It helps a great deal to know how we are progressing. I guess the Vikings must have known the problem. The sun, the moon, and the stars helped them maintain a steady direction, so they generally stumbled over land eventually. Most businesses follow a similar approach, guided by the leading star their CEO may not always be.
Things can become even more muddled on the internet, where a hundred visitors may not buy a single cup of coffee, and when we measure website growth it scores zero on the day.
Camels are ships of the desert so I shall flip to that analogy. While they may not be renowned for charm, camels have a knack for finding water despite the shifting dunes and roaring sand storms. I want to highlight how important it is to have reference points everywhere we go. So. I’ll tell you about the day I wished I had a camel with me warts and all.
When I was a late teen, I found myself in the harbor town of Walvis Bay, Namibia. The name means ‘whale bay’ in German, and it was sometimes possible to find whale skeletons on the beach a few miles out of town. A mate and I decided to walk south along the coast to see what we could find. At times, we walked a way into the Namibian desert, the purest, meanest desert in the world.
We weren’t scared of getting lost. The place was so flat we could see the harbor cranes from twenty miles away. We were about to retrace our steps when a cold sea fog surrounded us faster than we could run. The harbor cranes vanished in the whiteness. Just before they did, we made an arrow in the sand. We walked for an hour in that direction, lining up driftwood and tufts of grass so we kept going straight. When the sea fog lifted again, we found we had been walking in a haphazard circle a quarter mile across. I mention this because it is so important to be able to track progress against an objective. We got back to town after dark. I bought my first magnetic compass the next morning.
A Digital Compass to Measure Website Growth
Your first purchase should be a digital compass when setting up an internet shop. Cyberspace is vaster than the biggest desert, and there are just as few sign posts. A digital compass has a number of reference points. To close out on the desert analogy, reference points in that instance would be distance remaining to the harbor, average approach speed, water remaining in the bottle, and so on.
When we follow a similar approach by tracing leads, conversions, and website growth, we learn how well we are tracking ROI goals. A good web analytics tool - I’ll get to that shortly - helps us spot opportunities and trends in our audience. It also tells us what’s working, what needs improving, and what ain’t.
The Metrics for Any Digital Direction Finder
A ‘metric’ is a measurement, in this case of progress with regard to a reference point. There are loads of them out there, and not a few for sale off marketing blogs. We don’t do that here. We give away free information and handy tips that cause internet businesses to flourish. I’ll introduce the five main categories, to point you in the right direction.
1. Keyword Analysis
Unless you want to spend a fortune on paid advertising, you have to work your way up search pages with keywords and phrases. The big companies already grabbed the hot ones. ‘Beer’ won’t get you anywhere near them at first, so you have to be smart, not lucky. Web analytics helps you improve your Google results.
2. Traffic Sources
It pays to post web-sandwich-boards where the right people pass by in Cyber Street. The right people buy our products, but where do they hang out. Our traffic sources tell us where our clicks are from. They could be from our websites and social media pages. A surprising number can come from directories and guest posts too.
But visitors matter the most. They are the folk we hope will buy our goods and services. If we track their numbers, we can gauge the effect of our individual marketing initiatives, and even events in the greater environment. We see distinct upticks, and we can often figure what drives them. These circumstances make great copy for our blogs.
4. Visitor Trends
Metrics are scores for important things, over time. The number of visitors last Thursday means nothing unless we can compare it to past events. When we tweak our content, we can gauge how well it works. The number of page views we get, our average page views per visit, and average time on site are all good ways to measure website growth, or conversely falling away of interest.
5. Leads, Conversions and ROI
Notwithstanding this, the single most important thing is changing these visitors into customers buying things. Here, website metrics tell us how well our site is growing commercially compared to ROI goals. Which calls to action are pulling people through our conversion funnel best? And, how good are we at nurturing their interest there?
The Best Digital Analytic Tools to Use
There are great dashboards to do the heavy lifting when it comes to web analytics. They track the metrics I mentioned, and much more besides. We can even measure growth live as we introduce fresh initiatives. Use the freemium trials to test the options. Once you choose one, the paid version will be more comprehensive.
- Google Analytics provides detailed reports on visitors’ personal information, where they come from, what they like to read, where they went to afterwards, and how many responded to a call to action.
- Crazy Egg analyses website performance by observing users on line. It suggests how to get more ROI per dollar, enjoy more conversations, and achieve effective engagement too.
- Kissmetrics scrutinizes visitors more deeply by tracing every step in their journey. It could tell you about the products they empty from their carts, and can send them follow-up emails per the rules you set.
- Data Hero helps businesses understand the meanings behind their metrics by analyzing them, and presenting them in easy-reading graphic formats and visuals. It’s great for executives wanting high-level summaries.
- HubSpot offers tracking tools even for websites not hosted on HubSpot. You’ll see how well your website tracks traffic and leads and learn how to make improvements. You can implement a full on CRM strategy and automate workflows for added performance.
Metric Softies: The Human Side of the Business
All this talk of data has me yawning. There are human beings behind the numbers, and people trying to comprehend their deeper meaning. Regular review meetings can degenerate into unproductive get-it-over sessions. Finally, someone delegates the task of sending emails, to a numerically literate clerk in the accounting department. We can’t afford this can we? We can’t afford to throw away nuggets of critical marketing data after all this effort. It is time we went back to baby steps, and learned to tread the numbers and measure website growth.
STEP 1: Make Your Web Metrics More Relevant to Business
Review the metrics you are tracking, against the KPI’s of your company. How good is the match, or has something slipped. Are you collecting data for the sake of it, or is somebody actually using it? Walk the story down; follow the data wherever it goes. Find out what happens to it there, and what value it adds. Does somebody convert the information into action? Can you prove this action adds value to the bottom line?
STEP 2: Stop Being Scared of Data
We are still cautious of computers, and awed by big data. When last did you dare to explore your smartphone, and visit the outer fringes of its apps? Drill down deep. Break the information into human size chunks. It’s not that difficult. Discover the rock stars in your marketing mix. Fathom out why some are more effective at different points in the lead conversion process.
STEP 3: Stop Making Mental Leaps in Faith
Don’t assume the team is always on your page just because they nod. They could be falling asleep. Groups make risky decisions because everybody thinks the rest of the gang are on top of the topic. Do you logically understand what is driving those numbers? Or are you assuming that what you wanted to happen, did? Did your email campaign cause the surge in interest, or was it something else? We need answers....
Back to the Digital Compass: The Second Time Around
Lovers and numbers may become more useful the second time around. A trend that confuses now, can become a flashlight in the dark when we revisit it after a few months have passed. Website metrics are merely inputs to creative human decisions, not ends in themselves. They have no right to exist, let alone cost money unless they add value. They do not belong on pedestals just to be admired. If they do not help us measure website growth, we should let them go, just like an employee who misses the point.