Measuring Website Activity: What’s Most Important?

We are as guilty as other web marketers in sometimes providing too many detailed statistics about website activity. We run monthly or quarterly Webtrends reports and install Google Analytics to give our clients a self-serve method for looking up information about website visitors. All of these tools provide information in aggregate about the number of visitors, page views, search terms used, and the like. We can’t provide what might be the most useful information: the names, phone numbers or email addresses of each website visitor. That has to be gathered the old fashioned way, by coaxing it from website visitors using inquiry and registration forms. So besides that, what numbers are most important to measure and track?

The answer to that question is directly related to the objectives of the website project. Typical scenarios for our clients include:

E-commerce websites.

Sites that sell products or services should primarily measure number of sales and total dollar amount on a monthly basis…the bottom line. Secondary statistics to measure are sales and dollar volume of new customers only compared to previous customers.

The next most important information is how those purchasing customers found the site—from paid ads or placements, from search engines (organic or paid listings), from e-mail campaigns, or from links from other sites. Measuring sources of purchasing customers, called conversion tracking, is different than measuring sources of overall visitors. Visitors from a paid search campaign are worth the cost when they buy, but a waste of your ad dollars when they don’t. Be sure that you get enough detail to see how many purchases come from individual ads or keywords. You want to be able to see, for example, if buying the search phrase “home office chair” performs better or worse than “desk chair.”

Lead generation websites.

Conversion tracking is equally important on websites that focus on lead generation. These sites that describe a product or service and encourage visitors to use a request form are also “converting” visitors to leads. This is important because the final step of converting leads to customers does not usually take place on the website. Because of this it is helpful to record the original source of the visit for each individual lead. Our own Referrer Tracking system does this, but Google Analytics doesn’t.

Additionally, you should measure the number of form uses on a monthly or quarterly basis. The leads you get from search engines or links should be steady or grow over time, but the leads from paid ads or search listings and email campaigns can cause surges or spikes.

Association websites.

We run many websites of professional associations. While attracting new members is one objective of these sites (in which case, you can measure conversions the same way as we describe above), often the primary objective is service to members. They cater to their members on their site through activities including attracting event RSVPs or engaging members in an online networking activity. A simple objective we are seeing more and more of is to distribute important forms in a PDF library on the site in an effort to cut down on phone calls for forms to be faxed or e-mailed. For this, the best measurement is the number of accesses to the PDF files or networking features compared to the number of phone calls or emails with individual requests. For event RSVPs, measure the number of attendees using the online form compared to mailing the form in. We run the registration form for an annual association conference and see an increase each year in the number of online registrations; now the majority of attendees use it.

The companies and associations we work with usually can improve their use of Webtrends or Google Analytics reports for their particular measurement goals. We would be glad to arrange an online meeting to walk through your reports together. We can also arrange for a monthly or quarterly report that comes to you with the most important statistics you need.