Meaningful Metrics: Collect What Counts

Does the analytics data you gather provide information you can use to improve site performance, or is it a collection of static items, like a shelf full of expensive tchotchkes?

There’s more to analytics than measuring visits and views. It’s the difference between tallying the number of people who saw your new river-runner site versus the additional number of deep canyon kayaks you sold thanks to improved site design.

The ultimate Web analytics goal is to collect, measure, and use data to make changes that help you get more value from your site. But before data-gathering, identify your site’s business goals and the actions you want visitors to take. Use business goals to design site performance metrics.

When we start a new analytics or redesign project, we ask clients about their current analytics data. Who looks at it? In what format? How is it used?

What’s on Your Shelf?

From Fortune 500 firms to small organizations, many companies collect analytics data that’s:

  • Only reviewed by a small group of people

  • Only used to report on previous months
  • Not used to improve or optimize the site
  • Representative of high-level visitor statistics not tied to overall site goals
  • Not actionable
  • Inaccurate

To use Web analytics to drive positive change, the data you analyze must be accurate, action-oriented, and relevant to your site objectives. If you don’t interpret the information gathered and tie it to business goals, your metrics grow stale and interest in analytics will wane.

For a commerce site, the following metrics may be important:

  • Overall sales conversion. What’s your site’s conversion rate?

  • Sales of products promoted on the site. Do products promoted in a prime spot on the home page sell better than ones that aren’t?
  • Step-by-step conversion through sales process. How well does each step in the purchase funnel convert to the next step? Understanding this can lead to optimization of specific steps in the process, which in turn leads to overall conversion improvement.
  • Campaign analysis. How well do the campaigns that drive traffic to your site convert visitors all the way through the sales process?

For a lead-generation site, the above four examples can be used, with slight modification:

  • Lead conversion. In addition to overall conversion rates, look at the percentage of site visitors who perform a lead-oriented activity. It could be filling out a form, signing up for a newsletter, downloading a white paper, and so on.

  • Lead-generation tactics. Analyze the location, messaging, imagery, calls to action, and format of different lead-generation pages to determine which converts the highest percentage of visitors.
  • Step-by-step conversion. Look at step-by-step conversion through the lead-registration process.
  • Campaign analysis. Study the campaigns that drive traffic to your site to learn which ones convert visitors into qualified leads most effectively.

Continuous measurement of these metrics can lead to significant improvements over time. You don’t need to change the sales or lead conversion percentage from 2.5 percent to 8 percent; even a small, incremental change can be very significant. Take a lead-generation site where a lead’s value is $75 (based on leads’ close rates). If that site records 300,000 visits per month, with a visit-to-lead rate of 2.5 percent, a tiny 0.3 percent increase in the conversion rate to 2.8 percent returns over $67,000 more per month.

Once you grasp this information, you’ll better understand what works well and what can be improved. Use this information to improve overall site performance — fast!

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