What Number is the Most Important? – Web Metrics (Part 2)

Last article we started to look at metrics and what metrics to report to your business or to help decide if your business is succeeding online. This go around I’ll be looking at metrics for your web team. There are some things you will want to measure to help you maintain your site health. These will also be metrics you probably won’t want to share with your business as they are metrics that won’t really help them action anything on their side. Remember metrics should help someone perform an action or make a decision. Reporting to say good job won’t help your website improve any.

What? Where Did it Go?

The first thing you will probably want to setup tracking for is your 404 page. You will see a lot of articles about making your 404 an accessible page and something that contributes to your site should someone stumble upon it.

Don’t let a computer think of what the best page could be if you know what the best page is.

Custom 404 pages are great, but they should also be tracked. I’d suggest at least once a month you pull a list of your top 10 or 20 pages that generate a 404 message and assess them. Figure out if they are pages you had on your site and moved and broke some links, or are they simply something you made obsolete? It’s great to dynamically suggest alternative pages on your 404 but it’s even better if you can redirect your customers to the pages you want them to get to. Knowing what pages customers are seeing as a 404 may help you find untapped opportunity on your site. An external site that linked to a page you may have taken down could be generating traffic you didn’t even know you were getting. Traffic you could capitalize on. Don’t let a computer think of what the best page could be if you know what the best page is. Go and setup a 302 redirect.

You Like Me! You Really, Really Like Me!

You also want to run once every three months a report on what your top 10 most popular pages are. These will be your crown jewels. Most sites generate a significant portion of their traffic through 10 or 20 pages alone on their site. These are the pages that will give you the opportunity to message to the largest audience possible. It will also help suggest where to best position your promotions and offers, and other key messages. It might also be an eye opener if you see that a page you expect to be in the top 10 or 20 isn’t listed. This means there’s a problem with how the content on your site is structured. You will want to look at your information architecture and figure out where exactly customers are getting derails or what is it about that page that is creating this adverse effect.

Hey How Did You Get Here?

You will also want to run monthly a report that tells you where your traffic is coming from. This should be a top level report of direct, organic/natural search, paid search, RSS, web banners, other media. Knowing what media is driving customers to your site will give you an idea of the type of customers you have. If your traffic is mostly organic or paid search, then most likely your customers are not familiar with your site/services. If this is the case you will want to make sure you have some quick links on every page to who you are and what your company offers. Introduce yourself basically to your customers who may not know you. If you know you get a lot of traffic from RSS, maybe you should find out if that RSS traffic is from readers or another site picking up your RSS and syndicating it. If you see RSS readers as your core refers then you probably have a pretty technologically aware group of customers. Is your site catering to them? They probably would want to know if there are any APIs to your services or the nitty gritty details of your products.

Benchmark This!

Once every three months you will also probably want to bench mark your site, make sure your pages are not too heavy for you end users (are they all on high speed internet, you better find out before you put that video on your site). You should know things such as page weight (how long does it take to download an average page). How many externally hosted files do you have? The more externally hosted files the slower your page will be. How much bandwidth are you going through in a month? Most companies pay a fee for bandwidth when every penny counts make sure you are setup to get the most out of your bandwidth. What is the most common web browser used to view your site? Are they using Firefox or Internet Explorer or an iPhone? Make sure you know this, and test your site in the top 2 browsers at least or whatever makes up the top 80-90% of your customer web browser base. In most cases developers lover Firefox but customers surf on Internet Explorer. Make sure you see what your customer sees.

What Do You Mean We Make Money?

The last thing is that while you may not want to share your technical benchmarks with your stakeholders or business partners you do want your web team to know what you are measuring the success of the site on. Make sure they understand how you define a conversion, or what products are key sellers. Your web team can offer a lot of insight into the day to day operation of your site and what opportunities may exist to improve those business numbers even more. Also while it’s great to ask for creativity when designing sites you want to make sure your designers are creating web pages with ROI in mind first. It should be second nature for your designers to ask “what are we trying to sell on this page?” Every page is an opportunity to sell. Make sure they remember that.

Report! Report! Report!

Finally when reporting for either your business or your web team make sure that your reports are frequent. Set their expectations to get an email of the report and then follow up that email with a personal review of the metrics. Make sure everyone understands what you are reporting on and what your numbers mean. There are no dumb questions when it comes to your web metrics. You may discover that there are reports not covered here that would be of great benefit to your business or web team. Also when you start to make it a monthly habit you can show a chain of growth you can show how you’ve moved the bar. Measure your metrics year over year to show how things have changed. Set targets or goals either personal or with your employees, organization or team to try and move the bar further. If things are slipping understand why they are slipping and work to understand how and what is changing on your site.

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