Ian Lurie // Sep 21 2007
In internet marketing, that which is measured, improves. But it’s tough to know exactly what to measure, especially as your web site becomes just one part in a much larger campaign. And it’s even tougher to know how to measure. I always say internet marketing isn’t about the tech stuff. That’s true. But the tech stuff can still trip you up.
Here’s my ideal metrics, and how to collect them, in priority order:
Your internet marketing campaign is supposed to do something that will ultimately impact your organization – generate leads, or sales, or votes, or something similar. I’m not talking about visits, here. A visitor is great, but does nothing for you if they don’t somehow act in your favor.
So-so implementation: The simplest way to track conversions is over time. If you have no traffic reporting system in place, you can still track conversions before, during and after you launch a particular campaign, and see what difference it made. This isn’t precise, but it works.
Good implementation: Again, if you don’t have reporting in place, you can still do something to separate conversions driven by your internet marketing strategy from those that are generated elsewhere. You can have a special coupon, or a separate 800 number, or a different response code.
Best implementation: Set up a traffic reporting tool that includes conversion tracking. Google Analytics is my favorite (it’s free, but very powerful). Omniture is the Mercedes of the bunch. You can learn how to set up conversion or goal tracking on my blog, here, or from the tutorials each reporting system provider has on their sites. It’s not that hard, I promise. And, with this set-up, you’ll be able to track conversion sources (pay per click versus organic search versus e-mail, for example), which is important as you dig deeper (see below).
What are you spending to get those conversions? Better hope it’s less than they’re worth…
So-so: Take the total amount spent over a day, week or month. Divide it by the number of conversions. Then take the total amount earned over the same period, and divide it by the number of conversions. If the latter is less than the former, you have some serious thinking to do.
Good: Break it down by product. Do the same calculations, but product-by-product. That means you have to have some idea what you spent to market each product or category, though. Can you do it?
Best: Use your analytics tool. Have a look at the actual value, down to the click, of every dollar you spend. Here’s a report in Google Analytics that’s telling me the per-visit value of every click, from every source. If I click on ‘google / organic’, I’ll be able to see the value of every click from every keyword. That data is priceless.
Once you’re measuring conversion, and cost per conversion, you want to focus on the attention you’re getting. That’s a combination of visits, return visits, page views per visit and the time spent on your site by the average visitor. Note that you have to have some form of traffic reporting in place to use any of these options.
So-so: Measure unique visitors and page views per visitor. A unique visitor is any one person coming to your site in a given time period, any number of times. So, if I come to your site 34 times in one month, I’m still 1 unique visitor. More page views per unique visitor means you’re getting more attention. But this number is far from perfect, because some technologies (Flash, AJAX, etc.) aren’t measured as page views. So you may under-record page views.
Good: Measure unique visitors, page views per visitor, and time on site. By adding in time on site you get a more ‘tech-proof’ attention metric. If page views drop, but time on site climbs, you’re likely doing just fine.
Best: Measure unique visitors, page views per visitor, and time on site. But break it down by the referring source, as well. Now you’re measuring the quality of traffic from each site or ad that generated visits. In the report below, I know that Google is sending me higher-quality traffic, even though it generates fewer pages per visit than StumbleUpon, because the average Google visitor is spending over 2 minutes on my site:
4. Bounce Rate
No, I haven’t drifted into basketball. The bounce rate is the number of people that land on one page of your site, then leave without visiting any other pages. Again, you have to have some form of traffic reporting to measure this.
Best: There’s only one option, really. Pull up your ‘content’ or ‘pages’ report and look at the Bounce Rate column. In the example below, my home page is actually the worst. Gotta do something about that…
You must track errors! If you don’t, how will you know when something goes wrong?
So-so: Get a monthly or weekly report of ’404′ (also known as a page not found) errors. Your hosting provider likely has a report they can give you. You can use Google Analytics to do this by following these instructions.
Good: Get a weekly report of both 404 and ’500′ errors. A 500 error indicates that something on your site actually broke. It’s different from a 404 error, which just reports that someone tried to find something that wasn’t there in the first place.
Best: Track both 404 and 500 errors every day, or every hour. Here’s why: Let’s say a site that gets 40,000 visitors per day reviews your product. That’s good! They put a link on their site to yours. That’s good, too! But the link they put in place is incorrect. That’s bad. If you’re receiving 404 error reports every hour, then you’ll find out, and you can address the problem. If you don’t, then 40,000 people may pass you by, and you’ll never know. Ouch.
6. Onsite Search Terms
Track the phrases folks type into your onsite search tool. If you can focus your site on the top 10% or so of these phrases, you’ll see an immediate lift in conversion rates.
Best: Only one way to do this – through your traffic reporting tool. You may be able to get a report from the search tool itself, but it’s unlikely. You can see my tutorial on measuring onsite search traffic here.
7. Bailout Rates
If you have a shopping cart or another multiple-form process, you need to know when and where folks give up.
Best: Again, the only easy way to do this is through your traffic reporting software. The exact procedure varies. Look for a report called something like ‘goal funnel reporting’ or ‘cart abandonment’ and you’re in the right place. You’ll need to set it up, defining each step in the process. The end result will look like this:
There are, of course, lots of other metrics. These are the ones I think are essential, though.
What would you add to the list?
Ian Lurie is founder and CEO of Portent Inc., an internet marketing agency that has provided internet marketing, including PPC, SEO, social and analytics services, since 1995. Read More