What metrics should you track on your website?

7 June 2020

In this two-part series, we are going to explore a topic some of you don’t like talking about at all: metrics. 

Don’t click away because you’re already overwhelmed! 

Metrics can seem complex at first, or maybe even unnecessary, but they are indispensable tools for you to use as you build your business.

In this post I’m going to introduce ten website metrics you should be tracking and explain why they are important. In part two of this series, I’ll cover nine marketing metrics you can use to investigate the outcomes of your ads and email campaigns.

By the end of this series, you will be able to confidently log in to Google Analytics and your email marketing provider to make use of the wealth of data waiting there for you. 

An Analogy

If you’re not yet convinced, I’ll give you some context about why tracking metrics is so important to the success of your business.

Let’s say you are the captain of a battleship and you’re responsible for the safety and well-being of all of your crew. 

Now imagine you are in battle and you don’t have a command center. 

Without one, you have no idea if your ship has been hit, or whether you have enemies behind you or in front of you. 

What do you think will happen to your ship as you cruise blindly through the melee? 

It’s going to sink, you and your crew along with it!

I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.  

If you don’t have any kind of command center to see what’s happening on and around your website and marketing efforts, then this same scenario applies to your business. 

Without a watchful captain at the helm, your business can easily sink too.

Metrics will help you make impactful decisions about your business

You undoubtedly built a website to attract visitors. You want them to find your website so they can read your content, sign up for your newsletter, and buy your products.

You spend time and effort creating useful posts with the goal that some of these visitors will convert into leads, or better yet, into customers.

These are all important tasks when running a successful business. Metrics will build on this strong foundation that you’ve already created and take your business strategy to the next level. 

How metrics help you make savvy business and marketing decisions

You may still be thinking that you don’t really need to watch your metrics. Maybe you’ve already created a successful business without them, so why fix what isn’t broken?

While you may be doing just fine without metrics, there is a world of possibility once you integrate them into your strategy. Keep in mind that without metrics you won’t really know:

  • what your visitors are actually doing on your site
  • where they came from
  • how many are converting

And if you don’t know any of this, then you will end up making blind decisions about your business which could be costly in two ways. 

You might spend too much time and money on content and marketing efforts that don’t have a great impact or conversion rate. This will leave you feeling like you’re spinning your wheels, but with metrics, the data will tell you the most impactful places to devote your efforts.

Alternatively, you may not even be aware of some hidden gems on your site that are getting significant traffic and driving conversions. If you knew about those gems, you could be expanding, repurposing, and resharing content that you already know is desirable to your audience, and that converts visitors to customers.

It’s also important to track metrics so you have a baseline of what’s typical, and when there is some major change, you can flag it and investigate what caused the uptick or dip in the numbers.

What metrics should I be tracking?

When you start looking at metrics, don’t just drift through the data. You want to get goal orientated now that you have real visibility on what’s going on in your business. 

I’m going to introduce the most high-leverage metrics that you can use to make savvy business decisions.

In this post, I’ll introduce ten website metrics you can track on Google Analytics. 

These are going to answer common questions you’ll have about your business, such as:

  • How are people using my site? You can check out metrics like page views and average session duration to find out.
  • Are visitors converting to customers? This question can be answered by looking at your conversion rate.
  • Is my audience growing? To investigate this question, you can examine your traffic sources, and check how many of your visitors are new vs. return visitors.

In the second post, I’ll share nine marketing metrics that you’ll be able to find on the social media platforms where you post, and within the service you use to email your list. 

These metrics will help you get a sense of how effective your campaigns have been and answer questions like:

  • How many people have seen my ads? Metrics like reach and impressions will help you assess the efficacy of your targeting.
  • Are my emails being read? Check your email open and click through rates to see how your audience is engaging with what you’ve sent.
  • Am I making more money than I’m spending to acquire new customers? With metrics like cost per acquisition and cost per conversion you can let data help you decide if your money is being spent well.

It may seem like a lot to take in all at once, but you’ll quickly become comfortable with all of these metrics. 

It will be worth it. The information you can pull from your metrics is going to massively help with your growth.

Google Analytics

You may have wanted to track website metrics in the past but felt overwhelmed by the questions. 

Where should I start? What should I be looking at? What tools do I need to get these metrics? 

The answer is simple. 

It’s Google Analytics (GA).

To make things even easier, I wrote a post to walk you through the complete setup of Google Analytics (GA) in just a few minutes. 

Once you’ve got GA set up, you can explore all the following metrics with real data from your site. 

Top ten website metrics

1. Overall website traffic

Your website is the face of your brand. All of your digital marketing efforts are leading to your website (and if they’re not, they should be). 

While individual campaigns may focus specifically on increasing social media reach, for example, the ultimate goal of that activity is to eventually start sending more traffic to your website.

Because of this, measuring your website traffic metrics regularly will actually provide you with great insights as to what’s working and what’s not. 

To find this metric, you’ll go to your GA dashboard, click “Audience”, and then “Overview”. You’ll see a line graph up at the top with a date range on the upper right. 

Google Analytics

This provides a snapshot view of how many users have been on your site. You can click to see the number by hour, day, week, or month. 

You’ll also see that, just below that line graph, there will be a synopsis of some other metrics, many of which you’ll want to take a glance at! But for now, you can look at Users, which will offer the total number of users on your site for the selected date range.

Website Metrics

If you want to see the number of users on your site go up over time, put effort toward optimizing your site with relevant keywords, consistently publishing blog posts or other new content, and promoting your content on social media. You can also boost your traffic by using paid ads. 

If you start seeing a steady decline in traffic while your marketing efforts have been consistent. then it’s time to start troubleshooting. You might find broken links,  a penalty with the Google algorithm, or other technical issues which are deterring visitors on your website.

You can see why it’s helpful to have this quick snapshot of overall traffic on your website, and how you can put it to work for you!

2. Source

Source sheds light on where your website traffic is coming from. 

There are so many different marketing platforms available, and limited time for us to be posting on all of them. 

But if you’re doubling your effort in Twitter, in Facebook, and Instagram, and see a rise in your overall traffic numbers, that’s not very helpful unless you know where that traffic is coming from! 

You need to get a handle on that because if you see that 80% of your traffic is coming from Instagram, you want to be doubling down on your efforts over there, instead of working twice as hard over on Twitter.

Once you know which traffic sources are the absolute winners and then which ones need a little less attention, you can focus your attention where it counts and leave the other channels on the back burner for the time being. You can always ramp them up another time and see if it impacts traffic. 

Knowing your traffic courses will help with the issue that we all struggle with: dividing our time and spreading ourselves too thin. If you know where your traffic is coming from and you know where you can actually see results, then you can start actually focusing on the highest impact sources.

If the promise of more time doesn’t get you excited about tracking your source metric, then you need to check your pulse!

To find this metric, click “Acquisition” on the left menu of your GA dashboard, and then choose “Overview.” You’ll see a pie chart display that shows the proportion of traffic from each of your sources.

Google Analytics Overview

Below that chart, you’ll see a very thorough breakdown of how many users are finding you from each source, as well as some of their behaviors on the site.

Traffic Sources

Let’s take our example from earlier, when I mentioned that if you’re doubling your efforts in a number of social channels all at once, how will you know which is paying off? 

If you click “Social” in the table, it will bring you to another table that breaks down your traffic according to all the social channels that are sending it to your site.

Website Metrics - Social

Now you could easily see that Facebook is sending more Traffic than Twitter, and that YouTube is the primary source of users coming to your site from social.

Knowing these numbers might help you decide to focus much more of your time on YouTube content, since you already have an audience there, and less on Twitter, where you clearly don’t have much of a foothold.

Let’s go back to that first data table under “Acquisition > Overview”.

Sources Overview
Sources Overview

The first one listed is organic search. This tracked when a visitor clicks on a link in a search engine result and it brings them to your website. 

Direct tracks people who directly type your address or your domain name into the search bar or browser. They may have bookmarked on a previous visit; clicking that bookmark would also track that visitor as a direct user, as they’ve accessed your website without using a search engine to find it.

Referrals are users who have been sent your website when they click on a link from another website that leads to yours. So, for example, I might have someone arrive on my site because they clicked a link on another website that referenced a blog post on my website. 

Social are the users that come to your website from your social media profile or social content posts. Maybe you’ve posted to Facebook about a new blog entry and put a link onto that Facebook post. Anyone who clicks that link to read the blog post will be categorized as a social source. 

So those four sources again are:

  • Search: visitor clicked on the result of a search engine lookup
  • Direct: visitor typed your URL directly or clicked a bookmark
  • Referral: visitor clicked on a link from another page that led to your site
  • Social: visitor clicked on a link to your site from a social platform

Knowing these four traffic sources is a great start. But to really leverage the power of these numbers, you want to track the proportions of each type of source. 

If your direct traffic is low, does that mean your URL is hard to spell or hard to remember? 

Can you boost referral traffic by collaborating with another content creator to link to your post? 

How valuable is your social content in generating website traffic? 

What proportion of each source are converting in some way? If you have fewer search visitors but they convert at a much higher rate than your many, but low-conversion social visitors, you may want to devote your attention to search traffic to realize the full potential of that high conversion rate.

The metrics will give you feedback on what you’re doing to promote your website, and the more you dig into them, a story will start to emerge.

3. New visitors vs returning visitors

Tracking your new visitors vs. returning visitors is another valuable metric. New visitors can indicate growth, while returning visitors may point to an increase in your customer lifetime value.

Find a quick snapshot of the proportion of your new and returning visitors by clicking “Audience” and “Overview” on your GA dashboard.

Number of Website Visitors

When looking at a metric, it’s so important to consider the story the data is telling.

Multiple return visitors can mean that your content is valuable to them and they keep coming back for more. Maybe these are visitors that pop over every time a new blog post goes up, or when you run a promotion on social media. This is a great indicator that your content is good enough to attract return visitors. 

It may be worthwhile to single out the conversion rates of return visitors to see what you can tweak to get more of these clearly interested parties to convert. 

You can find this by clicking “Behavior” on the menu (under “Audience”), and then choosing “New vs. Returning”.

New vs Returning Visitors

Now you can see the conversion rates of both types of visitors.

You might also want to consider, if a return visitor didn’t convert the first time they visited, but they have come back to the page, how can you entice them? Some companies offer a discount or some other exclusive deal to visitors returning to their site.

Maybe you want to grow your traffic over the next few months. If so, you want to see more new visitors coming to your website.

If you are working on attracting new visitors to your site, you want to be very aware of what the site looks like when they land there for the first time. Is it pleasant to look at? Easy to navigate? Is there a clear CTA or some obvious path they can follow to explore your content? While a returning visitor may know right away what page they’re looking for, a new visitor will be interacting with your site for the first time.

You’ll also want to think about how to increase both new and return visitors. You could publish blog posts using strong keywords so they show up in the search engine results. You can promote your site on social media. You can send an email blast out to your subscriber when you post new content on your site.

The data can’t tell you everything to do, but it will certainly get you to start asking new questions, and when you ask the right questions, the answers may very well lead straight to more business!

4. Sessions

The fourth metric that you want to look at in Google Analytics is sessions. 

Sessions measure the number of visits to your site, while Users measures the number of visitors.

A user can have multiple sessions. A new session starts every time a user, new or returning, lands on your site. If they are inactive for 30 minutes or longer and then re engage, GA will count this as a new session. 

You can find information about sessions by clicking “Audience” and “Overview”

Website Sessions

In addition to the total number of sessions for your selected date range, you’ll see other interesting numbers like the number of pages per session and the average session duration. 

Because you want to keep a visitor on your site as long as possible, these are important metrics. The longer the visitor stays, and the more pages they interact with, the more information you get about the value of your content.

5. Average session duration

You can see the average session duration in the last photo. As I already said, the longer a visitor stays on your site, the more content they are interacting with, and the more interested you can assume they are in what you have to offer.

Session duration will vary with your industry, but other things can influence as well. 

If your website is easy to navigate and users find what they’re looking for really quickly, that doesn’t make your content less valuable. Video is a great way to keep people on your website for longer because they’re going to be there for the duration of the video.

You can drill down into “Behavior” to see more information about sessions. If you click “Engagement”, you will see session lengths broken down into the number of seconds stayed.

Session Durastion

If you click “Session Quality”, just below “Engagement”, you will be able to see even more information about your sessions. They will be broken out by source, you can see how many were new users, how many pages per session were viewed on average, and the bounce rate.

Website Metrics

Again, the metrics don’t tell you what to do or give you all the answers. But hopefully you’re starting to see how you can begin to investigate your user behavior and tailor your website and marketing efforts to work even better for your visitors and better for your business.

6. Pageviews

Pageviews track the total number of page views, so just keep in mind a user who repeatedly visits the same page will trigger this. 

You might also want to know that a user can visit many pages within the same session. The session will only restart if they navigate away from your site and come back, or if their activity lapses for more than 30 minutes.

There are a few places to check your pageviews. You can see a snapshot from the “Audience > Overview” tab where some of the other metrics we’ve already covered are located. 

Website Metrics

If you want more information, click to “Behavior” and “Overview”, and you’ll see pageviews broken down by total views, unique pageviews, and the average time spent on the page.

Website Metrics

Pageviews are a great measure for your digital marketing success. It helps you to understand if your entire website is being useful or if only certain pages are actually being utilized. 

It’s the same with session duration. The more pages someone visits the better chance you have at a conversion because you have more points of interaction to offer useful content, downloads, sign-ups, and courses. 

High pageviews could mean you have high quality content and a visitor engaging with multiple pages. However, it could also mean something was hard to find so they clicked around a lot. You’ll need to look at more than one metric to get the full story, but the concrete data is a great place to start.

7. Visited Pages

The visited pages metric will uncover loads and loads more information about where your visitors are going, how long they are staying on those pages, and how frequently they exit from that page (or bounce).

If some of your pages are getting really high pageviews, this may mean this is some of your most valuable content. It could mean that this page ranks high in the search engine results for a keyword, or that the page was linked to from another source with high traffic.

If you have a sense of which pages are getting the most vs. least views, you can begin to map out how to lead someone to your most valuable content and hopefully convert.

To explore page views by page, click “Behavior > Site Content > All Pages” to see a list of your pages with information like pageviews, average time on page, and bounce rate.

Website Metrics

This may be pretty eye-opening if you haven’t seen it before!

8. Exit Page

Exit rate reveals a lot about your website design and the experience that people are having on your website. It shows you exactly where they left after reviewing your content. 

Exit rate is different from the bounce rate because the bounce rate is triggered when someone visits just one page and leaves. The exit rate tells you where visitors actually just lost interest and the engagement declined, and they closed down the browser or left your website. 

You can find this metric under “Behavior > Site Content > Exit Pages”.

Website Metrics

If you find there’s one page where people are exiting from frequently, there may be something wrong with that page. Perhaps it’s not displaying well on mobile, or perhaps it’s displaying a 404 error. It might even just be that the content there is really boring or out of date…

Time to get your eyes on that content and shake it up. 

It’s particularly important to check if people are exiting during a purchase, ie. abandoning their cart. This could mean something in the process is broken, the steps to get there may be too difficult or intrusive, or maybe it’s not clear what steps they’re meant to take.

If you see that you have a high exit page rate from your basket or checkout page, it’s time to investigate. You might want to run some retargeting ads or send email reminders that these users have left something wonderful in their cart!

Whatever you decide to do, having the numbers in front of you will help you make the decision.

9. Bounce Rate

Bounce rate happens when people land on your site and do not click anywhere else before leaving. It means someone landed and left with no interactions. 

You will see bounce rate listed as a metric for things like visited pages, but you can find the overall site bounce rate under “Audience > Overview”.

Website Metrics

The goal of increasing your session duration and pageviews is to decrease the bounce rate. 

A bounce could mean the page content wasn’t useful to them, the page loaded too slowly, or maybe the design is bad and they left to find something easier to navigate. 

Another reason a visitor might bounce is if there are no internal links or calls to action on the page, so they have no other choice but to leave. 

It could also mean the wrong user was targeted. For example, if your site shows up in the search engine results page for the keyword “nutrition”, someone might click on your page looking for diet advice. But if that person eats a vegan diet and your page is about paleo or keto nutrition with lots of recipes with bacon and butter, then clearly that visitor was the wrong target for your content.

There are some pages that people will bounce from no matter what. If someone just needs your phone number, for example, then they will arrive on your contact page, get your phone number, and bounce away. This is an acceptable bounce and will naturally increase your bounce rate.

You can drill down into bounce rate to learn more by segmenting your audience. For example, if mobile users are bouncing more than desktop users, this could indicate a problem with mobile functionality. 

10. Conversion Rate

Google Analytics can help you measure the number of conversions on your website. 

Conversion can mean different things. It could be a sale, a subscriber, someone completing a download, filling a form, or clicking on something on your site. 

You can actually specify those goals for conversion in Google Analytics.

If you click the small gray gear wheel on the bottom left corner of your dashboard, you’ll see your admin menu. Goals are listed in the rightmost column.

Website Metrics

Then you’ll click goals and see a red button that says “Create new goal”.

Website Metrics

Once you click this, you’ll see that GA has some templates for frequently used goals, or you can create your own custom goal. 

After you’ve set up some goals, you can track them under “Conversions > Goals” from your left sidebar menu.

Website Metrics

Some helpful tools

If this is all feeling like a lot, there are some really cool tools that make Google Analytics less daunting for you to dig into.

Quill Engage will send you a weekly report with easy-to-understand language straight to your inbox so you can check metrics at a glance. It’s a great way to get your feet wet if you’re not ready to fully explore GA on your own.

Another free tool that I use and love is Cyfe. It’s a dashboard that shows all your metrics across social media platforms and across your website. You just hook it up with all of your platforms and it’s ready to go. 

Cyfe even shows the historical data, so you can see what your increases and decreases are at a glance. 

It’s one dashboard where you can track everything. If we go back to that analogy of the command center for the ship, the Cyfe dashboard is your Command Center. I love this tool and recommend seeing if it’s right for you.

Final Thoughts

Congratulations, you’ve made it through a crash course in website metrics on Google Analytics!

There’s a lot to take in. I completely get it if you don’t start tracking all those metrics today, but I do encourage you to dig in to Google Analytics. 

If you don’t have it installed yet, please make sure you do. You can reference my post about setting up GA, or come over to the WordPress Happy Facebook community and I will talk you through it.

I hope you can now see the value and potential of knowing these metrics, and using them to learn what’s happening with the visitors on your site. 

Analytics had never been my strength. For those of you who know me, you know that I don’t love numbers and charts. 

But when you can see the amazing insights that they can give you, they suddenly become exciting. 

Especially when they give you a clear steer on where you can best spend your energy. Then you grow to love them. 

So I’d encourage you to dig in, even if you’re reluctant at first. 

This post is just Part One in a two part series about metrics. I’ll cover Marketing Metrics in my next post, so you can learn how to track your ads and emails to be sure you’re getting the return that you want.


Vicky Etherington

Vicky Etherington has been running her own online marketing agency since 2003, and in 2015 transitioned to working with coaches and therapists to teach them how to create their own client-attracting websites. 

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