(15-20 minute read)
Question: "Is your website valuable to your business?"
It's amazing how often this leads to blank stares.
If your answer is "Yes" then our follow-up question is: "How do you know?"
Determining the value a website brings to a business is not always easy. If it's an E-Commerce business then it can potentially be simple - "did we earn X amount of dollars last month?" But in many instances, it's not simple or easy to understand, and when it isn't it can be hard to know the value of your investment.
Because of this inherent ambiguity with determining whether or not a website has been successful we have written this Insight to cover some basics strategies.
The following article is broken down accordingly:
- What are analytics and why do they matter?
- Understanding 3 analytics metrics
- Considering The Customers Lifecycle
- Pulling everything together.
What are analytics and why do they matter?
The real value of a website is everything can be tracked and monitored for collection, analysis, and optimization. By everything, I literally mean everything. How many people visited, how long were they on your site, what pages did they travel to, where did they come from, what screen size did they access your site from and what browser was it?... to name a few.
We call this data, Analytics. There is website sourced analytics, social media based analytics, newsletter analytics... and the list once again... goes on and on and on and on...
For this Insight, we will focus on website sourced analytics.*
With this information collected, it allows us to understand and review our site with actual data in comparison to a gut feeling. This is important because it lets you determine whether or not your site is successful and can help you make informed decisions rather than shooting from the hip.
Question: How do you know your website is a success and working well for your business?
Here are two different ways to answer this question:
Answer #1: It's successful because it brings people to us, and people seem to like it.
Answer #2: Our website does a good job. We know every month an average of 15 people contact us directly through the website form, of which 90% on average turn into clients within the next month. Furthermore, we've only had the website for a year, but it's paid itself off by 3x.
It's apparent that Answer #2 comes from someone who is informed and has access to data. Whereas Answer #1 struggles to provide anything of action. For instance, how do you know people seem to like your website?
Analytics matter because they provide information actionable for a business and help determine what the value of their website actually is. If a business is wanting to increase traffic to their store, they have past information to compare and check results. This is especially valuable when a business is looking into making a large investment, or significant changes to their site.
*Note: For us, at EvenVision it's incredibly important there are accurate reporting capabilities to measure the success of tools and systems we construct. When considering a website project, make sure your web-developers are able to provide you access to analytics, even basic stuff can provide amazing value for your business. If they cannot, or don't even mention it simply walk away.
Understanding 3 Analytics Metrics
You're beginning to understand the importance of analytics, how they can help shape decisions, and help you determine if your website is a success. So let's dive a little deeper.
There are 3 core analytics metrics to understand when looking at website sourced analytics data.
- Conversion Metrics
- Engagement Metrics
- Acquisition Metrics
Let's talk about them:
1) What are Conversion Metrics?
Websites are designed to empower people to take action. Reach out for help. Join a group. Buy a product. Learn something new. A good website has an intuitive flow, and means for easily converting a visitor into a success.
Here are some conversions a website can track:
- A successful purchase or sale
- A completed webform submission
- Downloaded or viewed data
With data surrounding this information, you can make informed decisions. You can figure out how many people purchase products and reach out to access your information.
Real World Example: We helped Arcata based non-profit Housing Humboldt overhaul their website and make it more user-friendly. Twelve months post launch and the new site averages 43.91 contact submissions a month. During the first month of their new site launching, they received 13 contact submissions. 3 months post launch the website generated 34 submissions. 6 months post launch the website converted 51 contact submissions. Data available prior to launching the new system was non-existent.
What we can ascertain from this information is that the new site is drawing people in and that they are utilizing it and finding it empowering. Was it worth investing in a new website? Yes. The conversion metrics here are night and day, in part because there was nothing to go on, but also because we see a steady upward growth trend from the new system.
Not all sites have the potential to convert a customer on every visit. What if you're not in the business of selling inexpensive products? Maybe what you're offering is a service, or a potentially really expensive product? In this case, people will be researching, spending time looking around, and making decisions based on information and presentation. Focusing solely on the simple conversion rates (number of sales/number of visits) is dangerous for businesses and it can create blind spots and cause an organization to lose possible opportunities.
A more robust analysis takes into account conversions based on new & returning visitors, channel & acquisition, and task.
2) What are Engagement Metrics?
How do you know whether or not people are finding your website empowering? Conversion metrics are one way, but as noted before not everyone will convert instantly. This is where engagement metrics come into play because they can help inform you about the following:
- How much time are people spending on your site?
- How many pages on average do they visit?
- What pages have the highest bounce rate?
Now it's true that engagement is not an exact science. For instance, it's not really possible for us to determine whether or not someone is truly engaged in a website. However, engagement can be inferred.*
Example #1) Running Shoes Company #1
- average time on site - 1.7mins
- average pages/session - 2.1
- Running shoe event page - 97% bounce rate
Example #2) Running Shoes Company #2
- Average time on site - 2.6mins
- average pages/session 3.9
- Running shoe event page - 45% bounce rate
Looking at these two examples we can infer Company #2 has a more successful website, because people are staying for longer, and traveling through more pages. Furthermore, the bounce rate for their big event is significantly lower, meaning that people are staying, accessing and probably interested in the event.
*Note: With engagement metrics, there is no single indicator that alone signals a success. They must be reviewed holistically otherwise you run the risk of making decisions based on inaccurate assumptions.
Real World Example: We recently overhauled a San Fransico based non-profits website to be more mobile friendly.
Key Stats for Mobile Traffic prior to launching the Mobile Friendly Menu (30 days before vs 30 days afterward):
From this data, we can deduce the mobile friendly menu had a positive effect on the organization's website and user engagement. Meaning if ever they need to confirm their investment provided a return, they can review these stats and compare it to their goals to determine if it was worthwhile.
Real World Example #2: Last year we had the pleasure of working alongside McKinleyville based Singing Tree Gardens to improve their non-mobile friendly website. Prior to overhauling their website, they had no access to analytics data to help determine whether or not people were engaging with the content.
With 10 months of data we can see the following stats:
- Pages/Session = 8.45
- Average session = 5.28min
That's an incredible level of engagement for their website. Furthermore, we can take this data and split it up accordingly.
Desktop (D) vs Mobile* (M):
- Users (D) = 53.37%, (M) = 46.62%)
- Pages/Session (D) = 9.85, (M) = 6.86
- Average Session (D) = 6.11mins, (M) = 4.39mins
- Bounce Rate (D) = 33.39%, (M) = 43.72%
This tells us mobile users are incredibly engaged with the content and able to access it with relative ease. Not only that but it confirms moving to a mobile friendly website was in the best interest of the business, as they now receive a whopping 46% of their traffic from mobile users. Furthermore, there is only a slight increase in bounce rate when comparing Desktop to Mobile. In stark contrast, we're working with a Santa Rosa based firm currently suffering from an almost 20% difference in bounce rate from desktop and mobile, which when combined with average duration difference of over 2mins (3.4mins on desktop vs 1.2mins on mobile) indicates the mobile experience is clearly suffering.
With engagement data, you're able to make informed decisions to help improve or provide a more excellent experience. For instance in our Insight "Why should I have a Newsletter" I talk briefly about the idea of tapping into engaged audiences and providing them motivation; in this case, it is to provide them an avenue to sign up for a newsletter. By knowing how many pages an average visitor will explore, you can construct a newsletter sign-up to appear and encourage engaged consumers to convert. It's incredibly powerful knowing your visitor's engagement.
3) What are Acquisition Metrics?
Where people are coming from. That's one way to sum it. But we can break this down even further to provide some valuable information.
- The main source of traffic?
- Where are people that are visiting your website?
- The number of unique visits?
- New vs Returning visitors?
- Inbound links?
So let's say you have a newsletter campaign. How do you determine if the newsletter was successful in bringing people to your website? Acquisition metrics. Or what if you're attempting to bring more people from social media to your website, how do you determine this? Acquisition metrics.
Real World Example: During this last year we overhauled our own strategies to be able to reach people in Eureka and McKinleyville, as we already had a well-established presence in our home town of Arcata.
Jan 1st - July 20th --- 2016 vs 2017
- Eureka traffic + 80%
- McKinleyville traffic + 130.65%
At the same time, we also moved to be ranked higher in Sacramento and San Fransico: The results speak for themselves:
- San Fransico + 64.41%
- Sacramento +337.5%
Without Acquisition analytics how would we know whether or not our SEO work had been successful?
Real World Example #2: We worked with Eureka based Sequoia Humane Society on their website several years ago. In that time the management position had changed and the new hire had no knowledge regarding the website effectiveness for their organization. They reached out and we helped them understand it.
With 88 days of analytics data, we found some valuable stats. They average:
- 116 unique visitors per day
- 267.93 sessions per day
- 43.20% new sessions per day
Top California Cities Traffic:
- Eureka = 23.94%
- Arcata = 19.92%
- McKinleyville = 11.68%
- Sacramento = 10.94%
- San Francisco = 5.14%
This acquisition data is incredibly valuable for their organization, as it can help them make informed marketing decisions. Here's another interesting insight Sequoia Humane Society could find useful.
- Facebook traffic makes up 3.73% of all visitors.
When looking into a new social media campaign one obvious consideration is to raise this number. For instance, when we at EvenVision make social media posts they are specifically designed to draw traffic to our site, which means our average for Facebook traffic is 11.36%, even though we have 1/10th the amount of Facebook followers when compared to the Sequoia Humane Society.
This is important because referrals from Facebook provide significantly higher value visitors for the Sequoia Humane Society. People arriving at their website from Facebook stay an average of 33% longer.
Considering The Customer Lifecycle.
We've reviewed the 3 core analytics metrics: conversion, engagement, acquisition. So let's talk about how to answer the question "how successful is my website" from a higher level by examining the customer lifecycle. The first thing we want to distill immediately is that solely altering copy or visual web elements can provide a more successful experience. This is false. However, these elements can be altered in conjunction with other more structural changes to provide a better experience, but this must be done as a part of the overall customer lifecycle analysis.
We're going to break down the customer's lifecycle in 3 distinct stages and talk in brief about how you can utilize this journey to help determine if your website is successful.
Reach (Awareness + Motivation)
Reach is fairly straight forward as a concept. Can people find you? And do you offer motivation for them to go to your site? When we talk about reach we can consider it made up of two simple parts: Awareness and Motivation.
When questioning how successful your website is, one of the first questions to ask is: "Are people aware of your website." Simply having one doesn't necessarily mean people are actually going to be aware of it. This is where the practice of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) comes into play. With a website built with respect for SEO your business has the opportunity to rank with & above your competition, and increase awareness (check out our blog post: "What is SEO?" for more info). That's one strategy. There are other methods for increasing awareness such as Social Media or more traditional advertising methods.
Motivation is as simple as it sounds. Let's say your business has an E-commerce store, but your website doesn't allow for discounts or sales to be applied to products. It may seem simple but these do motivate people to come actually check our your website. The inability to do so and have it clearly marked and labeled for people to see is one sign your website will struggle.
Of course with motivation, it's not simply a matter of providing something to someone, but it must also be presented to them. Social media posts, newsletters or email marketing tactic's can help motivate people to come to your website (check out our blog post: "why should I have a newsletter?" for more info). Keep in mind your primary goal in stage 1 is to move them to stage 2.
Utilizing website specific analytics you can monitor your Awareness and Motivation (both of which fall under "Acquisition" analytics):
- Where did people come from?
- Organic search vs social media
- Traffic from newsletters?
- Landing pages
- Products on sale
Acquisition > Engagement > Conversion
When we talked about the 3 core website analytics metrics, we were primarily discussing stage 2 in the customer lifecycle. This is obviously a very important stage for a website to be considered successful because if a website is successful in stage 2 it will end with a visitor converting.
Once a visitor has converted it could be easy to say the website has been a success and to move onto the next thing your business needs to do. But the reality of it is after a visitor has converted to a customer there is still an opportunity for your website to take success to the next level.
Forgetting that after stage 2, stage 3 exists is incredibly problematic and can lead to lost opportunity.
Retention (Onboarding, Support, Engagement, Expansion) > Loyalty (Repeat Business + Advocacy)
Stage 3 is the most overlooked of all the stages of the customer lifecycle when it comes to considering how successful a website is. Budget is the most obvious reason, but in many cases, it's simply because it is not considered, thought of, or deemed too complex. But once again, techniques exist that can provide simple methods for bringing stage 3 into a website as an active component of a successful website.
Stage 3 is the process of moving a website away from strictly a marketing tool, or online brochure, to a more complete tool for your business.
It's fantastic if a visitor converts, but even better if they turn into regularly repeating business. So how can you encourage repeat business? How can your website encourage repeat business? How can you then judge whether or not it's been successful with data and not gut feeling?
Well, is one simple metric of consideration, such as New Vs Returning visitors. Consider the following real world example from one of our Northern California clients Tika Imports.
Real World Example) Tika Imports: Data from Aug 3rd 2016 - 2017.
New Users (n) vs Returning Users (r):
- Users (n) = 58.87%, (r) = 41.13%
- Pages/Session (r) = +58%
- Average Session duration (r) +288%
- Bounce rate (n) = 43.45%, (r) = 28.18%
This data tells us returning users are significantly more engaged than new users, and that the website is valuable to return to for long periods of time. The average returning users visits 4.3 times, stays on average 288% longer, and visits 58% more pages.
This begs the question: "how do we retain customers once they've converted?" But we aren't going to attempt to answer that specific question in this Insight. We are simply going to pose it as another part of the larger question: "how successful is my website?"
So when posed with that question consider the following items which are major components of retention:
- Onboarding - the process of familiarizing new customers or clients with their new products or services.
- Support - the process of providing support for a customer or client before & after the onboarding process. Technically this also occurs stage 2.
- Engagement - the process of encouraging engagement with your customer or clients before & after purchase. The act of providing "motivation".
- Expansion - the process of helping your customers or clients find new opportunities by providing real value and optimization of their products or services.
We've established that returning visitors are significantly more engaged in the content of the site. But that does little if the website struggles to convert them. However, by deferring back to data we can once again help answer that question: "how successful is my website?"
Real world Example) Arcata based company Jessicurl: Data from Aug 3rd 2016 - 2017.
New Users (n) vs Returning Users (r):
- /ShoppingCart (n) = 2.89%, (r) = 6.89% - unique pageviews
- /one-page-checkout (n) = 1.78%, (r) = 3.92% - unique pageviews
Returning users go to the cart 180% more than new users, and make it to the checkout page 165% more than new users.
Some questions to ask: How can Jessicurl continue to encourage repeat business? How can Jessicurl generate a loyal following the advocates for their business? These are the types of questions that should be asked in a stage 3 conversation regarding how successful their website is for their business.
Loyal customers will return to purchase more products or services. They are satisfied by their purchase and find value in the company providing it. A successful website caters to new acquisitions while honoring loyal customers.
Lastly, loyal customers will advocate for the business. It's important a website is setup to allow individuals to share their products and services through social channels. One basic example is making sure that Open Graph protocol is enabled to ensure when people share and promote your business and website that they can share with confidence and ease. Doing so also enables you company to look great when shared which is vital when controlling and managing your brand and image.
Do not forget stage 3 of the customer lifecycle. Even on small budgets businesses can open up new opportunities and acquire significant success with proper strategies, foresight and execution.
Pulling everything together.
We answered this question: "how do I know if my website is successful." Our solution was through a basic understanding of website analytics data and a more holistic understanding of the customer lifecycle. We firmly believe data can drive decisions that fuel success.
The next time you're reviewing your website and want to know if it's a success, or are looking to make some updates and improvements, consider referring to the analytics data. You will find it incredibly useful.
*Final Note: Analytics data can be incredibly overwhelming. But it doesn't need to be. One thing we do at EvenVision is that all of our sites are crafted with simple Analytics dashboards. This provides the core information without overwhelming our clients. When talking with your web developer make sure they can not only provide analytics data but also have a system in place to help you understand it. Otherwise, the data is useless!