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Are Online Companies Using the Wrong Data to Measure Success?



Everyone knows you need analytics on your website and some people actually pay attention and act on the data they acquire. But digital design agency Extractable says you might be putting all your eggs in the wrong data basket.

Right now, off the top of your head, what would you say is the most common data point for measuring success?

If you said traffic, give yourself a gold star. 66% of the companies Extractable surveyed said they use use traffic numbers as a measure of success. 46% said they use time spent on site but neither one of these is a true indicator of customer satisfaction and neither speaks to conversions.

For example, back in the heyday of StumbleUpon, you could see your traffic triple overnight. Trouble is, most of it was junk traffic, people who hit the page because it was offered to them, without any real interest in the content. Two days later, it’s back to business as usual. Now, if you were paid based on traffic, then glory be, but otherwise, it’s not traffic worth counting.

As for time on site. . . oh, how I’ve battled folks on that one. Extractable points out that extended time on site doesn’t mean the customers are happily interacting. It could mean that they’re lost and aimlessly clicking around trying to complete a task such as buying what you’re selling.

Take a look at this chart from Extractable’s Data Driven Design report.

Shouldn’t customer satisfaction and conversions top traffic? At least Social Media likes isn’t at the top of the list but I suspect that it will show up higher in the years to come.

Look, I get it. We measure traffic because we can. It’s like counting heads as people walk into a store. Even if they don’t buy anything, it’s a first step and getting people to your site is indeed a first step. But pulling people in isn’t enough. You have to engage them and you have to get them to “buy.”

For you, “buy” might mean purchasing a physical product. For someone else, “buy” might mean downloading a free app or reading the content on a digital magazine.

Every website has an expected action. That’s what we need to be measuring. That’s how you define success.

What do you think? Is traffic measurement something we do just because we’ve always done it or is it a valid measure of success?