Thursday, March 1, 2012

Quantifying Your Website's True Impact on Your Business

by Mike Fleming

Company owners and other business decision makers who handle a web marketing budget are given, whether it's their fault or not, too much website data that doesn't directly relate to an impact on the bottom line. What's wrong with this?  Only looking at visits and pageviews gives an incomplete story of how a site is truly performing for its customers and the company.  So, when it's time to decide how to invest, there's nothing concrete that gives confidence in where to put money.  To combat this problem, there needs to be a fundamental mindset shift to focusing on outcomes.

Step One: What's the Point?

The first step in this shift needs to involve laying out the ultimate reason the website exists, along with the micro-actions that signify the movement of a prospect toward that outcome (stick with 3-5 so you don't lose focus).  They could be purchases or certain behaviors.  Whatever these actions are, they are the ones that tell you if your site is successfully accomplishing its business purpose.


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If you lay these out correctly, they will mostly be outcomes that can be given an economic value.  But, be careful not to focus on just e-commerce metrics like Conversion Rate. Why? People come to your site to do activities other than just purchase something.  They research, they look for jobs, they get support, read some content, etc.  They don't need to buy something for it to be a quality visit and for you to conclude that your website did it's job. Your website did it's job if visitors were able to complete the task they came to your website to perform.

Here are some valuable metrics other than conversion rate that focus on behaviors that, if improved, directly impact the bottom line...

  1. Cart and Checkout Abandonment - This shows the people who commit to buying a product on your site and then bail.  Find out where and why people don't start the checkout process after adding to their cart and don't finish the checkout process after they start. This puts more money directly into your pocket.
  2. Free PDF Downloads - If you have a B2B site, you most likely have a longer sales cycle, and visitors to your site might typically do a lot of research before deciding to purchase. If they come to your site and consume a PDF of the information that leads to conversions, this is success.  It should be measured.
  3. Visitor Loyalty and Recency - This metrics distributes visitors in a chosen time period based upon the number of times they have visited a site and the time period between visits. If you have a content site that makes money based on page views, then improving this will directly affect your bottom line.
  4. Average Order Value - If you improve conversion rate, but your average order value is less, then you may end up with less revenue.
  5. Primary Purpose (Identify the Convertible) - Again, not all of your visitors come to your site to buy.  So, to get a true picture of how your website performs, you need to know why they come and if their purpose is satisfied.  This gives you a better picture of how your website is doing.

The challenge for you is to decide on metrics that are most important for your company to improve that will directly impact your bottom line. They are different for every business and site, so make sure you really think and consider the critical few that are most important so that you can have laser focus.

Step Two: What's It Worth?

Now that you know what metrics will tell the story of whether your website is doing it's job or not, you need to make sure that the outcomes are given economic value. If you don't, you won't be able to communicate what improving a metric will do for the business. If business owners and executives are going to disperse resources, they need to know how the efforts to improve visitor loyalty or support tickets submitted is going to affect the business in dollars and cents. If the outcomes that occur on your site are not credited with economic value, you can't do this.

Even if the behavior is not an e-commerce transaction, give it value if it increases revenue or reduces cost for the business.  I might have 10,000 e-mail subscribers and they brought $100K in revenue last year to the company.  So, each subscriber is worth $10.  Some calculations may be more complicated, so get help from offline people and data if you need to.  Then, make sure you track what happens in the online channel to the best of your ability to be able to adjust for more accuracy going forward.

After you've started measuring what's important and seeing how much it's worth, you can then start analyzing this essential and extremely valuable data.  You can segment your data and look at visitors who only completed a certain action and see where they came from, what keywords they used, other common behavior they exhibit, etc.  This is where the gold is!

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