Web Analytics: Why Conversions are More Important Than Pages or Visits

Remember back in the day when you could proudly show your boss or client how many page views or visitors your site was getting? And the boss would pat you on the back, possibly giving you a bonus for a job well done?

Guess what, the bubble bursted, many years ago. Like many things in life, it all about the bottom line, the almighty dollar. Businesses don’t thrive on lookie-loos. Would Macy’s stay in business if people only window shopped, or if they came into the store, just browsed the counters and racks, then left?

I run into people all the time with a “hit counter” mentality. So many site & business owners proclaim “Our website receives thousands of hits.” Yet, whether they currently know it or not, their online business is failing. It’s failing because they are unaware of what is really happening on their sites; what their site visitors are actually doing.

I have a client who, in the past, would exude a mood based on the number of inquiries that were coming from the website. Some days, when several inquiries came in, life would be good. On others when, no inquiries were received, a fire alarm was raised, questioning whether the web-based form was working. When I looked into the situation further, I discovered that we were losing 95% of inquiries as part of the form submission process. Through tweaks to the form, we’ve made positive progress. However, without this type of business knowledge, how can you possibly know the level of success you are obtaining?

To remain relevant, whether you have a business to support, or just a personal blog, you must have access to the intelligence to understand what is happening on your website, what people are doing, are interested in. The only way to do this is via a web analytics program.

A Web Analytics program can create awareness about your site. Usability issues can be uncovered, design issues can be exposed, you name it. Recently, why looking at metrics around submitted requests for information, I determined that over 80% of request submissions were never completed. That can impact someone’s bottom line significantly.

You don’t have to be a scientist, computer geek or statistics guru to get valuable information out of a metrics program. You only need to use one and review it regularly.

There are several types of web analytics program out there:

  • Server-based, log-file analyzer: These programs that you usually install on a local computer or server process the log files from the web server to report on information from each request to the server.
  • Web-based Analytics Service: These system leverage the display of a tiny, transparent graphic on the web page to generate metrics that are sent back to the central service.

Getting Started

If you’re without many resources, you might consider using one of the several free tools available. Google Analytics is a surprisingly simple, yet robust system, and best of all, it’s free and easy setup. By signing-up and copy/pasting the code snippet on every page you want to track (your entire site), you can view information like

  • What sections/pages are most popular?
  • What time of day do most people visit your site:?
  • Where are most visitors coming from?
  • What search terms where used to find your site?
  • What sites are sending referral traffic?
  • How many conversions are taking place?
  • What is driving my conversions?
  • …and so much more.

Best Practices

  • Determine your site’s goals / KPIs. Without a purpose, there’s no need to have an online presence. If you do have a purpose, how are you going to measure how successful you are? You must determine what you want people to do, then track & measure it. In Google Analytics, you would setup conversions based on predetermined tasks, then track them. For example, below is an example of that conversion, the inquiry form mentioned above. Note that this metric shows that the majority of people who navigate to the form leave the form before actually submitting their information (92%). Not good, but thanks to the analytics system to expose the issue so it can be fixed. Anything can be viewed as a goal; request for information, requesting a brochure, downloading a file, viewing a video, etc.

Conversion funnel

  • Make sure all metrics / KPIs tracked at actionable, then take action. It’s “kool” to track a bunch of datapoints, but if you take no action on the metrics, you’re simply a geek. If you care about your site, your track metrics. If you care enough to track, then you’ll take action to improve your site.
  • Look at trends, not just a isolated timeframe. 100 form submissions might sound good, however, if you look at the past 12 months, you may notice that trends show you’re down an average of 20%. Make sure to compare the current with last quarter, last year, etc.
  • Never depend on metrics from any one system. As every system generates its metrics differently, consider using a variety of information from multiple systems to come up with guided numbers.
  • Extend your analytics to email. Do you distribute email with marketing messages or promotions? Think your limited to whatever metrics your email program provides? Guess again. You can easily tag the links to your site with attributes that Google will track. Then, you can filter reporting to just that email campaign and see how people responded.

Have any others? Have a tip or trick to share? Contribute to the discussion below…

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2 Comments

Filed under Best Practices

2 responses to “Web Analytics: Why Conversions are More Important Than Pages or Visits

  1. Hi Dennis,

    You may be interested to know after simul running GA and 9 other analytics packages on about 20 corporate sites I’ve come up with some very interesting findings. I agree that GA is good for beginners (in some ways) I have some very dark theories as to why they provide this tool tho. All will be revealed in my blog. GA has come out in our trials with an average of 25% inaccuracy and a score of 26/100 for ‘will it imporve your ebusiness ROI’. This is not the fault of their business but of their system model. Unless that changes they can’t be accurate and they can’t help serious online businesses. I’ve been focused on Business Analytics for the last 12 years and I have a mountain of results to prove my points. I’m afraid only the amateur, naive (my favourite word this week) and the inexperienced can see any gain to using GA. In short it is seriuosley damaging many busineses who seem blinded by the price! 😉 It’s not free at all… it’s very costly to any business that dedicates itself to producing revenue on line and makes business decisions acting on GA.

    PS: I like what you wrote but GA is so limited and so flawed and so I needed to speak up. GA is great for a very basic busines but nothing more. All the best Mystified.

  2. Lala

    Hi!
    You can try http://www.estimix.com – a free tool that provides a nice summary of the website performance.The estimation provided by estimix is the result of a complex analysis based on factors like: the age of the website, the demographic structure of the traffic, the countries where the website is popular and sources of the traffic.

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