Information As Power

December 10th, 2004


Originally published in Web ReDesign 2.0: Workflow That Works

Most companies don’t even realize their competitors are “eating their lunch” online – ranking higher in the search engines, getting more traffic, converting more visitors into buyers and enjoying better returns on their website investment. They simply don’t know how well their website is performing. And they are missing out on valuable e-business opportunities.

What do you need to know? For starters: how well your site is performing. And how it stacks up against competitors.

How Effective is Your Site?

Measuring the effectiveness of your site’s design, content and functionality is a business imperative. The following metrics will give you information critical for maximizing your ROI:

  • Abandonment. What percentage of visitors gets no further than your home page? What percentage abandons shopping carts? What is the ratio of abandoned carts to completed purchases per day? How many items are in an abandoned cart? In a purchased cart? What items do people abandon?
  • Conversion. What percentage of visitors become customers or, at least, take some action? What is the cost per conversion?
  • Retention. How many customers make repeat purchases? Retained customers are cheaper than new ones.
  • Lifetime Value (LTV). What’s the value of a given customer relationship over his lifetime? Improve a customer’s LTV by up-selling, cross-selling, increasing buying frequency and reducing the cost of sales and support.
  • Referral Source. Determine which websites (search engines, industry portals, partners and affiliates), email campaigns and online promotions deliver the most sales, inquiries and customers.
  • Recency, Frequency and Monetary Value (RFM). How recently did a given customer visit your site and/or make a purchase? How often do they visit or purchase? How much do they spend? Take good care of customers that rate high in all three areas.

Other web metrics include stickiness, slipperiness, attrition, churn, etc. Two great sources for more on web metrics include Jim Sterne’s book, Web Metrics, and his “E-Metrics” white paper, available from

Competitive Intelligence is Available Online

How much traffic are your competitors getting? Find out with the site, which provides traffic data, historical graphs showing traffic trends, and even what other sites your competitors’ users visit. (You can also track site competitor site changes with Alexa’s Wayback Machine (, which shows changes to web pages since 1996.)

How many pages do you and your competitors have in Google and in Yahoo? Find out by searching both search engines for “site:” followed by your domain name (for example, “”). Or, even easier, use our free tool at to check all major search engines.

How “important” is your site in the eyes of Google and Yahoo? An important site enjoys better rankings. Find out by installing:

  • The Google Toolbar ( to check any web page’s PageRank score, a numerical representation Google’s importance scoring algorithm.
  • The Yahoo Companion Toolbar ( to check your Webrank score – Yahoo’s equivalent to PageRank.
  • Who links to you? Find out by searching Google for “link:” followed by your web address (e.g. “”) and Yahoo for “linkdomain:” followed by your web address. Or easier yet, use our free link popularity checking tool at

    How are your PR campaigns, advertising, email marketing and search engine optimization affecting your market share? Consider signing up with a service like Hitwise for day-by-day monitoring of your online market share.

    What’s the word on the e-streets? Search for discussion about you and your competitors on the forums at Search news sites for articles mentioning competitors and your own company.

    What are your competitors offering? Subscribe to your competitors’ email newsletters to stay informed on what offers, contests, sales, products and features they’re launching.

    Automated monitoring services can make keeping up with your competitive position easy. GoogleAlert ( monitors chosen Google search results and emails you when the results change. ChangeDetect ( can “watch” any page on the Web and email you when the page is updated.

    Collecting and monitoring site data and your site’s effectiveness in the context of your competition will allow you to identify weaknesses that need to be fixed and competitive challenges that need to be met.

    An online wine shop seized the web metrics opportunity. Metrics guided its redesign efforts and allowed it to laser-focus web marketing initiatives. Breaking its visitors into five distinct audience segments revealed that one segment – less than 10% of its total audience – accounted for over 80% of revenue. This knowledge allowed the site to target that sector aggressively. New site visitors from that segment received special treatment in the form of discounts and customized content. Metrics also revealed other opportunities: for instance, cross-selling bakery products and white wine was particularly effective.

    Remember, the first step toward maximum return on your website investment is building a clear understanding of your website’s effectiveness.