Top 10 Goals To Measure For Informational Websites
Informational websites (or informational parts of a website) can seem rather challenging to measure results for. Success on lead generation or ecommerce websites are easier to find—after all, you can measure if people submitted a lead form or if people placed an order. But what if you run a resource website? Or a news website? Or a blog? Or a help site for your software? What does success look like for these sites?
There are many ways to measure success, but here are 10 types of outcomes you could measure that I’ve found apply fairly well to most informational websites (or informational parts of websites).
1) Adjusted Bounce Rate
The bounce rate is a measure of how many people came to one page and looked at only that page before leaving your website. Within Google Analytics (and other tools), you can adjust this definition by using event tracking. If you have events setup on your website—to track things like scrolls, clicks, dwells, video plays, or more—you can have these events affect your bounce rate. This is because, by default, events are considered an interaction with your website. Technically, the bounce rate isn’t a measure of one page per visit, but rather one interaction per visit. A page visit is a type of interaction so without event tracking in place, people looking at one page before leaving have only interacted in one way.
The trick, for informational websites, is to determine what events should affect the bounce rate and which shouldn’t. Scrolling a certain length down the page is a meaningful way for people to interact—that suggests they read something. People playing a video on a page more than half-way could be another type of meaningful interaction. For these types of events, you can leave the event tracking with the default setting so people completing these events aren’t considered bouncers. That way, even if they only looked at one page they wouldn’t count as a bounce if they scrolled or watched the video.
There are bounce rates you’d rather not have affected by an event—like people who scrolled down really fast and then hit the back button or people who only watched the first five seconds of a ten-minute video. These people probably didn’t read much (if any) of your content. So, for these events, you may still want to track that they occurred, but you can make a non-interaction events so they don’t affect the bounce rate (see link above).
2) Scroll Depth & Reading
One of those key events you may want people to do as part of interacting with your informational website is scrolling. After all, if you have an informational article you want people to read, they clearly can’t read it if they don’t first scroll. You can use something like Parsnip’s Scroll Depth plugin to track this within Google Analytics. Alternatively, you could use a heatmap to track this instead.
3) Active time on page
People dwelling on a certain part of the page is helpful to know if people read key passages. However, it is also important to know the overall time people spent within a page. Google Analytics default metric is problematic here since it doesn’t track the time spent after the last interaction with the page which may mean it misses some amount of time. As well, if people open another tab, leaving our site open in the background, Google Analytics will continue to track time (at least somewhat).
Instead, what we want to track is the total time people were actively on an informational page of our website. Parsnip’s Riveted plugin does the trick. We can then benchmark this against the time we think people should spend on the page. For instance, if it would take people about two minutes to read through an article we’ve published, then we can see if people are truly spending that length of time. Arriving at these expected benchmarks would require evaluating the page with a representative test group of people to see how long it takes them to read through, and benefit from, the article.
4) Comment Rate
Many informational websites also offer some type of means of people commenting on the post, article, or video that has been published. If you know the number of people who arrived on a given page (or even the number of times the page was loaded via pageviews) and you know the number of people who left a comment, it becomes easy to calculate the comment rate. Just divide the comment amount by the sessions or pageviews.
Along with looking at the people who left comments, you can also evaluate the nature of the comments. Were these people leaving comments frustrated or confused? Or were they adding additional information? Or were they simply leaving a comment to say thanks for the help? By evaluating the tonality and intention of the comments, you can get an idea of whether or not people are benefiting from the information your website provides.
5) Reaching Out
Similar to comments, you could also measure how many people had to reach out for help after reading an article or blog post. If your article includes a way to contact your organization or the author of the piece—whether via email, phone, or on social media—you want to track how many people use those methods of contacting people. Like with comments, the math is simple: divide the number of people who reached out for support by the number of people who saw the page (or the number of pageviews).
Like with comments, you want to review the nature of the contact—what questions were people asking, what were they saying, and what does this tell you about the people who were reading the article. If people reached out for help and asked a question that you think was answered in the article, then there is a problem that exists. The article may need to be revised to better address that question. Alternatively, if people are reaching out asking additional questions not covered in the article, then a rewrite could help you answer this question.
In many respects, this metric should trend lower—people shouldn’t have to reach out for help if your article is helpful.
Similar to comments or reaching out for help, you can also include a method on your website for people to rate your information article. This can be particularly helpful for reference or help content. To make sure people use it, you can even trigger a prompt to get people to rate your material as they are about to exit the page. Even if the rating is only a simple thumbs up or thumbs down, this can give you a wealth of information about what people are thinking and if they are benefiting from your article. It also gives you an idea of priority—the articles with the most thumbs down probably need help.
Granted, this can be skewed by people who really dislike your material being more likely to rate the content before they go. So, to make a rating more meaningful, you typically want to compare it to other measures—like time spent or bounce rate. If the bounce rate is quite high, the time spent is low, and you have a lot of thumbs down ratings, then a problem exists. But, if everything else seems okay, except for a rather high amount of thumbs down, it might be skewed by a group of unhappy visitors.
7) Social Share Rate and Volume
If your website presents informational material that is of use to the people reading it, chances are there are many different kinds of people who should be reading that material. An informative news article might be shared with family or friends. A helpful resource offering advice on how to solve a problem or make a purchase might be shared with colleagues. The better the content, the more likely it is it will be shared.
One of the first things to measure here is how many people directly shared the article? Using something like AddThis share buttons, you can track how many people click on a share button on your website and how many people are copying the link in the address bar.
From here, you can also track the total share volume. There are different ways to find this – if you are evaluation a single URL, you can get this via a variation on Facebook’s API. While not perfect, this gives you a way of more broadly understanding what informational material people are referencing from your website. The better quality your information, the more likely it is it will be shared far and wide.
Finally, you also want to know how many people came back to your website after the article was shared. This gives you a way to know if people you saw the share came back to your website. That is interesting, but is more meaningful when you realize this is a proxy to tell you something about the people who originally shared your piece: the more people who come back, the more it means the people who originally shared the article actually understand your article and understood who else could benefit from the article.
8) Backlink Volume
Similar to share volume, you want to know the total amount of people who are linking to your website. Traditionally, backlink counts are an SEO-metric, but this is also a way of measuring the quality of your information. Put simply, the more people who link to your content, the more likely it is people have found value within your content. They see your content as a valuable reference source and are willingly linking to that valuable source from their own content.
As a way to make this more meaningful, you can see what words or phrases people are using to link to the content using Moz or Majestic. If people linking to your website are using phrases that closely relate to the subject matter of your material that is a great sign your content is successful. Similarly, you can review the individual sites to see who is referencing your website to better understand your audience.
9) Cross Linking
In the case of many informational websites, you need to link people over to some other piece of content. One article might not be enough to help answer somebody’s question – but that article could direct somebody to another article that would answer their question. To support this, your content no doubt provides links within it, guiding people to those other articles. You want to know if people are clicking on those links and, if so, which links they are clicking.
By adding event tracking to a link or by watching what pages people go to next, you can make sure that people are reaching these subsequent pages. In a way, this is positive information: people are able to get to another article. But, this introduces a problem: sure, people clicked another link, but was that link what they really needed? Like some of these other metrics, you can’t use this as a standalone. Even if a lot of people click from one page to the next, you need to look at the time spent on the next page and the amount of scrolling or dwelling people do on that page.
Along with knowing that people click on links, you can also track which links get clicked. Inevitably, some links will be clicked more than others. Some links won’t be clicked on at all. This makes this metric even more meaningful because it can help you understand what kind of information people truly want from the page. It can also help you understand how to organize the information so that the things people are interested in is promoted more highly.
10) Search Rankings
Making a great informational website requires delivering the information people actually want. That means you need to know what those people want but also means you need to know if your information is appearing where people are looking for it. And one of the areas where people are looking for it on search engine result pages. Increasingly, people are looking for the search engine to immediately surface the information they need via new types of snippets and features.
When the search engine can do that, people won’t always need to click over to your website. For some informational websites, that is acceptable if people don’t click over to your site. If your mission is to get your information out there, success for you can simply mean people finding that information even if they don’t find it on your site. In this case, you’d want to know what keywords your website ranks for and how many people are searching for that phrase. You can do this relatively easily in Google Search Console or SEM Rush.
In other cases, though, you’d rather people come to your website to view the information instead of getting it out of Google’s feature. How to do that would be another post altogether. But, for the sake of this post, the short answer is to have to give people who see a snippet containing your information in a search result a reason to click for more information on your website. In this case, along with measuring what keywords you rank for and how many people search out those phrases, you want to also review the click through rate for each term from Google Search Console. The click through rate tells you not just that people saw the result, but that people saw a reason to click from Google to your website…they found the little bit of information interesting enough to seek out more. With this information, you can work to improve the nature of your content to get even more people to your website.
If you need help setting up these measurements on your website or customizing these or other metrics for your website, please contact me. Or, to get things started, request Elementive’s analytics configuration service.