Getting visitors to your website and converting them (or someone in their social circles) into paying customers is the name of the game. And using website performance metrics to your advantage can help you win it.
There are measurable things about your website that you can monitor, test, and improve to attract visitors and get them to the customer finish line.
Search engine indexing
At their most basic level search engines work by scanning web pages and adding the key words from those pages into a giant, searchable, index.
- How often are the search engines scanning your site?
- What pages are being recorded into the search index?
- What pages are being excluded from the search index?
These tools will expose any problems Google and Bing are having collecting information from your site, so that you can get to work and fix them.
Once search engines index your site, you need them to display your site to potential customers.
But, with millions of web pages out there talking about the very same thing, how on Earth will anyone find your site?
When selecting search results, search engines rate possible matches by:
- current information
To increase the odds that a page from your site will be selected for search results, your site needs to feature content that’s current and relevant to the search topic and engaging for readers.
Quality, value-added content that’s regularly updated is the path to search engine success.
Measuring search results
Obviously there’s “rank:” Where your web page appears in the list of results for a given search.
If you’re running Google Webmaster Tools (and you should!), determining your rank is easy. Just go to Search Traffic: Search Queries to get a list of searches people used to find your site, along with the average position where your site appeared on the search result page.
What you won’t see is the searches that DIDN’T go to your site.
But rank isn’t as simple as it seems.
The major search engines now personalize search results by using information from social networks to weigh the relevance of specific results.
If you use a web traffic measurement service like Google Analytics on your site, you can measure Bounce Rate.
Bounce Rate describes how many visitors get to your site and then immediately leave.
A high bounce rate usually means that visitors are able to find your site, but that your content doesn’t deliver on their expectations.
Are you seeing high bounce rates?
It’s often a sign that your content isn’t relevant and engaging, or that visitors were unable to continue due to poor site design.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that if your site isn’t working, visitors won’t convert.
So, check to see if your web hosting company offers site monitoring.
A search for “uptime monitoring service” will give you hundreds of options. Most of these services have a limited free version that will give you basic coverage. There’s even a fun LifeHacker article on how to roll your own monitoring service using Google Docs.
Page load time
Page Load Time is the average amount of time it takes for a web page to load into a visitor’s browser after they click on a link.
Studies show that reducing page load time decreases bounce rate and improves visitor experience.
Don’t believe me?
- 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. (Akamai, 2009)
- Companies see a 12% increase in conversions on mobile devices by reducing page load time to 2 seconds. (Akamai, 2012)
- Walmart found that for 1 second of load time improvement they experienced up to a 2% increase in conversions and many other benefits. (Walmart, 2012)
You can use these tools to measure your page load time:
The methods for reducing page load time are often very technical, but it’s important to know your baseline and continually monitor this metric.
Big budget sites can afford to run eye-tracking studies and other tests to see how well visitors actually use a website.
But you can glean some of that same information by looking at what visitors click on and how they navigate through your site.
Services like Crazy Egg can generate “heat maps” of where users click.
Google Analytics also offers many ways to look at your traffic and gain understanding of visitor behavior.
As discussed in our previous article, MEASURING ONLINE PERFORMANCE: CAMPAIGNS, all of these efforts to measure, test, and improve your site are made to convert visitors into customers.
Are you making headway?
In order to measure this, you should specify certain pages on your site as “goals.”
These goals usually include visitors reaching a confirmation page after submitting a form or reaching the checkout page of an online store.
Once you set up your goals, Google Analytics can tease out all kinds of information about how your visitors arrive (or more importantly, don’t arrive) at those goals.
And, with that information in your back pocket, you can determine what’s working and what’s not–and plot a course to conversion success.
Using website performance metrics to sell more (and giggle all the way to the bank)
A digital strategy that relies on “gut feeling” is doomed to fail. So track key website performance metrics and let the numbers guide you in deciding where to spend your efforts to create the most effective web site.
Turn those visitors into fans and customers!