Love it or don’t look at it seems to be the two opposing sentiments when it comes to website analytics. Serious marketers who are heavily into measuring and testing advertising results, love the Internet because of the vast amount of information that is available when it comes to direct response advertising. It is this same, almost infinite amount of information that is a big part of why most small businesses don’t look at their web analytics very much, if at all. Feeling overwhelmed by all of the information in their analytics software, they aren’t sure what really matters and what doesn’t. Let’s cut through the clutter and take a look at the 8 foundational web metrics that you can rely on for any website.
Visitors / Visits
These are the most commonly focused on web metrics, although they are often mistakenly used interchangeably. It may help if you think of visitors as being a count of people and visits as being a count of the number of times those people visited your website. Since some will visit your website more than one time, the number of visits will always be larger than the number of visitors. Both of these numbers are important to watch, especially looking at changes over time. These numbers are numbers that you want to see go up.
Time on Page / Time on Site
Time on page is simply the average amount of time that people visiting your site spent on your page. Time on site is the average of the amount of time they spent looking around on your entire website. When people look at these numbers they frequently wonder – “Is this a good amount of time?” The answer isn’t cut and dried. What is important here is to watch what happens over time, especially when you make changes on your website. Don’t view these times in a vacuum – they are best used as secondary indicators to give you a sense of the impact of changes on your website.
The bounce rate is a measure of the percentage of people who came and landed on a page of your website and then turned around and left immediately without visiting any other pages on your website. While this may be perfectly acceptable for a subscriber to your blog who is just coming to read your latest post and leave, this kind of behavior is not usually desirable. Watch this carefully, especially for your landing pages. Try making a change on your landing pages with the highest bounce rate. If the bounce rate goes down – great; if not – try again until it does.
You can think of conversion rate as being the opposite of bounce rate. Your website’s conversion rate is the percentage of people who come to your website and then go on to make a purchase, fill out a form, or whatever the desired action is for your website. It is worth investing time in improving this number. Things like navigation choices and labels, headlines, and using the language and word choices of your target audience will have a huge impact on your site’s conversion rate.
The exit rate is frequently confused with the bounce rate. Everyone who visits your website has to leave eventually. Those that leave after visiting only one page are reflected in your bounce rate (they hit your site and bounced off). The exit rate is a page level statistic that shows you the percentage of people who leave your website from any given page. Since everyone must leave from somewhere, one of the main things you want to do with this metric is identify the pages on your site with the highest exit rates and then take a look at those pages to see why people are leaving from those pages. Some pages should have high exit rates – like the thank you page after a purchase; however, when you look at your highest exit rate pages, you’ll spot some that shouldn’t be on that list. Make changes to those pages and then check the exit rate again to see if you improved the situation.
Website engagement is a way of seeing how well your website is engaging and interacting with your audience. This helps you see how well you are really connecting with the people who visit your website. Increasing the engagement level of your website will improve your other numbers too. For example when you increase the engagement on your site, you typically see a lot more repeat visits, a decrease in bounce rates, an increase in conversions, and an increase in time on site.
Don’t let yourself be intimidated by all of the information inside of your web site’s analytics reports. There’s gold in there if you know where to look and what to look for. By focusing on the 8 foundational web metrics, you’ll begin to uncover the insights that will be worth their weight in gold for you and your business. Don’t view any of these numbers in a vacuum. Instead, pay attention to which direction they are trending over time. Most importantly of all, use these numbers to help you improve the effectiveness of your site. Armed with these 8 foundational metrics, you’re in position to begin holding your website accountable.