I was going to title this column "End of year analytics chores" but then I figured no one would read it: Who likes chores? And since it’s really about getting better next year, and that’s more fun and exciting than a chore, I changed it. So here goes.

It’s the end of the year. The bean counters are counting the beans. Time to count some numbers in your Web analytics as well. If you’ve been tracking visitor behavior on your Web site this year, I’ll suggest a few simple calculations you can do to help you improve next year. If you haven’t been tracking visitor behavior, now’s a good time to start.

I was going to title this column "End of year analytics chores" but then I figured no one would read it: Who likes chores? And since it’s really about getting better next year, and that’s more fun and exciting than a chore, I changed it. So here goes.

It’s the end of the year. The bean counters are counting the beans. Time to count some numbers in your Web analytics as well. If you’ve been tracking visitor behavior on your Web site this year, I’ll suggest a few simple calculations you can do to help you improve next year. If you haven’t been tracking visitor behavior, now’s a good time to start.

In all of the items that follow, I’m going to assume that you’ve got some data for a whole year. If you just started your analytics initiative this year, then use whatever data you’ve got. Just be sure to keep the same date-range for all data, whether it’s online or offline. For example, don’t use revenue for the whole year but Web analytics data for only four months — it’ll inflate your results.

Web-lead value

When calculating the value of a lead coming from your Web site, we can do all sorts of fancy things related to ROI (the return on investment related to this lead). This can help you set your budgets and expectations for the next round. Here’s a couple of ways you could find out this number:

  • Divide your revenue for the year by the total number of lead forms filled out this year.
  • If you’ve been extra good about tracking, divide the revenue from closed sales that came in on Web-generated leads by the total number of lead forms.

Whichever method you use, remember that this isn’t taking into account people who see your Web site but then call instead of filling out the form. You aren’t calculating the value of your Web site here, just the value of a completed form.

Now that you know the value of someone filling out a lead form on your Web site, you can look at different traffic sources to your Web site and put a number on their value. For example: Say your lead value is $500 and Trulia.com results in 13 leads this year. Trulia.com’s contribution to your business for this year is $6,500.

Improving Web-lead value

You can increase your Web-lead value in two ways: decrease the number of forms filled out but keep the revenue the same; or make more revenue per Web lead. Here are some ideas:

  • Improve your ability to observe lead value by tracking which leads close. This is something that will happen outside of your Web analytics package.
  • Improve your ability to close Web leads. This is an offline sales activity.
  • Increase traffic from sources that provide leads likely to generate higher revenue.

Unique visitor value

Just like Web-lead value, but instead of dividing by the number of lead forms generated, divide by the number of unique visitors to your Web site. This is a useful number to know when evaluating traffic sources (like ad spends, social media, etc). Probably even more useful than Web-lead value.

The reason is that advertising and other techniques for increasing your reach have accomplished their primary objective when they deliver a visitor to your Web site. If your Web site is no good at converting leads (no contact form, a contact form that asks too many questions, a foul Web design, etc.) this isn’t the fault of your advertising medium. …CONTINUED

Also remember that, like Web-lead value, this metric doesn’t take into account phone calls.

Once you know your unique visitor value then you know how much you can afford to spend in cost-per-click advertising. You also have a better sense of the value that social media is bringing to your site.

Taking different traffic sources and comparing their Web-lead value against their unique visitor value, you can discover which traffic sources are giving you the most return. Comparing and putting traffic into context like this can really help you make decisions about what to try in the coming year.

Improving unique visitor value

You can improve your unique visitor value pretty much the same way as you do with Web-lead value. Decrease visitors while keeping revenue the same or increasing your revenue per visitor. Here are some ideas:

  • Initiate Web site testing and optimization to increase the number of leads generated — make your site better at converting the visitors you already have.
  • Decrease advertising in places that deliver only dud traffic and no leads.
  • Increase marketing activities in places that deliver traffic that is likely to convert.

Find your best content

When people come to your site, they (hopefully) look at a few pages. Some of those pages are viewed more often than others. Using your conversion reports, find out which pages are viewed most by people who fill out a lead form. That’s your best content.

It might not be the page with the most views, either, so be aware of this. Here’s what you might do once you’ve identified your best content:

  • Put a prominent link to your best content on every page of your site.
  • Test a variation of the most-viewed page on your site that includes items from your best content page.
  • Put a lead form right on your best content page.

Using these three bits of bottom-line-focused data, honed from a year of Web traffic, you should be able to make some improvements in the performance of your online activities. Let me know if there are other reports you love to analyze at year-end.

Also, and last but not least, I’m on the Realtor.com RE.net conference call on Thursday and there will be time for questions, so if you’re too shy to leave a comment here or elsewhere, ask a question on that call.

Gahlord Dewald is the president and janitor of Thoughtfaucet, a strategic creative services company in Burlington, Vt. He’s a frequent speaker on applying analytics and data to creative marketing endeavors.

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