The KPIs Have It

Ask me how to make your website better and I'll reply, "That depends. Better at what?"

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are the milestones you set for yourself. They are the measures by which you know whether your site is doing what it should. Without clearly defined KPIs, you're just swimming in data.

As Craig Williams, E-Commerce Manager at PC World Business put it at the last Emetrics Summit, "It may be interesting to know that last week 87% of our Swedish browsers, who viewed a product, have XP Pro and IE v6……but does it mean anything in reality?"

KPI's are all about moving from wed data that is fascinating to web information that is useful. "Deciding upon standard KPIs is difficult but essential, " says Williams. "We look at set KPIs at regular intervals to make sure that we are keeping up with customer behaviour changes, and that the site is still delivering what it needs to for our customers.

So what does a KPI look like? That depends.

In the ecommerce/retail side of things, and your conversion rate is important to you (the browser-to-buyer ratio), then you might want to keep a close eye on the ratio of new visitors to returning visitors. After all, if there are no new visitors and only your friends, relatives and loyal customers show up, your conversion rates will look wonderful! But you won't stay in business very long. New customers are critical to any business.

What if you don't sell online? What if your site's main goal is to generate leads? The ratio of visitors who do and do not fill out the "Yes, please have a sales representative call me" page is a pretty clear KPI. So is the percent of visitors who enter a postal code in search of a local office.

Let's say you are responsible for online customer service at your company. You KPIs might include keeping each site visit to a minimum. Stickiness is good if you are selling advertising on your site, but a customer who looks at dozens of pages having clicked on Customer Support is not a happy camper. They are lost, frustrated, and happy to take it out on your call center.

There are many sites (and areas on all sites), where there are no transactions, there is only content. The About Us pages, the Investor Relations and Social Responsibility pages are not just there for show. They serve a purpose. Your job is to know whether those pages are serving those purposes. You must identify the KPI's for each section on your site, and indeed, for every page.

In all cases, you'll want to monitor the various processes you have created on your site. Unless your name is BBC, ITV or Sky, chances are people are not coming to your site for entertainment. They are coming to your site to discover, learn, compare, chose, buy, return, complain, ask, or any of a whole host of reasons - each of which has a process associated with it. Tracking how well your customers can complete their tasks is an excellent KPI for any website.

Now, if you want to know how to make your website better, I can give you some ideas. More important, you will have the means to measure whether my ideas are worth their weight in pixels.

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About Jim Sterne

Jim Sterne is the founder and CEO of the Emetrics Summit which comes to London 8-10 June www.emetrics.org. Jim Sterne produced the world's first "Marketing on the Internet" seminar series in 1994. In 2000, he wrote a revolutionary white paper with Matt Cutler from SPSS on web analytics and produced the first U.S. conference on the subject in 2002.

A consultant to Fortune 500 companies, Sterne focuses on measuring the value of a Web site as a medium for creating and strengthening customer relationships. Sterne has written five books on using the web for business, including "Web Metrics: Proven Methods for Measuring Web Site Success".

Published on: 12:00AM on 29th June 2005