March 2008

26 Mar 2008 12:34 am

microWe love our conversion rates. :) Really really.

Part of me is glad because my book and the Trinity strategy and the Web Analytics 2.0 mindset all stress the importance of measuring Outcomes.

No Outcomes = No Happiness.

But I have come to realize that we are not being the best we can be by focusing on just the overall website conversion rate. We are leaving money on the table. We are not getting enough credit. We are not getting a good understanding of the complete picture. We are being short sighted.

Regardless of why your website exists it is quite likely that there is a rich diversity in reasons why people come to your website (hence the core pitch to understanding Primary Purpose using 4Q: The Best Free Online Survey For A Website). Conversion being just one of them ("please please let me in, I want to be converted!!").

What about those who refuse to be converted online?

You worked hard (hopefully!) to get them to the site, if they did not convert did you accomplish nothing?

Hence my recommendation:

Focus on measuring your macro (overall) conversions, but for optimal awesomeness identify and measure your micro conversions as well.

Let me explain.

This "picture" represents a typical website and measurement of it's success, what's the word I am looking for. . . . oh conversions. . . . : )

the conversion rate dilemma 1

You have your two percent conversion rate (though just to be generous I am probably showing a number much higher than that above). You should be happy, atleast you are up to some benchmarks in that space.

But what do you do in terms of measuring complete success of your website? All that white "space" (Unique Visitors) wasted for nothing?

No. Well maybe some.

But people don't just come to your site to Buy. They are there to Research products and services (and buy offline). They are looking to get Support. They are there for looking for Jobs. They might be there to look at your latest Blog Post, etc.

Make each one of those your Micro Conversions. Identify what they should be using 4Q and then using your Web Analytics tools to measure success.

Here's your new, and I might add complete, measurement of success. . . .

macro conversion rate and micro conversion rate

Nothing wasted, every activity on the site measured for success in some small or big way.

Here's a view that might apply for your ecommerce website. . . .

macro conversion rate and micro conversion rate demystified

For the macro conversion you measure Outcomes (say orders, see this post for definitions: Conversion Rate Basics & Best Practices). For micro conversions you could measure page views and job applications submitted and number of times the Print This Page was clicked (the hypothesis being you'll buy in a store or something like that) or Task Completion Rates by Primary Purpose for Support, Research & Careers from your website onexit survey.

Either way you have just provided your management team with a complete picture of your website's success. And you have shown that you are brilliant because you are measuring success of all visitors on your website. Priceless.

Have you clearly identified what the micro conversions are on your website?

why use cod liver oil

Benefits of measuring micro-conversions:

  1. You'll focus on more can just the main reason the site was created.

  2. You'll measure multi-channel impact, well beyond your website. Most people don't get budgets for web analytics because all they are focused on is measuring what happens during a small % of visits. Expand and conquer.

  3. It will force you to understand the multiple persona's on your website, trust me that in of itself is worth a million bucks. It will encourage you to segment (my favorite activity) visitors and visits and behavior and outcomes. Success will be yours.

  4. You'll realize the limits of a pure clickstream strategy and you'll be forced to expand beyond just Google Analytics or Omniture or CoreMetrics etc and execute a true Multiplicity strategy, that is good for your company and it is good for your career.

  5. You'll be happy. Most people who do web analytics are sad and/or frustrated. One of reasons for it is because they are hyper focused on a small part with way more data than they can ever churn through.

    By expanding your measurement horizon and seeking insights from a broader area means you'll know what to do with all this data. Which means you'll smile a lot more, because you'll feel a sense of accomplishment from your job. Happiness is good.


Ready to execute?

Let me share some stories to spark ideas in your mind about how to identify your own complete conversion rate picture.

Photo publishing and sharing website:

When, an awesome Spanish photo sharing website (check out: Calopteryx splendens!) wants to track success they measure Conversion Rate. . . .

conversion rate fotonatura

They are doing very well. Fernando is quite happy with how is project is performing. But he is also very smart and he is measuring micro conversions, things that his site is trying to do that mean success for him. . . .

micro conversions fotonatura 1

His micro conversions. . .

    1. Registrations on the site.

    2. People / Members publishing photos (core for growth).

    3. (I think, my Spanish is bad!) People who sign up for premium content.

    4. (I think) People who sign up for newsletters / announcements (good for future customers).

A complete picture measuring all types of behavior and all elements of success. The 1.72% conversion won't go up waaay high, but the site's success is bigger than just that one number. Above picture is how you measure that.

Makes sense right?

A quick note: Your micro conversions don't have to lead up to the macro conversion (though in this case they kind of do). In our very first example of ecommerce website notice that the micro conversions are very different from the macro, they are just subservient, a little bit, to the macro.

Tech Support Website:

(These ideas are from one of my posts: Measuring Success for a Support Website.)

Macro Conversion:

    Task Completion Rate (measured by surveys, true customer centricity baby!).

Micro Conversions:

    five bugs1. "Call Avoidance": Number of Visitors who see the Phone Number page (hypothesis: all other things being equal if the site is good this number goes down over time).

    2. Content Consumption: Visits over time to each technical support core area (maybe different products or types of problems etc).

    3. Tickets Opened: # of technical supports tickets opened on the website (and over time compared to those opened over the phone).

    4. Sales: Revenue from referrals from the tech support site to the ecommerce site (sometimes the best solution to fix a problem is to buy the latest version of the product, or a upgrade!).

    5. Net Promoters ("Likelihood to Recommend"): The % of people (or a indexed representation) who will recommend the company products after a experience on the tech support site.

Again the stress is on understanding the overall purpose, get people answers to their questions hyper fast, and also the other smaller things that the site might be impacting.

Who knew this thing was so much fun? :)

Another Ecommerce Website:

We have already covered ecommerce in the very first example but I wanted to share this one as well because it was so nicely created for this concept. . . .

micro conversions big site

Very self explanatory, covers all the reason the site exists beyond simple taking orders / transactions.

Social Media Metrics / Blog Success:

Social media sites are tricky because many traditional analytics tools and mindset fail at identify first what to measure and then at data capture. At the moment there are not set tools and perfect answers. For blogs I have made an attempt at creating metrics to measure holistic success.

The "macro-conversion" I use, and recommend, is RSS Subscribers, or more specifically growth of RSS Subscribers. The hardest thing to do in an attention economy is to get permission to push content, RSS represents that permission to me.

I track RSS using FeedBurner:

feed subscribers occams razor

Of course it would be silly to get hung up on a point in time and obsess about daily up and down, so I actually track growth in Feed Subscribers over time (month to month):

feed subscribers over time occams razor

Macro Conversion: Net Subscribers Added.

When it comes to micro conversions things get a bit more delightful. . . .

Clicks on the book's link to Amazon:

clicks to amazon web analytics an hour a day

Ok so I have to put that into excel and actually compute the % between the red and the green, but you get my point. It is a "conversion" if people click on link and perhaps go buy a book (it is especially nice because 100% of my proceeds from the book are donated to charity!).

Since the link as a affiliate code in the link I can track conversions at Amazon's website using their affiliate reports.

Conversation Rate:

conversation rate occams razor

The number of user comments per post, trended over time. It represents the success at engaging visitors with your unique content and getting them to contribute their thoughts, i.e. in the most social of social environments your ability to create meaningful conversation.

For the last 30 days this number stands at approximately 30, a bit higher than my goal.

(Thanks to my good friend Joost for the Blog Metrics plugin!)

Ripple Index:

technorati ripple index occams razor

The number of unique blogs that link to your blog (with links expiring in in six months to ensure you keep creating content that causes a "ripple"). I use Technorati to measure this.

In the above image that number is 1,163. Your, or my, ability to influence others and create conversation in the ecosystem.

There is another interesting thing the above example of blog illustrates, something you can apply to your own success measurement of any type of site: Sometimes you have to go beyond just the tools you have, and other times you have to create new metrics to measure micro conversions. That's ok.

Macro + Micro = Complete Picture.

I hope the above examples help you paint your very own unique picture. Good luck!

Was that helpful? What do you measure when it comes time to identify success of your website? Any unique micro or macro conversions you would care to share? There are so many different types of websites out there, care to share conversion metrics for your site?

Please add to the conversation using the comments form below.

Couple other related posts you might find interesting:

18 Mar 2008 01:23 am

few manyCommon complaint: "Sure I have web analytics data, I have no idea what to do! I swear I have really tried hard and looked at all possible reports. I can't find anything interesting".

Does this sound like something you would say?

Know what the single most important missing ingredient?


Often numbers don't "speak" to you, or as loudly as they can about what you should do, because you are missing the context you can place around those numbers. Something that makes you want to take a pause and say: "ahhhh I get it now" or "ahhh that's interesting. . . I wonder if. . . ".

So what is this mysterious magic potion?

Its quite simple really, in its simplest form it is surrounding your Metrics, Key Performance Indicators, Reports, Dashboards etc with other information (quantitative, qualitative, tribal knowledge) that adds a pinch of color. Context.

Here's an example. . . . .

Undoubtedly you sent your Manager / Director / VP / Mom this month's "performance" / site statistics for this month. Perhaps it looked this this:

visitors and average time on site clicktracks

What can you infer from this? Almost nothing. Even less than nothing if you are a step removed from the daily existence of your site (or even months existence).

Now let's do what ClickTracks does best, add a touch of context. All I am going to do is add a couple of segments that might help add a color to the above web metrics.

Here it is:

segmented visitors and average time on site clicktracks

Now answer the same question again: Can you infer anything from this?

A lot I am sure.your site.

For your 116,503 Visitors you know some interesting things: Approximately half came from search engines, only a tiny fraction, 5,288, did what you wanted them to, look at product pages, and, perhaps more humblingly, a tiny tiny fraction converted.

From the second set of data for Average Time On Site you get a sense for the varied distributions in time each segment spends on your site. 64 seconds might have felt like a hurtfully low number for your beautiful engaging site. Now you know that atleast some people spend more time on the site (those that make it to product pages). You also know how long it takes for someone to convert, 239 seconds.

Now I'll admit the above picture might not quite be God's gift to you, but it raises the right questions that need being asked.

It will also help focus the initial analysis effort that you'll undertake. You'll ask why 51,398 Visitors to your site spent 43 seconds on average on your site. Where do they enter, what keywords, ppc or organic? What can we fix? is 239 seconds the right amount of time to conversion?

Well worth the nine seconds I spent on it right?

Simple context makes data a lot more interesting, helps you focus and find some actionable insights. Reporting rule #0 in my book: Never report data in aggregate, or by itself. Always always always test to see if you are including context!


Here are other techniques that you can apply in your quest for insights when you look at your own web analytics tool. . . .

# 1: Compare trends over different time periods.

Cheapest trick in the book. Honestly.

The question we are trying to answer is: "does this dashboard communicate anything of value?"

web analytics dashboard no context google analytics

Its cute, I'll grant you that. But really when push comes to shove it is not saying a lot. Especially to people who might not be immersed in your data (except for you of course!).

Now try this: choose a comparable time period, the last month or same month last year or whatever makes sense in your case.


web analytics dashboard with context google analytics

Ok so maybe I am getting excited about this. But look carefully insights, ideas, questions, are staring at you.

First you have had a awesome last 30 days (make sure your boss knows, she needs to look like a hero!).

Additionally for some the other metrics are coughing up insights. It is normally astounding that your traffic went up 45% and the bounce rate only went up by 3% – it is extremely rate to get that new traffic that is that qualified (quick find out what the Marketers did!).

Page views held steady as well, as did time on site, all good signs. And what's up with those three spikes, so unrelated to other time periods that match so closely? Dig please.

Quiz for you: What does that % of New Visits number (and delta over last month) indicate? I found it to be very surprising. Add your answer to the comments.

# 2: Compare key metrics and segments against site average.

Yes, yes, yes, averages can sometimes lie. Ok ok ok many times. :)

But they can also be your friend, especially when to comes to helping you get the initial set of context that you so sorely need to make your mass of web analytics clickstream data actionable.

You are really curious about your Direct traffic (also called, default, unknown source, bookmarks etc etc). In a couple of clicks this is what you are looking at:

direct traffic with no context google analytics


Nice? Things are going well? Maybe? "Avinash is wrong, web analytics is hard!" Ok ok, try this… two mouse clicks in Google Analytics … choose compare to site average for this stream of traffic. . . .


direct traffic comparison to site average google analytics

Sweet! See meaningful data, closer to you than you had imagined.

For "Direct" traffic now you have a at a glance knowledge of the vital stats. Smaller % of the traffic, but astoundingly valuable, by most measures you see above (time, bounce, pages etc).

See that is totally missing from the original picture. That second picture you can send to anyone in your company, or outside, and they won't ask you what the definition of Bounce Rate is or how Time on Site is computed. They'll understand performance. Because you gave them context.

This is how you get beyond the bickering about definitions are numbers, you get to have a discussion about what actions to take. Priceless.

# 3: Couples Rock!! :)

You need someone. I need someone. Everyone needs someone. Why not our metrics?

A very common mistake in reporting is to simply report on the important metric you care about by itself. I call these important but lonely metrics. I feel sad for them.

Why not pair your important metric with its husband / wife / "special friend" / partner / mistress? You'll understand performance of one and get actionable context from the other.

Its like sometimes you meet a person, and you are not sure what to make of them. Then you meet their significant other and you say "ahhhh everything makes sense now!" (Am I being a big mean here? :)

Let me explain, look at this common report, its important, I am sure you are sending it out to everyone:

search engine visits google analytics

Ok so that's nice. What do I do? Buy more Google? Dump MSN?

What you see above is just data, nothing useful.

Try this simple thing, find it a friend. . .

search engine visits and bounce rate google analytics

Oh la, la, now you are cooking!

The spouse metric (Bounce Rate) gives context to your core KPI (Visits) and suddenly this metric is a lot more useful. Any lay person, or a Analyst, can see instantly that some sources are good and others maybe not so much. Interesting actions can be taken about budget spend or why is something better than other things etc.

Of course you can do this with anything you want. Keywords, pages, referrers, campaigns, whatever is important to you, and whatever tool you are using, here I am using IndexTools and its custom report feature. . . .

visits and time on site indextools


One quick tip: As much as possible try to pick the spouse / mistress / friend metric to be a Outcome metric – something that helps measure success of you site.

Try it, you'll see what I mean, insights will practically scream out at you!

# 4: Industry Benchmarks.

These are astonishingly good at helping you get context to your performance.

Your conversion rate is 2% or your time onsite is 42 minutes or your share of search is 7% for a search engine (or a keyword) or . . . . How do you know if that is great, and you should rest, or really terrible and you need a Marshall Plan to fix things?

Use external context.

We have talked about the value of using the FireClick Index so many times in the past . . . .

fireclick index 1

Put your metrics against these, or others on that site, and see get delightful amounts of context.

Now Google Analytics also has a feature where you can also get benchmarking data, and in this case quite deep into your very own industry segment so you can see increased relevance of these benchmarks. . . .

industry benchmarking google analytics

Sweet ain't it? This site above had much higher traffic than other Apparel sites, much much higher, but they also have a much higher bounce rate and much lower time on site. Without the context of the benchmarks they could be celebrating, with the benchmarks they can start to make intelligent decisions.

[To learn more about GA benchmarking and the new data sharing settings policy please see this blog post by Brett Crosby:]

# 5: Tap into the tribal knowledge.

If there is a "killer app" for getting context to your web analytics data it is tribal knowledge. Information about initiatives, marketing programs, website updates, changes, management re-org's :), server outages, ppc, direct marketing and on and on and on: Things that have a impact on your website.

Web Analytics, and in turn Analysts, sit in a silo. This means that very often they have no idea about all the things that people are doing the site or to their acquisition strategies. So they look at all these numbers and metrics and trends and then like Tarot Card readers guess what the numbers mean!! A futile exercise.

There are lots of moving parts to a website and a lot of people involved in the holy exercise of creating something of value for your customers. It is a complex dance with many moving parts. . . .

tribal knowledge

The best way to get context is to seek out all the players and / or staying plugged into the various different processes to tease out vital context for your numbers.

"Ahhhh so you send out a big email blast five days ago!"

"You were running a multivariate test? Why did you not tell me in advance?"

"The shopping cart was down for nine hours! That explains so much, thank you. Kiss"

"We've adopted a new media mix model?"

"None of our last 6,000 campaigns were tagged! Pulling hair out!!!"

So on and so forth.

Step outside your cubicle, office, talk to people, take marketers out for dinner (if you do more than dinner please first refer to your company's HR policy!), create information loops that are closed (and include you!), etc etc.

Often all it takes to put a trend in context is to know everything different parts of your company are doing. Go get plugged in!

That's it, five simple easy to action recommendation.

Actually I have more that I could write about but I have six speeches in five days in NYC this week so I can't do as much justice to this post as I would like to. But one last quick tip, another great way to get context is to understand Primary Purpose, it is absolutely awesome. As to how to get Primary Purpose: Use the 4Q survey.

Thanks, hope this was just as much fun for you as it was for me. Please share your own ideas of how to get context, what works for you and what does not, please share your own battle scars using the form below.

Good luck!

Couple other related posts you might find interesting:

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