In End of Year Analytics Part I we looked at ways to identify what worked well and what needs work. You should, if you went through the steps in that post, have a pretty good idea of where you should be putting your resources for online marketing, based on the traffic and conversions at your website.
Now it’s time to set some goals. The first essential step is to figure out what your website’s job is, so that your goals for your website will align with your goals for your business or organization.
Some of the jobs your website might do, and the metrics you might want to focus on:
- Thought leadership: If your site is there to provide authority and to influence the way people think about things, you’ll want to see visits from other thought leaders in your field, press outlets, and organizations that are important in your area of influence. You’ll want to see traffic increases, strong links, and additions to your mailing list. Conversions might include downloads of white papers, comments, signups, and time on site.
- Brand awareness: If your site is intended to make people aware of your brand, you’ll want to see increased traffic, social media engagement, and buzz about your brand. Conversions might include signups, downloads of coupons, and shares of your content.
- Leads: If your site’s job is to provide leads, you’ll want to see contact forms submitted and phone calls made. Setting up your phone system to track calls, either with a dedicated number or through call tracking that connects with your Google Analytics, will give you more accurate data. Conversions can include smaller conversions like downloading a white paper or signing up for a newsletter, but you should also be able to track qualified leads and sales.
- Sales: An ecommerce site makes goal-setting easy. You want to see more sales at your website, and you can easily track the sources of the sales and the path to purchase in Google Analytics. Mid-path conversions like signing up for a mailing list or spending more time on site can help you fine-tune your sales process, and a sale is a conversion. You’ll want to track average size of purchase as well as revenue.
Once you’ve determined the quantifiable online actions for your business goals, you can start calculating the website goals you want to achieve. You can create a funnel, using the data you gathered in Part I.
Total visitors per year: ____ x Site conversion rate: ____ x Average order size: ____
So if you had 10,000 visitors and a 2% conversion rate and an average order size of $25.00, your revenue was $5,000. To increase that number, you can change any of the numbers in the equation:
- Get more visitors while maintaining the order size and conversion rate.
- Increase the conversion rate without losing traffic or reducing the order size.
- Sell more to each shopper without losing traffic or conversion rate.
Of course, you could plan to increase all three metrics. Business owners often have this goal. They want to go from one lead a week to five leads a week, to get better qualified leads that will convert at a 10% rate instead of their current 4%, and to get leads willing to spend $3500 per month rather than their current clients’ average $500 per month.
These are nice goals, but they aren’t based on anything but desire.
Warning: it’s about to get mathematical in here.
Say you made that $5,000 in ecommerce sales last year with the numbers in the example above. If you know that you want web sales of $250,000 next year you could plan for a 7% conversion rate and an average sale size of $150. With those numbers, you’ll need about 1,667 sales. If your conversion rate holds steady, you’ll need about 2,000 visits per month.
You’d need to develop a strategy that would more than double your traffic, nearly quadruple your conversion rate, and get shoppers to spend six times as much on average as they currently are spending.
That’s not impossible, but you can see that it would require a significant investment to accomplish.
But here’s where the deeper digging comes in. If your website is like most, you won’t see a 7% conversion rate across the board for all visitors and all goals, no matter how much you invest.
You may have a 1% conversion rate from Facebook traffic and a 12% conversion rate from traffic clicking through from a particular blogger’s review. Getting 833 more visits per month through CPC ads — probably your quickest way to increase traffic — might bring visitors with a 1.5% conversion rate and a $35 average sale. Your costs for gaining traffic from various sources will be different, and that will affect the profitability of your sales and the ROI of your marketing. In short, there are a lot of moving parts.
Investing more in what works best will give you the best results, but you’re most likely to reach your goals if they’re based on data rather than desire. If your traffic increased by 4% per quarter last year and you now want it to increase by 60% in the next couple of weeks, you’re not being realistic. If you want it to increase by 60% over the next year, you can do that, but you shouldn’t expect to get those results without major changes in your marketing.
So set up goals based on a judicious combination of desire and data, taking into account the resources you’re prepared to invest. Determine the trajectory you’ll need to achieve over the course of the coming year.
The examples below show progress in two of our clients’ sites. The one on the left shows steady ongoing progress with an ongoing strategy. The one on the right shows the results of new initiatives. Which path will you need to reach the goals you’ve set for yourself for the next year? The answer to this question will tell you whether you can accomplish what you want by diligently continuing with the same level of investment, or whether you will need to step it up.
Check in on your goals regularly over the coming year to see whether you’re on track to reach them or not. On a quarterly basis, take the time to adjust either your goals or your strategy.
The results of this exercise should be a set of realistic, measurable goals for your website’s performance in the coming year, and some good ideas about the strategies you’ll use to reach those goals.