At the risk of boring you to death, let’s talk some more about metrics.
I touched on this in the last blog. Actually, I’ve brought up the subject several times.
Metrics (statistics) are incredibly valuable.
BUT, only if they are the right metrics, accurately measured, and correctly interpreted.
If you’re not into baseball, my apologies in advance for the following analogy. I think you’ll get the idea anyway.
Imagine a baseball player being judged by how often he strikes out. That is called a “sub-statistic” or “sub-stat.” It measures some aspect of performance.
A more important stat is batting average. It is more useful than strikeouts because it comes closer to measuring the overall performance of the athlete. A sub-stat like strikeouts is helpful in analyzing and improving the major stats “how” and “why.”
Now imagine if he was judged by the number of marriage proposals he receives.
Or by his batting average, but it was incorrectly computed.
Or that his batting average was being judged in comparison to the averages of batters such as Ted Williams and Ty Cobb. They played under very different conditions.
Sad to say, some of the metrics that we see in internet marketing, are just about that bad.
What are the valuable metrics for a website and its marketing?
TOTAL SESSIONS (VISITS)
Most of these statistics come directly from Google Analytics, the Internet Marketer’s most valuable tool. And it’s free to boot! So if you don’t have Google Analytics running on your site, or can’t access it, Houston We Have A Problem.
No matter the site or what its purpose, the total amount of traffic to the site is important. More visitors is better than fewer.
You have to add to that, the quality of the traffic. Are these the kind of visitors you are looking for? To give a crazy extreme example (which I have seen more than once In Real Life), if you promote free giveaways, that have nothing to do with what you sell, the visitors to your site are going to be very random and mostly useless. Also, the volume obscures the useful visitors and makes it hard to analyze.
How do you tell if you are getting legit visitors? The first clue is usually the next statistic:
“Bounce Rate” is the percentage of visitors who leave the site without visiting a second page. I just love this statistic, because it can tell you so much about what is going on. There are three reasons why visitors bounce.
- They were only looking for an answer. They got it on the page they arrived on. There was no reason for them to click through to another page. Now maybe what they found is your phone number and the next action was to call you, in which case, great. But if they arrived on a blog page that was informational in nature, not so much. They found out what they wanted to know, but they weren’t looking for what you do, so not helpful.
- They were turned off by your website – its look, content or how slowly it loads.
- They just aren’t a prospect. For whatever reason they randomly arrived on your website, realized this wasn’t the site where they do free pizza giveaways, and left. We have a client who does window and door installs. You’d be amazed at the amount of traffic they get from people looking to replace a broken car window.
One of the most important, and often difficult jobs, is to tell which of these three applies. Or it can be a combination.
#1 shows up most obviously in large percentages of traffic going to internal, informational, especially blog pages, with bounce rates close to 100%.
You can identify #2 by looking at your website and seeing it is awful. Also by comparing bounce rate from different sources (such organic search, click ads and “direct” traffic – meaning they typed in your website address). If all the home page bounce rates are high, it is probably the website.
Google’s Search Console (another one of their free services) will show you the search terms used to find your site, which helps with #3.
This is a good example of how even the right statistic can take a lot of work to correctly interpret, so you know what to do. Having the right metric is just the start.
PAGES PER VISIT / TOTAL PAGE VIEWS
Once someone DOESN’T bounce off a website, the next big step is someone spending enough time on the site to take action – whether to call, fill out a contact form or whatever. That is measured by “Pages Per Visit.” We actually have an even better measure, “Non-Bounce Pages Per Visit.” I believe we invented it.
It’s the number of pages visited by someone that DOESN’T bounce, so it separates a higher or lower bounce rate out from what happens after that. It is a simple computation from information Google Analytics reports.
If you multiply Pages Per Visit by Total Sessions, you get “Total Page Views.” This was almost the first and original website metric, though they called it “hits” in those days. If you were around in those days, you remember it did include not just page views, but every file opened on the server, so it counted, for example, every image loaded. Thus giving inflated, and useless, numbers.
The modern version counts every time someone visits a page, whether for the first time or even if they return during the same session. It is an extremely valuable metric because it includes both the volume of traffic, as well as a measure of the quality of the traffic (low quality visitors bounce right away), and the quality of the website, in keeping them interested.
You could say, crudely, that the more Total Page Views, the more business your website is producing.
SEARCH ENGINE RANKINGS
We haven’t even mentioned search engine rankings yet. They aren’t the number one thing to look at, they are about #4, but people focus on them. It’s what is most visible. “I want to be number 1 on Google!” That is a worthwhile goal, if you add to that “for what search term or terms” and “searching from what location.”
If you have good rankings for search terms that get a lot of searches, and they are relevant to what you sell or offer, and a few other things, those rankings will translate into a volume of valuable visitors to your site. That’s a lot of if’s.
But the real problem begins with the fact that for any site, hundreds or thousands of different search terms are going to generate varying amounts of traffic. Ranking for one of these terms rarely translates into success all by itself. It can, but if it is that kind of a search term (one of the very highest volume search terms for your industry), by the time you are ranking well for it, probably you are already doing extremely well, ranking highly for large numbers of terms that are generating tons of traffic.
Each search term has its own value in terms of relevance and importance. And, there isn’t even such a thing as an absolute ranking as it will also depend on where someone is searching from.
Does this mean search engine rankings are useless? NO. It means if you are trying to gauge how you are doing by one or a few search engine rankings alone, you are making a big mistake. It would be like judging how well you are doing in a NASCAR race by how fast you took the 4th turn on the 18th lap. How about are you ahead of everyone else? Not even close to the same question.
This is the way you use search engine rankings: Identify the important terms. Judge the relative value of each term. Monitor the rankings in different search locations. Relate as best you can, your overall search volume to your rankings. Work to improve those which are going to give you the greatest improvement in relevant traffic to the site.
Again, a lot of work, but there are a lot of tools to help. And totally crucial to building huge, relevant volume. But a simple count of “how many #1 rankings” is about as close to useless as a stat can be.
Of course, if you have an online store, you are trying to maximize sales and profit. Sales result from relevant traffic, time spent on site, and then, very importantly, completion of the checkout process.
An amazing percentage of online sales are lost between a visitor adding something to the shopping cart and then not completing the checkout process. This can be as bad as 30 to 1 or more. So the percentage of abandoned shopping carts is huge. Efforts to reduce are often the most cost-effective way of improving the performance of an online store. You can and should track loss percentages at each checkout screen and work on improving every step of the process.
Amazon once, in its fairly early days, made $250 million dollars extra in sales in one year, after adjusting ONE step of their checkout process.
This blog is just an introduction to the subject. I could write a book on the subject. Maybe I will someday. In the meantime, this will help you avoid the worst pitfalls of internet marketing, and help you achieve success. There are also tons of online resources – but take any single source with a grain of salt.