7 Website Analytics That Matter Most
By Britt Bischoff on October 13, 2015 in Digital Marketing
If you have a Google Analytics account or web metric reporting of any kind, you probably know how easy it is to feel overwhelmed by all the data provided. Sure, there’s lots of information, but is all of it meaningful? And how can you tell if your website is successful? In this post, I’ve outlined 7 universal key performance indicators, their benchmarks, and how to use them to turn your analytics reports into an analytics story you can attribute meaningful and actionable information to.
There are many other metrics that you should be using for in-depth analysis, but for now I recommend starting with these for evaluating initial site performance. Please note, average based metrics can be very dangerous. For meaningful analytics, segmentation is necessary, and I encourage you to view the following metrics by traffic source.
The number of visits and visitors to your website, reported as sessions and users. Most often referencing the number of visits (sessions) to your site.
Traffic, specifically number of visits, is a fundamental measurement of site reach and growth. It’s helpful at gauging how well your marketing efforts are working, and helps to give a great overall snapshot of site performance. You spend all this time figuring out how to get traffic to your website, but the key is to make sure it’s the right traffic.
How much traffic should your website get?
That depends. Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic number or range for website visits.
Site goals based on a number or range of visits should not be used as an indication of success. Your only goal should be to do better than you did this time last year.
When setting your blog or website traffic goals, start by asking yourself why you want to grow your traffic to begin with and what you intend to do for that audience. Your goal shouldn’t be to grow the number of visits simply for the sake of growth or based on arbitrary numbers, but to grow a dedicated audience that supports your digital business goals. Although I don’t recommend setting goals based on traffic, it is important to know healthy ranges to expect and how you stack up to other similar sites in your industry and region. For a general benchmark, you can find comparisons in the benchmarking report in Google Analytics.
At a general site level, there’s very little value in measuring / pursuing goals in overall site traffic without context from traffic channels and location (if you’re a regionally based business). Additionally, although I do recommend monitoring your month over month traffic performance to look for trends and changes, this isn’t an accurate measure of success due to seasonal traffic fluctuations and other factors. The best measurement of success when it comes to traffic is a year over year performance comparison and growth progression.
2. Bounce Rate
The percentage of single-page site visits.
At the site level, bounce rate is useful as a general signal of user engagement and the state of content quality, and helps to identify when problems exist on your site. However, bounce rate is very dependent on the site, and unreliable on its own, and must be used alongside other engagement metrics such as average session duration and pages per visit.
What’s a good bounce rate?
This will honestly depend, as there’s no hard and fast rule. 50% is an industry indicator, but this number should always be taken into consideration with other metrics, the nature of your business and industry. I often see bounce rates that range from 25% - 65% across different industries.
An abnormally high bounce rate is generally a warning that people are leaving your site, and aren’t willing to stick around to explore the rest of your website.
Bounce rate is often unfairly flagged as a ‘bad’ metric, but it’s not inherently good or bad. It simply states how often site visits stay on the same page from their initial entry. Standard bounce rate (in Google Analytics) has nothing to do with time on site or how quickly a user leaves the site, so if you’re judging the success of your site on a high bounce rate, you’re missing key information about how users are actually interacting. For instance, consider a user that clicked on your site from a search result, spent 5 minutes reading the content on your landing page, then leaves or completes an off-site call to action. In Google Analytics, that’s technically considered a bounce, even though it lead to an interaction.
A number of factors can be responsible for high bounce rates. Anything from the ease of navigation, slow page loads, poor aesthetics, low or irrelevant quality content. Once you can identify there’s an issue, dig a little further with segmentation to determine why your visitors are leaving.
3. Pages / Session
An average of the number of pages viewed during a visit on your site.
Pages per session broadly gauges how compelling users find your content and the ease of access.
How many pages per session should I aim for?
The unofficial industry standard is 2 pages per session.
For most sites, the goal is keep users engaged, nurture their interest, and get them to take the next step. More pages per session often indicates that your users are highly engaged and willing to explore more of your site. This is an excellent way of measuring interest and curiosity about your company. Use the behavior user flow reports to follow their click trail.
Additionally, while some would suggest that the greater the number of pages per session, the better, this isn’t always the case. Again, I must stress the importance of considering metrics together to avoid making inaccurate judgements. Consider the average time on site and bounce rate to piece together a better idea of what’s happening at large. A site with a high number of pages per session, low session duration, and a high bounce rate can indicate page flipping behavior due to irrelevant content, poor accessibility, or disinterest. Similarly, a site struggling with low number of pages per session coupled with low session duration, and a high bounce rate can indicate low quality content or user engagement. However, it’s best to always consider your goals. In some instances, this might be exactly what you want for your marketing campaign.
4. Average Session Duration
The average length of all site visits combined.
Alongside bounce rate and pages per session, average session duration contributes to the user engagement story by illustrating how long users stay on your site. At the site level, it’s a helpful metric for indicating engagement the true value of your site content (time is money, right?).
What should your average time on site be?
The industry standard is 2 - 3 minutes.
What can happen in two minutes? Two minutes might not seem like much time, but it’s enough time for users to read content and interact with your website. And for this reason, longer sessions indicate more engaged visits. Time is the most precious resource we have as human beings, and this number shows us how much of their time users are willing to sacrifice for your content.
However, because this number is an average based metric, we must be careful at trusting this number without further context.This metric is most helpful when looking at segmented views, traffic sources and in consideration with other engagement metrics.
The quantifiable measurement of expected or desired site outcomes, reported as goal completions and conversion rate.
When evaluating overall initial site performance, conversion rate tells us about the effectiveness of your site and marketing efforts. Used with other engagement metrics, goals also contribute to your site’s analytics story by highlighting value as they relate to your business goals.
What is a good conversion rate?
Industry standard conversion rate is 2%
Goal completions and conversion rate allow us to determine the events on your site that are most important to your business and should be connected in some way to your company’s objectives.
Not to be confused with events, conversions are the outcomes mentioned in the definition and signify the reason why your site exists. Although events are incredibly important to measuring engagement, events are could be classified as secondary site interactions that are not tied to business objectives.
This benchmark varies by industry and will completely depend your business goals and the the intention of your site. Generally, a lower than average conversion rate may indicate issues with accessibility, calls to actions, low quality content, and general disinterest. However, if your site engagement is suffering, it’s likely the case that your conversion rate will suffer as well.
Because this is one of the few digital marketing metrics that reflects your business goals most, conversions are truly most powerful in a segmented view to identify areas on the site that hold the greatest amount of value and where improvement is needed most.
6. Percent of New Sessions
An average percentage of first time visits to your site.
This metric measures how many of your site visits are from first-time visitors or returning visitors, and indicates the efficacy of your marketing efforts at driving new site traffic. However, this is an important KPI to for measuring the ‘stickiness’ of your site, or whether your site is worthy of multiple visits from users.
What percentage is ideal for new sessions?
No benchmark. I often see a range of 45 - 75%, but maybe the 80/20 rule works for you.
A good site will have a healthy mix of new and returning site visitors, and this mix will vary depending on your site goals, business and industry. If your goal is to generate leads from your site, you’ll want a healthy number of returning visits as it often takes multiple interactions with your site for users to convert.
However, don’t get so lost in acquiring new visits that you neglect your existing audience base. Additionally, it’s important to note that not ALL site visitors are worthy of retention.
7. Click Through Rate
The percentage of clicks resulting from a search impression.
CTR is important for paid advertising and organic listings alike. However, in this post, I’m referring specifically to CTR from organic search.
Click through rate (CTR) helps us understand how well your site is performing from search engine results pages as it measures how many people click your site’s listings. This metric indicates how compelling and relevant your search results are, and the impact of your improvements to search results.
What is a good click through rate?:
The industry average CTR for all sites is 2%. The average CTR will vary depending on the nature of the query and your industry.
Click through rate is a powerful metric that allows us to evaluate how well your indexed search result is driving users to click. If your site has a lower than average click through rate, it may indicate that your indexed results may need some work. This could be due to poor keyword targeting, irrelevent content for the user’s search, or you’re missing compelling descriptions or rich snippets.
Although rankings and impressions are important to understand to monitor overall growth in search results, click through rate offers a better measure of performance from organic search. When paired with bounce rate and other engagement metrics, this metric is also incredibly helpful for identifying issues content efficacy and user engagement. If you’d like to get into more detail, I suggest looking at CTR of the top queries for which your site appeared in search in Google Search Console.
Because branded searches typically result in higher CTR than non-branded search, I would add that a true measure of effective marketing using click through rate would be to monitor CTR by non-branded search queries only.
What metric should I use to determine if my site is successful?
All of them. Not any one metric should be used alone to indicate performance success. Each metric presents only a piece of the puzzle, and the full situation can only truly be understood when used together. If you were to focus on only one metric, instead of letting them lend to the story together, you’re missing the bigger picture. This can lead to some dangerous judgments and decisions.
There are hundreds of ranking factors for which Google considers your website, and this post by no means even grazes measurement of these factors. However, as stated before, the 7 areas highlighted above simply represent the overarching scope of your site performance and initial engagement with your site. Once you understand your general site metrics, by traffic source, I encourage you to dig further into behavior and page level analysis. Further, always consider your goals when reviewing these metrics, as this provides context for your site’s analytics story.
What questions about analytics or reporting metrics do you have? Drop us a line in the comments below: