There has always been a certain buzz in the online marketing industry regarding metrics; namely, which metrics to measure and how to accurately track them? I find, more and more that many business owners are sometimes paying attention to metrics that make their business look appealing from an image perspective, rather than to metrics which actually show value to the bottom line. Sort of harkens back to the old adage: "numbers never lie, but you can always use numbers to make lying easier".
Where to Start
I am going to begin by addressing metrics that I hear about all the time, these metrics may seem important against competitors or from a traditional SEO perspective, but oftentimes these metrics don't accurately help a business determine online success, or make successful informed decisions. Instead, more often than not, with these metrics as guides, businesses make misinformed decisions and wonder why they aren't gaining any online successes.
Google's PageRank is pretty much a household name. The millions of users who have the Google toolbar installed know that when they are looking at a website, the more green they see in that tiny bar, the better - the more relevant the page is. PageRank is not a good measure when trying to determine how successful your online campaign is. It does let you know how authoritative your site is, but it doesn't provide you with any data that you can monetize and use as a baseline to drive conversions or increase retention rates...
...The next 2 things measured after PageRank are usually backlinks and pages indexed. I don't want to downplay their importance because in order for websites to rank well on search engines they do have to have prominent PageRank, backlinks and pages indexed. However, measuring strictly backlinks and pages indexed doesn't allow a marketing manager or search marketing company to draw any conclusions about your site's success rate. A site could have thousands of backlinks and millions of pages of content, and this may result in 250,000 unique visitors, but if the majority of the sessions are single page visits, is this kind of revolving door successful?
Search engines perform periodic updates so it's important to stay on top of these numbers but you shouldn't let only these numbers drive your online strategy.
Page views and visitors go a little further than search engine statistics by measuring traffic on your website. However, I find that page views and visitors can be very deceiving because neither explain what visitors are doing when they get to your site nor do they explain the types of referring sources that are sending these visitors (to help qualify the traffic).
Measuring a metric as basic as page views still has to be specific to your business. For example, a high number of page views are good for online publishers if it means many articles are being read and their revenue model is ad based. Whereas high page views for a customer support site could mean that people are having trouble finding what they are looking.
If you have invested in web analytics and measure only page views and visitors on your dashboard, please do yourself a favor and ask for your money back, because you're basically using 1% of the software; you might as well only be analyzing log files. And if you're only using these metrics to guide strategic decisions, prepare for the axe, because there is no doubt that it is coming your way.
The Right Answer
Metrics should initially be defined by the type of site you have (e-commerce, content, support or lead generation). Stakeholders should then takes those metrics, condense them further, and select metrics that can be monetized so your company can make educated business decisions.
Take simple metrics like page views and visitors, add a pinch of time spent and a dash of referring source (in order to help you understand the referrers that are driving visitors who are actually engaging with your site) and you will have derived an important mix.
Why is this important? Because these metrics, or rather, this combination of metrics can help you pinpoint areas of your site that need work, maximize conversion triggers on areas where visitors spend the most time, and even reveal the types of campaigns you should be spending your budgeting dollars on.
Key metrics allow you to quantify results, but measuring the right metrics allows you to monetize the decision making process - meaning that your business not only grows, but it also gets more and more profitable.
The metric that I feel is most important, no matter what type of website you have, is visitor retention rate. Everyone knows that it's less expensive to keep and convert an existing customer than attract a new one.
Any metric that directly affects the bottom line should be at the top of all marketing managers' dashboards.
I challenge you to revisit your metrics dashboard and ask yourself: Do these numbers actually tell me how my website is performing? If not, start tracking the right type of metrics... you will be surprised how much more accurate and effective all of your strategic decisions become.
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Manoj has been in the Digital marketing industry for over 10 years with experience at some of Canada's largest companies: WestJet and Shaw Communications. Manoj first started in the search marketing industry with Enquiro Search Solutions, where he spearheaded web analytics, SEO Training and the development of cutting edge search marketing solutions for clients. Manoj is also an entrepreneur in the Mobile and Local Deals space.
Manoj is a Professional Speaker having participated at events such as Web Analytics Congress (Amsterdam), Emetrics, Web Analytics Xchange, WebTrends Engage, Internet Marketing Conference, Social Media Innovation Summit and Search Engine Strategies. He has also contributed to several leading online publications such as: Search Engine Land, Marketing Pilgrim, WebProNews, Search Engine Guide and the Web Analytics Assocation.
He founded and successfully sold Web Analytics World (a top 100 Digital Marketing Blog – http://adage.com/power150) and was voted #39th Most Influential Digital Marketer in North America – 2009 (see: www.Invesp.net)
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