How do you know if your website is successful? The only way to answer this question is to measure website performance. Tools like Google Analytics offer a lot of different metrics out of the box, so the amount of data you can collect can easily become overwhelming. Without clear guidance, choosing the right metrics to get meaningful insights can be hard.
In this guide, I want to help you figure out which items move the needle by discussing essential metrics that will help you understand how your website performs from a user experience point of view. With this knowledge, you’ll see your data analysis really impact your website’s performance.
7 Essential Metrics to Track on Your Website
- Number of unique visitors.
- Number of returning visitors.
- Traffic sources.
- Top-performing pages.
- Bounce rate.
- Exit pages.
- Conversion rate.
1. Number of Unique Visitors
This metric will tell you the number of people who visited your website during a specific time period (i.e., the last 24 hours, the last week, the last month, etc.). The number of unique visitors is the first metric you should collect because it will help you understand the size of your audience. If you don’t have a significant number of unique visitors, tracking other metrics doesn’t make much sense because your analysis will likely be biased. In that case, first and foremost, you need to attract more visitors who represent your target audience. Although no universally accepted formula exists to allow you to calculate the exact number of unique visitors you need, you can calculate the number of visitors in proportion to the size of your company or content producers.
Once you’ve done that, a number of unique visitors will help you answer two crucial questions:
- Do I need to introduce any changes to my server infrastructure? The number of unique visitors will help you predict the load for your network infrastructure. For example, suppose you know that you have 10,000 unique visitors every day. In that case, you can calculate how much computational power you need to allocate to offer the best possible performance for every visitor.
- Did my last advertising campaign perform well? If you plan to run an ad campaign to acquire new visitors, you can measure the number of uniques before and after the campaign. The difference between the two values will tell you how many people were attracted to your website, and this will help you understand whether your campaign was successful or not.
2. Number of Returning Visitors
Most businesses strive for high user retention. In website terms, the people who visit your website regularly are called returning visitors. If the number of returning visitors is growing, that indicates that your website provides content that your audience finds valuable. This metric works well when you conduct retrospective analysis, which involves changing your website and tracking how those changes affect your target audience. Suppose you run a news website and want to introduce a new content section to see how it affects your audience. If you see that the number of returning visitors increased, this may clearly indicate that your visitors enjoy this new direction.
3. Traffic Sources
Knowing the number of visitors to your site is essential, but so too is figuring out where those visitors come from. Users may land on your site from search engines (e.g., Google, Yahoo, Bing), social networks (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, etc.), email newsletters, or any web page that links to your website. When you track how your traffic sources perform you will understand which channels work more effectively for you (i.e. more visitors, better engagement, etc).
You should evaluate traffic sources in combination with the average session time. That way, you’ll see the level of user engagement per traffic source. For example, if you see that visitors that come from your email newsletter spend an average of five minutes on your website but those from search engines spend only a couple of minutes, your email newsletter almost certainly drives better engagement.
4. Top-Performing Pages
People visit websites for content. So, knowing where people spend most of their time on your site will tell you what sort of content they find valuable. The top five or 10 performing web pages will help you understand what you should offer your visitors. This information is especially beneficial for content-heavy websites like online magazines and blogs because it allows you to produce more material that will generate better engagement.
5. Bounce Rate
Bouncing happens when a person visits your website and immediately clicks the Back button. The bounce rate tells you the percentage of visitors who didn't find what they were looking for. Getting a zero bounce rate is nearly impossible because people can land on your website accidentally (i.e., from search engine results). But reducing the bounce rate should be a top priority for every site owner because every lost visitor is a lost opportunity.
You need to figure out what makes people leave your website, and it’s much easier to understand that when you measure bounce rate in the context of a particular traffic source. For example, when people land on your website after clicking on an advertising banner, they expect to find a solution to a specific problem. If they cannot find the solution, they leave. Knowing how many visitors bounced can help you adjust the text on your advertising or reconsider the places where you want to show it by changing your advertising partners.
6. Exit Pages
Exit pages are the pages where people are abandoning your website. This concept might sound similar to bounce rate, but they’re two different things. In contrast with bounce rate, people visit multiple pages prior to the exit page. For instance, confirmation pages that you see on an e-commerce website when you submit an order naturally have a high exit rate since they act as an end of the conversion funnel.
Having a high exit rate on other pages might be a strong indicator that something is wrong with that part of your website, though. For example, if people abandon the page with shipping methods during checkout, this may clearly indicate that the shipping price is too high for them or they didn’t find a suitable shipping method to their destination. Your next step should be to introduce a change (i.e., add a new shipping method) and measure if this alteration had a positive impact on user behaviour. If fewer visitors drop on this step, then you’ve solved the problem.
7. Conversion Rate
Conversion rate is the percentage of visitors who achieved a specific goal on your website. Depending on the nature of your website, the goal may be completing a purchase (for an e-commerce website), filling out a contact form (for a corporate website), or any other action that is directly related to your business goal.
Conversion rate can tell you how successful your website is from a business point of view. A low conversion rate with high numbers of unique visitors probably means that you’re attracting the wrong audience. Similarly, a sudden conversion rate drop can indicate that something isn't working properly in your conversion funnel (i.e., a new sale proposal recently posted on your website isn’t working for your potential customers).
“Measure Twice, Cut Once”
Metrics can help you understand what users do on your website. All the metrics covered in this article are actionable — they will help you create a solid picture of your target audience and use this information to provide better design decisions. When selecting other metrics, always ask yourself, “How will I use this data to make changes?” This simple question will help you avoid situations of collecting data that you cannot put into actionable design decisions.