Brittney Sheffield / Digital Marketing / February 12th, 2014

Why "Visits" Isn't Your Most Important Metric (Yet)

Occasionally you’ll find a blog post claiming that “Visits” is among your most important website metrics. While I don’t completely disagree, I do think many people give visits too much weight too soon. Sure, it’s nice to see more people coming to the site, but what if that’s all a visitor is doing – just visiting? In the real world, we call that loitering.

The truth is, there is no quick way to estimate how many visits your site should be getting without studying your site’s metrics over time. And it’s not that visits aren’t valuable. It’s important to know how many times your site is being viewed on a regular basis. However, there are several other metrics that you should be paying more attention to before you focus heavily on visits.

We’re Here to Succeed

Success Kid

What ultimately determines whether or not your website is performing successfully? For most businesses it’s whether or not site users are converting and becoming customers. For this reason Goal Completions and Conversions should be a primary focus when it comes to your website metrics.

If the number of site conversions don’t meet your expectations or your conversion rate is dropping month over month, focus on these things first, and then turn your attention to Visits.

Goal Funnel Visualization in Google Analytics.
Goal Funnel Visualization in Google Analytics.

Goal Funnels

Goal Funnels in Google Analytics can help you diagnose what areas of your conversion process are preventing users from converting. This can be an extremely valuable tool by helping you identify how many people are entering a goal funnel but falling out after the first step for example. If you notice hang ups in your goal process you can diagnose issues with that particular step and determine what can be done to ease process for your users.

Remember to think like a user when you’re diagnosing issues. Is there a question in this step that causes users to bail? Is there a bug in your form that prevents users from finishing the process?

Once you determine the pain points of a step in your goal funnel make a fix (ideally one fix at a time) and observe your analytics to determine if the fix is improving the rate of conversions and advancing more people through the funnel.

Campaigns

Utilizing the campaigns feature in Google Analytics and tracking the progress of your campaigns can help you determine what marketing efforts you deploy are working. If you’ve never used Google Analytics Campaigns, it is a valuable tool that allows you to set up custom URLs to track marketing efforts such as emails or social media posts and determine which tactics are leading to conversions.

By observing how many people visit your site via a particular campaign and how many people converted, you can tailor your efforts so that you are spending time on the things that work. Once you’ve mastered that, you can focus on driving visits to your site via successful campaign tactics.

Site Performance

When is the last time you asked your users what they think about your site? Analytics offers valuable data, but the best feedback will always come directly from your customers – the people your site should have been built for. After all, one of the UX Truths says if you “Delight and Amaze” customers you will benefit from increased revenue, reduced costs and increased customer loyalty and market share.

Take the time to run A/B tests on key calls to action and headlines. Let your users tell you what compels them to convert. Tools like usertesting.com can help you gather actionable feedback from real people within your target audience, complete with audio and screen recordings as they complete tasks on your site. User feedback from as few as five people can help you determine exactly which areas of your site or conversion process need to be improved.

Bring on the Visits

Once you’ve optimized goal funnels, campaigns and site performance according to user feedback and you’re successfully guiding users to complete the actions you need them to complete, you’re ready to focus on visits. At that point you can start to make more concrete conclusions about what you can expect in terms of conversions if you can increase site visits.

Like this, but the opposite.
Like this, but the opposite.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

There will always be something to observe, test and change. You’re never finished when it comes to optimizing your website, so continue to ask questions and identify ways to improve your conversion rates and increase revenue your business.

What am I missing? What are your most valuable website metrics?

  • Paul Traylor

    As an Interactive Designer at 352 for over a decade I’ve read a lot of info on usability but when my wife and I look at the Google Analytics for the web site of the non-profit she runs we still sometimes argue about what’s really important. Thanks for the mind-shift Brittney 🙂