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The Best Website KPI’s For Three Different Website Types

by Russ Henneberry

Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison penned this famous song lyric in 1988,

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road’ll take you there.”

You know you should be measuring your digital marketing efforts but what should be measured?

The answer, of course, is that it depends.  What kind of website do you have?  What is the business model?

In this article, we’ll take a look at three different website types and the four best KPI/metrics to be measuring with each.

KPI (Key Performance Indicators) can be defined as a measurement that is in place to measure the performance of any business activity.  In our case, we are focusing on KPI’s that measure the effectiveness of a website.

Why are these the best website KPI’s?

In the case of all three website types, we will discuss the most critical metrics to be measuring.

The reason they are so important is that these are the foundation upon which you can build more focused KPI’s.  Once these measurements are in place you can drill down into these metrics and make data driven decisions for your organization.

For example, once you’ve got the ability to measure the number of leads your website is generating through a sign up form you can then drill down to determine the performance of a single source, medium or geographic region.

We will look at the best Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) for

  • a business blog
  • an eCommerce website
  • a lead generation website

Chances are good that your business won’t fit squarely into just one of these buckets.

That’s OK.  Mix and match from the Key Performance Indicators below and add your own KPI’s where needed.  The intention of this article is not to provide an exhaustive list of success metrics for every website type.  Rather, its purpose is to bring you closer to identifying, measuring, testing and tweaking the KPIs that matter to your business.

But first, a warning.

What NOT to measure

Most businesses are measuring the wrong things.

They are measuring,

  • # of visits
  • # of tweets
  • Rankings in Google

Lean start-up expert Eric Ries calls these vanity metrics.

There’s nothing wrong with monitoring these data points but site visits, Google rankings and tweets aren’t sales.

While monitoring data points like these might point to success they are, in most cases, better suited as components of more telling metrics.

For example, knowing the # of sales/leads/subscribers/donors/volunteers generated per tweet would be a more actionable metric that could point to successful (or unsuccessful) use of Twitter in your organization.

Now that we know what not to measure, let’s look at what we should measure.

Up first, the business model that is near and dear to my own heart – the business blog.

Success Metrics of a Business Blog

Business blogs come in lots of shapes and sizes.

But one unifying factor is that they are intent on driving the goals of the organization.

Here are some common goals for a business blog,

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Generate leads for the sales team
  • Increase eCommerce sales
  • Increase advertising income

Based on one or more of the goals above these four metrics should be monitored,

Subscriber Rate # of Subscribers/ Unique Visits Important for virtually every blog
Leads/Sales Generated # of leads/sales directly attributed to blog referral Important if lead/sales driven model
Avg. Ad income per page Total Ad income/# of pages Important if ad driven model
Avg. Ad income per visitor Total Ad Income/ Unique Visits Important if ad driven model

Let’s take a deeper look at that first metric, subscriber rate.

The lifeline of a business blog is subscribers.  It is through subscriptions that you are able to distribute content to an ever growing list of readers.

Although these subscriptions are generally free, offers can be made to members of your subscriber list.  For ad driven models, subscriptions bring readers back time and again, increasing opportunity for ad clicks.

To measure the subscriber rate, you need to be able to determine when a site visitor subscribes.  The easiest way to do this is to use your email marketing software to redirect those that subscribe to an isolated page on your website.

Generally called a “thank you” or “success” page, when a visit is registered on this page it is counted as a subscriber.

At The Daily Egg we use aWeber email software and have one form set up with the following,
success page
By configuring the Thank You page listed in the image above as a Goal Page in Google Analytics we are now able to track number of subscribers.

Setting up goal pages in Google Analytics is fairly straightforward – here is Google’s tutorial on it.

If you aren’t a subscriber to The Daily Egg, I invite you to subscribe using the form at the very top of the page or at the end of this article.  When you do, notice how after subscribing you are redirected to the goal page.

It will, however be a different goal page than the one listed above.

Now that you have your total # of subscribers you can then use Google Analytics to find the # of Unique Visitors and do the math to the find the subscriber rate.

Once you have this metric in place, I encourage you to drill down to find out which channels are driving more subscribers.  These more specific insights will lead to better marketing decisions.

For more on this, read this article about whether Facebook or Twitter drives more email subscribers.

Success Metrics of an eCommerce Website

Of the three website types we’re covering in this article, eCommerce websites stand to gain the most insight (and revenue) using Key Performance Indicators.

In fact, eCommerce has become so competitive that it is unlikely that an eCommerce website that is not measuring will survive for long.

Here are four success metrics that every eCommerce storefront should be monitoring,

Overall eCommerce Conversion Rate # visitors that complete an order  This is a very high level metric.  From here you can drill down into the specifics.
Cart abandonment rate # of started but not completed orders
Products per order # of products per order
Avg. order value Total sales / # of orders

Of all the metrics above, an eCommerce website that is already generating sales will often benefit most from measuring and improving the cart abandonment rate.

After all, these are site visitors that were very close to handing over their money and then vanished.

How to measure the cart abandonment rate

Measuring how many and at what point buyers are leaving your check-out process is a snap when you use goal funnels.

The goals tutorial from Google Analytics discusses the details of setting up a goal funnel.

Once you’ve set up a goal funnel you can access the funnel visualization report.  It will look like this.
Funnel Visualization
The funnel in this report has a completion rate of around 16%.  This means that the cart abandonment rate for this website is 84%.

As you can see in this example the vast majority of abandoned shopping carts on this website take place in the first two steps.  This is a good place to be concentrating effort.

Success Metrics of a Lead Generation Website

If the success of your website hinges on generating leads, you should be monitoring the following four metrics,

Overall Lead Generation Rate % of visitors that complete a lead form
Lead form abandonment rate % of visitors that start but don’t complete a lead form  Easiest for multi-page forms but Google Analytics Events can be used to measure single page forms as well.
Leads per day/month # of leads over a period of time
Content downloads/requests for more info  # of downloads of additional information  White papers, demo videos, webinars

Let’s take a deep dive into the fourth success metric in this list.

How to measure content downloads and requests for more information

There are a whole host of ways that visitors to your website could indicate interest that are short of buying from you.

Connecting with you on social networking sites, downloading white papers, watching a demo video or signing up for a webinar just to scratch the surface.  When site visitors take these actions, they are likely to be moving deeper into your sales and marketing funnel.  Therefore, it pays to track, test and optimize these activities on your website.

For cases where you can create a “thank you” or “success” page, you can simply set up a goal page in Google Analytics for tracking purposes as we discussed in the first section on success metrics for a business blog.  In the case of the white paper, you could require a form to be filled out, followed by a redirect to a “success” page where the visitor can click to download the white paper.  This “success” page could be tracked as a goal page in Google Analytics.

But how do you track activities like watching demo videos or downloading documents (PDF, Excel, Word, etc) that don’t reside behind a lead form?

In these cases you can employ the use of Virtual Pageviews or Events in Google Analytics.

Let’s tackle each separately by using an example.

When to use Google Analytics Virtual Pageviews

Documents like spreadsheets, PDF’s or Word documents don’t contain the Google Analytics tracking code.  Therefore you can’t track the number of people that visit these pages.  Not the traditional way anyway.

With virtual pageviews you can configure a link so that, when clicked, will register a page view in Google Analytics.  Here’s more information on setting up a link for a virtual pageview.

So, for example, when a site visitor clicks on a link that downloads a PDF white paper – it could register as a page view in your Google Analytics for a page that doesn’t actually exist.  That’s the virtual part — get it?

You can set these “ghost” pages up as goal pages just as you would any other page on your website.

The main thing to keep in mind is that, when using Virtual Pageviews, you will be increasing the number of page views that Analytics is recording.  In the case where a visitor is literally visiting a page (a PDF in this case) virtual page views makes sense.

But you probably don’t want to use virtual page views if there is not an actual page being viewed.

In those cases, you can set up Events in Google Analytics.

When to use Google Analytics Events

Events can be set as goals as well but, unlike virtual pageviews, Events don’t generate a page view.   In other words, if you don’t want to artificially inflate page views, use Events rather than virtual pageviews.

Google Analytics Events has a wide range of use cases including,

  • Tracking whether (and how much) of a video a visitor watches
  • Interaction with widgets or other gadgets (i.e. a mortgage calculator)
  • Clicks on outbound links
  • File downloads
  • AJAX elements

Here’s an example of Google Analytics Events tracking outbound link clicks on The Daily Egg,
Google Analytics Events Tracking Outbound Link Clicks
You can see why I wouldn’t want to use virtual page views for this.  These 8 Event Actions alone would inflate page views by ~12,000.

If you want to set up a goal using Google Analytics Events, start here.

Measurement will give you a competitive advantage

The George Harrison song lyric that opened this article is inspired by an exchange between the Cheshire Cat and Alice in Lewis Carroll’s famous tale, Alice in Wonderland.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

It’s one thing to not care where you are headed in a fairy tale — quite another when you are running a business.

But you’re smarter than that.

You know that competition is fierce.  You know that as tools like Google Analytics, Crazy Egg and others get more sophisticated, it will be those that measure, test and optimize their KPI’s that will thrive.

I wish you the very best of luck!

What are the best webiste KPI’s in your opinion?  What kind of website do you have and what metrics do you use to measure success?



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Russ Henneberry

Russ Henneberry is the Editorial Director at Digital Marketer. He's worked on digital marketing projects for companies like CrazyEgg, and Network Solutions. You can connect with Russ on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or on his blog.


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  1. Anonymous says:
    April 7, 2016 at 1:38 am

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  2. Daniel says:
    February 9, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    I am a very small inbound marketing agency and measurement plus analysis seems so critical for all my clients but it’s my job to show them why and how. I often have to use the phrase, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. You were very clear in this post how important it is to pay attention to analytics. I am learning how to separate the key KPIs from more useless reports which seems to be expanding all the time. If I had one item of value that I could offer to your readers, it’s to learn which are the 5 to 10 reports and key performance indicators that make their decision making process smoother. Your blog posts seem to be, and should be of great help in this area. Education is everything.

  3. Gabriel Touchette says:
    November 27, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Great article. I recently wrote a series of articles on KPIs. I came up with 4 different type of website. I have your first 3 but I also added self service web sites. I encourage you to take a look at my series of articles here.

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