How to measure Web site effectiveness

<img src="http://image.baidu.com/search/http:%5C/%5C/a5.mzstatic.com%5C/us%5C/r30%5C/music71%5C/v4%5C/4f%5C/90%5C/31%5C/4f90314b-3e05-c809-5e0f-a7c12cf37db1%5C/cover170x170.jpeg" alt="check out this cool episode: http://t.” style=”max-width:410px;float:left;padding:10px 10px 10px 0px;border:0px;”>Imagine yourself in a conference room surrounded by senior management and board members when someone asks you this terrifying question…

“We spent $22,000 and 400 hours on our Web site last quarter. How has it helped our business?”

What would you say? Could you justify the expense and prove ROI?

If not, pay close attention. Learn how to measure your Web site’s effectiveness and answer that question with precision. Follow this methodology to analyze user behavior, identify strengths vs. weaknesses, and evaluate the impact of your Web site.

1. Establish Web site successcriteria

a. Review your business and marketing objectives

b. Determine specific log file data and other metrics that support each objective

c. Sample Log file data can be:

Total Web site visitors, visitors per day, individual page impressions, incomplete downloads and file requests, repeat visits, most popular pages, site entry pages, search engine phrases, Web site errors, etc.

d. Other metrics can be:

Number of Web site inquiries or leads, conversion rates, total sales volume, total sales initiated on Web, purchase amount per customer, most/least popular purchase items, opt-in/opt-out rates, repeat purchases, number of times a feature was used, go here Web site leakage points, number of calls to help desks/tech support/customer service, sales cycle time, cost of sales, etc.

2. Determine necessary tracking devices

a. Determine all tools and mechanisms needed for tracking, calculating and measuring your Web site success criteria determined in step one

b. Sample tacking devices can be:

Databases, spreadsheets, Web site lead lists, opt-in/opt-out lists, customer lists, most valuable customer lists, surveys, downloadable files/samples/reports, log-in mechanisms, security features, cookies and other tracking devices

3. Build, set up, or purchase tracking devices

(For example, this Web site uses an Access database to track and segment newsletter subscriptions, referral program inquiries, service inquiries and many other measurable business objectives. We use MS Excel to track conversion rates and Web site effectiveness.)

4. Set benchmarks

a. Record and analyze all necessary data (over a set time period)

b. Perform calculations (conversion rates and other business metrics)

c. Document benchmarks

5. Apply intelligence

a. Analyze the results and identify trends

b. Make assumptions based on the results, calculations, and identified trends

c. Identify gaps between the results, benchmarks and objectives. (Did you accomplish your objective? How close were you?)

d. Identify and relate those gaps to Web site design and strategy weaknesses

e. Identify the results that exceed your objectives (Why was it so successful? Can you apply that design technique or strategy to the weaker areas?)

6. Determine plan for gap reduction

a. Determine the monetary impact of each gap (What’s the cost of not meeting your objective?)

b. Prioritize gaps

c. Perform cost/benefit analysis (Build vs. Buy, In-house vs. Outsource)

d. Determine necessary Web site changes

e. Determine new strategies

7. Implement plan

(For example, let’s say you notice a high percentage of visitors pass through your home page and travel onto your contact form. Surprisingly, a low percentage actually “sends” information once on it. It’s now obvious that the contact form needs modifications or a new strategy. You must encourage more people to complete the form to reduce the gap and accomplish your objective.)

8. Measure results after plan implementation

a. Record and analyze all necessary data (over the same set time period)

b. Perform calculations again

c. Record results again

d. Compare results against benchmarks and objectives (Are the results better than the last cycle, but still not meeting the objective?)

e. Repeat step 5 and continue the cycle

Measuring Web site effectiveness is a constant process. You should always be striving to exceed your objectives. Once you’ve set up the tracking process, it’s easy to recognize and report success and failure. It’s also helpful when building a business case for Website investments.

The next time you’re asked about your Web site’s effectiveness, I hope you can respond with something like…

Last quarter our Web site generated 85 sales leads (up 25%), which resulted in $35,000 of new business (up 10%). Our newsletter subscriber base increased to 1,600 (up 250%), which has helped us reach our target of 18,000 total unique visitors (up 8%).

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