With the new year starting, everyone is eager to make progress and achieve goals. As a business owner, perhaps you have goals associated with revenue numbers, new customers, or even your website specifically. Regardless of which of these goals you are trying to achieve, you will need precise, measurable metrics to measure your success. As we’ve learned time and time again as web professionals, success on your website is intimately tied to success with your business overall.
With all that in mind, we’re setting out to help you understand which metrics you should be tracking and how they can help you in the long term.
What Are Website Metrics?
You started your website with the intention of gaining visitors, which would turn into leads, which would become sales and revenue. Unfortunately, though this seems like a simple process, there are dozens of little steps and barriers in between. If your business were only brick and mortar, you could track most metrics with your eyes and a paper and pen: how many customers walk in your door? How many prospect meetings are on your calendar? Which items do potential customers pick up and which ones do they ignore? What questions are they asking? What did they come to your business to find? How did they learn about you?
When you run a website, though, the answers to these questions aren’t so simple, at least not at first. The good news is that tools and trackers can make identifying and organizing metrics even easier online than it would be in-person. Hard data can help you quickly and easily build an understanding of which parts of your website are working in your favor and which aren’t. You may find that pages need to be fixed or updated for better mobile engagement, that calls to action need to be rewritten to capture attention, or that one particular service or product is catching customers’ eyes more than others. Regardless of the questions you have, clear metrics (and the tools to track them and watch them over time) can make huge improvements to your website and business.
Which Website Metrics Should You Track?
Once you decide to start tracking metrics, you will probably wonder where to begin. While some metrics and their implications are pretty straightforward, others can be confusing. The list we provide below isn’t comprehensive, but it’s a good starting point.
The Most Basic Website Metric: Traffic
Before you look at any other metrics, you’ll want to start with the simplest (and perhaps most important) one – how many people are coming to your website? Also, traffic is a good metric to start with because it is fairly simple to interpret. In rare cases, traffic might come from spam or bots, but if your website is properly protected, most of the time you can assume that a slow and steady increase in traffic is the result of good SEO and the growth of your business.
Session Time and Time on Page
Two more of the most meaningful metrics are session time for each user and time on page for each page. These are each important in their own way. Session time measures how long each individual user stays on your site before exiting, regardless of how many different pages they visit during that time. Session time can help you figure out how useful the information on your website is and whether customers “see the point” of sticking around for a while and visiting different areas. Time on page is critical for figuring out whether each individual page carries value. If some of your pages record customers spending well over a minute or two and others only garner seconds, it’s safe to assume that the page may have a problem. You can then look at that page and make an assessment of whether the page is just poorly written, not eye-catching, or has technical problems.
Bounce rate is a vital statistic to be aware of, not just for your website as a whole but for each individual page. A “bounce” refers to a visitor coming to a single page on your website and then leaving without visiting any other pages. Your overall bounce rate takes all pages on your site into account when calculating this metric, whether traffic bounces from your homepage or from different landing or product pages. Your website’s overall bounce rate is definitely something to keep an eye on and try to reduce, but the bounce rate for individual pages can be easier to interpret and improve. Start with the pages that have the highest bounce rate and go from there. From a user’s perspective, are those pages difficult to use or slow to load? Do they offer CTA’s and links to other areas of the website, or do they just trail off without funneling users? By focusing on the pages with the highest bounce rate (and even comparing them to the pages with low bounce rates), you can learn what went wrong and fix it. Want more detail on understanding bounce rates? Read this.
Pages Per Session
Pages per session goes hand in hand with bounce rate, and in some ways you can think of it as the “opposite.” Pages per session tells you how many page users typically visited in a single use period, and if you look at funnels and user behavior, you can tell which path users followed – which pages led to which and where users exited. Pages per session, especially when you consider which landing page each user started on, can help you know whether your content and funnel is effective.
Landing pages are exactly what they sound like – where do people first “land” when they come to your website? Tracking your top 10 landing pages is very straightforward using most analytics tools, and it’s a great indicator of where you should focus. Other pages are important, of course, but your top landing pages are where you really want to drive home your offerings and have a strong funnel. It’s a good idea to have your unique value proposition on all of your top landing pages so website viewers never have to doubt your purpose or value. (Not familiar with unique value propositions? Read our piece on website UVP’s here.)
Top Exit Pages
When considering which pages to improve, top exit pages are a good place to start. While landing pages represent the points at which visitors enter your site, exit pages, as the name suggests, are the pages from which they leave your website altogether. If some pages of your website have massively high exit rates, they might be broken or just plain unappealing. Work on your calls to action and copy to ensure exits occur from thank you pages and other pages at the end of your funnel.
The Next Step: Adding Events and Goals
You can find out so much with basic metrics that are automatically tracked for you if you use Google Analytics, Monster Insights, or any number of other tracking services. However, if you want to get really granular and better understand visitor behavior on your website, setting up advanced metrics in the form of events and goals is the way to go. You can set goals for things like destination page, duration of visit, pages per session, and events like playing videos or submitting contact forms. Some of these may seem like they’re pretty similar to the metrics you’re already tracking, so what’s the big deal? Setting these as goals in your tracking service allows you to see how many of your visitors are completing these steps at a glance, makes it easy to compare changes over time, and enables you to see detailed funnels for each goal. If you feel you’re already familiar with the basic metrics, this is your next step!
In search of more tips on how to set up Google Analytics for your small business? Look no further! Read our previous guide on putting together Analytics reports here.