Often we see that corporate websites may not be performing because the management structure for the web team is incorrect. Supporting these experiences were two core data mistakes were uncovered in the research study we just undertook with Forrester (download it in full, here).
The two key data mistakes uncovered in the study were:
- The most common data points that websites are measured on are Traffic (66%), Brand Recognition (47%), and Time-on-Site (46%)
- The most common data points that web teams are measured on are project timelines (65%) and project budgets (64%)
As we started to look at this data we were puzzled. Here are some reasons why these data points are flawed:
- Traffic: If a site manager spends half of the annual budget on driving unqualified/non-converting traffic to their site, chances are that the budget is wasted. This happens a lot more often than you think (as the research proves).
- Brand Recognition: In May of 2010 in the United States, British Petroleum had excellent brand recognition. The problem was that the brand was perceived as the company responsible for gulf oil spill. If brand recognition is high, but the positive attributes of the brand are not understood by customers - nothing helpful has been achieved.
- Time-On-Site: This is just as likely a data point for visitor frustration as it is for the satisfactory engagement of visitors. If you want to test this out and you have a Windows laptop - try to update the drivers for you hardware on the manufacturer's website (i.e. Dell, IBM, HP, Sony, etc). It's likely that you will have a high time-on-site and an absolutely maddening experience.
- Budget and Timelines: Web teams can easily take away important research and functionality (and often do) from a project in order to hit timeline and budgetary goals without actually improving the business performance of a website. Businesses need to constantly improve and make money - so timelines and budgets are important, but viewing budgets/timelines in a silo can distract a team from the most important goals that ultimately improve the business.
While websites can serve many different goals - the most common goals for the web channel are to increase sales/revenues, increase profits, and/or increase customer loyalty. While these goals can vary, the import aspect is that they impact the business. Let's look at a simple process of establishing important goals for a web team and thus important ways to measure the success of a website/web team.
- Develop business goals: First define and prioritize the business goals for having and improving the website. These do not need to tie directly to a default metric reported in your web analytics platform. It should be agreed upon by the team that improving these goals will qualitatively help the business.
- Create benchmarks: Dive into the data and report on historical achievement of these goals. The time period for the benchmarks (i.e. 1 month or 16 quarters) will depend on the goals, the organization, and the visitors.
- Create forecasts: Create agreeable forecasts that demonstrate a lift in the prioritized goals. We typically create forecasts based on identified opportunity, data from previous engagements, and industry standards.
- Gain consensus and Buy-In: Discuss the business goals, benchmarks, and forecasts with the executive team to gain organizational consensus on what the web channel can and should achieve.
- Define reporting: Document the data sources for all reporting and establish owners for each report to ensure accountability, consistency, and accuracy.
Once you have performed these steps, you now have an effective set of qualitative data points to gauge the effectiveness of the web channel AND the web team that manages it. Auxiliary attributes such as budget, ability to hit timelines, website traffic, and time on site may be a part of the reporting. But the important goals that will determine how the web channel positively influences the business should be the focus to determine a successful web channel and web team.