Last month I pointed out a few of the ways you can use Google analytics, or other web analytics tools, to gain a better understanding of your audience. The next step is to keep track of changes to audience and audience behavior. Your audience can change over time, or change behaviors as they adapt to new technology. Adjustments to your website can affect your visitor behavior as well.
One great way to keep track of these elements without getting bogged down in all of the data in a web analytics tool is to set goals around online Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These are simply measurable data points that give insight into your online success. Some common examples are:
- Number of visitors
- Visit frequency
- Time spent on site
- Page views per visitor
- Percent of new visits and percent of repeat visits
- Percent of visits from your target geography
- Mailing list signups
- Event registrations
Sometimes you will want to make your KPIs more granular. Rather than simply “donations” you might choose to track general donations and donations to a special fun separately, giving you 2 different donation KPIs.
You will always want to focus on more than KPI, because one data point will never tell you the whole picture. However, too many will just be overwhelming. Typically, you’ll want to get started with 4-6 KPIs.
For each data point you will want to ask yourself “How does this affect my organization’s success?” If there is a clear connection, for example “an increase in visitors means more people are reading about this issue we want to generate awareness around”, then you have found a good metric. Sometimes you might find your answer references another data point, like “more visitors means more people will sign up for our event.” In that case you should skip straight to the important metric and use event signups as a KPI instead.
Finally, create a process to track your KPIs, starting with your initial benchmark and then focusing on any movements up and down over time. Monthly reporting is sufficient for most organizations, although some prefer weekly. Another alternative is to track before and after snapshots when any major events happen, such as changes to the website, an acquisition campaign, or a direct mail drop intended to drive traffic to the website.
Industry benchmarks around your KPIs can be helpful for understanding what you need to improve, but the best insight comes from looking at the changes over time of your own KPIs, both in the short term and over quarters and years.