Your website is finally complete and you’ve launched it to great fan-fare. Hooray!
But where do you go from here? Launching a site is merely the first step in taking advantage of your online resources to further your business goals. How do you now assess performance?
Of course, there is no single answer that applies to every web project. Different sites have different goals.
Moreover, site owners themselves may have different ways of measuring success depending on their mission and business priorities.
There is no single metric that can be used to judge all of these variables. Rather, the essential thing is to ask the question in the first place:
How will we measure the success of THIS website?
The answer to this question should involve a performance assessment strategy to identify key priorities, tracking mechanisms, indicators and goals that together will paint a picture of website performance.
In the rush to complete a project, answering this question is often left until after the site launch when focus has likely shifted to other priorities. In fact, it’s far too common to treat the launch itself as a measure of success and ignore the actual effects on the bottom line over time.
In the long run this may lead not only to sub-optimal website performance, but a sense of disappointment in the site’s utility by its owner.
Therefore, considering how performance will be measured is something that ought to happen at the outset of a project rather than at its launch.
The requirements gathering stage is an excellent time to begin addressing this question – in fact, the very assumptions and priorities that drive project requirements are usually the same ones that will inform your assessment strategy.
Another reason to consider performance measurement early on is to allow for proper technical setup of the system. Performance assessment relies on the availability of relevant analytical data which must be collected as the website is used.
If you haven’t set up the right data collection structure, you won’t have the data you need.
Overall, you want to develop a performance assessment strategy that will reflect the actual goals of your organization, and thereby provide insight into how the website is helping to promote those goals.
The elements of a strategy should include:
You are looking to create a strategy that will:
Each of these elements is dependent on the others – you may collect the most comprehensive data imaginable, but if you don’t take the time to review it or act on those insights, it won’t be doing you much good.
Think of the strategy as a feedback loop in which data collection leads to assessment which leads to enhancement which leads to further data collection and so on.
When this loop runs efficiently, your website’s contribution to business goals should constantly be improving.
For example, a particular client of The Jake Group runs a customer loyalty program that encourages users to sign up to receive special offers. While the program’s initial launch generated great interest, signup rates soon began to lag.
We initiated a monthly analysis that identified which channels were most likely to drive registrations, as well as which offers generated the most traffic.
With this information, the client was able to alter the program marketing strategy to dramatically increase growth, and continues to refine its offerings based on monthly analytics.
Google Analytics is one of the most prominent analytics tools available today, and The Jake Group uses it extensively to track website performance. Google’s recommendation for performance measurement is to create an ‘analytics measurement plan’ which breaks the strategy down into five elements:
Google Analytics is a great start for measuring performance, but by no means the only game in town. The best measurement strategies will combine data from multiple sources. Some examples include:
This will allow you to compare performance across platforms, create combined datasets, and cross reference data for accuracy.
The core purpose of a measurement strategy is to get more out of your online resources. Just as you are constantly looking for ways to enhance your overall business, so too should you be looking for ways to put your website to better use in service of those goals.
A performance assessment strategy gives the information and opportunities to do that effectively.
More than likely, your assessments will identify certain strategies that are working well, and others that are coming up a little short.
With relevant analytics at your disposal, you can make better decisions for how to take more advantage of the effective strategies, improve underperforming elements, and explore new opportunities as they present themselves.
Underlying this approach is the concept that a website is not merely an end-product to be created and used as is, but an ever-evolving tool that can grow with your business.
A website launch is indeed a time for celebration. But with a performance assessment plan in place, you can be even more confident that your investment will continue to pay off long into the future.