I wrote a blog post recently explaining why every marketer needs Google Analytics. The fundamental reason is so they can use the data it collects and the reports it generates to assess whether their marketing efforts and website strategy is effective. But in order to assess whether what you are doing is successful you have to establish a goal and set objectives you can measure.
In all the years I have been building websites and working with site owners and marketers, I have been amazed at how often organizations are unclear about their website goals. Most create a site with the intention of telling the world about their organization, product, or service and gaining as much traffic as possible. When I ask “what do you want people to do on your site” or “how do you measure success” the answers can often be vague. Growing website traffic is important but knowing what you want visitors to do is even more so.
Knowing the goal(s) of your site is key to figuring out whether it is creating value for your organization or just eating up a lot of time and money. Goals should be aligned with your business objectives. You should then determine key performance indicators – clear and measurable outcomes that will lead to your goal.
Let me give you an example of a goal. You may want to generate business leads from your site. Having a visitor fill out a form so you can contact them is a good way to do that. So an objective is to increase the number of leads generated by that form. You can measure this by looking to see how many users reach the “form completion” or “thank you” page in Google Analytics.
Generating leads is a clear goal and acquiring more form completions is a concrete objective you can measure in Google Analytics. You measure success by tallying the number of form completion pages reached (completions) and the ratio of how many times someone found the form page to the number of times they made it to the completion page (completion rate.) You can chart these metrics over time to see if the they are rising or falling. You can tie shifts in these rates to your marketing efforts and changes made to the site.
Looking over these shifts you can start asking questions like:
- Do we see an increase in traffic when we are running our campaigns?
- Is this traffic filling out our form?
- Which tactic is driving traffic that is more likely to fill out our form?
- How many of the completions turned into business?
- Is the business gained worth the cost to acquire? (ROI)
- How many users are reaching the form but not completing it?
- Is there a reason, like too many steps, that’s stopping them from hitting submit?
- Is there an incentive for users to complete the form?
- If not, should there be?
- What should the incentive be?
- Does one incentive work better than another?
- If not, should there be?
- Are users taking other actions instead of completing the form?
- What are these actions?
- How do we change site navigation or page content to direct them toward completion?
- Is there a technical reason users are not reaching the form completion page?
- Is there a better way to reach our audience?
I often find that figuring out the goal of a web site is the last step taken when building it. It should be the first. Knowing what you want users to do on your site and what will constitute success should determine how a site is laid out and what content is included. Additionally it should guide how and where you market your site and to whom.
A website may actually have dozens of goals, sometimes hundreds or thousands. Regardless of what your goals are, you need to identify and set clear objectives to reach them in order to know if your site is worth the time, energy and cost you or your clients are putting into building and maintaining it.
Recently we created a set of Google Analytics training sessions. These sessions are as much about thinking about goals and objectives and knowing why you are looking at web site traffic as they are about learning the terminology and technical details of the Google Analytics service. You can find more information about our Google Analytics training course here.