Whether you recently completed a redesign of your website or are spending money on digital marketing, it can be difficult to measure how well your site is performing. Tracking tools like Google Analytics are able to provide you with a variety of quantitative and qualitative measurements, but how do you know which are the best indicators of success? Once you’ve selected your most important measurements, how can you determine whether they exceed expectations or fall short? The ultimate goal for measuring website success should be to decide whether your efforts are driving enough engaged traffic and conversions to make up for the time and money you’re spending to get them there.
Choosing the Right Measurements
Unless you’re an ecommerce website with the ability to track actual dollars spent by your customers, it can be hard to identify how your website is performing as a sales tool. Thankfully, website analytics tools like Google Analytics give us access to several built-in metrics that indicate website engagement, as well as the ability to track some custom metrics that help even more.
To identify which measurements will matter for you, it’s important to first look at your campaign’s goals. Some common campaign goals include:
Awareness: increasing visibility and recall of your website
Engagement: increasing interaction with your website
Conversion: increasing a specific interaction on your website
Re-engagement: getting visitors to return and engage with additional website elements
If you’re focused on awareness, you’ll want to mostly pay attention to quantitative measurements, such as the overall number of visits and visitors (users and sessions) you receive in a certain time period. An increase in these metrics means a larger audience is visiting your website due to your marketing efforts. For a specific page, you can look at how many people are seeing the page and how many people are arriving on the page (pageviews and entrances) to determine awareness of a unique product or service.
Tracking engagement on the website is harder to determine than awareness, as many engagement metrics aren’t built into popular analytics programs like Google Analytics. Some high-level measurements, like how long visitors stay on the site and how many pages they typically view (average session duration and pages per session), can give some insight into whether visitors are engaging with content. In addition to Google Analytics’ built-in measurements, these key performance indicators, or KPIs, allow for the manual tracking of on-site clicks, such as downloads of important PDFs, clicks to contact, or form submissions (events). While implementing custom analytics is initially a manual process, the extra effort will go a long way toward determining ROI and planning your marketing tactics wisely.
Conversion goals are not typically measurable through built-in means in Google Analytics, unless a visitor is taken to a unique URL after completing a form. This is sometimes referred to as a “thank you” page. In order to track most conversions, some amount of custom analytics, or click tracking, would be required. This would mean adding tracking to your clicks to apply, submissions of important forms, or clicks to call a specific campaign-focused phone number. These are the most important types of goals to track when you are spending money on digital marketing, as it can tell you your overall cost per conversion (marketing dollars spent divided by total conversions).
The ability to track re-engagement from previous site visitors means that on top of identifying which engagement metrics you want to measure, you need to be able to segment a returning audience. Google Analytics allows you to build custom segments based on previous browsing activities or user attributes. This means you could create a segment that includes visitors who engaged with a specific promotion in the last 30 days, then measure whether they are returning to the website and hitting additional touchpoints. This could include users returning to read more blogs or browse more products on an ongoing basis.
How to Find Benchmark Data and When to Use It
Once you’ve defined your campaign goals and which metrics you’re going to track, you should decide how often you plan to measure them and how they’re performing against available benchmarks or your expectations.
One of the first places you should look for benchmark data is within your own historical data. Comparing your metrics against past performance is a great way to determine whether your efforts are causing an increase in engagement. While it’s easy to compare year-over-year growth using Google Analytics’ built in compare function in the date-range tool, you should be mindful of any changes you’ve made over the past year which could impact your measurements. For example, if you launched a new website in the past year, the historical data you’re comparing against is for an entirely different website. This is helpful if you’re trying to determine whether your new website design is performing better than the old one.
Google Analytics also provides benchmark data for comparison against other similar websites but first requires that you opt in to sharing your own data. This can be found in your admin settings. Under Account Settings, you will need to check the “benchmarking” box and click save. This will allow you to access a group of reports found under the Behavior > Benchmarking tab in Google Analytics’ navigation. This report will compare your website metrics to other websites that have opted into benchmarking and can be sorted by industry vertical, geography and the amount of traffic typically received in a day. You may need to leave the geographic targeting at the country-level in order to include enough websites in your industry.
In addition to comparing a campaign’s metrics against historical website data, you can measure against similar pages on the website that are not receiving direct promotional traffic. The scientific method dictates that you have a control group for any experiment so you can see what changes occur naturally without outside influence. If you’re optimizing a page to increase organic traffic or driving boosted social media traffic to a page, you can measure that page’s metrics against the control page to see how your promotions affect engagement and conversion. You can check to see if the promotions are causing visitors to stay longer on the campaign page or submit a form more often.
Using Your Data to Make Informed Decisions
Once you have successfully measured your website updates or campaign performance and identified successes, room for improvement, strengths and weaknesses, you can use that data to make smarter marketing decisions for future projects.
When leveraging past performance for future marketing campaigns, it’s best to look at both off-site and on-site elements that may have resulted in success. If a series of boosted social media posts resulted in high on-page engagement, you should look at both the content of the posts as well as the content on the landing page. Were there specific images or calls-to-action on the ads that had higher conversion rates, or was there a time of day when more visitors were more likely to convert? You can use the information you find to construct better advertising as well as build audiences and schedule your ads so they reach the right audience at the right time.
If you’re building new landing pages and want to make sure they are fully optimized to show in organic search results, you can look at other pages where you’ve implemented organic optimizations and seen growth in organic traffic. This can tell you which types of content updates have been shown to cause positive growth and inform your new landing page’s content strategy.
You Will Likely Need Help
Whether you’re tracking general website traffic or several digital marketing campaigns across a variety of platforms, it’s important to understand the return on your investment. Sometimes the metrics are built-in and sometimes you’ll need to implement something more custom. For most businesses, organizations and institutions, having an in-house expert who understands all of the nuances to analytics tracking and reporting doesn’t exist. Instead, it’s a skillset that you will want to trust an expert for support. From auditing an existing site to implementing conversion tracking, goals and custom reporting dashboards, ZAG has analytics experts to help you get the most of out your digital presence, so get in touch.