When it Comes to your Website, How Should You Keep Score?
There is an old management adage that says: “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Taking it one step further, it’s been said that “if you can measure it, you can manage it and if you can manage it, you can improve it.”
This line of thinking most certainly applies to understanding the effectiveness of a website in terms of its position within an organization’s strategy. In other words, is your website truly helping your organization to grow? If not, you may not know how to improve it because you aren’t measuring its performance. And if you are, you might not be measuring the things that really matter.
In order to ensure that the investments that you are making in your digital marketing strategy (your web presence being of primary importance) are yielding a return, you must keep score. To borrow another management adage, you must “inspect what you expect.”
Yet both the blessing and curse of Internet marketing is that so many things are measurable. You can measure hits. You can measure page views. You can measure unique visitors. Combining all of these, you can measure the number of hits per page view per unique visitor. The possibilities go on and on. Just like Starbucks offers more than 87,000 different combinations of flavored coffee (think triple Grande half-caf skinny vanilla latte), a standard web metrics software package like Google Analytics has an almost infinite number of data types you can extract. As a marketer or website manager, this can be pretty overwhelming.
So how should you keep score? This will vary from one organization to the next. Each company’s website scorecard should reflect the things that really drive its business–the tactical components of its strategy. And it will always vary a bit by industry: if you’re a retailer selling widgets through a shopping cart, your metrics will be different than that of a boutique law firm catering to high net worth individuals.
But what won’t vary is the following: simply glancing at your Google Analytics statistics once a month won’t tell you what you really need to know. You must contemplate what really is a worthwhile outcome for your organization’s website and name them. Sometimes, this will involve poking holes in conventional wisdom. For example, if your site is receiving a great number of visits but they all come from people who are already looking for you (i.e. all of your search traffic comes from people typing in your company name), the ‘unique visitors’ metric may not be a great one.
It is certainly important to use analytics software, though. It’s just that analytics should help you measure the important things–not simply be used as an end unto themselves. So let’s look at some typical metrics that will be more helpful than a Google Analytics print-out alone:
- E-mail newsletter subscriptions – not everyone is ready to buy now, but they might be later. If they are interested, offer them an opportunity to subscribe to your e-mail newsletter.
- Form submissions – most websites are created with an inquiry or lead form but few organizations count these leads methodically. They should count these inquires and observe trend data.
- Non-branded search visits – most websites receive a great deal of visits from people looking for their company already. If you are a community bank in Orlando, Florida, then you want to track search volume for things like “community banks in Central Florida,” (non-branded) not the name of your bank.
- Content popularity – marketers should be tracking the pages that are most and least important to the average visitor. They will often yield a wealth of information on what their customers really want.
- Social engagement – social media marketing is here to stay. Your scorecard should be informative to you with respect to how your site plays relates to your social media presence.
This list of effective metrics will really vary from company to company, but it’s important for marketers to really think about what’s most critical in terms of outcomes. These are just a few examples. If you have an understanding of what is working well and what needs improvement, you will be in a better position to make those enhancements.