Web Analytics: Have I captured the right information? Can I use the information?

Web analytics can be defined as: A process for collecting data, conducting analysis, and reporting website activity and results. Collecting the data is not the hard part as you may have already discovered. Forrester Research conducted a study in which 46% of all respondents signified that their largest obstacle to successful web analytics is figuring out how to take action from the data collected. It’s the questions after the data has been collected that haunt us: Have I captured the right information? Can I use the information? How does it add value to my company or my customer? What does this data tell me? How is this applicable to us today?

Identify Success Metrics and Purpose of Website

Your first step is to go back to the basics and indentify the purpose of your website. The metrics that will be important to your website will depend on the type of business that you are in. If you’re in the Content & Advertising business then your main success metric would be to attract as many repeat visitors to your content as you possible can and exposes them to your customers’ advertisements. Most sites can be defined by one of four website business categories: Ecommerce, Content & Advertising, Lead Generation, and Customer Support. Every site categories share similar business goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Looking at these four basic categories will help you identify your success metrics during the web analytics process.

Perhaps you own an ecommerce and you want to sell so many widgets per customer, while also taking into consideration the cost of customer acquisition and profit margin. Be sure you take the adequate amount of time identify the all the important metrics vital to your websites success. Just because you’re making money in area of your website that doesn’t mean you are not losing money in another. This happens a lot with pay per click campaigns. A lot of companies don’t realize how much money they are losing or making with these campaigns.

Common Key Performance Indicators or KPIs

The following chart is meant as a guide. As I mentioned before your company’s website will most likely need more than what is in the table to understand how successful your efforts have been. Try to keep it all as simple as possible; sometimes more is just that, more. Not every item will be applicable to your metric needs. However, it’s also a good idea to not take a cookie cutter approach to your success metrics. What works for ABC Inc. may only be 80% applicable to your business. This is illustrated with following example.

Google doesn’t charge by the CPM (cost per thousand) the industry standard; rather they decided it would be better to charge only when someone clicks on an advertisement. So instead of tracking CPM they track CTR (click through rate) because that’s how they charge their customer. So common or industry standards are not always the best KPI option.

Site Category

Success Metric

Common KPIs

Customer Support

Quickly and successfully answer customer questions and address customer problems online

  • Visits
  • Unique Visitors
  • Web Inquiries
  • Web Inquiries-per-visit (Failure Rate)
  • Percentage of Successful Support Inquiries
  • Call Center Volume (Unique Web number)
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Index (Offline)
  • File downloads

Lead Generation

Capture information about a visitor to use in future communications

  • Leads
  • Cost-per-lead
  • Conversion Rate
  • Registrations
  • Newsletter Sign-ups
  • Partner Referrals
  • Price Quotes
  • Demo Quotes
  • Collateral Downloads

Content & Advertising

Attract repeat visitors who explore the site in depth

  • Page Views
  • Visits and Unique Visitors
  • Average Page Views per Visit
  • Conversion Rate (Actions/Visit)
  • Subscriptions
  • Registrations
  • Logins
  • Cancellations


Drive site visitors to purchase products or services online

  • Revenue
  • Orders
  • Profit
  • Conversion Rate
  • Revenue-per-Visit
  • Profit-per-visit
  • Average Order Value

Table Source: Omniture, Inc.

Once the KPIs have been identified creating a dashboard reporting system would be a great next best step. A Dashboard is a compilation of all of your critical success metrics or KPIs, consolidated in one place, and is sometimes represented visually in a old analog gauge fashion (much like a speedometer) instead of charts and graphs. This allows you to have a range of numbers with colors in the background which represent danger, break even, and success zones for your carefully chosen key metrics. It can be more effective to display the direction you are going and at what rate. A dashboard should help you accomplish this.

It is imperative that the KPIs don’t waste your time, thus worthwhile KPIs will always lead to some action. This action may lead you to change the max bid on a recent keyword PPC campaign, to change the copy on your home page, or to show a particular product more in a different spot on your products page. To test the validity for any KPI you are considering is to simply ask yourself: Does this information provoke action?