Web Metrics – What Do They Mean?

So now you have a beautiful website. You picked the right pictures, you engaged your customers with intriguing text, you optimized the site for the search engines and started promoting it. What comes next? To see how it performs. There are many indicators which can help you understand where does the traffic come from, do you provide relevant content, what do your visitors look for at your web site and why do they leave. In my opinion, there are 10 important indicators, which can help you understand how your visitors behave and give you ideas about what is still missing on your website and what you should put more efforts at. The Web Metrics and the Key Performance Indicators can show you how are you doing against your objectives.

1Visits and Visitors: Everyone would agree, that is no one visits your website all your efforts for creating a good looking and unique site are not worth. That’s why the first and most important metric is visits. One visit is registered when someone comes to your website and spends some time reading the content, viewing your pages and buying your products or contacting you for a service. Some people may come to your site several times a day. Or come to your site, then go for a walk or to play with his kids and later come back to your site. So even more important from the visits are the unique visitors – the number of people who came to your site for one day. It is important to know, that these metrics are not exact. For example, if a visitor uses 2 or 3 different browsers to look at your website, that will be registered as 2 or 3 different unique visitors. If a visitor clears their cookies between the sessions the next time he comes to your web site he will be registered as a new visitor too. So think about the web metrics displayed in Google Analytics as an approximation to the real number and a way to compare your progress over the time.

2Time on Site and Time on Page: Those two indicators will show how engaging and informative your content is, and how relevant it is to what people are actually looking for. Many visitors will leave when they see your first page. Hopefully most of the visitors will stay and look for more information. It is important to know which is your most important page – the one people stay at the longest. Why did they stay there? Where did they go after that? What words did they search for before the reached this page? Answering all these questions will help you improve your content. Maybe you thought people are interested in one thing and it turned out they are interested in something else? Look carefully at the pages the visitors spent most time at and analyze the ones that the visitors left after several seconds. Maybe you are missing something and you can do something to engage the customers and make them stay longer on your website.

3Repeat Visits This metric is a very good indicator about the quality of your website. It shows how many times did people come back to your website in a certain period of time. So the more visitors return to your web site, the higher level of their loyalty is and that means you give them reasons to come back to your site. And the opposite. If the percentage of people who came to your website only once is very high, that means that people do not have a reason to come back. If this metric does not show levels of loyalty you expect – then maybe it is time to start adding some articles, to create a blog, add customer reviews or do something else to make your site more valuable and make visitors come back over and over again.

4Bounce Rate: Sometimes people come to you you site, look at it and leave right away, as you don’t seam to have what they are looking for or your home page does not give them the impression, that they have come to the right place. This is what the bounce rate measures – the percentage of visits with only one page view, or how many people came to your website and refused to dig deeper in it. They didn’t think your site deserves a single click! The critical value for the bounce rate is different for all kinds of web sites, but if your bounce rate is above 50% – you should be worried. Do not look only at the bounce rate of your home page, sometimes it may not even be your most visited page or your prime landing page. It is important to know what is your bounce rate in regards to your referrers. For example, if your pay per click campaigns have a very high bounce rate that means you are loosing money for nothing. Take a look also at the bounce rate for your keywords. Maybe you are not optimizing your website for the right words?

5Exit Rate: This metric shows the percentage of people, who entered your web site, clicked around and exited the site from a certain page. If a page has a very high exit rate, that may be a sign that there is something you need to fix there. This metric is not as important as the bounce rate, as it shows the rate of people exiting the site after they actually saw several pages. At least they were interested in several pages! But if you see that the “leakage” from a page is way too high, then maybe it is time to take a look and think about some improvements.

6Conversion Rate: Probably the most important metric on your website, which shows the percentage of people who actually did what you wanted them to do on your web site. For ecommerce sites – that will be the percentage of visitors who purchased a product. For a service-related website that may be the percentage of visitors who go to the “contact page” and request information. It all depends on how you are going to define the term “conversion”. This metric is usually calculated by dividing the number of outcomes by the unique visitors of the site. If you calculate is this way, then you are probably ok with the fact, that some people may visit your website several times before hey make a purchase. If your visitors usually make several purchases during one week – then it may be more accurate to divide the number of outcomes by the number of visits. Usually a website has between 1-3% conversion rate. Some of the websites with the highest conversion rates are Amazon, FTD.com, 1800flowers.com, coldwatercreek.com, OfficeDepot.com and eBay.com, all of them averaging more then 10% conversion rate.

7Engagement: Visitors usually search for something, and coming to our site they expect to find it. We all want to make our websites engaging, so that the visitor can stay longer, possibly buy our products and come back for more information or purchases. And even though this may sound like a very good metric, it is difficult to measure it. For some websites the engagement may be measured with the time the visitors spend on your website. But is it going to be the same for a website where people came to read an article or a tutorial and a product listing page? Probably not. Other sites measure the engagement by the metric, showing how many times does the visitor come back, or how many pages did he look at. And even though there is no special rule to measure the visitor’s engagement, we should all look close to all these indicators.

8Referrers: Finally we managed to drive some traffic to our site. But where does it come from? Which are our strong sides and our weaknesses? Do we have more organic traffic, or most of our visitors came trough pay per click campaigns? Do our email campaigns send us the amount of visitors we expected? Did certain promotion bring us more then expected traffic? Do the links we placed on other websites bring us enough visitors? We can answer all these questions by analyzing our referrers and the metrics related to them. Let’s say out pay per click campaign brought 80% of our traffic and it has a 60% bounce rate. That means that maybe we are not using the correct keywords and that we should definitely spend more time and efforts on optimizing our web site for the search engines and getting more traffic from organic search. Or let’s say we are paying $x every month for for a listing on a web site, but we get almost no traffic from this web site for months. The referrers analysis will help us see that there is probably a better way for us to spend the $x.

9Top Keywords: This metric shows you what do people type in the search engines before they arrive at your website. It is important to know how people find you, but it is also important to find the keywords that you want people to be able to find you by. If you know, that for certain keywords there are 1500 daily searches, you may approximate that about 40% of them will come to your site if your website is ranked #1 for this keyword, 8% of the traffic will be yours if you rank #2 etc. So it is important to know which key phrases did people use to find you, how do you rank for these keywords, so that you can come up with a SEO or pay-per-click strategy about getting more traffic to your website for these particular keywords. Some keywords are very competitive, other, called “long tail keywords” you can rank for easily, but will bring less traffic. It is a good idea to try to rank for just a few competitive and many long-tail keywords.

10Top Internal Search Keywords: Most websites, especially the ones who are build on the WordPress platform, have an option for internal search. This search is not the same as the search performed in google or yahoo. These are the keywords that people search for once they are on your web site. So by keeping track on these words you can say once the visitors saw your web site, what did they search for or what do they expect to find. Let’s say your web site is about tools, and you see, that once on your website your visitors search for safety gloves, that probably means that it will be a good idea to give them more variety of this product and even better – to use these products in you next week’s promotion and flyer or put them on the “featured items” section on your home page.

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