By Tom Greenbaum, SCORE Counselor NY SCORE
It is vital to be joining the digital age, as that is where we are today, and it is only going to become more important in the future as more organizations appreciate the importance of the digital market in which we are in.
But how many people have asked themselves why do I really have a website, and how do I know if it is doing anything to help my business? These are two very important topics that that we will address in this article.
Why Do I Have (or should I have) a Website?
Since it costs money to have a website and can take a lot of time to develop it, the question of the reason to have a website is very valid. There are several key reasons why a website is an essential part of a business operation regardless of the type of business you run.
First, a website is probably the best way for current or prospective customers can learn about your business.
In a well-constructed website, there will be information about the organization, what makes your company special, and how can people purchase goods or services from you.
In the current environment the most common way to learn about a company is to enter the name into a search engine (such as Google) which then will direct the inquirer to your website.
Second, a website can be an excellent way to get new customers, or even to motivate your current customers to purchase more from you.
If you have a well written website, prospects (or customers) who are looking for information about your products or services, they will be directed to you assuming your website contains the right “key words” that they enter into a search engine seeking the information.
Thirdly, a website can be a vehicle for you to sell your products or services.
Ten years ago, the only way to purchase a product was by going to a store, calling an 800-phone number or ordering from a catalog. In the current environment a large percentage of goods and services are purchased on-line from a website, and the growth rate from this purchasing channel is much higher than any other way of buying.
Fourth, a website gives your business credibility. Due to the large percentage of businesses around the world that have websites, if you do not have one, some people will question both your viability and your ability to keep up with the times
How Do I Learn How My Website is Performing?
A very large percentage of companies with websites have no idea what the website is doing for them, because they have never incorporated an analytics package into the site. Without web analytics, it is virtually impossible to find out how your site is performing.
For example, do you have any idea as to the number of visitors you have, where are they coming from, how long do they stay on your site and what page did they enter and leave your website?
Where do I get an analytics package, and how much does it cost?
Most platforms that websites are written on have their own analytics package that can provide you with some of the above information. Further it is almost always free to the user.
I tell all my clients not to use the proprietary website from your platform provider, but rather to utilize a free analytics package from Google, called Google Analytics. It is very easy to install on your website, and I encourage everyone to simply Google the name of your platform with the question of how I install Google Analytics on my website. The instructions are normally very easy to follow, and I will not attempt to provide an approach here due to the differences by platform.
I do want to provide a very basic overview of Google Analytics so you can get a brief look at some of the most important data you are able to obtain. The following is only the tip of the iceberg, as there is a great deal of very useful information in Google Analytics which is free to anyone with a website. Essentially, I feel there are five key numbers you should look at regularly on Google Analytics:
Visitors – This is simply the number of people who went on your site during the period you are evaluating.
I strongly recommend looking at Google Analytics data on a 28-day cycle, as it is long enough to even out any strange things that might have happened on one particular week.
In my opinion, the number of visitors on a website is not a particularly important number, as I am more interested in the quality of the visitors I have.
It is relatively easy to generate a lot of users by incorporating certain search engine marketing tools or social media platforms. However, if the people who come to your website are not your target customers, they probably are not particularly important to you as they will not buy your product or service.
Time Spent on The Site – This is an extremely important evaluative measure, as it tells you something about how interested people are in what you are providing. A “rule of thumb” target I use with my clients is two minutes. Anything more than that is normally very good, and the farther away from it is generally bad.
Number of Pages Viewed – This can be a very important measure, but it depends on the nature of your website. For example, if you are running an ecommerce site with dozens of different products, the number of pages viewed is vital. On the other hand, if you have a very simple product or service and your site is simply for information only, a lower number of pages can be quite acceptable.
Bounce Rate – This is definitely the measurement that almost everyone uses to evaluate their site.
It measures the number of visitors who only go on one page of the site. A target we use with clients is 35%, but we rarely see clients achieve this number or lower.
Engagement – In my opinion, this is the most important number that you can get from Google Analytics, however, most people do not even know it exists.
Engagement is the percentage of sessions during the measurement period that are less than 10 seconds long. It is generally agreed that if a visitor is not on your website for more than 10 seconds, they are really not on your site. As a result, we need to know how many sessions last longer than 10 seconds. This will give us the clearest picture possible of the interest your visitors have in your website and the material/content you are providing.
How to calculate ENGAGEMENT- It is normally a very easy number to develop, but in some cases I have been unable to find the relevant data in Google Analytics to develop this measurement. To calculate engagement here is what you do:
Go to the dashboard of your Google Analytics data.
On the left side you will find a list of places you can go for various types of data. To develop the engagement measure, go to AUDIENCE – BEHAVIOR – ENGAGEMENT.
This should bring you to a chart that shows the total number of sessions your visitors have had in the measurement period (i.e.: 28 days). Also, you will see the number of sessions that are less than 10 seconds.
If you divide the total sessions under 10 seconds by the total sessions, you will get a percentage. Normally this percentage is about 10% greater than your bounce rate (coincidentally, as there is no real relation to them).
The important number is the inverse of the number you have calculated. For example, if you calculated a 74% engagement, the number you really care about is 26% as that shows the percentage of sessions that were MORE THAN TEN SECONDS. This indicates people who are on your website reading the material.
If you want your company to be in the digital age, this article is vital to you.
More information can be found in the recently published book: “You Can Do It; A Guide to Starting and Running a Small Business 2018” Revised Edition.
It is available on Amazon and any place eBooks are sold. It may also be available in your public library. Be sure you get the 2018 edition, as the original 2012 version does not have the same depth of information.
In my next article I will provide a primer on building a website.