How do you know your website is succeeding?

26 July 2023

I once worked on a website that was all about conversion. Every week, the marketing and sales people would get together and look at 'the figures.' The figures were the total number of 'digital' sales we'd made that week.

We made 'digital sales' by:

  1. Answering calls to a phone number that was only on the website.
  2. Calling a person who'd filled out our "I want to be contacted by a consultant" form (the 'sales' form).

Then they'd try to guess why sales had gone up or down.

They'd suggest incentives for the call centre to make a 'digital' sale.

And they'd look at any improvements to the sales form since last week and any changes our competitors made to their market offerings.

They focused 100% on our sales channel. They ignored the rest of the website.

This always puzzled me. What was the point of the rest of the site? Was it window dressing? Something to give the sales form a place to sit?

Was our business success purely due to a snazzy sales form?

I felt there was more to it.


Simply put, the success of a website depends on that website's purpose.

If your website is commercial, like the one I worked on, a key measure of success is conversion, e.g., the number of online sales you make or downloads of a product brochure. 

A university or school website might define success by the number of students who sign up for courses through the website.

Customer service websites look at the number of calls, chats, or emails they take out of the contact centre, i.e., the number customer questions the site answered.

These measures may be simplistic, but they're the measures site owners care about.

Success really means "Is the website making/saving money?"


There's a lot more to a website than simple conversion, and there's more to measuring conversion than counting how many orders came through a digital channel.

Websites are the first port of call for most people researching any transaction, be it a sale, an enrolment, a support call, or booking a restaurant. More people research online than through any other media.

Websites are often the most viewed channel for an organization's brand. Your website may be the only interaction your customers have with your company. It may define their entire experience of your brand.

A successful website can make visitors feel so good about a product, service, or company that they buy the product or service directly – on the phone or in a bricks and mortar store.

I often research restaurants online but I need more than a browser to eat their food.


So what do you measure to know if your website is succeeding?

The first thing you have to do is define what success means for your website. The obvious answer, "Does it make money?" will only take you so far.

Success can be many things.

Your website is only one conversion channel for your company. Online success can be customers:

  1. Reading product information. 
  2. Finding your bricks-and-mortar outlet. 
  3. Buying a product there.

Success can be your customer finding your phone number or email address so they can contact you.

Success is when your customer completes the task they came to your site to do.

Website success includes:

  1. Search engine ranking – how your site ranks against your competitors on Google's search results pages.
  2. Visits to your site – more people coming to your site means more people possibly transacting with your company. 
    1. Unique visits show the success of your site marketing, e.g., cross-linking, search engine ranking, EDMs.
    2. Repeat visits show the success of your site content.
  3. Behavior on the site – visitor actions can help you see your site through their eyes. Try following a visitor from entry to exit:
    1. How did the site visitor enter? – what search terms did they use to find your site or a page on your site?
    2. Where did they go once they were on the site?
    3. How did their path through your site match the way they came in? Did the pages they looked at match the search term or entry page they chose?
  4. The exit – how and where your site visitors leave your site can tell you if they found what they were looking for.
    1. If they exit your site from the Contact Us page, it's a good bet that they will call you. A call can mean success – a customer called – or failure – they had to call us because they didn't find what they needed on the site. Which one depends on where they went on the site before the Contact Us page.
    2. If they exit your site from a product page, the product might not suit their needs, or they could still be in the research phase of the buying cycle.
    3. When they leave your site halfway through your conversion channel – sales form, enrolment form, etc. – you can be reasonably sure something has put them off or blocked their task.

Measure these together, and you'll get a pretty good picture of how well your site works for your customers.


Back to my conversion-centred website.

I looked at each measure detailed above and learned about our customers. I saw they used different words to describe our products than we did. We were targeting the wrong keywords. We were losing the battle of the search engines.

Then I looked at visits to our site, what people were doing when they visited us, and where they were exiting. It took around 3 to 4 visits for a person to buy our services, on a good day. 

I also found the most popular task on our site had nothing to do with sales but was all about revenue. Yet we put all our time and effort into our sales channel.

Our digital sales team was all over the pluses and minuses of our sales form, so I looked at the paths to it. Many people dropped out before they got to the form, as the path to the form was confusing and the messages about our services were unappealing.

I gathered these findings and shared them with my team and our managers. We changed how we measure our site success and prioritize our site improvements.

We started winning the search engine game, more of our customers found their way to our sales channel, and we put a bit more spit and polish on that other revenue-generating channel.


All this requires a bit of lateral thinking and a large amount of Excel spread-sheeting, but I'm confident you're up to the task. You made it this far.