As marketers, we field all sorts of requests and are constantly bombarded with some newfangled method for evaluating success. There is always a new tool, a new term to familiarize oneself with, a change to tagging metadata or source code or some other thing. One thing however remains perpetually true… don’t forget about the basics. Just as your doctor would never order an MRI without first capturing your vital signs and conducting some simple tests, you need to assess the basic health of your digital assets before diving deeper into speculative diagnoses.
So what are the vital signs of a website and how can this information help you?
- Traffic – understanding traffic is comprised of more than just knowing the number of people who visit your site month after month. Is there a pattern to your web traffic? Is the volume relatively flat or is it continuously fluctuating with big swings up or down? What is the source of this traffic? Knowing what’s normal for your site can enable you to establish performance benchmarks and quickly identify fluctuations. Then you can investigate the source the fluctuation. For example, did traffic drop because you changed to more search engine friendly page URLs but forgot to put in place your 301 redirects.
- Stickiness – used in combination, bounce, retention and duration are powerful indicators of user engagement. Are people bouncing from your site? What is your proportion of returning visitors? How much time do your non-bounced visitors typically spend on your site? In isolation, no one metric can tell you how visitors rate your site. But in combination, they can speak volumes.
- For instance, say the overall bounce rate is 30%. Is this indicative of a healthy site? True, the bounce is below industry average however, you might have areas in your site where 90% of users are bouncing either because the content is dated or irrelevant or your site is not compatible to their technology preferences.
- Does spending 5 minutes on your site mean that users find your web content relevant and compelling? Perhaps this time is spent filling out a cumbersome form or worse, trying to find relevant information.
- Was a 20% returning visitor rate in Q1 bad? Perhaps you ran a national campaign that nearly tripled your traffic volume. So while your overall retention rate might seem meager, your number of returning visitors is now up by 75% month over month.
- Consumption – more than the number of page views or user depth, consumption can provide insights into the value and relevance of your site content.
- Where are users spending their time? This tells you how, and more importantly where, to introduce items and post announcements such as a new product offerings. It also helps you identify those under-utilized, under-trafficked areas of your site that could benefit from content optimization.
- What videos do they watch in their entirety? Which whitepapers were most popular? This can tell you where to place your calls-to-action and conversion options.
- How much traffic does your site map or internal search results page get? This can alert you to navigational issues or trouble finding desired content.
This is not to say that the vital web stats can inform you about the totality of your website’s performance and ability to attract and retain customers. But there is a natural evolution. Before you create a mobile optimized site, know what proportion of your visitors use mobile devices and which devices they use. This will enable you to build rich and compelling experiences that your visitors can see and react to. Our ability to track and analyze is only as limited as our imaginations but to have maximum impact on ROI, we first need to know the basics.
*Post written by Jamie Gilbert, Associate Director of Business Intelligence