Website metrics that matter and how to track them – Part 1

Website metrics that matter cover graphic

Website metrics that matter are those that give you a competitive edge. They tell you exactly if your website strategy is working or not. They put order into the sometimes crowded online marketing strategies.

But which are of the website metrics do matter? And more importantly, how do you track them properly? Those are the two main questions I am going to answer in this series articles.

Today, we’ll start with website metrics on user experience. Part two will explain how to track and understand website metrics on loading speed, and part three will cover metrics on monetizing your WordPress site.

If you’re a C-level executive or responsible for the marketing strategy of your company, this article will give you an in-depth background knowledge about website metrics and how you can leverage them for your business.

Some of these metrics are available right out of the box after connecting Google Analytics or using different third-party tools. Those mostly are the figures explained in the “Website metrics on user experience” section.

To get the data points described in “Website metrics on monetization” though, you’ll need to know how to code or have a developer in your team who can help you implement those metrics. We can certainly do that for you as well.

Start tracking website metrics that matter with Google Analytics + Google Tag Manager

To start tracking any of these website metrics on your WordPress site, I heavily recommend adding Google Tag Manager (GTM) to your site. With Google Tag Manager, you can add simple Google Analytics tracking as well as more advanced event-based tracking. Adding third-party tracking codes, e.g. from your Facebook Pixel, HubSpot or live-chat tools is possible as well.

What I like most about GTM is, that you can clearly specify when a tracking script is loaded. This helps to not bloat your site with countless code snippets you might receive from various software tools. When trying to optimize your site for loading speed, loading scripts only when absolutely needed is mandatory!

Get started with Google Tag Manager on their official site: https://tagmanager.google.com/

If you’re a bit overwhelmed with GTM, I apologize for not having written about it yet. I promise an article on GTM is in the pipeline. But for now, I can refer you to this post by WP Beginner. They’ve done an outstanding job on breaking down the initial GTM setup for you.

Website metrics on user experience

Metrics showing user behavior

Bounce rate

Google defines bounce rate as “Bounce rate is single-page sessions divided by all sessions, or the percentage of all sessions on your site in which users viewed only a single page and triggered only a single request to the Analytics server.

You can think of this metric as the percentage of website visitors who just view one page on your site, without clicking on any link. They basically leave immediately after coming to your page.

The reason for that is quite important, which is why I’m starting with this metric: those visitors did not find the information they were looking for on your page.

When coming to any website, we expect to find answers to our questions. If we don’t find anything that looks like the information we’re looking for, we leave the website. That is exactly what’s happening on your page, too.

You can check your bounce rate in Google Analytics, when going to your basic “All website data” report. By default, Google shows you the bounce rate directly on your Google Analytics Home page, which emphasizes that it’s a website metric that matters.

Bounce rate website metric for WP Mastery

This screenshot shows the bounce rate over the past 7 days for the WP Mastery home page. You can tell that it’s pretty desastreous! Only every fifth visitor coming to my home page actually clicks on a link.

Writing this article, I have long thought about sharing this metric or not. However, the online marketing world is sugar-coating so many things, I decided to share what’s true rather than hiding the ugly face of online marketing.

Analyzing a high bounce rate metric

Truth also is, that this high bounce rate can have many reasons, just like most other website metrics that matter:

  1. The design of my home page could be too confusing
  2. The missing menu bar in the top is putting people off
  3. The traffic sources driving visitors to my home page don’t match with the new business strategy

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I think it gives you a good idea of how to approach fixing a high bounce rate. In my case, I changed my business model in Q3 2018. After blogging since 2013, it’s likely the case that many backlinks do not match to the business strategy I now have – thus driving traffic to my site that doesn’t convert.

I’m counteracting this trend already by writing WordPress articles for Liquid Web and being more aware of where I’m placing backlinks. There’s obviously a whole lot I could do but I do not make the bounce rate on my home page a priority right now.

Another common reason for high bounce rates is a slow loading website. Consequently, I’ve down everything I can to make my WordPress site load fast.

Session Duration

The time your visitors spend on your website also is a website metric that matters quite a bit. It indicates how serious people are about engaging with the content on your page.

Similar to the Bounce Rate, you can access this metric directly in your Google Analytics Home page:

While my bounce rate is high, people still spend an average of 2 minutes on my home page.

Whether these 2:12 minutes are a good session duration or not highly depends on the specific goals I have for the home page on WP Mastery. For me, they might be fantastic while on your page you’d be looking for an average duration of 4 minutes or more.

When talking about what is a good average session duration, the number may vary from a site to site. In a way, if it is about session duration in Google Analytics, it simply explains how a user is interacting with your website. There are websites with the average time of 4 seconds and there are websites with an average time of 5 minutes. As per the goals and content, nothing might be wrong with either of them.

HumCommerce

You have to define for yourself which session duration you consider to be “good”, I cannot give you a benchmark here. For WP Mastery, I’m happy with people spending 2+ minutes on the home page. That’s clearly more than just skimming through the page. It shows that visitors who don’t bounce read the contents.

Pages per session

If you want to know how many pages your visitors visit on average, look at the “Pages per session” metric in the Google Analytics “Audience Overview” report.

A “session” is a collection of all interactions of a website visitor in a given timeframe. Google Analytics defaults this timeframe to 30 minutes. So, every interaction a website visitor does on your website within 30 minutes is, by default, tracked as one “session”.

If you think that 30 minutes is too long or too short for a session, Google lets you adjust session time between 1 minute and hour hours. But before you do so, Google advises to think of the following:

  1. If your site logs a user out after being inactive for a certain time.
  2. If you have mostly long-form content on your site that visitors need to spend time on to consume.
  3. In relation to campaign timing, whether your campaigns run for less than two years.

You can access your “Pages per session” metric in the “Overview” tab of your “Audience Report”:

I think this website metric definitely matters a lot. It shows how good you are with keeping visitors on your site and making them consume more of your content.

With my 2.09 pages/session on average, there’s clearly room for improvement. You could expect such a low number, however, if you look at my current blog post layout. My posts do not show a sidebar or a footer widget area. Readers can only access more content on my page by clicking on in-content links or following links in the menu.

Designing a layout as simple as this is a two-edged sword. The benefit is content that’s easy to consume without any distractions – which might also lead to better opt-in rates. The downside is, that this layout does not help boost the pages per session metrics and are likely to not increase over time if I don’t change it.

Aquisition

Lastly for this post, I want to talk about how visitors are actually finding your website online. From all website metrics that matter, the “Acquisition” report probably gives you the clearest information about getting more traffic and more results.

Let’s talk about two website metrics in the Acquisition report that you should keep an eye on: Channels and Referrals.

Please ignore the goal shown in this report. For 2019, I’ve focused on the WordPress care plans and speed optimization services.

You can access this report in Google Analytics by going to “Acquisition” -> “All Traffic” -> “Channels”.

As you can tell, Google is showing four channels overall for WP Mastery, ordered by the number of visitors they drive to my site.

There’s a pretty clear trend: my search engine marketing isn’t great. People coming to my site from organic search (i.e. Google, DuckDuckGo, Bing, Yahoo, …) have a high bounce rate and spend less than a minute on my website on average.

However, this report also shows that I should pay much more attention to increasing my referral traffic. There were only 21 visits from referrals, but those spend 10x more time on my site than traffic coming from search engines and 2x more time than traffic directly accessing my site.

What does that tell me? Well, my efforts on guest posting and podcast guesting are targeted correctly. I’m reaching the right audience. For the past weeks, I spent most time on direct cold outreach, not on getting more backlinks to my site. Unfortunately, my days only have 24h, so I have to make this trade-off as of right now. But increasing the traffic I get from referrals seems to be a good idea.

Important referral website metrics
Note that I removed some referral sources for privacy reasons.

You can examine your Referral traffic easily by going to the “Referrals” tab in your “Acquisition” report in Google Analytics. This list is quite important, as it’s showing you where my referral traffic is coming from. I kept the obvious social media referrals in this list, but removed URLs of individual sites linking back to mine. Even though these aren’t huge numbers, I like to protect myself from competitors stealing those referral URLs.

That’s it for this article, thanks for reading it! You can implement all of these metrics by simply adding Google Analytics to your site. If you need help doing that or have specific questions, I’m happy to help.

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