One of the most common problems that I hear from senior executives is that they don’t know which website metrics really matter. Their teams regularly report to them a slew of website metrics culled from a web analytics service such as Google Analytics, and their eyes glaze over amid the minutiae. This problem is especially acute when it comes to reporting website performance metrics. As an executive steeped in analytics, I know that all metrics matter, but not all equally to senior-level decision makers who are strapped for time. Here are the three metrics that you should really pay attention to when your team reports data to you or when you look under the hood yourself:
1 Users: Total Number of Site Visitors
Everything starts with your audience. If your site experiences a decline or increase in users, every other metric you measure will be affected. Your site should experience an increase in users year-over-year through content that attracts traffic organically combined with paid media tactics such as paid search. If your user traffic is declining, then challenge your team to dig deeper into other metrics that could lead to the source or sources of the problem. There could be many culprits, such as a website redesign that results in search engines not indexing your site as before, or a change in your search spend that has hurt traffic volume. At any rate, treat user traffic as a top priority.
2 Page Views: Total Pages Viewed
If you see a drop in page views, your content is not resonating, which is why this metric is crucial. This is especially true if you see a drop in page views for deeper pages beyond the home page. In fact, an increase in home page views but a drop in deeper page views means that visitors are not digging into your site for more information as they should. Dig deeper. Match pages up to the same time the year before? What pages are losing traction? Did you sunset any pages? Is the time on page or scroll depth affected by the decrease in pageviews?
3 Average Session Duration: Average Length of a Session
A drop here also means that your site is not resonating. A number of problems could cause a drop, and they don’t necessarily have to do with bad content. For example, you might be optimizing for less-relevant keywords. Or your paid media is targeting the wrong audience, resulting in people visiting your pages and finding content that is not relevant to them. We know content takes on many forms. Are you assessing your content the same way in regards to the session duration?
Other Metrics Matter – But Not as Much
By contrast, other metrics on your site, while important, are not as crucial to a senior marketing executive to know as the three above. Consider, for example, bounce rate, or the percentage of sessions where there was no interaction with the page. There can be a number of reasons for a high bounce rate, and not all of them are negative. For instance, a high bounce rate could result from your site doing an efficient job of delivering content to a highly targeted audience. In other words, your audience has quickly found what they wanted and moved on.
In addition, bounce rates need to be examined in combination with other red flags. For instance, a high bounce rate combined with a decrease in session duration is a much more serious red flag than a high bounce rate in isolation. This is not to say that bounce rate is trivial – far from it. Rather, bounce rate is better left to an analytics team to track and analyze so that the senior marketer can focus on the red flags that matter most to them.
The Value of Year-Over-Year
Finally, regardless of the metrics you examine, make sure your team reports year-over-year metrics, not month-to-month. For a senior marketer, year-over-year is a truer measure of how well your site is performing. Month-over-month metrics can be influenced by seasonal issues, the launch of a campaign, a major news announcement, and a host of other factors. Year-over-year as a comparable time period should even out those variances.
Bottom line: challenge your teams to look deeper and use these metrics together and not in isolation.
For Further Exploration
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to deepen your understanding of website metrics regardless of how senior you are. Google provides training courses and certification in its Google Analytics Academy. While it's easy to get started with the basics, converting that data into business insights requires finer expertise. Investis Digital provides Analytics Optimization services to help setup, fine-tune, and analyze the data you have to inform your digital marketing strategies and business initiatives. If you would like to find out how analytics can help inform your digital strategy and provide measurable evidence of its success, please contact your Account team or email us for more information.