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How To Really Tell If Your Website Is Effective

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While website traffic is important, it only tells one part of your website’s story. Engagement metrics help you go beyond visitor volume to explore visitor value.

The other day a client asked me, what seemed like, a straightforward question: “Is our website traffic good?”

This question comes up a lot and it makes sense—everyone wants to know how their website compares with the competition. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all response.

For example, with this particular client, the other brands in their industry have massive marketing budgets, have been in the marketplace longer, and have a larger audience, hence, a larger pool of people to attract to their website.

Comparing the two is like comparing apples to oranges.

While traffic (or “sessions” as it’s called in Google Analytics) is an important metric, at the end of the day, it’s not about getting the most visitors—it’s about getting the most qualified visitors.

If your target market is, say, Whatcom County realtors, then there are only so many people who are going to like, follow, and engage with your brand online. Inflating your numbers with unqualified people, such as a software developer from Singapore, obviously won’t help your brand.

A better question to ask is: “How engaged are my website visitors?”

Instead of focusing on visitor volume, focus on visitor value, since traffic only tells one part of your website’s story. To track your website’s effectiveness, monitor these metrics, in addition to traffic:

Bounce rate: This is the percentage of people who come to your website and immediately leave. The average bounce rate is around 40% to 60%; if your bounce rate exceeds 60%, look for optimization opportunities, such as making your website mobile-friendly, reducing page-load speed, or simplifying the calls-to-action so it’s clear what your visitors should do. Also, make sure your off-site creative, like an email or ad, is consistent with your website; it’s jarring for the users to be told one thing in an ad and another once they land on your website.

Pro-tip: If you get a sudden spike in traffic with a 100% bounce rate, it’s most likely a bot. Make sure you, or your IT team, filter bot traffic, so you can view real data.

Conversions/conversion rate: Conversions, called “goals” in Google Analytics, help you monitor key website actions, such as making a purchase, signing up for a program or event, subscribing to an email newsletter, or viewing a certain amount of pages. You can customize your goals and assign a numeric value to track low-, medium-, and high-value goals. Conversions are the reason you have a website in the first place—whether you’re using it to sell a product or educate your audience, if traffic increases but conversions don’t, investigate whether you’re sending the right people to your website and making it as simple as possible for them to convert.

Average time on site: This metric is relative to the website content’s type and length. For example, the average time on a page should be different for a 2,000-word blog post compared with a 200-word web page. One of the best ways to increase this metric is with videos—adding highly-engaging media that takes a certain length of time to consume (like a video) helps boost your audience’s visit time.

Pages per session: Similar to average time on site, this metric is a good indicator of how engaging and relevant your website content is to your audience. A good starting point is to shoot for an average of at least two pages (e.g., your homepage, plus another page); this shows your visitor was interested enough to click through to another web page.

If your website is performing well, you should see a gradual increase in qualified traffic; if your traffic increases but engagement doesn’t, you’re most likely sending unqualified traffic to your website, which won’t help your brand.

Pro tip: All of these metrics also impact another important piece of the marketing puzzle—your search-engine ranking. High website engagement rates tell Google you have quality content, which helps boost your SEO.

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