Anyone who has been working in the website field long enough will be familiar with the call.
“Oh, hi Craig. We’ve been thinking about it and we think we’re going to pull our website down.”
“That’s a shame,” I’d reply. “You don’t feel it’s performing for you?”
“No, it’s been up for a few years now and we’re not getting any sales through it at all.”
“Really? That’s unusual. Have you measured how many people have visited your website before either picking up the phone or visiting the store?”
“No, not really. We just count the emails we get from the website.”
“Ah, well there’s your problem,” I said. “You have no record of how many sales your website has assisted along the way.”
“But how could you credit the website with those? Surely they would have found us anyway?”
“Probably not. Your website not only provides a destination for search engine results, but is the key reason you get found for your important keywords. If you didn’t have a good website, you simply wouldn’t appear when people are searching for your product.”
“Really? Well, how can I prove the website’s effectiveness to the board of directors?”
“Well, let’s start by looking at your website statistics. That will tell us how many people have visited the website and even whether they visited the ‘Contact Us’ page, which is one measure of ‘conversion’. Obviously they wouldn’t visit the page unless they were considering calling you, emailing or dropping by.”
So I went away to check their vital statistics. In the case in question, I found that the website was getting around a healthy (for the size and category of business) 500 unique visits a week. Of these, about 300 were visiting the Contact Us page.
I called back to let the business owner know.
“How many people actually visit your store in any given week?”
“About a hundred,” he replied. “Two hundred in peak season.”
“Well I can tell you your website gets about five times the visits your actual store gets on an average week.”
“You’re joking,” the business owner said.
“No, it’s all there. We have statistics since the site went up and it’s enjoying steady growth since you started.”
“That’s interesting, because business has actually been steadily improving over that time, but because we weren’t getting many emails, we thought it wasn’t working for us.”
The result of the conversation was that despite us offering to provide regular reports from the outset, the owners balked at the extra (small) cost of doing so.
Even though they had full access to their website statistics, they didn’t see it as important enough to monitor and so had no idea how effective it actually was.
The moral of this story is two-fold.
First, ensure you set key performance indicators and goals for your website growth. Second, take all measures possible to find out how customers are finding you – even down to the search engines and keywords they used to find your business.
If you don’t have actual statistics, just politely ask your customer when making the sale.
It’s also worth ensuring that your website has a comprehensive statistics package so as to get an accurate understanding of how many people are visiting the site and how many are going the next step to order, visit in person or phone you.
The good news is that the business owner happily reported back to the board that the website in fact was a key factor in the business’ recent growth and just how many customers were using it.
Since then they’ve increased their investment so as to add e-commerce functionality to the website along with relationship builders like email offers and social networking.
And their business has never been healthier as a result.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.