Making the Numbers Work
An introduction to Internet metrics tracking
By Kevin Lee and Dave Pasternack
No matter what you want your online presence to do for your business, you won't know if it's doing its job unless you look at the numbers. Without numbers, you're dealing in guesswork. In a best-case scenario, guesswork leaves out the information you need to get the most mileage out of your online presence. Worst case, it means pumping money into an inefficient online campaign.
Here are some of the methodologies used to create the best tracking system, an explanation of how tracking works in the online world today, and examples of some of the problems businesses face when tracking online metrics.
What Do You Track?
Your site is built around conversions. A conversion is the thing you want your site to accomplish for you, such as delivering leads, generating phone calls, driving offline store visits, or anything else. Usually, it will be built around one central conversion or conversion group, such as shopping cart checkout, and possibly several less important conversions, such as signing up for a mailer. If you're running an online magazine, your central conversion might be creating paid subscriptions; a secondary conversion might be using the "e-mail this article to a friend" option. Put most broadly, your conversion goals are the answer to the question, "What is my site for?"
Your conversion rate—the ratio of the number of conversions to the number of times visitors interact with your site—is what tells you how successful your Web presence is. A high conversion rate means a well-functioning site; a poor conversion rate means your site needs to be improved, or in extreme cases, entirely reworked.
Every visitor comes to your site from a different place, at a slightly different time of day, from a different source, and takes her own path through your site to arrive at a conversion. When you add up all the factors that lead to a conversion, that number could be in the millions—and each factor is important in its own way. To keep track of all of these factors, the success or failure of each step along the way needs to be measured. That means starting with your Web site's offsite "sphere." This includes: