You’ve poured time, money and very likely blood, sweat and tears into your new website… now, how do you know it’s delivering? Google Analytics is packed with metrics – more than 200 – so how does one decide which ones to focus on?
We put that question to our friend Daniel Lemin, head of consulting at Convince & Convert and author of ManipuRATED.
As an early member of Google’s global communications team, it’s no wonder Daniel is a digital marketing guru who provides counsel to the likes of the United Nations, Comcast and 3M.
We talked to Daniel about what metrics really matter for a website.
Daniel Lemin: Website metrics can do three important things. First, they can tell you how you did, retroactively. You can use measurements to see what you accomplished in a given period of time.
Second, they can help you make better decisions about content, site structure design and usability in the future.
Lastly, measurements can help you by always making the site better. Fixing things that are broken, finding a more straightforward path for users on a site, improving how it works on mobile or desktop. It’s a mentality of continuous improvement – not necessarily just looking at a report, but getting a chance to fix something right now, today, for the next user who hits your site. In this way, measurement is critical to optimizing the user experience.
Since it is critical to understand where visitors came from and what they do, I always look at traffic, source and outcome.
The first two are pretty straightforward, but outcome may be confusing. I generally think of outcome as a conversion that a site visitor did – something joined, bought, purchased, downloaded. However, sometimes an outcome can be less specific, and may be measured in other ways, such as time spent onsite or a particular number of pages consumed.
These three factors – traffic, source and outcome – can be used to gauge if the website experience is measuring up to the volume of people that are coming into it. At the end of the day, that is what matters.
While traffic is a key measurement, it can also be distracting. It’s important not to get too caught up in it. You can and should devote time to optimizing search to drive traffic, but remember the ultimate objective is to drive outcomes, not simply traffic.
Sure, we want more traffic, but we need those visitors to come to some sort of conclusion on our site. The rest is just throughput or a noise-to-signal ratio.
For that reason, it’s important to not over-emphasize the value of traffic. Focus instead on the types of outcomes desired and measure against those. That is what demonstrates whether the site is increasing desired inputs.
Unit conversions. Conversions can splinter into other measurements, but ultimately measuring conversions is something every marketer can do better.
One thing that we don’t give enough attention to in the web analytics world is content performance – using the content reports available in Google Analytics to help us do more of what matters.
Measurement is most cost-effective if you use it to help you focus on the things that drive the most value, and doing less of the things that are not meaningful. That might mean producing fewer webinars or more videos, but whatever it means, because it’s data-driven you know you’re putting the best performing content forward.
This approach helps the budget too, because it means you time and money are spent in the areas that matter the most.
The gold standard is Google Analytics so that is simply a must. And it’s free, of course, which is a price that’s hard to beat. That said, it’s easy to use Google Analytics incorrectly, or to not use it to best effect. It pays to get to know Google Analytics well, or to work with someone who does.
As you start getting more confident with Google Analytics, you realize you can do a lot of cool things, like append source code and campaign codes, so that every click you get is attributed to a specific source and campaign. One tool I like to use for this is a Chrome extension called Google Analytics URL builder. It’s excellent – it lives in your browser bar and lets you easily create a URL with its own campaign source. The URLs it creates look pretty hideous, but they work, and it’s free. Using custom URLs makes your analytics infinitely more useful and also easier to use.
In the near future Google itself is going to be rolling out some very cool new stuff. I’ve seen some Google Analytics betas that will get marketers excited. For instance, soon you will be able to simply ask Google Analytics a question like, “What’s my best preforming content this week?” and it will tell you. You won’t have to know where that information lives within Google Analytics – it’ll just go find the data for you, bot-style. They’re making it much easier to consume and process the data, which makes it more meaningful for all us as we continue optimizing our marketing efforts.
This new approach is going to make website analytics richer and more meaningful, and yet easier to use. The future is bright!
Thank you, Daniel for these insights on website measurements that matter.
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