Demystifying Web Data
Most communicators have had at least some exposure to web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics. However, website data tends to be a confusing data source for many marketing and communications professionals.
The good news for marketers is that unlike the social platforms, website analytics have more standardization across tools and vendors, which means regardless of which tool you decide to use to gather website data, the outputs will look very similar. Page views, visits, unique visitors, or Average Time on Site are simple examples of standard metrics across web analytics tools. The bad news is that, as with social media, a lot of website data is available to collect and report.
Where should marketers begin? Whatever tool you select, the vendor will likely offer a training program, but regardless, the web metrics you decide to measure should line up with the behaviors you are trying to change. If you keep your eye on measurable goals, picking the right metrics in a sea of data should not be a challenge, as you’ve already done the preparation work to easily weed out the metrics that aren’t relevant to your initiative. So, what are some metrics that communicators typically use? You can do a number of things to track the effectiveness of a website and how it interrelates with other channels. Suffice it to say, though, that the following metrics are the most popular metrics communicators are using today:
Visits—Depending on the platform in question, visits is the number of times people have been on your site. Visits are considered to be unique in that if I come to your page, click a few links, and then leave, that is one visit. If I return to your site quickly, that is considered part of the same session.
Unique page views—This is the number of visits during which a specified page(s) was viewed once.
Bounce rate—Bounce rate is expressed as a percentage and is the number of visits in which a person left a site from the initial entry page.
Pages per visit—This is probably the easiest metric to understand. It is simply the number of pages a person viewed during a single session. It is important to understand how many pages and which pages a person visited during a session to see which content resonated.
Traffic sources—This is not one metric, per se, but knowing the traffic sources is helpful in matching up content from social channels to website presence.
Conversion—Conversion is probably the most controversial metric because it is one that does not apply to all situations. In some cases, companies are using digital media channels to build awareness. In those instances, conversions in the traditional sense do not apply. If you are tracking conversion, it is the number of times someone has taken an action on your page—or a dollar figure expressing the amount spent on the page. If a visitor downloads a whitepaper, buys something from your site, or even signs up for coupons via email, the action is counted as a conversion. Whatever it is, conversion is an important metric for communicators to track. It is a clear way to demonstrate the value of a program. We recommend redefining conversion for your programs to mean any relevant outcome or behavior that a user takes through clicks on your website rather than a conversion being a click that directly correlates to a lead or a sale. In the earlier example, conversions of visitors who clicked and consumed a whitepaper would be highly relevant if you’re a marketer trying to reach and inform a relevant B2B audience.