I am responsible for multiple websites. Some of these are my own properties, and other are client sites. Rarely do I have the luxury of building a website from the ground up — usually I am dealt a website and a budget (low to non-existent) and have to figure out how to reach my goals with these tools and constraints. I end up using a lot of different tools to measure my websites’ effectiveness and help me make the sites better.
No website is ever “complete.” It needs to be a living entity, changing with the times, updating to match your needs and the needs of the customer. Technology evolves as well — today’s state-of-the-art architecture is hopelessly out-of-date tomorrow. Website analytics evolves too.
When you have a small marketing department or you are the sole proprietor, frequently the website gets low priority even when you know it is your primary face to the world. “If it ain’t broke…” becomes your watchword. Then something is broke or stops working. So you apply a fix and keep going. And you apply another fix and keep going. Until things really break down. Suddenly, you are in a fire fight. And a completely new site seems to be your only option.
But what if things haven’t gotten to that critical a juncture yet? What if you know your site could be better but you don’t know where to start?
Have you thought about getting a website review? A website analysis ranges from HubSpot’s well-known free Website Grader tool, which primarily seems to aggregate measures from elsewhere — Hello Alexa rank — to multiple page professional reports, often offered for free as a way to sell website development services. (One I received recently was almost 40 pages long — a lot of it obviously template and not specific to my website — and it included a hard sell call with the “consultant’.)
Another service is available from Web Page Advisor — a Boston-area company that provides a more full featured report that gives you a turnkey report specific to your site and at a deeper level than Website Grader. (Full-disclosure, as Mass Innovation Nights, I get lots of offers of freebies for our site. I rarely take advantage of them from a time point of view but am always willing to listen when someone does ALL THE WORK FOR ME.) The report told us some things we knew as well as some things we didn’t. (MIN is a work in progress with a new website due so a lot of the changes needed just got added to the new site “to do” list.) Web Page Advisor provided us with an easy-to-understand (even for me, a decidedly non-tech participant in the discussion) report that was broken down in to five areas, all starting with “F'”:
- Fundamentally Sound
Then there are the ongoing analytics tools. Everyone I talk to talks about Google Analytics, the free service that has become the industry standard. You put code on your site and whammo, instant stats…actually, usually about 3 hours or so behind but you get a good sense of things and it will integrate with your Google Adwords campaigns. I’ve never been quite able to figure out how to work the goals and the funnels in GA, at least to my satisfaction. But I do get good basic data and the ability to track uniques, time on site, referrals, content, etc. Look at where people exit, where your bounce rates are high or our of whack with the rest of the website for places where you can make your website better.
Earlier this year I started using Lytiks, a tool from local company, Conversion Innovations. (Again, full disclosure, a friend of MIN, but I have gone on to pay for the upgraded service for a client site because of the value I found in offering the sales team access to specific visit data and the ability to track in-coming phone calls. I’ll also be a guest on an upcoming segment of their Internet show 20 on five.) I also have used Lytiks to make specific performance improvements to the site — moving a “contact us” link to more than double the number of calls placed to the company in a month. (Helpful hint: go for the monthly consulting contract, at least for a few months, if this is new to you, and even if it isn’t. It’s worth it to have a pro review your site’s numbers.)
You can also “track” your website’s traffic from external sources like Alexa, Compete and Quantcast (among others.) I use these mostly as comparisons and in a relative manner because they are create estimates from external data. If I know my website’s traffic because I use Google Analytics, I can tell approximately how far off Compete or Alexa are in their estimate of my competition’s site traffic.
And, don’t forget your ability to measure your social media activity. URL shortener tools like bit.ly allow you to create links and track their usage from an account. You can also track everything from your Twitter followers to your Youtube views and look at your website analytics tools for a view to how often they act as referrers and how effective they are.
In other words, know your stats, and use them.