So, how did your website traffic change in 2015? What data should you be looking at, in order to assess how you’ve done?
First of all, let’s stop this instinctive desire to require the number of visitors to the site go up each year. Sure, it can be great if they do, but the use of the web amongst your prospects isn’t increasing. It’s not 2005 any more. They all use the web to source anything, full stop. Activity on your company website no longer has to be increasing just to keep up with a growing use of the internet.
Sadly, at the annual presentations to the board this month, more than one marketing manager will be showing a Powerpoint graph of ‘website visits vs 2014’, and looking proud because the line is going up. That over-simplistic measure is still what’s expected. It needs to stop.
I have access to the website analytics of nearly 100 engineering and scientific companies. Some of the most successful sites didn’t increase their visitor count at all last year. Indeed, some received fewer visits, because they’re concentrating their resources on getting better traffic. What matters is that you’ve maintained or increased the number of relevant visits.
If I had to show just two charts to management about the performance of the company website, it would be these:
1. The number of ‘engaged’ visits from visitors (possibly even just first-time visitors) in places where you actually do business;
2. The number of positive actions taken on the site, such as direct sales leads or views of sales documents.
In other words, how well are you doing at attracting people who might become customers, and how well are you selling to them once you’ve got them to the site?
These are straightforward to measure. With any luck, they should be increasing. But in a flat market, even maintaining quality visitor numbers can be an achievement if your management’s idea of investing in online marketing runs to a budget of a few hundred pounds a month. There’s a finite number of prospects out there, making a finite number of supplier searches, and there’s an increasing amount of money being poured into attracting their attention.