Your Website’s Fountain of Youth Part 3: Measurement

Measurement plays a key role in keeping a website aligned with and accountable to business goals while facilitating continual improvement.

When it comes to websites, we can make a lot of things. But how do we know if they’re successful? And how do we define success? That’s where developing a measurement plan comes into play, and that’s what we will discuss in this third installment of our “fountain of youth” series.

What do you mean when you say “measurement”?

The concept of measurement means both tracking and analyzing information about how our website is used. What it doesn’t mean is simply having Google Analytics tracking code in your footer and occasionally opening up the platform to grab some random stats at the request of a VP compiling a report.

Measurement implies a thoughtful, ongoing process that looks at your website of a strategic asset to be held accountable to certain goals and expectations. That means at the outset of a project, we’re sitting down and talking about what are commonly known as success metrics. How do we define success? How will we know if we’re successful? And how can we measure that?

The catch: We can only have that conversation if the web project is, at its core, focused around serving business goals.

It’s really easy to get overwhelmed by analytics. When you open up a tool like Google Analytics and see all the numbers ever, it is hard to know where to start, what’s important, what’s not.

For a long time, I was really intimidated by analytics because I’m not a numbers person. Then I realized that analytics and measurement isn’t really about numbers. It’s about answers. And if I have questions about my website, analytics has the answers. Reframing my approach to analytics helped make it much less intimidating and more relatable.

That’s why knowing your goals is so important. Because goals set up the questions to which analytics has the answers. Booyah.

But it’s important to understand that Google Analytics (or Omniture or some other web analytics service) is not the end-all, be-all of measurement. If you are using your website to promote events, a key metric might be attendance at those events. That’s an offline metric, but an important one, and should be taken into account in your measurement plan.

Why should I focus on measurement?

Without measuring your efforts against some success metric or standard, creating a website is an exercise in futility. It becomes an exercise in coding tricks, clever wordplay, and visual candy, rather than the development of a strategic business tool.

Measurement not only holds us accountable, but helps us do better work by serving as an essential step in content planning and iterative design. By evaluating the performance of our content and user experience against certain pre-established goals and standards, we can learn what we should change or scrap next time, what we should keep the same, and what we should do more of. No web planning conversation would be complete without consulting your analytics for guidance.

Creating measurement reports also help make the work of the website more relevant up and down the chain. To our supervisors and stakeholders, they show what works and what doesn’t in the real world, with real users. To our content owners and editors who may be spread across an organization and working on the website part of the time or intermittently, they demonstrate the value and outcome of their work.

Measurement can also give you ammunition to make arguments around certain content decisions or make the case for specific resources down the road. Statistics (especially those collected over an extended period of time) are pretty darned powerful, after all.

How do I create a measurement plan?

Measurement may seem daunting, but analytics evangelist Avinash Kaushik offers a great and simple measurement framework that breaks the process down into five discrete, digestible components:

  • Identify your business objectives

  • Determine the goals that support each objective

  • Nail down your key performance indicators (KPIs)

  • Select your targets

  • Pick your segments to analyze

Here’s one example of how that might play out:

  • Business objective: Boost international student enrollment

  • Goal: Capture leads via form on admissions site

  • KPI: Conversion rate

  • Target: 100 per month

  • Segment: Geographic location

And there you have it. You have directly tied a business objective to a specific thing that you can measure. This is key to reinforcing the value of your website as a strategic business asset.

Measurement is a fountain of youth because...

It ensures that your website is held accountable to your business goals, reinforces your website’s value to stakeholders and internal users alike, and facilitates continual improvement.

Read more in the Your Website's Fountain of Youth series:
Part 1: Editorial Calendar
Part 2: Training and Guidelines
Part 4: Roles and Workflow