Attendees learned the basics of search metrics at the recent “Measuring Search Success” session at the Toronto Search Engine Strategies conference, moderated by Chris Sherman, of Search Engine Watch. What should you be counting on your Web site? Read on.
Jeffrey Eisenberg stole the show on this panel. The CEO of FutureNow, a Web consultancy, delivered a message chock full of sage advice. Jeffrey listed the four basic objectives of a customer-facing Web site:
- Commerce: Increase orders and order size.
- Media: Attract eyeballs to increase ad impressions and subscriptions.
- Self Service: Decrease service costs.
- Lead Generation: Improve lead identification while lowering acquisition costs.
Once you’ve figured out what your site is about, you need to come to terms with the basic fact that all metrics programs can measure is a click—but they can measure every click that every visitor makes, which comprises a wealth of information. Jeffrey posits that people follow clicks the way a bloodhound follows a scent, citing that 63% of visitors abandon within two pages because they “lose the scent” (OneStat 3/8/04).
So you you need to align your site to meet searchers’ goals—you can’t just look at end goals (buying your consulting service), but at micro actions (downloading a white paper). Jeffrey discussed several ways to measure conversion rates:
- Overall: Total conversions divided by total visits
- Over time: When it covers multiple visits
- By scenario: Visitors that start a scenario vs. those that complete it
(This last conversion rate, scenario conversion rate, is what I speak of as Web conversion rate in the latest Biznology newsletter.)
Jeffrey left us with some critical questions to ponder:
- What pages are the ones where people come to one page on your site and then leave (single access pages)
- Which are your top exit pages? Some pages are good exit pages (an order confirmation page) and some are bad (your home page).
- How do you define your metrics?
- What are your benchmarks?
- How are the metrics trending? Trends are far more important than absolutes—which can be inaccurate.
Good measurements, Jeffrey argues, come with definitions that everyone agrees to, expectations for what a good or bad number is, a simple method of presentation (so you can quickly see what is going wrong, for example), and a set of agreed-to actions when things do go wrong. These qualities allow your business to respond quickly and appropriately to the metrics that you collect, so that the problem can be addressed. Your measurements, however, depend on your Web site’s goals. Retailers may track sales conversions and shopping cart abandonment whereas media sites might track subscriber conversions and site traffic. A lead generation site might track “Contact Us” forms filled out or phone calls from leads.
Laura Thieme of Web marketing consultancy Bizresearch challenged listeners on whether they are retaining their most valuable customers, based on ROI. Laura says that just 19% of search marketers perform any ROI analysis at all, although success rates vary widely from customer to customer. Even if they want to analyze the data, Laura further explained, they may not have the analytical skills required to do so.
Jeffrey also emphasized the need to track ROI, but added that your best benchmark is your own site yesterday, not your competitors today. Jeffrey’s bottom line is that Web analytics can pay off—and they pay off as fast as your company can make the changes pointed to by your metrics. The faster you can make changes, the quicker your payback for your metrics investment.