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Michelle Hay

One of the keys to successful planning is committing to making measurement and quantifiable KPIs.


In the second  of a series of four articles covering 2020 planning, we’re going to look at approaches to measurement and KPIs that can help you keep on track for success during the year.

If you are planning for 2020 you should commit to making measurement and quantifiable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as part of how you operate. If measurement is already at the heart of what you do, then it is also good to review them for the new year. Measurement will contribute to successfully executing your strategy for 2020 and also starting to continuously improve. Relative KPIs and reporting also give you and your team focus and direction, support persistent and long-term efforts and reassure your stakeholders. 

While digital marketing teams recognise the importance of measurement and related KPIs in driving a successful website, often they don’t measure in practice as much as they should do or would like. This may be because they don’t have  time or the right tools to measure, or they don’t know quite what to measure; many teams end up measuring things that are convenient rather than valuable. If you find setting KPIs difficult and don’t know quite what to aim for, paradoxically you often need to start using metrics regularly to get a sense of what is realistic.

Website KPIs is simply a huge area and there isn’t space to delve into all the merits and nuances of the numbers (although we may do so in subsequent posts in the year), so this article focuses on how you can use KPIs and some of the major areas of measurement. 

There is some debate about exactly what a KPI is, but essentially most regard it as an indicator that is quantifiable rather than a binary “yes / no” indicator or a traffic light red / amber / green condition.  For this article, we regard a KPI as essentially a number. 

It’s also important to remember that not everything you measure will be a KPI. For example, you will almost certainly want to track the number of unique visitors who come to your website – its useful context for understanding actions and other measures – but you may not necessarily need to have a KPI to reflect an increase in numbers. Getting more visitors may be beneficial, but actually a KPI reflecting the proportion of those who convert to sales may be more important for you. 

Approaches to KPIs and measurement

When considering your approach to KPIs and measurement there are several principles that are worth remembering:

  1. There is no one size fit all

    Different websites and channels have different aims and purposes, and therefore different criteria for success. Although a lot of measures are commonly used and are likely to feature in your KPIs – Net Promoter Score and common site usage figures provided by Google Analytics for example – there is no one size fits all for digital KPIs between organisations and even different channels within one portfolio.

  2. Measurement and KPIs reflect your strategy and objectives, not what is convenient

    When choosing what to measure and what to establish as KPIs, its easy to fall into the trap of either measuring what is easy and convenient (e.g. it’s on Google Analytics), and also what is going to put you in a good light and might be regarded as “vanity metrics”.  What you measure and specifically what you set as KPIs should reflect your strategy and your objectives, not be dictated by your reporting package or impressing your boss.

  3. You must be able to act on what you measure

    The numbers you gather and specifically KPIs are there to give you direction and focus for improvement, and to help you align to strategic objectives. You must be able to act on what you measure, otherwise there is little point in measuring. Having a process in place to allow you to review and act upon measurement, as well as a culture of continuous improvement is key.

  4. You need a range of measures

    Websites and digital channels have a variety of different objectives so realistically you need a range of measures and related KPIs to cover usage, content, your sales funnel and more. At the same time, it’s also important not to have too many KPIs so that it gets impossible to act upon them or feels overwhelming. 

  5. Have the right tools in place

    Measurement is not always as straightforward as it may seem, and it’s important to have the right tools in place so that you can measure what you need to measure. Customers tell us that  Sitemorse’s granularity in the reporting across different elements of content compliance, quality and performance is one of the most attractive qualities of the platform.

  6. Understand how measures are calculated and what they mean

    There can be nuances on how data is collected and calculated by different tools. It’s important to understand what numbers actually mean so you can act in the right way, and also understand any potential anomalies. It’s also important to remember that like for like comparison  from different reporting tools is not always possible.

  7. KPIs need to be achievable

    If you’re setting KPIs then don’t be over ambitious. Setting something that is impossible to achieve sets you on an automatic path to failure which is both demotivating and also doesn’t look good with your stakeholders. As already stated, you also need to have been measuring for a while to get a sense of a what a realistic level to reach may be.

  8. Get baseline measures

    If you want to track success and progress then make sure you get baseline measures before you start. Many customers use our PRIVATEINDEX service to see where they are (and get benchmarked) for example on accessibility compliance, before undertaking efforts to improve.

Areas for measurement

There are multiple areas that you measure and then set relevant KPIs. Some of these areas below come into their own when they are combined in some way. For example, one area is costs and efficiency and it is possible to (theoretically) measure the average cost per conversion, for example. But if you read widely on the subject and work out your KPIs it is possible to go further down the rabbit hole and derive increasingly esoteric calculations that aren’t accurate reflections of what you are (or aren’t) achieving. There are however some well-established concepts and numbers that can be very useful.

Aggregated KPIs which cover different areas of measurement and give you a single number to work towards can also be a very useful focus for teams and provide motivation for success. As long as you also have the detail behind the KPI so you know what actions to take, then this can be highly successful. For example, our PRIVATEINDEX Digital Confidence KPI score is based upon multiple metrics provide an essential overall assessment of site quality as well as the ability to independently benchmark sites.

Here is our view on twelve key areas for measurement:

  1. Visits and visitors

    Sometimes called acquisition metrics, a key area most teams track is who is simply visiting your site, including the overall number of unique visitors, the relative percentage of new and returning visitors and more. Acquisition metrics are important to track but don’t always make good KPIs to try and achieve.

  2. User engagement with content

    Another core measure that most teams will record is user engagement with content and related behaviour. This includes time spent on site, bounce rates, relative views of different content and interactions with content (e.g. likes, comments and shares). 

  3. Conversion metrics

    Conversion metrics and related to different calls to action are very important and may feature in your KPIs. The specifics will very much depend on what your site’s objectives are; the aims of an e-commerce site or one which is around lead generation will be different. You may be measuring everything from sales to sign-ups to mailing lists. 

  4. Customer satisfaction

    Customer satisfaction with your digital channels is usually measured through surveys and polls.  A common measure is the Net Promotor Scorer (NPS).

  5. SEO

    SEO performance is obviously critical to drive visitors and many teams spend a lot of time on it, although in recent years it has become less easy to “game” SEO. Sitemorse checks for issues and missed opportunities for search optimisation.  

  6. Site performance

    Site performance is critical. What are the load times for pages? What percentage of uptime do you have? For an average website satisfactory performance may be a given and actually this only needs to be a KPI to monitor rather than strive for, unless you need to make improvements. Load times will also be more important for e-commerce sites with a high volume of transactions. The Sitemorse features that assess page performance (time to first byte and download speed), as well as our general site monitoring (HEARTBEAT) have proved very popular with our customers.  

  7. Usability testing

    Usability measures such as the time to complete a task (e.g. to find a piece of information) or the success rate of completing that task often feature as part of the testing of a new website design, but don’t often feature after that. If you’re looking to drive a better user experience and also influence conversions then regular usability testing is worth investing in.

  8. Content quality

    Content quality is something that is overlooked but is absolutely key. Is your content free from broken linksspelling mistakes and other errors? Again, this is an area Sitemorse assesses.

  9. Compliance

    Compliance around elements such as accessibility and even brand compliance are not often measured. It is often mistakenly regarded as a binary element – you’re either compliant or not – but in practice this is a mistake as most organisations are not fully compliant across their entire site, and compliance levels vary as new content is added or the environment changes. Sitemorse’s ability to measure compliance across different elements such as accessibility is industry-leading.

  10. Costs and efficiency

    Your overall costs and efficiency of your operations are extremely important areas where you can make a difference. It’s also possible to measure by keeping track of spend and recording time. This could include everything from being able to achieve more with less resource and in less time, reducing the time from a piece of content goes from idea to published page and driving more self-service into your content community to drive efficiency. 

  11. Content pipeline and community

    This area is related to costs and efficiency. Internal KPIs around your content pipeline and the way your internal content community produce content can  be important. For example, you may be looking at the volume of content that is produced, the number of content producers and the support time the central need to spend with your publishers.

  12. Social media statistics

    Social media statistics are likely to be part of your digital channel portfolio and they have their own well-defined set of metrics that are too numerous to mention here.

Next time

Planning your strategy is a real opportunity to establish direction and priorities for the coming year as well as getting your team fired up for success. In our next article in this series of four, we’ll be looking at the things to consider in measuring and setting KPIs that can help you focus on success.

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