The face of your business on the Web, your lodging or activity website is an important investment designed to increase brand awareness and sales. With approximately 80 percent of travelers planning their trips online, your website is arguably the core of your marketing efforts. As such, a lot of thought, time and money goes into the development and maintenance of your website, so it’s important to measure the return on investment by weighing the costs against the results.
The success of a website is measured by tracking website performance metrics. Your website’s statistics help you identify what works and what doesn’t, as well as provide valuable insights about your customers, such as where they are coming from and what content resonates with them. Therefore, the success of a website is not only measured by conversions, but also engagement.
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. The key to website analytics is to pinpoint the numbers that really matter. Once you know which metrics give you a clear picture of your website’s performance, analytics tools like Google Analytics make it easy to stay on top of the numbers.
Here’s our list of the six most important website metrics you should be tracking:
Total traffic figures are a good indication of the overall health of your website. It shows whether your website is attracting a growing, stable or declining audience. If your audience is steadily declining, changes should be made – fast. The traffic count is useful to determine the success of special promotions too, including offline marketing efforts like magazine ads. For example, when you email a special offer to your subscribers, you should expect a corresponding spike in website traffic around that time.
Web analytics will also give you a breakdown of traffic into unique visitors versus repeat visitors. A growing number of unique visitors reflects an increase in brand awareness and reach, and can be a sign that your SEO (search engine optimization) strategy is hitting the mark. A high number of repeat visitors indicates website content is engaging; customers are finding what they are looking for and coming back for more.
Acquisition channels (traffic sources)
Tracking where website visitors are coming from helps you gauge how well your promotional efforts are doing.
- Organic search traffic (from search engines): This indicates how well your SEO strategies are working.
- Referral traffic (visitors that click through to your website from another website): Tracking which sites are generating the most traffic to your own website helps measure the success of your promotional efforts and relationships with other sites. As well, taking note of the pages from your site that others are sharing and linking to helps to determine the kind of content that generates engagement.
- Direct traffic (visitors that typed your URL into the browser or used a bookmark): Direct traffic is a sign that your marketing emails, newsletters and offline marketing efforts are effective.
- Social traffic (click-throughs from social media): This tells you how well your social media posts are performing.
The 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 around, and then promptly turning and walking back out the door. A high bounce rate can be indicative of major problems such as slow page load times (average page load times are tracked in Google Analytics), unappealing website design, or irrelevant content. In most cases, the user did not find what they were looking for. If your bounce rate is high, it’s important to figure out the cause and fix it.
Track your top performing pages to know what content is most important to your visitors. Google Analytics monitors page performance in terms of traffic, recording the number of pageviews. For a lodging or activity website, the top pages are likely to remain fairly consistent, but it’s good to track this metric – especially as you make changes to your website – because knowing which pages are most important to website visitors helps guide future content and site updates.
An exit page is a page from which a visitor leaves your website after visiting multiple other pages on your website. Exit pages can be tracked to identify any pages that have high exit rates. Obviously, some pages will naturally have a high exit rate, like confirmation pages for bookings or contact form submissions. However, if visitors are consistently leaving your website from pages you wouldn’t expect, this could indicate a problem. Take a close look at those pages from a visitor’s perspective to try to determine why they are leaving. Make sure page content is relevant and up to date, all elements of the page (videos, images, widgets, etc.) are displaying correctly, and navigation is user friendly.
The most important metric of all, the conversion rate of your website shows you 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 doing its job! 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. It’s important to monitor the conversion rate of your website and optimize for conversions because it directly relates to your profitability. Conversion rates can also be tracked by traffic source (organic, referral, direct and social), which can help guide marketing strategy.
While the concept of analytics might seem intimidating to most of us, it’s really not that complicated once you know exactly what it is you want to measure. The six metrics listed above provide a great start for getting a clear picture of your website’s performance when tracked over time. Try to monitor the numbers at least once a month to catch any anomalies as they occur. As you gain confidence, you can start tracking other metrics for an even deeper understanding of your website’s performance and customers’ behavior. Tools like Google Analytics make it easy to track the numbers that matter to you.
Rather than cross your fingers and hope for the best, it’s important to measure your website’s performance using real metrics so that improvements can be implemented where needed to optimize success and stay ahead of the competition.