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How To Identify The Most Valuable Online Metrics For Your Business

Nowadays, businesses of all industries and sizes have a website. Some good, some not so good. Your businesses’ website should be more than just a pretty digital storefront. With global e-commerce sales projected to reach $4.9 trillion by 2021, it’s important to optimize your website to help your business increase awareness, leads, and sales.

A common question business owners ask is, how do you know if your website is successful? Success looks different for every company but can be measured all the same. Here’s how to know if your website is working for your business.

5-Step Process to Build a Measurement Plan

Before you open any type of analytics or tracking program, you should sit down with a group of stakeholders from your company and outline the following five elements to include in your measurement plan. Follow this process, developed by Avinash Kaushik, which can be adapted for any business setup.

1. Outline business objectives

For this first step, you'll need input from executives and senior leadership. What are you hoping to accomplish online? Why do you even have a website?

If you are an e-commerce site, a common objective is to sell products. For a B2B site the focus may be on lead generation. Discuss what matters for your business, and remember to think about objectives that can deliver value in both the short- and long-term for your organization. No need to go crazy coming up with objectives. Keep it simple. We've found identifying between one to three objectives helps keep focus while incorporating multiple priorities.

We’ll use St. Baldrick's Foundation as an example, as I believe their organization does great work with their online presence. As a previous volunteer shavee, I've used this before in examples of organizations that make it easy for users online.

Screenshot of St.Baldricks website

The St. Baldrick's Foundation is a volunteer-and donor-powered charity dedicated to raising money for lifesaving childhood cancer research and funds more in childhood cancer grants than any organization except for the U.S. government. Since the Foundation's first grants as an independent charity in 2005, St. Baldrick's has funded more than $234 million to support the most brilliant childhood cancer research experts in the world.

If I was working with their team to identify a few key business objectives for the organization, they might include: raising money for childhood cancer research, growing awareness of research (show people what they are doing with the money), and getting people involved to volunteer.


2. Set goals for each objective

soccer goal


Goals are how you will accomplish the business objectives. Start to think about both bigger and smaller actions that will contribute to success, and align a set of goals underneath each specific objective. This isn’t a one-person job. It's important to work collaboratively with team members who can give insight on different aspects- business, marketing, sales, etc.

Using the St. Baldrick’s example, if your objective is to raise money, then your website should be able to collect donations. If you want to get volunteers involved, you should have a way for volunteers to sign up or contact you on the site. And if you're trying to grow awareness, it may be important to share information about the organization and get new visitors to your website.

3. Assign key performance indicators (KPIs)

measuring tape

Now that you know how you will accomplish the objectives, you need to track your progress toward meeting them. These are called key performance indicators, or KPIs. For help identifying your KPIs, a good exercise is to separate them into in-process KPIs (the means to an end) and output KPIs (end result).

In order to track your KPIs, you can install Google Analytics for free on your website. Some useful Google Analytics reports might include tracking visitors’ locations, reporting activity from landing pages and social media, and more. And again, have a conversation with your team about what will drive your business and support the goals and objectives outlined in the previous steps.

For the St. Baldrick's example, in order to raise money and support donations online, one of the KPIs could be donation conversion rate. If you drive a lot of traffic to the site but no one is donating money, it won't support that objective. It's also important to make the essential site actions that drive your KPIs easy for your users.

4. Identify targets

dart board hitting target

Don't skip these next two steps because they will be essential in understanding success. Once you have your KPIs, you'll need to know what good performance looks like.

There are many areas to review as you start to set targets. First, you should connect with your team members who have historical knowledge of the business and performance. This could be historical performance of the website, sales numbers, monthly leads generated, etc. You can also look to industry benchmarks. Google Analytics has the ability to report on benchmarks on certain metrics across similar business industry and website size. Collaborate with team members to agree on what good or bad performance looks like.

5. Break into segments

apple slices segments

If you look at data in one big lump, it will not be helpful to anyone on your team. Breaking it down into targeted groups will show you important insights about your data and how you can improve performance to support your objectives. You'll see a common theme here. Again, it's important to talk to the executives about the most important segments for each goal.

Think about analyzing the data from different angles: How are visitors getting to your site? What are they doing once they get there? What happens after they complete an action on the site?

Avinash Kaushik refers to these as the "acquisition, behavior, and outcomes areas of marketing." Take some time to think about how your data could be broken into segments under each category.

Here are some examples for each:

Acquisition: Where the traffic is coming from. In the St. Baldrick's example, you could look at traffic from different online channels. How do visitors from social media engage with the site? Are they donating more or less than visitors from organic search? What about traffic coming from paid search, organic search, or email? Break the data up into these segments and review your KPIs. Keep what's working, stop what's not, and identify areas to test from there.

Behavior: What are visitors doing once they get to your site? How does a visitor who viewed five pages of your site compare to a visitor who only looked at one? What about the group of visitors who signed up for a newsletter or the visitors who abandoned the donation process—what was their experience like and how could it be improved? Some of these questions may require more testing or even setting up usability tests to understand the “why” behind some of the behaviors, but it will help guide your business into making the best decisions that support the overall objectives on the site.

Outcomes: Look at the results of actions on the site to identify what is most valuable for the business. Here you could review the time to donate for visitors who donated on their first visit compared to visitors who donated after a week. You could also look at the average donation amount and where your larger donations are coming from. Do you have visitors who are consistently donating more than double the site average? How can you find more like them? Another angle is to review the visitors who don't donate on the site—what actions are they taking and are those valuable in a different way for the business?

Use the above examples to identify a few segments for each area of your own website to support your objectives.

Next Steps: Measure ROI

Once you’ve built your next measurement plan, it’s important to, well, start measuring the value of website conversions, or the ROI of your website. It can be tricky to string the data together, but your business needs processes and systems in place to connect the dots. Even sites that are not e-commerce can work to calculate the economic value for actions on their websites. It's especially important to understand the value of the smaller conversions on your site, because only about 2 percent of your visitors will be completing the main conversion (purchase, contact, etc). How can the smaller actions add up? For example, how much is a PDF download of a popular catalog worth to your company? If you are measuring PDF downloads as a KPI for your business, the next step is to understand the value.

Read more: How to Set Smart Goals for Your Website

Start Talking Online Metrics

Now that you've walked through the five-step framework to outline objectives, goals, KPIs, targets, and segments for your business, we hope these questions will start an interesting discussion with your team and put you on the path understanding (and growing!) the success of your website.

Questions to ask your team:

  • How are we measuring the success of our digital marketing efforts?
  • What are the most important conversions on our website (and how much are they worth)?
  • Where are we currently spending time and money to acquire traffic?
  • What are the key benchmarks and targets for our goals?
  • What are the important segments to consider for each goal (acquisition / behavior / outcomes)?

How does your business measure success online? As a digital marketing and web design and development agency, Aztek works with our partners to develop measurement plans following this structure. Contact us for guidance and help measuring the success of your website.