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Making Sense of Web Metrics

organization_952_1164256449rounded600Not long after launching your marketing plan, you’ll find yourself facing a sea of data: number of hits, top keywords, unique visitors, search engine referrals. But what do all these mean? Does getting 10,000 hits yesterday mean your business is off the ground? Are you getting enough search engine traffic? So what if 10% of your visitors are using Macs?

This is where web metrics come in. Metrics allow you to make sense of the numbers and use them to improve your marketing strategy. But to really make it work for you, you need to know which numbers really matter. Web analyst Rich Page goes through all the basic metrics and identifies eight are really worth your time.

Average time spent (ATS): ATS can be a reliable indicator of site quality, but not all the time. When people spend a long time on your site, they’re either enjoying it or having a hard time navigating. Combining it with exit pages and bounce rates (discussed below) can give you a clearer picture of your site’s performance.

Exit pages: Some pages, such as links or sales confirmation, are natural exit sites. But if a vital page like your product listing ranks high as an exit page, it’s a sign that your content needs some work.

Bounce rate: This indicates the number of people who exit your site as soon as they reach it. Pay more attention to the bounce rates on paid search keywords. Page recommends cutting out keywords with a bounce rate of 40% or more.

Entrance pages: Not everyone who visits your site arrives through your home page. In fact, the home page often accounts for a small percentage of site hits — the bulk of your traffic usually comes from search engines. So it’s usually a waste of time to vamp up your home page in hopes of making a good first impression. Find out which of your pages draw more traffic and invest more time in improving them instead.

Repeat visits: People who willingly return to your site are much more relevant than those who see it for the first time. Take note of the proportion between first-time visits and repeat visits; the higher the repeat visits rank, the better your website probably is. If you’re not getting enough, analyze other web metrics to see which pages need improvement.

Internal search keywords: Experts agree that this is one of the most revealing yet most ignored statistics. Internal searches let you know exactly what people want to see on your website, so you can tailor your content accordingly. For instance, if people search your book blog for film reviews, offering them on the side may get you a better ATS or more repeat visits.

Conversion rate: Sales conversion is pretty much a given for someone with basic marketing knowledge. But beyond overall sales, you want to look into particular pages that yield the highest conversion rates. Page suggests setting up a “funnel” for every conversion, so that you know where people last looked before they made the transaction. It’s also a good secondary indicator of relevant traffic sources.

Feed subscribers: Feeds are more specific to blog sites, but with most businesses going into corporate blogging, it’s gaining ground as a relevant web metric. Sign up to a service like Feedburner so you can keep track of how many people are subscribing to your blog.

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