posted 3 Jun 2008 in Volume 11 Issue 7
The key(words) to success
Advance planning for website metrics helps you avoid having to puzzle over the results later on.
By Lynda Rathbone
How do you measure success for your website? Are you still looking at clicks and visits? Buying keywords and hoping to increase traffic that way? Is it the amount of items purchased or downloaded? Or are you counting the number of users signing up with you? Do you even have metrics or measures for success in place that you use regularly?
As discussed previously in this column, I have remarked that while websites and the use of online technology in organisations have increased in their sophistication, the basic building blocks for success are still largely being overlooked. Like metrics.
But first, I must say a big thank you to Google for sorting out analytics for all of us on our internet sites. Previously, it was a hit or miss game of using software that seemed OK but never gave you numbers that you could, literally, count on. There was always something askew about it and the way they counted traffic or paths through the site varied widely from vendor to vendor. Using more than one package at a time on your site led to total confusion in numbers and interpretation. Now, itís an assumed constant that Google probably has it right if you follow their instructions and put the necessary things on your pages for tracking purposes.
So it would follow to think that organisations these days are now happily ploughing through loads of wonderfully meaningful data, including both content/traffic information as well as adwords or keywords results, to constantly manage and improve their user journeys, site structure and content, right? Well, sadly this does not seem to be the case. Armed with all this data, I have discovered that actually using these metrics is still somewhat of a black hole for most companies.
Most sites are now supporting some kind of keyword strategy. Most sites have optimised their site for this purpose as well, implementing site maps a la Google and making sure the home page is coded properly. But this seems to be the challenge Ė driving traffic from hundreds or even thousands of keywords to your site is great but what are users supposed to do when they arrive?
It seems a lot of those keywords that got them there do not have an obvious path onwards from the landing page so the user canít find what he or she is looking for right away and abandons the journey at the home page, costing you the click but not delivering the traffic or doing anything about the onward journey.
Then there is the issue of optimising your local search to support your external search keywords. Itís accepted that your home page may change content frequently so users would most likely enter that word again into your local search engine. What will they find? Are you strategies aligned? Is the user path continuous or confusing? Are you analysing your local keywords too?
Often times the marketing folks will do the keyword buying and the web team will do the local search keywords and content optimisation, leaving gaps and directing users to different things unintentionally. If you havenít looked at both together, itís a good idea to ensure that you do so you keep your bounce rate down (the rate that people who land on your page, then leave your page without navigating elsewhere on your site) and your time on page rate up.
And once you sort out your keyword strategy, then thereís the business of looking at the myriad of traffic and content metrics available to you about your site. Again, with the vast improvement in analytics recently, it would follow that organisations are happily extrapolating meaning from these numbers and modifying their site accordingly, right?
Again, this does not generally seem to be the case. It does get a bit daunting to look at your content overlay, hits and visits, traffic sources, time on page and browsers, amongst other things. Then combine that with your keywords and now companies are faced with the opposite problem to ten years ago Ė there is too much to look at! Is too much information a good thing?
In my recent experience, the best thing to do to find your key(words) to success is to establish how you want to measure this before the numbers start rolling in and the amount of data becomes insurmountable. Setting up good business metrics that dovetail with your overall organisational goals and strategy is key and will ensure that you know what youíre out to measure instead of letting the measurements dictate that to you.
Metrics data has so much to tell you about your users and your site; youíre definitely missing a trick if youíre not taking full advantage of whatís out there. So go on, get in there and get going. The technology has improved and there really is no excuse! ?
As always, let me know if my column clicked with you by visiting me at Lynda@foursquaremedia.net. I know Iíll be monitoring my bounce rateÖ