In the cockpit of an airplane, there are a fantastic number of dials and warning lights that, together, give you a complete picture of the state of the aircraft. Each element provides important information, but they’re not all equally important nor are they used in the same ways. If you focus too much attention on the wrong indicators, you’ll land in the trees!
Running your website is similar in many aspects. Getting data is easy; there’s more information available than you can even process. Verifying that you’re going the right direction, however, can be a little trickier.
The metrics most of us monitor are operational metrics: site traffic, visitor interactions and server performance. Although interesting, these numbers alone don’t provide a lot of insight.
The key is to understand the story behind the numbers. When visits go up, was it the result of a campaign you were running? Did your bounce rate increase because of the new health library you just licensed?
Changes in the numbers are like warning lights in the cockpit yelling, “Look at me!” They don’t tell you what’s going on, only where to dig for the story. You need to dive deep into your analytics and research user behavior. So when the warning light tells you where to look, you can focus your efforts very precisely.
More exciting is the prospect of using the numbers to direct your strategy. If you have a low conversion rate or high bounce rate for a particular landing page, investigate further. Plan and implement changes, and then measure the impact.
In order for the numbers to tell you a story, put them into a context. Monitor trends. Find relationships. Figure out how the numbers compare to those from similar organizations. This can be difficult; that’s why it’s often helpful to have the guidance of a strategic partner!
Your CEO doesn’t care that traffic to the site is up five percent. She just doesn’t; nor should she. Operational metrics are great to monitor, but don’t use them to communicate results. Operational details don’t give executives the insight that they need.
Executives focus on items such as:
- Organization/department strategy
- Allocating resources
- Evaluating the capabilities of the leadership team
- Financial stewardship
The metrics you communicate should align with these items. Think of these as your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Monitor the operational metrics that contribute to these indicators to make certain you’re going to get there. For example: