Measuring What Matters On Your Web Site

When I started as an Internet marketing strategist back in 1993, I was usually asked, "Jim, can we really make money online?"

I would lead clients through their Web awakening, explaining that the Internet is a communication tool and could be used to contact customers from awareness (advertising) to education (marketing) to transactions (sales) and solving problems (customer service).

During the next few years, the question was, "Jim, how do we make our Web site better?" My immediate response was, "Better at what? What are you trying to accomplish?"

I countered their blank stares with a list of the wide variety of things they might achieve: increase brand awareness, qualify prospects, increase sales, lower costs, open new territories, improve customer relations and so forth. The only problem was that nobody can do all of those things at once. You have to prioritize.

That invariably kicked off days of political discussions exposing me as a corporate therapist who used the Internet as the conversation starter. Many Web sites were created out of pure joy that a Web site could be created. Many were created because the competition had a site. Many were created because the CEO read an in-flight magazine or had a son struggling to find a career in cyberspace.

Now that I am focused on Web analytics, my clients ask, "Jim, what should we measure?" My response is, "That depends. What are you trying to accomplish?" and we're right back to discussions about goals and priorities.

If you want to get the most out of your Web site, you must know what success looks like. Business goals drive Web site goals. What is your most important business goal at the moment? You goal du jour?

When he started as the director of customer knowledge management and analytics for eBusiness and customer operations at Hewlett-Packard, Seth Romanow started with a charter:Collect and analyze customer behavior data and recommend ways to:

1) Increase direct revenue;

2) Enhance marketing ROI; and

3) Improve online customer satisfaction.

These are the three basic, tried and true goals of any business. Make more money. Spend less doing it. Make customers happier. From a top-down perspective, this is as lean as it gets.

Once you can get everybody in the organization to agree on goals, you can quickly identify which Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) best reveal whether you are getting closer to your stated goal in the time frame required.

Suppose your goal of the moment is to bring in more qualified leads. That's a good start, but it's not enough. You must identify what makes a lead qualified and determine how many more leads you wish by when.

If everybody agrees that a lead is considered qualified if they are willing to attend a Webinar, then you have a very specific KPI you can work with. With a goal of 20% more Webinar participants per month, to be achieved by the end of the next quarter, you are ready to partition your goal into metrics.

This method of parsing goals onto metrics can be applied to any business or even government Web site. Do you want more sales? More constituents filing their forms online? More people to become aware of your position? Start with the big goals and work your way down.

Company strategists at William Hill know how to get down to brass tacks. They too, wanted to raise revenue, lower costs and create happier, more loyal customers. Worthy goals for an online gambling establishment (in the U.K., where it's legal). Then they set about identifying ways to get it done.

They noticed that only a small percentage of people on their site were viewing additional content -- content that was expensive to create and maintain. But they also noticed that those visitors represented an unusually high percent of their revenue. Rather that toss out that content, they decided to draw attention to it by emailing the rest of their customers. The result? Increased revenue, higher customer satisfaction, with an almost immeasurable increase in costs.

Having a clear goal is the not only the first step in Web site success, it is the only step. Yes, you can make money online -- as long as you have clear goals to lead the way toward a specific destination.

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