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Web metrics the key to mapping your digital strategy

Web metrics the key to mapping your digital strategy

By Jessica Gabriel

Do you get frustrated at the end of the month when pulling your analytics and can’t make sense of the metrics that you are capturing? This frustration usually stems from the broad range of information most analytics tools provide. They give you stats on your page views, visits, time on page — the list of goes on.

It’s easy to get caught up in paying attention to isolated numbers and not see the big picture. You should ask yourself, am I measuring what is important to me? Am I achieving my goals? If you don’t know what kind of results to expect — and which questions to ask — you’ll find that you set unrealistic expectations that ultimately let you down. Or, you might get into a rut of overanalyzing independent statistics without taking into account whether they correlate with other measurements such as search or usability.

These are some steps to ensure your digital strategy is on the right track:

Establish benchmarks

Record baseline metrics of your site so you have a basis of comparison when you try to make improvements or to identify problems.

Create goals

After you establish your benchmarks, analyze and interpret what those measurements mean. Then, set the right goals for your website and be realistic. If you don’t have specific goals in mind for your site and individual content areas, you’ll be tied to simply looking at whether some numbers went up or down instead of trying to draw correlations between statistics, marketing activities and user behaviors.

  • Your first goal should be to identify what you want your audience to do
  • Your second goal should be to identify the problem(s) with your website that are not allowing your target audience to do what you want them to
  • Your third goal should be to fix the problem(s) in a measurable way

Pull the right metrics to hit/monitor your goals

Once you have thought through your goals, you should better understand your desired results and know what you want your metrics to reflect

It is important to understand that web metrics are not strictly numbers. They need to be combined with other data and analyzed in order to be useful. Consider these examples of why you need to look at your metrics in context before you draw conclusions:

  • If you have a webpage that broadcasts impending severe weather warnings for the northeastern United States and it has received a lot of unique visitors, the individual looking only at the numbers might think that was fantastic because it could imply that the information reached a lot of people and allowed them to adequately prepare for the looming weather. However, if you look at where the unique visits came from geographically and see that 90% of the visits came from California, you’ll realize the webpage isn’t performing as it should. Ideally the visits would come from those expecting the severe weather in the northeastern United States—not California.
  • If the average pages per visit decreased on your website, does that mean that that visitors found what they wanted to efficiently or did they just give up because they quickly got frustrated? Looking at the average visit duration and bounce rate may help you determine which scenario most likely occurred.

Adjust your strategy if necessary

Once metrics are pulled and analyzed, they can easily help identify and support the reasons why adjustments/enhancements need to be made to the site in order to reflect your goals.

Once you’ve completed the steps above, repeat. It’s important to realize that your digital strategy is a moving target and that pulling web metrics is a cyclical process of measuring, analyzing and executing to optimize your online presence.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user walkingsf via Creative Commons. 

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