Define Success for Non E-Commerce Sites

I’ve received a lot of questions lately regarding how to determine a successful visit and what key performance indicators (KPIs) are appropriate for non e-commerce sites. It seems people are more comfortable defining success for e-commerce sites than for lead generation, support, or content sites.

Our analytics methodology relies heavily on defining site goals and supporting metrics for those goals. This is the foundation for everything you’ll track and analyze. It’s imperative to define a successful visit even if you’re not selling something directly on your site.

We often look at four basic site types: e-commerce, lead generation, support, and content (ad revenue). There are others, but most sites typically focus on one or more of these objectives. You don’t need to lump your site into just one category. Very often, businesses have different sites or site sections that support different objectives. Identifying different site sections’ purposes can help you quantify a “successful visit” for both you and your visitors.

How Can Other Sections Make or Save Money?

Though site owners are becoming more comfortable defining specific KPIs for e-commerce sites, it’s challenging for other site areas. You can start by defining the ways the site supports your overall business; this is typically either by making you more money or saving you money.

Determine how the site supports your primary business goals and objectives. Rank the ways based on the most significant impact to your business. What are the desired behaviors for those objectives? That will help you determine what a successful visit looks like. Do desired behaviors change based on the segment of your audience accessing the site? Most likely they will.

When mapping and defining desired behaviors and a successful visit, consider how visitors would define a successful visit. If you have a view of site success that doesn’t support site visitor goals, you’ll have trouble being successful.

Look at Behaviors Important to Your Business

When looking at different sections of your site, don’t focus on putting them into one of the four site categories outlined above. Rather, look at what online behaviors are important to you.

Here are some ideas of what to measure for each type of site or section:

  • Lead generation. This includes conversion of visit to lead; average value of a lead (based on closing rate, dollar size, and profitability); and conversion of lead mechanisms (often forms). You must look at the lead-generation process in a funnel, as you would a basic e-commerce experience. Are you getting enough people interested with strong enough calls to action to get them to fill out a form to generate a lead? Once you get them to that form, can you find a way to convert more people to submit it? You must first understand the form’s conversion rate.

  • Customer support. One of the most basic metrics to analyzing is the cost per touch for serving customers. Are you able to service customers online for less than serving them in the call center? Surveys can be helpful in determining the quality of the experience, if it was positive and helpful to your customer.
  • Ad-revenue content. An important note on content sites: in this definition, content sites are sites supported primarily by ad revenue. Too often, sites are labeled content sites because people can’t determine what the site’s purpose or goals are. Be careful not to get caught in this mode. Some important metrics to look at a content site primary supported through ads are CPM (define), visits per visitor, page views per visit, recent visits, and visit frequency. The key is looking for ways to increase impressions over time, allowing you to serve more ads while driving CPMs up by better targeting your customers and the ads they see.
  • E-commerce. Online revenue, margin, average order value, average order size, and conversion are all natural places to start. Often, one of the most overlooked areas for a business with multiple channels is the Web site’s impact on offline sales. Whether that’s tracking a unique toll-free phone number or looking at impact through other channels, there’s often a lot more lift than people expect when first considering these metrics.

There are many other elements to look at; these are only a starting point in terms of metrics. But again, the first thing to do is define the overall benefit to your business and your visitors.

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