Every web initiative requires constant improvement. But it’s impossible to improve something unless you can measure it. This post outlines an approach to using metrics effectively to improve web initiatives.
There are dozens (or hundreds) of potential web metrics you can track. Web metrics programs, like Google Analytics or Ominture, provide page after page of numbers describing visitors, page views, time on site, and many other metrics.
Most organizations implement a standard web metrics program, print out periodic reports, and admire the many pages of information. But complex reports such as these are not useful by themselves. There needs to be a broader metrics framework in place.
A useful approach to web metrics involves these five steps:
1) Identify and prioritize measurable strategic objectives: What does your organization want to achieve (overall — not just tied to the web site), and how do you measure progress? Some of these objectives will be tied to web initiatives.
2) Identify and prioritize available metrics: Your organization probably has many existing sources of metrics: web analytics programs, e-mail newsletter programs, customer database programs — these and other programs provide user data. It is useful to list all of the metrics available (probably in a spreadsheet) and match them to the strategic objectives you identified previously.
3) Establish baselines, targets, and comparators: Numbers by themselves are not useful. For each of the key metrics tied to organization objectives, you should ask “Where are we now?” “Where do we want to be?” “By when?” “What are our competitors’ numbers?”
4) Decide who in the organization should see which metrics: Various teams (web team, communications, development, marketing, IT, Board of Directors, etc.) will require different sets of metrics at different frequencies. For example, communications might require a detailed monthly report, while the Board needs a simplified annual report.
5) Decide the best format: You can provide metrics in periodic printed reports, a dashboard, e-mail updates, or other formats.
While it is appropriate to capture a large number of metrics, it is important to be clear in reporting the 5-10 that matter most. Organization decisions about strategic direction, budgets, staffing, and other issues will benefit from the timely delivery of prioritized, appropriate web metrics.