Most Underrated Web Metrics

The problem with data used to be that we didn’t have enough of it. The problem with data today is that there is just way too much of it.

Of course if you know what you’re looking for, you can get it. And everything else will fall aside.

But if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you will likely fall into the familiar trap of spending too much time on things that don’t matter. Last week, we looked at the most overrated web metrics.

Today I’d like to reverse that. Let’s have a look at those metrics that are underappreciated and underused, but very useful for many businesses to measure and improve:

  1. Page Value – Google Analytics allows you to set up your ecommerce metrics, so that when someone checks out on your website, you know how much they spent. Even if they aren’t checking out, you can assign a value to any action they might take, like submitting a lead form, etc. Then you can measure how each page on your site impacts those actions and sales. Pages with the highest value contribute the most to results and pages at the lower end might not be helping you as much as you hope.
  2. Conversion Rate by Device – while you should be measuring everything by device, conversion rate gets right to the important stuff. Assuming you are tracking sales and other actions, you should always pay attention to the relative likelihood of conversion on different devices. As more of your traffic comes from mobile, are you putting your design and development resources in the right place?
  3. Attribution – I’ll grant you that this is not a metric but a category of metrics, but since Google Analytics gives you the tools you need to figure this out, I feel okay including it on this list. For marketers, this is perhaps one of the most important things to know. What traffic sources and activities add value and which do not? A full attribution analysis will tell you the path that most often leads to a successful conversion. It will rank the things you do by their relative impact on results.

Remember, now that we have access to boat loads of data doesn’t mean we’re any better off than we were before. Only those marketers or companies that pay attention to the right metrics will come out ahead.

Most Overrated Web Metrics

The time for companies to start leveraging the massive amounts of data available to them to grow their business has come. It came years ago. The problem is that some companies who were quick to acknowledge this new age of data analysis are still wasting their time with vanity metrics that don’t answer the questions that matter.

When we talk about that in terms of website metrics, we’re talking about the numbers and percentages that are easy to track. We pick them because of their ease. Google Analytics puts them front and center for us to see. And we know how to influence them. So we can show our teams and our bosses that things are moving in the right direction.

But is it helping the business? Are they tied to larger marketing or company goals and targets?

Here are some of the most overrated web metrics still commonly used today:

  1. Bounce Rate – while many might argue that bounce rate is a critical measure of whether people are finding what they expect to when they visited your site, the point here is that this metric alone tells you very little. For example, if you spend more money on advertising to drive paid traffic to your site, you should expect bounce rate to go up. Bounce rate will vary from source to source, device to device, among different geographic locations and demographic profiles. Measuring bounce rate in a silo tells you almost nothing about your overall performance.
  2. Visits – website traffic used to be the ultimate metric. We would all brag about how much traffic we drove, how fast it was growing, etc. Part of the reason for that is because it was one of the first real metrics we ever paid attention to. But the time has passed for visits as a primary metric. Companies have proven time and time again that they can improve their business without growing traffic. And companies that focus solely on attracting more and more eyes on their website have failed to pay attention to conversion rates and other metrics that might help them decipher good traffic vs. bad traffic.
  3. Time on Site – this one sits adjacent to bounce rate. While you might argue that sites that rely on advertising dollars are looking at time on site and other “stickiness” metrics because they need to sell ads, I would argue that time on site is worthless. There are too many things that influence how long someone spends on your site. If I find what I’m looking for quickly, isn’t that better than struggling on the site for 4 extra minutes and getting frustrated?

Remember, when choosing what metrics to measure, start with your business goals in mind. Find the metrics that tell you whether or not you are moving towards those goals and ignore everything else.

Breaking Down Bounce Rates

Bounce rate is one of the most important metrics you can track on your website. For those of you who are new to analytics or the concept of bounce rates in general, let’s start with some definitions.

Bounce rate measures the percentage of visits to a page that result in a bounce.

A bounce is defined as a person landing on a page of your site, meaning it’s the first page of your site they hit, and then immediately leave your site altogether, either by closing the browser window, hitting the back button, typing in a new URL, or clicking on a link to another site.

Bounce Rates vs. Exit Rates

A quick note on exit rates, which many people confuse with bounce rates. An exit is simply that, someone leaving your site. It happens in nearly every visit to your site. Eventually, everyone exits.

The difference between a bounce and an exit is, when someone bounces, they exit after one page. In all other cases, an exit will happen after 2 or more pages

Why are Bounce Rates Important?

Bounces are bad, in almost all cases. They usually signal to the website manager that someone did not find what they were looking for and decided to leave, or go somewhere else to look.

If someone bounces, they are choosing not to invest any time on your site. They have not had a chance to take any action, like sign up for your email list or buy your products.

As a website manager, you should be tracking bounce rates in an effort to reduce them. Find out what pages are resulting in high bounce rates, and fix them. Find out what traffic sources are leading to high bounce rates, and focus your efforts elsewhere.

Fixing a high bounce rate leads to a “stickier”, more effective website that gets people engaged and helps them find what they’re looking for. That’s one key to building a successful business online.

Where Has All My Web Traffic Gone?

Have you noticed a drop in traffic to your website? For many companies, this is a big deal. In today’s digital environment, a significant drop in website visits could put your business in danger.

But it does happen from time to time, so it’s important to be able to spot it and fix it quickly when it does.

Step One = Spot the Problem

Make sure you’re tracking activity on your website on a regular basis. A simple Google Analytics account is all you need to keep an eye on the number of visitors to your website. This is how you’ll know when traffic goes up or down so that you can react to it.

Step Two = Diagnose the Problem

After you see a dip in traffic, the next thing you need to do is figure out where that dip is coming from. Usually, a drop in the number of visitors can be traced back to one or two sources of traffic.

Here, you can use the Acquisition reports within your Google Analytics account to sort traffic by channel. You can see if the drop in traffic is coming from direct (maybe your email programs or offline ads), organic (search results), social media or any number of paid sources. When you know what source is lacking, you will gain a better understanding as to why your traffic is down and what you can do to fix it.

Step Three = Fix the Problem

Most times, it is within your control to fix the issue. Sometimes it may take longer than others, but a good marketer should be able to fix the problem once he identifies it.

If the problem is paid traffic, ask yourself what you’re doing differently. Maybe you starting running different ads? Maybe you lowered your budget? Maybe you’re advertising in a different place? This is usually the easiest problem to fix because you’re in complete control of where you’re advertising and how much you are spending.

If the problem is social media traffic, the solution is usually the same as paid traffic. Something is different about what you’re posting, where you’re posting, or when you’re posting. Maybe your content is not as engaging as it was before. That’s easy to fix with better content.

If the problem is referral traffic from other websites, track it back to a specific website. Maybe they removed a link to your site that was generating a lot of clicks. Maybe they lost traffic themselves and therefor they’re sending fewer visitors to you. This can be difficult to fix, but identifying the problem site allows you to reach out to them or do something to address it.

Finally, if the problem is organic traffic, you may need to review your organic rankings. Tools like Conductor or SEMRush allow you to monitor your rankings for a set of keywords. If your rankings start to fall out of the top positions or off the first page, it will almost always lead to lower traffic. It’s usually a sign of increased competition or a poor website strategy on your part. That means it’s time to either spend more on PPC ads or develop a search engine optimization strategy to improve your rankings as quickly as possible.

If you’re company is suffering from a drop in traffic, it’s not fun. You need to act fast. And those marketers that have the tools and know-how at their disposal to identify and fix the problem in a hurry will be better off.

How to Improve Pages per Visit

One Google Analytics metric that didn’t make it into our top 5 most important analytics metrics post last week was Pages per Visit. The reason it didn’t make it was because it got bumped for Time on Site, which was the subject of yesterday’s post.

But Pages per Visit can be important too. And it ties in closely with Time on Site. If someone visits more pages, they’re likelier spending more time.

If you’re interested in improving Pages per Visit specifically, there are things you can do on your site to help. Here are three of them:

  1. Improve Navigation. Decide what the most important pages on your site are, those that drive the most value, and make them more prominent in your navigation. Make it obvious for first time visitors to find what they’re looking for in one or two clicks. And give them a search bar in case they can’t figure out your navigation or would rather just search for something more specific. The key to improving pages per visit is to get past page one.
  2. Surface Relevant Pages. Making content recommendations is a great way to get people to visit another page on your site. If it’s a news or other content-driven website, recommend similar content that they might be interested in. If it’s an ecommerce site, recommend similar products. Put links at the bottom of each page to suggest where they should go next. Don’t leave it up to the user to figure it out.
  3. Allow Them to Dig Deeper. Don’t just have one page for each topic. Create categories with overview pages that give visitors basic information and allow them to choose their own path by clicking through for more information on each subject or category. Most news sites have a homepage with top stories, then multiple category pages with other articles under each one. Ecommerce sites have different categories with individual products on unique pages under each category. It’s not about making the visitor do more, it’s about letting them customize the experience.