?

And finally, you should ask yourself, does my website compels visitors to actually make a purchase?

And finally, you should ask yourself, does my website compels visitors to actually make a purchase?

Some people say “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey that’s important!”

Well, those people don’t run successful websites.

We’ve talked about how to track visitors, engagement and conversion. These are all very important steps on the journey, but now we arrive at the destination. Tracking how well you can get people to buy from your website.

At all times, you want to be aiming to maximize the number of people who buy something after they come to your site. That can be a little tricky, as well as being pretty disheartening if you do it the wrong way. Here are the two best ways to measure sales conversion.

  • Purchasing Customers Over Total Traffic – this allows you to see your buyers as a percentage of your overall traffic. Bear in mind though that even the best converting websites will have really low numbers here, so unless you’re prepared and experienced, this could be dispiriting and warp your sense of how well you’re doing.
  • Purchasing Customers Over Subscribers And Leads – This is an intermediate measure that starts measuring conversion from halfway along the journey. If you think of your lead generation as a selection process, you can then see how many of your interested/engaged users are starting to make purchases. This number should be more encouraging, and if not, you know you have to work on it.

This allows you to set your measurements as far as your audiences are concerned, but what about your sales? Well, there are two sides to that coin, too. One is considerably more difficult than the other, but all sales are sales, and you need to track them.

Online Sales

Online sales are the easy ones to track in relation to your website performance, because these are the transactions made through the website itself. Tracking these should be easy, as the numbers are recorded in every major shopping cart system. From there you can simply compare the sales data to your leads or visitors.

Offline Sales

Many businesses will offer online sales as well as offline sales in bricks and mortar establishments. That said, many people may have discovered the bricks and mortar business by searching online and may have been convinced to visit the store by the website. As such, it can be tricky to track what sales have been influenced by the website versus other promotional efforts.
That said, there are ways and means with just a little work to determine what influence the website had and on whom.

  • Coupon Codes – Coupon codes available exclusively from your website require people to present them in order to receive a small discount or incentive. Not only will this encourage conversion, it will allow you to track who has used the website. The fact they have the coupon code is proof they have used it.
  • Surveys – Conducting a customer surveys on how customers discovered your business will allow you to see how big a proportion of your total custom is made up of people from the website. Iterating this process as you make changes to the site will allow you to track the effectiveness of those changes in driving more customers. Offering to include people in a prize draw, or giving them a coupon in exchange for participation will mean most people will be happy to take part.
  • Ask Them – Get your cashiers to ask “have you visited our website?” as part of the transaction process and simply mark down the “yes” and “no” answers is the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to get a record of the current level of exposure your website is generating.

Final Thoughts On Measuring

Throughout this article I’ve talked about how each measurement might inspire you to change something on your site.

If you use this article as a checklist and go through these processes one by one after installing Google Analytics, I guarantee you’ll have identified areas of opportunity that can improve your website’s performance.

That’s because data is only as good as its interpretation. Once you know how to ‘read the matrix’, all of this becomes far less intimidating and starts to help, rather than hinder, your progress with your website.

Whether your numbers are large or small right now, they can always be larger. I’ve yet to hear of a website too big.

Unless you’ve created the next Facebook, you aren’t going to run that risk. So use these measurements to start to understand where you are right now, and that will automatically let you know where you’re going next.

It could be that you simply need to increase the amount of time people spend on the pages of your website. It could be that you need to make them start actively engaging.

It could be that you need to convert that engagement into sales. Whatever the problem area, you’ll discover both what it is and how to fix it.

If this is your first foray into monetizing your website, then this data will help you understand exactly where you’re starting from.

What it can’t do is tell you what an extraordinary opportunity you have in front of you. The internet is the world’s largest marketplace, with the highest number of users of any medium of communication.

With multiple touchpoints across search engines, email, social media and more, and multimedia enabling you to communicate in more varied ways than ever, your website now has the potential to be the biggest force for sales in your strategy.

If you’ve used these instruments in novel ways, if you have any questions, or if you think we’ve missed something essential to people’s use and analysis of website data, then let us know in the comments below.

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Updated: 19 September 2017

Azfar Hisham

About Azfar Hisham

A copywriter with previous experience developing computer simulations, managing websites and being the social media guy. Interested in Google Patents, Knowledge Graph and questioning everything.

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