More than ninety percent of travel consumers research travel online. As the face of your business on the internet, your website is arguably the core of your marketing efforts. As such, a lot of thought, time, and money goes into development and maintenance, so it’s important to measure return on investment by weighing costs against results.
Website success is measured by tracking key performance metrics. These statistics identify what works and what doesn’t and provide valuable customer insights, such as where visitors come from and what content resonates with them. Engagement is important as well as conversions.
Google Analytics is one of the most popular tools for tracking website stats. It’s free and comprehensive—in fact, the amount of data can be overwhelming. You have to pinpoint the numbers that matter. Here’s our list of the six most important metrics to track.
Total traffic figures show whether your website attracts a growing, stable, or declining audience. If your audience is steadily declining, changes should be made—fast. You may even consider a complete redesign.
The traffic count can help determine the success of special promotions too. For example, when you email an offer to your subscribers, you expect a corresponding spike in website traffic.
You should break down your traffic into unique visitors versus repeat visitors. More unique visitors reflect an increase in brand reach and can signal that your SEO (search engine optimization) strategy is hitting the mark. A high number of repeat visitors indicates your website content engages; customers find what they’re looking for and come back for more.
Tracking where visitors come from gauges how well your promotional efforts are doing.
- Organic search traffic (from search engines): This indicates how well your SEO strategies work.
- Paid search traffic: These are visitors you pay for, i.e., those who click your online ads. Keep an eye on how much of this traffic actually converts.
- Referral traffic (visitors that click through to your website from another website): Tracking which sites generate the most traffic to your own website helps measure the success of promotional efforts and relationships with other sites. As well, taking note of the pages from your site that others share and link to determines the content that creates engagement.
- Direct traffic (visitors that typed your URL into the browser or used a bookmark): This is a sign that your marketing emails, newsletters, and offline efforts are effective.
- Social traffic (click-throughs from social media): This lets you know if your social media content is attracting potential customers.
It’s worthwhile to check what devices people use to access your website (desktop versus mobile). Almost 60% of online traffic comes from mobile devices now, so your site should be mobile-friendly. The devices your customers use also show you their goals online. Those on mobile devices tend to be more task oriented (they just want to make the booking already) while those on computers would rather explore.
Bounce rate shows the percentage of visitors that leave your website immediately after arriving, without viewing other pages—imagine a customer walking into your lobby, taking a quick glance, then promptly walking back out the door. A high bounce rate can indicate major problems such as slow page load times, unappealing design, or irrelevant content. If your bounce rate is high, figure out the cause and fix it.
Start by checking those load times. The average website load time is 2.5 seconds on a desktop, and yours shouldn’t take longer than that. Not only will longer load times increase your bounce rate, they will also torpedo your SEO. You can reduce your load time by compressing images and video, but you may also need to take a peek at how your site is coded.
Track top performing pages to learn what content visitors find most important. Google Analytics monitors page performance in terms of traffic, recording the number of pageviews. For a hotel website, top pages are likely to remain consistent, but it’s still good to watch this metric. It’s especially important when you make changes to your website because knowing which pages users view often helps guide future content and site updates. (When making changes, be careful of deleting pages with backlinks to them. If you absolutely have to remove a page that is linked to from somewhere else, redirect visitors to another relevant page.)
Exit pages can be tracked to identify where visitors leave your website. Obviously, some pages will naturally have a high exit rate, like booking confirmation pages or contact form submissions. However, if visitors consistently exit from pages you wouldn’t expect, this could show a problem. Take a close look from a visitor’s perspective to determine why they’re leaving. Make sure content is relevant and up to date, all elements (videos, images, widgets, etc.) display correctly, and navigation is user friendly—on mobile devices too!
The most important metric of all, the conversion rate shows the percentage of unique visitors that perform a desired action—whether that be a booking, newsletter subscription, or contact form submission. If your conversion rate is strong, your website is working!
On the other hand, a low conversion rate indicates an unproductive site, perhaps due to weak content, attracting the wrong audience, or a complicated/unreliable booking process.
You need to monitor and optimize your website for conversions because it drives profitability. Conversion rates can also be tracked for each traffic source (organic, referral, etc.), which can help guide marketing strategy.
Rather than cross your fingers and hope for the best, measure your website’s performance using real metrics so that improvements can be implemented where needed. Knowing your numbers keeps you ahead of the competition!
Editor’s note: This post was originally published June 2016 and updated October 2022.