As every business is different, the metrics you use to analyse whether your site is 'performing' will vary from the person next to you. What is vital, however, is that you consider what you want to gain from your website, and how you can measure this being successful. For E-commerce sites it is fairly easy to see what measures of success we might expect – people buying products, customers returning to the store to buy again, email newsletter campaigns resulting in more sales, and so forth.
In the business to business market, it might not be so clear cut. We might consider someone filling out a form to be a conversion – or maybe picking up the phone to call. How can we track that?
Using Goals to monitor performance
The simple answer to how we can monitor conversions is through using goals and in the case of E-commerce, enabling the E-commerce features both on your website (so that it sends the appropriate information to Google Analytics) and in Analytics itself (to ensure you have the correct currency set, and so forth).
Goals can either be a single event, or a chain of events – known as a goal funnel – which result in an event occurring which you consider to be a 'converted' visitor. This might be signing up for a newsletter, contacting you, adding a product to the cart, checking out – there can be multiple goals, and often there are!
In my case, for our extension site Virya Software we have goals set up for each extension, in addition to a few others which we're interested in such as adding support requests, browsing more than x pages, viewing the demo, subscribing to our newsletter, and so forth.
The goal funnel is simply the process through which the customer passes before they get to the 'final' conversion URL. An example might be:
1. Product landing page 2. Buy now page 3. Checkout 4. Conversion landing page
By the nature of setting up this funnel in the first place, we can track where people drop out of the purchasing system and identify potential problems. This allows us to pick up, for example, if the 'check out' button isn't clear on the buy now page – or if the customer can't find information they require on the checkout page and drop out to go and find it.- and resolve the issues to potentially increase our conversion rate.
Tweaking your conversion rate is often the easiest way to increase revenue – and quicker to do than getting more people to visit. If you have a conversion rate of say 2% from 100 visitors, it's quite a challenge to increase the number of visitors sufficiently to see a return on investment, but it's often not too difficult to increase the conversion rate – which will then benefit you as you increase the number of visitors.