One of the coolest things about having a website is watching its analytics. Free tools like Google Analytics make it easy to see how your website is growing, from where your visitors are coming, and how you can make targeted adjustments to improve your site. I guess it’s not unlike reverse engineering, or looking in the back of the book for answers, and then learning how to solve the problem backwards. Nowadays, there are so many stats that it’s hard to decide which are most important to analyze. So here I’ll outline some of the key website metrics that you’ll want to track.
Before we get started, let’s talk about some key website metrics to watch out for, depending on your purpose. We’re looking at the website metrics that are key no matter what kind of site you have.
The search query metric shows you for which searches your website is showing up on SERPs (search engine results pages). Let’s say you have a website for online SAT help. If in Webmaster Tools you see that the top queries are “help studying for SAT,” “SAT online materials,” etc, then you’re on the right track in terms of SEO. But if your top keywords are “Western Australia State Admin Tribunal,” then you need to make some snappy changes to right the wrong.
Impressions, Clicks, Position, and CTR
In the same vein as search queries runs this other very important metric. Impressions reveal how many times your website shows up on SERPs. One impression signifies one appearance of one of your pages. The more impressions, the more your website is popping up for search queries.
Then there’s the ‘Clicks’ metric, which shows the number of times visitors click on your page when it shows up on SERPs. You can also see the average position for each page, which describes where on a SERP it shows up.
The CTR stands for “Click-Through Rate,” and is the most useful metric in this group because it synthesizes the relationship between how often your pages show up and how often they’re clicked on. It’s calculated by dividing clicks by impressions. A higher click-through rate is of course better, and it’s natural that pages in higher positions have higher CTRs (or at least they should). You can change the meta title and description to toy with the CTR, because those are what users see when they’re browsing the endless plains of Google’s SERPs.
It’s useful to know where your website visitors are coming from, so the traffic sources metric is definitely something you should dedicate some brain tissue to. There are four principle traffic sources:
- Organic – visitors who find your site through a search
- Referral – visitors who come via links on other websites
- Paid – visitors via one of your ad campaigns
- Social – visitors through social media
Understanding your traffic sources will allow you to understand how your content is being shared, and you’ll ultimately be able to karate chop your way into increased traffic.
If traffic source is the crust, then what your visitors do once they’re at your website is the crumb. Crumb here referring to the soft interior of bread, not the negligible bits that fall away!
New vs. Returning visitors: You’ll be able to see the percentage of new and returning visitors to your website, which is a good metric for seeing how close to Kardashian’s level of celebrity you’re getting.
Bounce rate: The bounce rate is a metric that gives you the percentage of visitors that leave from the first page they arrive to without clicking elsewhere on your website. It sucks to have a high bounce rate. You’ll be able to see this metric for each individual page, so you can tweak them all to try and convince people to stay.
Session Duration: Another important metric in the behavior of visitors is how long they hang around. It’s always better to keep your visitors engaged, so if you can see how long they stay, you get an idea of how you might change things.
Behavior Flow: An incredibly important metric, the visitor flow chart shows you which pages visitors arrive to and how they behave from there. So, you can see to where they click onward, whether it’s away from your website or to another of your pages.
If you’ve been creating content to target specific keywords, you should see them on this metric. If they’re not there, maybe you should create more content, or better optimize what you already have. This is the meat of your entire website, so keeping an eye on it is paramount, even it makes you dizzy.
Finally, it’s a great idea to keep your other eye on how fast your pages are loading. Google Analytics gives you suggestions on how to improve the speed of individual pages. Your website’s speed is important for SEO, but more important for user experience, so you really don’t want to sweep this metric under the rug.
There are other website metrics that you should pay attention to, but if you can only find the time to deal with these that we’ve mentioned, your website will be in good hands.
A version of this article was originally published as 6 Key Website Metrics Every Startup Should Know by Cale Graham on September 29th, 2014.