hall of fame
Jessica Clark

On the surface, a website can take the appearance of a creative masterpiece. With the most compelling graphics and tech-savvy capabilities, one cannot help but assume that the site must generate a high return on investment.

Web-based analytical tools can capture data that indicate a website’s overall effectiveness.

But behind all of the brand visuals, photography and typography, websites are technical and formulaic. When it comes to measuring a site’s overall effectiveness, creativity takes a backseat to the cold hard facts and numbers.

Web-based analytical tools can capture data that indicate a website’s overall effectiveness. By taking a closer look at the metrics that matter most, business owners can make the necessary adjustments and ultimately, boost business.

The Monumental Metrics

Bounce Rate

When a customer visits only one page on a site and then leaves, it’s referred to as a “bounce.” Depending on the layout of the site, a bounce can be interpreted differently. If a single web page provides all of the information that a customer needs (company services, contact info, etc.), then a high bounce rate for that particular page can indicate that the site is effective. However, a high bounce rate, which is approximately 40% for small businesses, also could mean that the site’s content is not impacting target audiences and needs adjustment. It’s important to analyze this metric at a page or section level, rather than looking only at the site’s overall average bounce rate, since pages have different purposes.

Traffic Sources

Channels are the routes that leads take to reach a website. Search engines, social media platforms and referrals from other websites are examples of these traffic sources. This measurement is important for assessing whether a company’s marketing efforts are working. For example, traffic from search engines should increase if a company is investing in search engine optimization or pay-per-click advertising. In addition, social media networks should be well represented among traffic sources when a company is posting updates regularly, and especially if it’s paying to promote the posts.

Devices and Browsers

With society’s ever-growing dependency on mobile devices, a business must ensure that its website is not only visible on mobile devices, but also fully functional and adaptable to the mobile platform. Using web analytics tools, businesses can see the most common technology that visitors are using to view the site. Consider this information carefully when testing whether website updates are compatible across browsers or devices. Ensure that functionality and display are optimized for the platforms that are used by the majority of website visitors, but don’t alienate the others, either.

Sessions

This describes the number of times that a site is visited, including repeat visits. By determining which day of the week yields the most sessions, businesses can strategize unveiling new content and promotional offerings on this particular day(s).

Length of Session

The amount of time that a visitor spends on a website is crucial, because it gauges whether or not visitors are actually reading the content. If session lengths are short across the board, this means that, for one reason or another, leads are not finding the website valuable. Visitors should spend more time on a page with a lot of content or a form to complete; if they’re not, they aren’t engaged. This could indicate a problem with the design; or, perhaps the page title and the page content do not align, and so the visitors are leaving quickly because the content isn’t what they expected.

Pageviews

This metric increases each time that someone visits a single page on the website. Look for growth in total pageviews, and also take a look at the number of pages that each visitor views per session. Dividing total pageviews by the number of sessions provides the average number of pages viewed during a single visit. Analytics tools also can show the number of visitors who look at one page, or a few pages, or several pages in a single session. An increase in pages per visit is not always positive, because it could indicate that the visitor is having difficulty finding information. For example, after a website redesign, a decline in this measurement often indicates that the new website is easier to navigate. Look at the visitors’ most frequent paths through the website to see the order in which they are opening pages; this can be a good indicator of whether they are reading several pages because they are interested and the calls-to-action are working, or if they are jumping around in search of something specific.

Total Conversions

A conversion occurs whenever a lead performs a desired action. Depending on the business, this can include submitting contact forms, downloading a PDF file, making a purchase, etc. Total conversions can be measured either directly through the website’s content management system, such as by counting the number of form submissions received, or by tracking events or goals in analytics software.

Understanding the Process with AIDA

When a lead visits a website, a particular sequence of events often takes place. Known in the marketing realm as AIDA, there are four key stages that a lead will undergo before converting to a customer: attention, interest, desire and action. Some of the valuable metrics involved in AIDA include impressions, click-through rates and more.

Timeframe Comparisons

One can compare a website’s overall effectiveness to a sports team’s seasonal performance. At the end of a sports season, the coach is likely to make a general statement about the team’s overall success.

But in order to best improve for the future, it is often most effective to compare different portions of the season, side-by-side. Did the team play best after implementing a new strategy during practice? Or, did they play worse when their audience went down in size?

For every business, the owner is the coach. And similar to a team’s seasonal performance, business owners can evaluate their websites by comparing different time periods.

Using Google Analytics or other web analytics tools, a business can look at changes from week to week. So, if a company alters its website content or design, any changes in web metrics between those weeks can directly determine whether or not the website adjustment was effective. Monthly comparisons are also an excellent way to measure the effectiveness of SEO enhancements, social media campaigns, paid advertising campaigns, sale increases and more. Also, be sure to compare numbers to the same time period in the previous year to ensure that seasonality factors are taken into account.

Looking at ROI as the Big Picture

Ultimately, a business wants to know that its marketing investments are not going to waste. By knowing what to look for regarding website performance, a company then can make the necessary changes to maximize its overall return.

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