One day, somebody in the IT department downloaded a web server and created the company’s first website. Eighteen months later, the marketing department discovered the Web and realized that the company and its products had been presented online by the IT department. The result was shock, horror, and an immediate coup d’état.
Soon, however, the marketing department came back to the IT department looking for help. “What’s happening on our website?” they asked.
“What do you want to know?” came the reply.
“What can you tell us?”
“What do you need?”
‘What do you have?”
The only means we had to measure out websites was log files. Clickthroughs and pageviews became the coins of the realm. They were thought to represent the number of people visiting the site and the amount of interest those people had in the content on the site. Since then, the ways measure whether your website is doing a good job have grown by leaps and bounds.
Let’s begin with the raw, technical side: Is your site being served? Performance monitoring tools tell you how fast your pages download, how quickly your back-end applications are running and shed light on whether your website could be considered “slow.” The back end-applications include database look ups (nearest stores), data manipulation (configure a laptop), and transactions (credit card approvals).
Next, determine whether your advertising is attracting attention – the right kind of attention. Here’s where clickthroughs, pageviews and clickstreams come into play. The question is whether a goodly number of people clicked on your ad, came to the site, and completed the task you had intended them to complete (register, subscribe, post an opinion, buy, etc.).
Once they are on your site, we are into that area for which web analytics was made. Where did they land? How easily could they find what they were looking for and complete their task? How well can you optimize their visit, getting more of them to convert, convert faster and at a high value?
Other tools are useful for finding problems on your site, optimizing a customer visit and ensuring your information architecture makes sense to those outside your company; tools like
eye tracking (what did they actually see?) and usability studies (what do they have to say about their experience?). Also valuable, is the art of analyzing the terms people use when they search for content on your site – indicating that some of your subject matter is navigationally hidden.
Measuring retention is pure web analytics: Did they come back? How recently? But web analytics alone can’t tell you how much they purchased and whether they are profitable customers for you, Retention (or perhaps ‘engagement’) can also be measured through your customers’ response to your email, to their interactions with your call center, and the degree to which they use your online applications.
Then we have to look at the softer types of measurements. Your website may be deemed overwhelmingly successful if it made a strong enough impression to turn a visitor into a customer for life. Your website has a huge impact on brand perception. A less than satisfactory phone call can be chalked up to circumstance, but a website is not a chance encounter with a service representative or a shop clerk. It is the result of years of careful design, development and testing. If your site cannot deliver on the promise, then visitors leave with a sharply diminished opinion about your company – your brand.
How your customers feel is central to whether a website is successful. You could say that all other metrics are simply there to drive customer satisfaction. Higher satisfaction will lower costs and increase revenues. It will encourage people to talk about you in a positive light and you will need to track that as well. Reputation management is the art of monitoring what people say about you on blogs, in discussion groups and in on-site reviews. Keep an eye on your Net Promoter Score as well. It asks whether customers would recommend you to their friends.
One can also measure cost avoidance. Did you lower the number of calls to the call center? Did your postal expense go down? Are you spending less time showing PowerPoint presentations to prospective customers and more time into better qualified prospects?
The final measurement is business outcomes, whether you want to generated higher quality leads, recruit more salespeople, sell more product, lower the cost of communication or display more ads.
What comes next? Predictive analytics; using all that data to foresee what your customers are going to want before they know. Get your web metrics in place and you too can play with those advanced toys – er – tools.