Do you base success on measuring the volume of visitors and page impressions...?


Such measures may in fact reflect the failure--rather than the success--of your Web site.
I recently was looking to rent a recreation vehicle to drive down Route 66 in the United States this summer. A friend recommended Cruise America, so I went to its site. It was a confusing and time-wasting experience. I tried to "Get a Quote" several times but it wouldn't work properly. I left the Web site frustrated.
Because I kept hearing about Cruise America from other sources, I decided to try the site again. I encountered the same problems and left the Web site even more frustrated. Yet, I'm a "repeat visitor" for the Cruise America Web site.
Just because someone is coming back to your site does not necessarily mean they had a positive experience the last time they were there. They could have felt frustrated, confused, annoyed. They could have given up, and came back again to give it one more try.
Perhaps the less we go to a software vendor's Web site, the more satisfied we will be as customers. Why do most of us go back again and again to such sites? To solve problems, perhaps? Wouldn't it be better if we didn't have these problems to solve in the first place?
How many visitors to your site are a reflection of some weakness in the solution/product you have offered your customers? If you made better, more robust products...if you explained how they worked better...would you have fewer site visitors?
I have heard search engine optimization consultants advise keeping out-of-date, inaccurate content because it helps bring more visitors. That's like having a sign in a window advertising bananas. People come in looking for bananas, only to find a big box of rotten, blackened, stinking bananas.
In October 2005, I listened to Jared Spool, founder of User Interface Engineering, talk about a study they did on clothes retail Web sites. The study found that, for example, the Gap site was much more successful at selling clothes than Newport News.
The study also found that the average purchase on the Gap site took 12 pages, whereas the average purchase on Newport News took 51 pages. The more pages people looked at, the less likely they were to buy.
It makes sense. You go into what you think is the right section of the site to find that pair of jeans. You find a selection of jeans to choose from, and you spend some time choosing, then you choose.
But supposing you go into what you think is the right section of the site to buy jeans, and you realize that this is not the right section. You hit the Back button, and try again and again. You're clocking up pages and you are certainly clocking up frustration, until finally you Back button out of the site.
Volume is simply not enough when it comes to measuring the success of a Web site. Volume can hide failure. Repeat visitors could mean loyal customers but they could also mean frustrated potential and actual customers. Lots of page views/impressions can mean customer engagement but it can also mean lost customers.
Identify the core tasks of your website. Measure how successful people are in quickly completing those tasks. Because it's not about volume; it's about successful task completion.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Gerry McGovern
Gerry McGovern (gerry@gerrymcgovern.com) is a content management consultant and author. His latest book is The Stranger's Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online, which teaches unique techniques for identifying and measuring the performance of customers' top tasks.