A common question amongst website and marketing managers is what is the most effective way to benchmark website traffic. Typically we have these discussions while we’re helping a company formulate their key performance indicators, but it is also something we need to revisit and reassess especially when considering the impact of social media. Contrary to some social media hype, websites aren’t going anywhere, but the age of social media does mean that we need to continually monitor and benchmark how our site is performing and how web traffic is being produced.
The big question is what are the averages that we should be comparing our website traffic against. First, it is important not just to measure your overall website traffic, but to measure your length of stay, percentage of first-time visits and first-time bounce rates, number of pages viewed and length of site visit. All important criteria, but there is another variable we’d recommend adding to the mix. Don’t forget to measure the percentage of website visitors coming from any particular traffic source. For example, is most of your traffic driven from direct navigation or type in traffic (when someone types your URL into their browser) or are they being driven from some other referral sources.
We find that companies that focus on building long-term relationships and use their website as a way to communicate with customers will tend to have a significantly higher percentage of traffic through direct navigation. It just makes sense, the more your drive customer back to your website the higher percentage they will be going to your site directly versus through some other source. It is not uncommon to see at least fifty percent of website traffic being driven through direct navigation. We feel that if this traffic is also engaging with your website content as demonstrated through time on site and pages viewed it generally means customers view your site as a resource. Like with all website traffic is it important to consistently measure these trends and try to spot any shifts that may require action. For example, a decline in traffic from existing customers may mean that the website needs to have content added or refreshed.
After you analyze your core customer base traffic then start to plot an analyze all other sources of traffic. These would include
- Search engines
- Paid media whether this be paid search or display advertising
- Social media
- Referring site links
It has been our experience that most clients will have between 30-60 percent of their total website traffic coming from organic search engine traffic with the rest being spread across the other channels. Obviously, a site with an aggressive paid search strategy may have a completely different percentage. The key take away is to benchmark your referral sources month to month and year to year to give you a clear sense of long-term trends and directions as well as an opportunity to revisit your online communications plan.