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Summary: Measure the success of your website with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that reflect the strategy and goals of your organization.

All companies aspire to have digital places (apps, websites, social media pages, etc) that are highly functional—in other words, useful to the essential needs of the organization. There are two major challenges to doing this: determining what “functional” means, and then how to actually adjust the digital places to make them closer to the ideal.

Can we measure “functional”? We sure can! And knowing what a website does as measured by Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that reflect the values of the organization is half the battle! The key thing to remember about website KPIs is that they are descriptive but not prescriptive—that is, they tell you what you need to improve, not the ways to do it.

The “Pace Layers” of Website KPIs

KPIs of highly functional digital places can exist at three major levels:

  • Strategic Purpose: Whether or not the digital places add to the existential purpose of the organization
  • Operational Focus: How company initiatives are performing when deployed in digital places
  • Iterative Optimization: Whether or not tactical improvements to the site are working.
Source: Stewart Brand, 1999

Source: Stewart Brand, 1999

Let’s take a look at the scope of each of these factors. At TUG we are big fans of “Pace Layers”—that is, different qualities of an organization or community that change at different rates. Some change slowly, like nature; some change quickly, like fashion.

The same is true for companies. Broadly speaking, companies think about strategy once a year at most, operational goals quarterly, and, if resources are available, tweak the site monthly, either by adding content, changing a page, etc. The KPIs that exist at each of these layers reflect the different focus of the measurement need:

  • Strategic Purpose: Annual
  • Operational Focus: Quarterly
  • Optimization Plan: Monthly

What Website KPIs Will Work Best for You?

That depends on what you are trying to do as an organization. Even companies that seem to be similar in terms of what they sell will have very different KPIs based on the context of their market position, organization, etc.

For the sake of this blog post we are going to give a very common example from many of our clients, which is the website for a professional organization. For most professional organizations, the goal of the website is to engage and inform current members/patrons and expand total membership. Goals for you may be very different, but this can be a good template to use.

Pace Layer Goal Type Metric Examples KPI
Annual High-Level Org Goals User Sentiment Survey Year over Year User Sentiment Change
Gross Revenue Site Revenue Share
Quarterly Operational Goals (e.g., Marketing Campaign or Product Launch) Total Visitor Conversions for a specific campaign Conversion Rate
Purchase Size for the new product Average Purchase Size
Monthly Targeted Optimization A/B Testing of landing page performance. Conversion Rate in A/B test for that page.

As you can see, we have organized the goals by Pace Layer and Goal Type, then provided some examples of metrics and KPIs.

How do You Generate Website KPIs?

You start by developing and/or revisiting a clearly described list of strategies and objectives for your website.

  • A strategy is a description of how you intend to use your website to help your business.
  • An objective is the specific action that users will have to take on the website to satisfy that strategy.

The KPIs you choose should help you assess your objectives; we write more about this technique in this blog post, Using Google Analytics for Organizational Strategy.

As we said earlier, website KPIs are descriptive: they tell you what you need to improve, not the ways to do it. The ways to do it are the hard work of IA and design. But KPIs help you know where the problems lie, and knowing is half the battle!

Need Help?

We’d love to talk with you about how setting up the right KPIs can help your website successfully meet your business goals. Give us a call if you’d like to learn more. There’s no obligation—we’d be happy to chat with you.

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