I was going to entitle this post “The Tale of the Tape” because it deals with measurements more than anything else. Measurements, web analytics and what they mean. Let me state right at the top that much of what’s in this column is thanks to Stephane Hamel, an ebusiness strategist and web analytics consultant based out of Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. I recommend him highly.
First, have you been to the NextStage website? The vast majority of people who talk to us about our site start with something about it being unprofessional, out of date, etc. One person reviewed our site online and was very rough on us. A few weeks back I was talking with a web design firm (web design firms come to us fairly often these days) and listened to them explain what was wrong with our site. To prove their point to me, that our website was driving away business, they asked me for bouncerate, conversion and related numbers.
We have a 19% bouncerate on the homepage. I had no idea if that’s a good or not good number so I asked Stephane to explain it to me.
“According to the official WAA definition, it should be calculated this way: “Single page view visits/entry pages”. Thus, to calculate your bounce rate just for the home page you would do “Single page visits – as you described it, those who viewed just that page for less than X seconds)/those who entered the site through the home page”, you get your Home Page Bounce Rate. 19% would be amazing!”
Our conversions are 75%. Again, I turned to Stephane for some understanding.
“Those who came to your site and did something useful to them (and to you!). Again, conversion of 75% would be astonishingly high.
“But… if you remove unqualified visits and clearly identify the various types of “outcomes” for each user’s intent coming to the site (i.e. finding your contact info, downloading a paper, taking the test, etc.), you could claim 75% conversion rate. I’m sure I’m not teaching you anything new here: we can make numbers tell whatever we want… To avoid those kind of misunderstanding, we build a “story” around the number. Thus, saying “historically, we’ve found that 75% of qualified visitors to our site completed at least one of our desired business objectives, which are A,B,C” or something like that. That’s where most people fail: for example, an online bookseller would look only at the number of sales/visits, leading to conversion rates of 4%. But in reality, they should look for qualified traffic, the user intent when reaching the site, and if they were successful, and they could claim very high success rates!”
Totally agree with Stephane, FYI. What Stephane is describing is something NextStage originally published as Usability Studies 101: Defining Visitor Action, Defining the Visitor Action Metric and The First Sale is the Next Page.
One of the reasons I don’t pay attention to web analytics numbers is because I do pay attention to bank accounts. Is money going in? Yes? Is more money going in than is coming out? Yes? I’m happy. The smile on my face broadens in rough approximation to the In:Out ratio. Is the same amount of money going in as is coming out? No smile. Is it 2:1? A smile. Is it 3:1? Broader smile.
My target for the NextStage website is that it make more money than it costs to maintain. Simple target, easy to hit.
I am, by nature, a very simple person. Life is much easier for me that way. I guess this is reflected in the NextStage website. It, too, is simple. Kind of like…umm…Google’s. I wonder what’s in their bank account…
One of the reasons our numbers are “good” is because we know our audience very well. We’ve studied them in detail. For example, we know it takes our average visitor three visits before they convert. Stephane explained that this was a very important piece of information about our visitors. “Most people will assume that every single visit is an opportunity to convert, which is rarely the case!”
We also designed our information — the entire experience between visitor and website — for that audience. That’s what we do. Design information so a given audience will respond to it in desired ways. It is an equation to us; A + B = C. The visitor + the marketing material = the desired response. The equation not working? No, sorry, equations always work. In the language of another discipline I spend much of my time in, “The meaning of the message is the response it elicits”.
Let me rephrase this and the rephrasing might be uncomfortable for some.
Your Marketing Always Works — Sometimes Not the Way You Want It To
Let’s go back to that equation, A + B = C. Here’s where it can get a troublesome for some folks.
You’re always getting a response when visitors interact with your marketing material (website or whatever). Always. It might not be the response you want and you’re getting a response.
But this does mean the equation is working.
What is also means is that your A — your visitors — and your B — your marketing material — aren’t producing the result — the C — that you want. Again and because it is a simple piece of information that seems to escape lots of people; you’re getting a result, simply not the one that you want.
That’s an entirely different problem to solve. Borrowing again from another discipline I study; If what you’re doing isn’t working, try something else. I modified that when I first heard it to “If what you’re doing isn’t working, try anything else”. I don’t like to limit myself.
I do agree with the designers I’ve talked with when they say that our numbers can be better. Just because numbers are good doesn’t mean they can’t be improved. Markets expand, audiences shift, companies change their focus.
All of these come back to knowing your audience and designing for it. NextStage, I know, is quickly moving from an obscure little company that’s “out there” to mainstream recognition. Our A — our visitors — are changing and this means we’ll need to change our B — our marketing material — if we want to maintain and possibly improve our C — our desired outcomes.
Stephane laughingly tells me that the first thing that comes to his mind when he comes to the NextStage website is “These are very smart people. Science is very important to them. Science and logic.”
Yep, that’s our target. Or was. Targets, like the Times, are a’changing. Our target was academics, researchers, experiential theoreticians. Yesterday I received a phone call from a marketing company. They’d heard NextStage was in the forefront of usability studies but they couldn’t find any usability information on our website. I said I’d get back to them and asked some of our staff where our usability stuff was located on our site — I couldn’t find it either.
Turns out usability information isn’t on our site because — while NextStage does usability work — we’ve traditionally done it as something we do in addition to our regular practice when clients ask for it. We’re only now getting people requesting it who aren’t in our client base. Most of our usability studies, research, case studies, etc., are published in this column and in my IMedia column (you can find links to both sources at The Hungry Peasant).
Guess we’ll have to do some research into this new audience we’re getting. Learn how they think. That’s what we do…and it is good marketing, after all.
Please contact NextStage for information regarding presentations and trainings on this and other topics.
- Know How Someone’s Thinking in 10 Seconds or Less Half-day training at Toronto Emetrics Marketing Optimzation Summit, 3 April 08
- Know How Someone’s Thinking in 10 Seconds or Less Half-day training at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC, 13 June 08
- Toronto Emetrics Marketing Optimzation Summit, 31 March – 2 April 08
- New Communications Forum 2008, 22-25 April 08 at The Vineyard Creek Inn & Spa, Sonoma County CA
- San Francisco Emetrics Marketing Optimzation Summit, 4-7 May 08
- SUNY Marketing Professionals Conference at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC, 11-13 June 08
Come on by and say hello.
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