Website ROI: Getting Key Performance Indicators Right

You got a project on a web site redesign and somewhere along all the project planning deliverables you reach the point when the key performance indicators (KPIs) are to be defined. Where do you start and what would you pick up on the way to the ultimate metrics portfolio?

The main question to ask is why you are doing that? What are the top 3-5 goals you want to achieve? What do you visualize your customers and other visitors do while engaging with your content? Provided that you have a pretty clear segmentation map and are in tune with your customers and industry, it would be quite a simple exercise to go through. Add from 3 to 7 discussions with the top stakeholders, be it a small company or a mega corporation, and you are good with the prep work to move to “the main dish”.

While perusing through your notes, Googling the terms and scanning the top 5 web strategy sites or blogs for that matter, you might get lucky to be enlightened by the following folks that made it all simple for us:

1) Avinash Kaushik at his blog and published work suggests to use an always referenced conversion rate but take careful look at what info it might provide. Even a slight move by a point in the conversion rate might translate into millions of profit for a business. At the same time, obsessing with this metric might become a short-term focused strategy that takes away from the quality of a user experience. Moreover, it also focuses only on small portion of the site visitors, that might not be even interested in all that content and interactivity. What about the rest…that stumble upon purposefully or not? You lose them. Thus, he advises to use an alternative metric: “task completion rate by primary purpose”. Thus, you start driving your efforts to develop a site that helps all potential users/visitors to accomplish their “missions” .

2) Jason Burby with ClickZ, identifies the KPIs as ” indicators that help organizations achieve organizational goals through the definition and measurement of progress”. He also suggests that the KPI include organizational goals to make them applicable to your business. They must help your business to reach success. They must be measurable over time and agreed upon the organization. The latter piece is so true, never try to skip that one!

3) Various experts, including Aurelie Pols state “unique visitors” to be the best web analytic metric as it allows to be more accurate in defining visitors’ behavior. You know they came once and viewed your content. “Cookies never lie”.

4) Cost per Customer/Lead Acquired helps you to test if your customers are worth the cost of their acquisition through this new/re-established channel- similar to the customer lifetime value. I think it is one of the best KPI’s so far and directly relates to the bottom line.

5) Cost per Order allows you to determine the cost-effectiveness of an ad that you placed outside to drive that visitor to your site. I like this metric as it helps to track and measure the return on the external placements in a more relevant way than clickhroughs and CPC.

Overall, I think it is useful to pick top 5 metrics that are most relevant and more accurate to your business activities and customer interactions and stick to them to gain consistent insights overtime. It goes without saying that they also should be interpreted into user experience/user behavior patterns and trends to make impact on your further marketing investments.