Posted on Apr 18, 2017

Metrics That Matter: 15 Data Points All Webmasters Must Track

The analytics tools available to webmasters in the modern era greatly exceed the tools of previous years – not just in potential, but also in complexity. That makes it more important than ever that business owners-turned-webmasters understand the key data points that indicate site health and best suggest future courses of action.

To that end, we’ve put together a brief list of fifteen specific metrics every business owner should be aware of, from the most basic to the most advanced.

Basic Metrics

These metrics include the basic stats of site health. A glance at these numbers will give you a good idea of how your site is performing and growing, though they may not tell you why it’s thriving or failing. Keep a close eye on these surface-level metrics, because they are important, even if they’re not as important to the decision-making process as they may first seem.

Total Visits

SOURCE: Google Analytics > Audience > Overview

Your basic traffic metric, total visits encompasses the number of individual visits you’re getting to your website (or a particular page, depending on what you’re looking at).

The most visible marker of the health of your website, total visits can be deceptively unimportant. Many visits with no worthwhile actions won’t make you any money—taken to an extreme, it would cost money, in fact, as you eat up resources to no benefit.

Add in the potential expense of getting visitors to the site via ads and other outreach strategies, and you can see why this metric is only useful for a quick glance at growth.

Unique Visits

SOURCE: Google Analytics > Audience > Overview

A separate statistic from total visits, unique visits notes the total number individual users to visit your site. If the same visitor comes back, that increases your total visits (described above) but does not increase unique visits.

This number is useful for determining whether your site is seeing a higher or lower proportion of return visits, though you’ll want to dive into deeper metrics if you’d like to start tweaking that proportion one way or the other.

Bounce Rate

SOURCE: Google Analytics > Audience > Overview

Bounce rate tracks users who immediately leave your site (or an individual page on it) shortly after arrival.

This can indicate a few things. First and foremost, it might mean that they immediately realized your site didn’t have what they needed—they wanted something else, they were linked to under false pretenses, they realized your business is located too far away, or whatever else the case may be.

That said, it may also mean that something about your site immediately turned them off, indicating a design or content problem, such as egregious ads, obnoxious graphics or sounds, mobile incompatibility and so on.

Average Time on Site

SOURCE: Google Analytics > Audience > Overview

As you might expect, this metric measures how long visitors spend on your site. Depending on what your site is for, your target time on site will vary; obviously a very short time on site is bad in most cases, but taking too long for a site with a relatively limited scope can indicate navigation issues or other design problems.

To diagnose problems here, you’ll want to look at more advanced user metrics (more on that later on in this article…).  

Advanced Data

The basic metrics of web performance, as described above, may be important, but they’re not nearly as actionable or informative as you might like.

That brings us to more advanced, lesser known metrics. These are the numbers that really ought to guide your decisions as you seek to maximize the value of your marketing and the efficiency of your site in terms of its ability to generate high-quality leads.

Backlink Sources

SOURCE: Google Search Console > Search Traffic > Links to Your Site

This metric tracks the specific external web sources linking back to particular pages on your website. A broad base of backlinks from reputable websites is a major SEO ranking factor that increases your site’s ability to rank well in the organic search results.

While you’re here, you’ll also want to track specific backlink information, such as the anchor text of the link in question. This data can be useful for identifying unexpected keywords or other interesting information about how incoming guests view your site.


SOURCE: Google Analytics > Acquisition > Referrals

Closely related to backlinks, but not synonymous, referrals are actual clicks-through to your site from a link. In other words, for every referral, there’s a link that was followed, but every backlink may not be generating referrals to any notable degree.

Combining referral data with backlink information can help you put together a far more useful picture of how people arrive at your site—and which of them will ultimately spend money.

Conversions by Source

SOURCE: Google Analytics > Conversions > Goals > Overview (sort by Source / Medium)

This useful data point is actually made up by the intersection of other data points. By looking at conversion rates on a per-source basis, you’ll get a much better picture of how your traffic sources really perform.

If, for instance, you see certain high-traffic sources offer bizarrely low conversions, you can target those sources for more research and adjustment—or cut them, to focus your resources on more valuable sources.

Conversions by Segment
SOURCE: Google Analytics > Conversions > Goals > Overview (use the “+ Add Segment” button)

Rather than by source, you can also track your conversion rate according to identified market segments. This is, of course, dependent on your ability to accurately identify notable market segments and track their movement through your sales funnel.

Don’t just think of this as a more potent version of conversion-by-source, because the two metrics have independent value. For example, visitors from the same market segment may convert better coming from one source than from another, for a variety of reasons.

UX Data

User experience decides user perception in a way that often overshadows the quality of the content, services, and products you’re offering. People take to social media to complain about poor website experiences in a heartbeat; the frustration fresh in their minds.

For that reason, you’ll always want to make good UX a high priority in your site analyses.

Task Success Rate

SOURCE: Use Google Analytics Goals to measure different types of task completions

How many visitors manage to successfully complete a given task without giving up? That’s your task success rate.

Tasks such as filling out forms or signing up for a newsletter are easy to track in this sense, while tasks such as navigating to a particular part of the site can be trickier to measure. Accordingly, it can be best to combine the basic monitoring of easier-to-observe tasks with direct reports from your various analytics tools.

Time on Task

SOURCE: Google Analytics > Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Time Lag

How long does it take a user to fill out a form, navigate to a page, set up an account, or check out? Make sure you look at metrics for mobile device users, too, as the same task can take far longer even with a well-designed responsive website.  

Usage Maps

SOURCE: Page Analytics plugin for Chrome

More a combination of data points than an independent metric, heat maps of user interactions with your website can be one of the single most valuable tools for user experience monitoring.

With them, you’ll be able to spot misclicks, hesitation before ignoring certain parts of the site, and graphic elements that are simply ignored outright despite being interactive, all of which could be hampering your site’s performance.

Reported Satisfaction

SOURCE: Customer satisfaction email or survey (pictured above using a Net Promoter Score template from Survey Monkey)

An easy one to track; simply survey visitors, on page or via email, about how satisfied they are with your website. It seems almost trivial to keep up with, but it’s immensely important—yet many webmasters fail to consider this metric.

Make sure you have the tools in place to solicit feedback in this way, and take full advantage of the opportunity this data presents.

Load Times

SOURCE: Google Analytics > Behavior > Site Speed > Overview

Page load times are increasingly important as more users move to less powerful mobile devices for the majority of their browsing. Make sure your site loads pages in a reasonable amount of time on all popular browsing devices, not just on PCs and Mac desktops.

Stage-Specific Metrics

These aren’t metrics that are exclusively important to particular stages of business growth, but ontes that’ll be of greater or lesser importance over the course of development. All business owners should be paying attention to all of these, at any stage of growth, but understand the specific weight each carries as your business matures.

New Traffic

SOURCE: Google Analytics > Audience > Overview

Early in your site’s maturation, you’ll want to focus on getting a baseline level of traffic to your site. What that means will depend on your business model and market, but you want at least enough traffic to start gathering data and crunching numbers.

New visitors will be your hottest commodity in this phase, but will always be something worth watching—if new visitor numbers taper off later in the life of your site, it should be a big red flag that something’s amiss.

Pipeline Conversion Bottlenecks

SOURCE: Google Analytics > Conversions > Goals > Goal Flow

There’s no single metric you can look at to identify bottlenecks, unfortunately. You want to keep an eye on each action point between ‘first contact’ and ‘satisfied customer’, looking for any place with excessive drop off.

Identifying and correcting bottlenecks will give you some of the most efficient gains possible in your growth as a business—hence the reason that this area of data is especially associated with the strongest phases of growth in the middle of a business’s maturation cycle.

After you correct what you can and make peace with what you can’t fix, you’ll still want to watch your bottlenecks for changes.  

Cost per Acquisition

CPA, or cost per acquisition, is the pinnacle of ROI data points for business owners to consider, and ultimately the most useful for the big picture of the site.

This is the amount a given lead cost to acquire, taking into account the cost of marketing to bring them to the purchase. Depending on your business model, you may want to look at similar, but different data points instead, such as the cost/profit ratio for leads. Only when you understand the interplay of expenses, market segments, and sales will you be able to truly optimize your site for your ideal bottom line.

If you’re a new webmaster, don’t worry. You don’t need to implement tracking solutions for all of these different metrics at once. Pick the 3-5 that interest you most (or that are most relevant to your business’s needs) and begin tracking. As you get comfortable, add more analytics to your ongoing website maintenance routines.

Which of the metrics above do you track? Are there any others in your regular reporting round-up? Leave us a note below sharing your experiences:


Header Image Source: Pixabay