I was talking to a potential client the other day. Her website was ranking well in the search engines and she could not work out why she was not getting the number of enquiries she expected with the rankings she had. My first question to her was how was she analysing the success of her website. Her answer, was she wasn’t apart from checking her search rankings.
Without delving into her site and reviewing what is going on sadly she will never know what is working and what is not. And more importantly what steps she could take to improve the overall performance of her website.
Defining Website Success
The first step in measuring your website success is to determine how you define that success. Generally this should be based on the goals you set when you first started planning the site. This is one of the first and most important steps when building your website. What do you want your website to do for your business? Is your goal to sell online, collect leads, inform people or to promote your brand? You may have more than one goal for your site. These goals could include:
- Selling online?
- Collecting targeted leads?
- Providing information about your products and services?
- Branding yourself?
- Providing customer support?
- Building a community?
- Receiving advertising revenue?
- Reducing printing and mail out costs?
Once you have defined these goals you can then put measures in place to evaluate how successfully they are being achieved. For example if a goal of your website is to reduce print and mail out costs in your business you can review how many people are downloading material from your website and compare it to how many mail outs you were sending out before you had it on your site. You can also compare your printing and mail costs from before and after the material was offered on your site. These results will help you to measure the success of your goal to reduce printing and mail out costs.
Tools to Measure Your Success
The goals you set for your site will help determine the best methods of measuring your success. As a starting point the following tools can help you analyse your website traffic and make adjustments to improve on your success.
Checking Your Search Engine Rankings
Many people will deem their website a success if they have high search engine rankings, as did my prospective client above. Unfortunately this alone is not a good measurement – all the number one rankings in the world mean nothing if they don’t convert into sales, leads or other website activity. Having said that a good presence in the search engines is a vital piece of the website success puzzle and a good start to your online success.
You can monitor your search engine rankings manually by typing your main keyword phrases directly into the search engines. Alternatively there are a number of automated rankings checkers. Here’s a list of some of the more popular:
Please note that automated rankings checkers are against the terms of some search engines – so be sure to check that what you are doing is ok before going ahead.
As I said above having high search engine rankings is no guarantee of success however it’s a start. When you combine this with analysing your website traffic (see Web Analytics below) you will have a good idea which keywords are performing and which need to be re-evaluated.
One of the great bonuses of having a website is there are many ways for you to measure and track the visitors to your site. You are able to find out many things including:
- How many people visit your website.
- How many pages of your site they look at.
- How long they are on your website.
- The most popular/least popular page of your website.
- Where your visitors come from eg search engine, another website, etc.
- What your most popular keyword phrases are and which need improving.
- What country/state/location your visitors come from.
- What web browser they use.
- What operating system they are on.
- And so on.
This data can then be used to help you gauge the success of your website and pinpoint what areas of your site need improving.
Links to your website can provide you a number of benefits:
- If you have links on topical, relevant websites they can sent highly targeted traffic to your website.
- They can help boost your search engine rankings. Many search engines use the number of relevant links to your website as a measure of the importance of your website. The more relevant links your website has the higher your site will rank in the search engines.
Building links to your website can be a time consuming task but one that is definitely worth doing. The following tools can help you monitor the links to your website:
The Search Engine’s Webmaster Tools
Both Google and Yahoo! offer a set of webmaster tools that can help you evaluate the performance of your website.
Google’s Webmaster Tools can help you monitor and track a variety of performance indicators in the one spot. They include:
- How often your website is crawled by their spider and what, if any, errors are found.
- How many, and what pages, are in their search index.
- How many links there are to your website.
- The top 20 search queries in which your site appeared.
- The top clicked queries.
Google Webmaster Tools is quite advanced but it’s a great way to see how their search engine views your website. And let’s face it, success in Google is pretty vital to most websites.
Like Google’s Webmaster Tools, Yahoo!’s Site Explorer helps you monitor and track the performance of your site in Yahoo! Features include:
- All the pages that are indexed by Yahoo!
- How many links they see to your site.
- The last time the Yahoo! spider crawled your website.
Yahoo! is not as popular as Google however using both sets of tools to monitor your site will give you a clearer picture of how the search engines view your website.
Putting It All Together
All these tools on their own don’t mean a lot, it’s when you put them together and analyse the results that you start to reap the real rewards. Here are just some of the ways you can measure the success of your website using the tools above:
- You can see where your visitors are coming from and use that data to make sure the content they see is targeted towards them.
- You can see how many people are visiting your website and the number of visitors that convert into customers – giving you a conversion rate.
- You can work out which keywords best convert visitors into customers and work on improving your rankings for those words to increase traffic and hence conversions.
- You can see which pages are your least successful – for example those that have a high rate of people leaving – and then make changes to improve that figure. You can then track and measure each change to work out what works and what doesn’t.
- You can measure response rates to online campaigns, such as placing an offer on another site or in a newsletter.
- You can record how many people are downloading documents and compare it to the number you are posting out to see how much you are saving in postage over time.
- You can create 2 different ads and monitor the response rates to both – this type of A/B Testing is easy to set-up and monitor online.
These are just a few of the ways you can measure the success of your website. Without this data you are running your website in the dark and most likely leaving dollars on the table in the process. Start implementing the above and make adjustments to your website according to what you see and watch your online success increase dramatically.