Measuring The Success Of Your Web Site

While delivering a program to a group of small business people in New Hampshire last month, I was asked by an attendee to offer some suggestions on how to drive traffic to his web site. His company site had recently launched, and he was responsible for, “making the site successful.”

Although I agree that tracking web site traffic is important, I tried to convince him to spend less time focusing on it.

HERE’S THE OPPORTUNITY: Yahoo, Netscape, CNN and other household names drive millions of page views each month at their respective web sites (a “page view” is defined as the complete screenful of content — a “page” — that pops up each time a visitor clicks on a link within a site). Page views reflect the degree of usage of a web site, and have become the accepted measure of web site traffic. Like newspaper circulation, the more page views on a site, the more opportunities to put ads in front of people, and they are therefore closely linked to the amount of revenue that a given site can expect to generate from advertising sales.

BUT HERE’S THE PROBLEM. The top 50 web sites on the planet receive 92% of the total ad dollars spent on the Internet (source: Internet Advertising Bureau, That leaves just 8% to be shared by the rest of us. With millions of web sites out there, it’s unlikely that you will be able to generate enough traffic to build a viable business model for your site based on ad sales.

For most of us therefore, traffic should be considered a secondary measure, and not an end in itself.

Look at it this way. If you owned a clothing store, how much time would you spend counting the number of people who walked through the door each month? Although you would want to understand the relationship between foot traffic and sales, it’s sales that defines success in your business. As in this physical world example, the number of people milling around your web site doesn’t necessarily correlate with your success.

In deciding how to measure the success of a web site, we have to come back to the question of why the site was established in the first place(see The Most Important Question to Ask When Building Your Web Site ). There are many possible answers, but here are a few you might want to consider. If you want your site to. . .

* Generate Sales: Measure sales

* Create Leads: Measure requests for information

* Acquire New Customers: Measure new customers acquired

* Enhance Your Relationship With Existing Customers: Measure sign-ups to your e-newsletter, incoming emails received from visitors, comments posted on your site bulletin boards

* Reduce Operational Costs: Measure the shift in customer activity from your phone staff to your web site.

These are just a few examples, and your site may need a different definition of success. Whatever metrics you do decide to use however, make sure you are measuring whatever it is you are trying to accomplish.

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