How Can I Tell If My Website Is Successful?

Posted by CDG Interactive under Web Analytics , Web Strategy

If you have an ecommerce site, it's pretty easy to measure your success.Just take a look at your completed transactions. Sales holding steady or on the rise? You're doing great. Too many abandoned shopping carts? You’ve got some work to do.

"But what does success look like if I don’t have a shopping cart?"

It’s a common question we hear from educational institutions, trade associations, non-profits, and other organizations that aren’t focused on web-based sales. But never fear. You still have plenty of ways to measure your site's success.

Over the next few weeks, we'll provide a series of posts that spell out specific metrics to help determine whether your site is working as hard as it can. But let's back up a minute. Before you start to measure success, you need to define it.

What are you trying to accomplish with your site? What are your business goals? Why do you want people to come to your site, and what do you want them to do when they get there?

Once you define your goals, you'll find that your website probably falls primarily into one of these models: Ecommerce, Engagement-Based, or Informational.

Ecommerce Sites as we already noted, have the most obvious goals and metrics. You want people to buy your products and services.

Engagement-Based Sites are focused on increasing user interaction. As with sales-focused sites, these sites have transactional goals; but the transactions are non-commercial in nature. If you have an engagement-based site, you may want your users to:

  • Fill out an information request form (e.g., for lead generation)
  • Become a member
  • Sign up for a newsletter
  • Register for an event
  • Complete an application

Informational Sites attract users with their content. News sites are the purest types of informational sites. But you don't have to be CNN.com to fall into the informational model; you just need to offer valuable, unique content to your users. If your site is primarily informational, you may want your users to:

  • Subscribe to your blog
  • Download a resource
  • Read a featured article or page
  • Listen to a podcast
  • Watch a video

Don't worry if your site doesn't fit neatly into one of these models. Most non-sales sites have a blend of engagement-based and informational characteristics. But once you clarify the purpose of your site, you'll be able to determine which metrics to use to evaluate your success.

Let's use this site as an example. Obviously, CDG doesn't have an ecommerce site. You can’t purchase our services online. The purpose of our site is to generate leads (engagement) and to provide content to potential and current clients (informational). Some of the metrics we use to determine the success of our site include:

  • Completions of the Contact Us form
  • Pages per visit combined with time on page
  • Number of repeat visitors
  • Number of subscribers to the blog’s RSS feed over time
  • Ranking for key search terms

For another real-world example, let's look at the American Foundation for the Blind Senior Site. When we worked with AFB on creating this site, we established that its purpose was to serve as a practical resource for people experiencing age-related vision loss, as well as their loved ones.

We then developed a list of measurable objectives to evaluate the site's success. These objectives included:

  • increasing subscribers to the newsletter
  • increasing the number of video views
  • increasing the time users spend on the site

All of these objectives are easy to track via web analytics programs, and over time they provide a powerful indicator of the site's ongoing success.

Up next:

Ranking for Key Terms

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