Imagine you and I are friends, and you’d just seen me coming out of a restaurant. We greet each other, and you ask me what I had for dinner.
“Oh, about 900 calories.”
Not very descriptive, is it? Usually when people describe their dinners, they might describe the ethnicity of the food, or the ingredients, the main dish or the dessert. Yet my answer told you nothing more than I consumed something. Was it three candy bars? Meatloaf with carrots?
This is similar to the metrics website owners sometimes use to determine the popularity of websites. Heck, we might even be using these metrics to gauge how successful our own sites are!
So what are the worst offenders when it comes to site metrics? Here are my top three, and some better metrics you should be using instead.
1. Page Views
When asked to measure website performance, people often cite the number of page views. This is merely a single load on a Web page. Page views have long been a popular metric to cite, because if you knew how many page views a site had, you knew how many potential ad impressions a website could generate.
Who’s visiting your site? Why are they visiting it? Did they buy something? These are the real questions you should be getting answers to. A number of page views doesn’t tell you anything. If you’re going to measure site traffic, you might instead try unique visitors. This tells you how many people visited your site. But why stop there? If you’re a business with a website, you’re probably more interested in some actual, bottom-line data that affects your business. You might track leads, site registrations, or the best metric possible—sales.
Don’t get caught up in the popularity contest. Instead focus on the meat and potatoes of your online business.
2. Email Subscribers
If you’re doing any email marketing with your site—and you really should be—then you’ll probably be pretty interested in the size of your email list. While size might be an indicator of overall health and growth of your list, it really doesn’t mean anything if nobody opens your email. Instead of focusing on list size, focus on the engagement of your list. Opens, clicks and sales are the lifeblood of any list, and mean infinitely more than the size of the list.
For example, consider two scenarios: List A has 1,000 subscribers; 50 percent open the email and 10 percent buy a product; that’s 50 sales. List B has 10,000 subscribers; 5 percent open the email and 5 percent buy the product, that’s 25 sales. Even though list A is a fraction the size of list B, it still doubles the productivity.
When it comes to email lists, health of the list and targeting are the most important factors. It doesn’t matter how many people you have in your list; it matters how many engaged subscribers you have.
3. Site Registrations
I co-founded a social site, and I can tell you without a doubt that your members are not created equal. If your site has memberships, you’ll find that every single person who signs up for your site has a different reason for doing so. Some just want to try the service, and some even sign up by accident. And then there are your actual members, the people who log in daily and are active members of your community.
Yet there’s no metric that differentiates the first group (probably only logged in once) with the last group (actual members). There’s just the generic term “members” (or “registrations” or “users”). Note: I’m talking about free registrations, not paid registrations. Those are very different and absolutely, most definitely should be tracked.
Instead of focusing on general numbers, focus on engagement. How many comments, shares, forum posts or other action items are being made by members? How many are made per member? These are great metrics to track for getting a snapshot of how vibrant and active your community is.
It’s amazing to me that even when reputable online publications describe hot startups, you’ll still see a random number followed by the term “active members,” which doesn’t mean much. Here’s the hard and fast rule with any metric: Does it provide actionable insight to my bottom line? If not, don’t worry about it, or at least track it with a grain of salt, and start tracking those that do.
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