Evaluating Website Performance

06.13 by Cameron Martel

How Your Small Business Can Measure the Effectiveness of Its Website

In This Post

I had coffee this morning with an old friend and chatted digital marketing and websites. He reminded me that most business owners don’t know how to evaluate whether or not their website is doings its job.

Considering the investment a website can be, it’s important to be able to measure its performance.

When I was an owner in Neatfreak, a local cleaning company, the website was the cornerstone of our marketing efforts. If it wasn’t doing its job, all our other marketing would have suffered as well.

Inspired by this morning’s conversation, I decided to put together a guide that the typical small business owner can use to evaluate whether or not their website is doing its job.

This post will help you answer two questions:

  1. How effective is my website at generating new leads/customers?
  2. Where can my website improve to drive a stronger ROI?

Before digging into tools or breaking out the metrics, I want to call out how I view the role the website plays for most small businesses.

Your Website as a Sales Tool

Websites fulfill a very different function today than they did when they first started to be used by business. Back in the early 2000’s, most small businesses were content with a website that was essentially a glorified sales brochure.

Things are very different today. For most small businesses, all their marketing is done online, and the website is the anchor that ties it all together.

Improvements in user experience have come about by learning from how visitors engage with a webpage. It is not uncommon for a small business website to have a content-rich blog, expansive service pages that guide a visitor through the qualification process, and in-depth information about competitive advantages or value-adds.

Today, in the age of the micro-moment, it’s simply not enough to have a website- it needs to be something that empowers your sales efforts, represents your brand, and elevates customer perceptions.

When Building Your Website, Consider What Your Goals for Your Visitors Are

When a visitor reaches SimplifiedSEO.com, I have a few goals that I want the website to accomplish:

  • First, I want our website to educate our visitors. The SEO industry has a lot of misconceptions and “all talkers”, and more than any other thing, I want visitors to be able to consume the content we have here and to leave having found value in it.
  • Next, I want visitors to quickly receive and understand our core value proposition. Our value proposition is a defining part of our brand. We don’t want to be known as a large SEO agency (because we aren’t); we want to be known as a focused, personalized SEO agency that takes on select clients. Conveying that message is critical, especially when qualifying traffic and generating leads.
  • Finally, I want to direct our visitors to complete an action. Whether that’s submitting a quote request or checking out a new blog post, each page has a specific objective that I’m measuring.

Our goals for our website may differ from yours, and that’s totally fine. What matters most is that you build your website with your goals in mind.

Read More About Website Objectives

A Thought-Out Approach Creates a Better Website… Every Time

The days of simply having a website being “good enough” are over. As the world continues to move towards an ever-expansive digital footprint, the value your website brings to your business is only going to go up.

A well thought out website doesn’t need to be expensive, or pretty, or even anything beyond “basic but functional”. More than any other singular component, the strategy behind the website is what will influence its success the most.

Four Important Points to Remember When Building Your Website

  1. Function over form, always – Never sacrifice website function/usability for sake of design. An average looking but well thought out website will perform better than a pretty but poorly considered website every single time.
  2. Invest in content over flash – Similar to the last point, high-quality content is critical in properly qualifying visitors and gaining traction on Google.
  3. Always direct your users – Whether you want them to click a button, download a file, or submit their e-mail address, ensure that your website directs visitors towards the action you want them to complete. In sales, this is called asking for the sale.
  4. Build an experience that will that provide what your users are looking for – Consider how you use the internet. When you Google something and land on a website that doesn’t meet your needs, do you hunt through the website to find the answer you’re looking for, or do you just click the “back” button?  What do you think your users will do?

Defining Success

With that context around the elements that make a website effective from a marketing perspective, we can get down to what we’re here to discuss: determining if your website is “working” or not.

For most small businesses, success comes down to: more leads, and more sales. Sound about right? If so, you’re probably wanting to know how your website is influencing that process. Is it helping, or hurting? If you don’t know, how can you find out for sure?

If there’s one area where the web shines, it’s in metrics. The level of visibility we have over our website and its performance is something that we simply can’t get in other advertising mediums.

After all, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever really know how many people saw your bus bench ad vs called it. How would you measure that effectively? Even call tracking only tells you half the story…

What Are the Metrics That Matter?

It’s easy to get lost in a sea of acronyms and sound bites. For the typical small business owner, the amount of information (and misinformation) out there is overwhelming.

Let’s keep things simple. Yes, there are a million and one different metrics you could use to measure success, but chances are you’re not too concerned about 999,997 of them.

Metrics Small Business Owners Should Care About

First, install Google Analytics if you haven’t already – this free toolset provides comprehensive data that is reliable enough that you can use it to base decisions on.

Within analytics, these are the main metrics you’ll want to concern yourself with:

  • Sessions

    Whenever a user visits your website, this counts as a session. The more sessions your website receives, the more popular it is.

  • Bounce Rate %

    Measured from 0-100%, a high bounce rate typically indicates that your website isn’t doing a good job addressing user needs.

  • Time on Site

    The longer someone stays on your website, the more valuable they likely find it.

  • Organic Search Acquisition

    This metric, expressed as sessions, measures how many visits your website received from the search engines. This is what SEO aims to influence.

You can dive deep into website performance using Google Analytics, but unless you’re interested in learning the finer points of it, you are probably better served to focus on the metrics that matter.

By paying attention to your sessions, bounce rate, time on site, and organic performance, you are able to maintain a high-level view of how the website is performing.

The number of sessions your website receives tells you how many people came to your website. The objective of most digital marketing plays is to send more people to the website. Offline marketing will influence how many sessions your website receives as well. Aggressive radio, display, or TV campaigns can drive a lot of traffic.

All of that will be reflected in the number of sessions your website receives.

The bounce rate helps give perspective on the perceived page/website value. A high bounce rate – meaning that people are landing on your website and not doing anything before they leave – can help indicate that your content isn’t doing its job.

I assess the bounce rate in conjunction with organic search sessions to evaluate page quality.

Bounce rate, on its own, doesn’t tell the full story. Some pages may have higher bounce rates (north of 75%) because of the type of page they are, while other pages may have a low bounce rate (lower than 45%) but perform poorly otherwise.

Different traffic sources will also influence bounce rate. Traffic from a search engine tends to do/engage more than traffic from reddit or Facebook.

Time on site is another indicator of quality: if the average time on site is under a minute, it paints a pretty convincing picture that the website isn’t doing its job effectively. After all, how much information can you consume in under a minute?

Finally, organic search sessions give you a pulse on how well your website is performing in the search engines, and which pages are the most effective. The goal of any small business SEO program is to increase organic traffic.

Sessions from organic search tend to be higher quality than traffic from social media sources. Since SEO is typically my focus, I pay the most attention to what that type of traffic tells me.

Metrics Influence Leads, Even if You Can’t Directly Measure That (Yet)

Consider these points:

  • A low session count means that people aren’t seeing your website – No sessions = no traffic = no sales.
  • A high bounce rate suggests visitors don’t find your website or content valuable – If you fail to deliver value, why would someone contact you? Do you reach out to businesses that you don’t resonate with?
  • A low time on site also suggests that you have a content quality problem – If you started reading this post at the top, chances are you’re at least three minutes in. It takes time to consume content and make decisions. If your time on site is under a minute, it suggests that most people are leaving before they do that.
  • Low organic search acquisition means that people aren’t finding you effectively on Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Organic traffic is high-quality, qualified, and free– get your share!

What About Lead Generation & Sales?

“Sure, the above metrics matter, but they aren’t what pays my bills. What about leads and sales?” Every small business owner

I hear you. Boy, do I ever.

Here’s the thing: you can’t measure leads (such as phone calls/e-mail submissions) without relying on third-party tracking (which I’m going to get to in a moment). However, I can say with confidence that a website with strong foundational elements – like the ones listed above – are far more likely to generate phone calls/e-mails than a website that performs poorly.

Measuring Website Lead Generation and Sales Performance

Of course, measuring how many calls and e-mails your website sends you is important. It’s also something that is surprisingly affordable and easy to do.

Introducing CallRail: an Inexpensive Way to Measure Website Performance

I love it when a tool delivers tons of value, and considering how powerful and easy to use CallRail is, it definitely falls into that category.  It’s one of the tools that we use to gain perspective on the effectiveness of our websites.

Once you install the CallRail script (or WordPress plugin) on your website, CallRail will swap out your company phone number with a call forwarding number. When a user dials the call forwarding number, it is routed to your business number (the experience is seamless for the caller). This allows you to measure how many calls are being generated from your website.

CallRail is pretty intelligent, too:

  • You can measure all website calls, or can setup CallRail to only track visitors that came from a paid advertising program.
  • CallRail can notify you when someone submits an e-mail submission via a form.
  • CallRail can provide basic information (how many calls you got and when you got them), or can provide in-depth reporting (Zip code, talk time, etc.) and even complete call recording.

For most small businesses, CallRail’s introductory package (currently priced at $30 USD/mo) is all they need. $30 (or $40 CAD) to gain incredible insight into your marketing and sales performance is a great deal.

Combined With Google Analytics, CallRail Helps You Evaluate How Well Your Website is Doing Its Job

With CallRail installed, you can now assess your website conversion rate.

Take the number of desired actions (conversions), divide by the number of sessions generated over a period of time, and you have your conversion rate.

If you define a conversion as a phone call or e-mail submission, as most small businesses do, CallRail will greatly improve the accuracy of this metric.

Conversion rate: expressed as a percentage, this metric measures the number of successful completed actions (AKA, conversions) against total website traffic.

Website conversion rates are expressed as a percentage. If you received 500 sessions last month and generated a total of 20 new leads (10 calls and 10 e-mails, for example), your website conversion rate is 4%.

Most small business owners over-estimate how effective their website is at generating conversions.

How well does your website convert? 50%? 25%? 5%?

If you’re like most business owners, that number is actually somewhere around 4%. That means that 4 out of every 100 visitors converts. Surprised?

Of course, it’s difficult to improve the conversion rate of your website if you don’t know what it is. Using Google Analytics and CallRail, you now have a much better understanding of how well your website is performing.

Wrapping This Article (Essay?) Up: Four Points to Remember

Okay, so what have I covered in the prior 2,100+ words?

  • Your Website Should Be a Sales Tool

    And to do that effectively, it needs to be built with sales in mind.

  • Use Industry Tools to Measure Important Metrics

    Speculation has no place in digital marketing. We have the ability to know for sure, so leverage that.

  • Measure Lead Generation Using Call & E-mail Tracking

    Take the guesswork out of lead/sales performance. CallRail is one of many tools available to empower you.

  • Make Decisions Based on Data, Not Assumptions

    In 2017 there is no need to assume anything. Get informed and ensure decisions regarding website design and performance are rooted in the data you collect.

In Guides, Small Business

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