Measuring your website's success

Written by Finn Taylor on 23rd November 2015

(Last updated 24th March 2016)

Measuring your website's success

We all want a gorgeous website, but the reality is that sexy design/styling is not a measurement of the website’s success. Ultimately as both website designers (or owners), we really need to focus on the measurement criteria for tracking the website’s success.

Whilst defining your KPI’s sounds blatantly obvious, it is amazing how many site owners are not focused on this simple concept. Remember - if you have invested time, energy and budget into a site, you’ll want to continue developing the site and its related marketing activities - it’s far easier to justify additional budget, resources and time needed for this if you can provide the ‘Powers that be' with meaningful, measurable data that demonstrates your site’s success to date.

Some websites lend themselves easily to performance measurement, as they have straightforward measurable objectives - like the number of sales (products or sign-ups / registrations), however, for other websites it can be more challenging to define. As highlighted by the response of a few recent client briefings, who, when asked what their success criteria was responded with:

  • “We will know it has been a success if it looks good"
  • “If we can see a change in relationships between countries and regions in Africa, we will know we have been successful”
  • “We will know it when we see it”
  • "If my boss likes it then it is a success"

This unfortunately does not really provide us (as web designers or site owners) with a measurable set of criteria we can work with.

Admittedly some websites can be harder to measure/quantify due to the nature of the organisation and what they need to achieve. This is particularly evident when considering websites that represent companies/organisations who do not actually deliver a product or service online, where their activities are much more embedded in real-world activities.

Whilst an executive search firm initially looks quite simple and straightforward, measuring the sites success is actually a bit more difficult - they don’t actually want thousands of CV’s posted to them as this would be contrary to what they do, and most of their client acquisition is (if you listen to their consultants) based on face-to-face relationships and reputation, which the website may support but is more difficult to track and measure.

At the other end of the spectrum, a client like the African Development Bank has such a wide mandate 'to improve the lives of people in Africa', and a range of stakeholder groups all needing very different things online that, it can be easy to fall into just measuring traffic numbers and key SEO terms.

So whether you are talking KPI’s, CRO (Conversion rate Optimisation) or simply measuring your website’s success, the question is - What are the metrics that can be used to measure your website?

  • Number of visitors - Tracking visitors numbers (and most importantly the level of increase) is an obvious metric using GA (Google Analytics) or similar, however simply increasing visitors numbers does not necessarily mean success, as this is all about having relevant visitors and ensuring that they converts into meaningful and desired actions. 
  • Purchases of products, services or subscriptions, are obviously a desired result, but this is only relevant to clients that have a product or service to offer, and this is difficult to measure when we are looking at complex offerings which are based on relationship and reputation…tracking the decision making of a local government procurement department in relation to infrastructure is not going to be solved with a bit of Google analytics funnel visualisation.
  • Number of calls, is another way of measuring your website’s success, but we must remember that this can for some organisations actually not be a desirable outcome as they do not want (or are not equipped to deal with) hundreds of emails or phone calls coming in. It may actually be important to use a bank of phone numbers so you can track different traffic sources through to phone calls generated allowing your to see what activities are proving successful. If you lack trackable phone banks then there are various call tracking services such as ‘' that can be used.
  • Sign-ups to a newsletter, is a more focused and low maintenance way of building a contact database so you can target communications with interested parties.
  • Number of enquiries via contact forms, social media etc - if you can’t sell a product or service you can encourage visitors to connect - ask questions, request demos etc.
  • Comments on your articles - remember if your audience are engaged you’re like y to know in the comments on your blog - these can be great sources of measurable data 
  • SEO Rank, driving traffic to your website is obviously key to being discovered by target audience groups, increasing traffic and ultimately exposure to your website. Clearly, the key here is to make sure these are for relevant search terms.
  • Exposure to your brand, helping to build your market presence may simply be measured by number of visitors seeing your website, but this may include off-site measurement across social media channels to establish the success of getting your company seen by new people.
  • Number of shares of an article in social media, is a great way to measure your success in creating relevant content which people choose to share, allowing your to measure engagement beyond your websites borders.
  • Number of inbound links from external websites, highlights the importance of your website and its success in being part of an online community. This also helps to build SEO rank.
  • Number of mentions in the media, again helps to measure your effectiveness at engaging with commentators and influencers in the online media.
  • Number of downloads of an item, whether it is a brochure, a report or a presentation can be an important metric in measuring your website’s success in getting a message or leave bhind into a visitors hands.
  • Awards are useful, as they allow experts to review and rank your website in relation to peers and competitors.

Each website will be relatively unique, some focusing on a singe measurement criteria, whilst others on a larger number of options, but the crucial taks is to ensure you have a defined set of measurement criteria for your website.

As I said earlier, some websites are easy to measure, however other websites are more difficult due to the nature of the organisation. If your website is proving challenging to measure, then it is possible that your website has lost its way and in this case it is essential to step back to your business objectives, establishing what the company/organisation is trying to achieve, and then working forward to define a set of website objectives that support this, which can then be measured.

This article was posted in SEO, Musings by Finn Taylor

  • Finn Taylor

    Finn Taylor

    Finn is a founding director of Liquid Light, and he still (after 22 years of web design) likes to get involved in projects. When he is not worrying about the clients, he is studying Chinese medicine, working with young criminals and doing spartan challenges.


Dear Finn,
Thank you for a wonderfully concise article which I have forwarded to my Board as it says it how it is and will help us plan our communications and marketing strategy.
We are setting up a new Social enterprise solicitors practice specializing in immigration law, the profits from which will contributes to the core costs of the Law Centres how provide free legal advice to vulnerable people. I am happy with measuring on line conversion rate etc and recognize the need to use social media to drive traffic to the website, but am unclear where I should benchmark the planned growth of an online presence. i.e how do I set a target for the average number of unique ( quality ) quality hits to our website and what rate of growth should I build into that forecast?

Harry Tedstone31/05/2016 12:02

thank you so much for this post

Jim30/09/2016 09:36

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