Everybody's Selling Something... Measure It!

May 21, 2012 | Dorcas Alexander

Recently this blog has featured posts about a hot topic, attribution modeling, based on multi-channel funnel data in Google Analytics. Before that we also did an entire series on website conversion called the Infinite Conversion Loop. But if you don’t have any goals set up in Google Analytics (or whatever analytics tool you’re using), then you don’t have any data to take advantage of these features.

Carpe Diem - Seize the Day

You may even be thinking, “My website doesn’t sell anything, so I can’t measure conversions.” I beg to differ.

Every website is selling something.

And therefore:

Every website can measure conversions.

Figure out what you’re selling, and you’ll move from counting to optimizing, from recording history to creating opportunity – by collecting and taking advantage of conversion data.

What are you selling?

If you have an e-commerce website, or a site designed to generate leads for sales, you already know what you’re selling. The easiest conversion to track is one tied to revenue… or donations, for non-profit sites.

But what do other sites sell? What about university sites or hospital sites, blogs or content-heavy sites, tech support or help forum sites, government agency sites – what are they selling? And if you have an e-commerce or lead gen site, isn’t there more to what you’re selling beyond the obvious products or services?

To answer the question “what are you selling”, let’s consider an even more basic question.

When I go to a client’s offices to do analytics training with their team, I begin with a big slide that bluntly asks: Why do you have a website? After some nervous laughter, they realize I’m not going to give them the answer. Then a couple folks get the ball rolling, and we’ll end up filling a whiteboard (or two or three).

The point of the exercise is that there are many ways to think about the value of your website. And when it comes right down to it, they all involve “selling something”… whether it’s directly related to revenue or not.

Measure the value of your website

Think about selling as “persuading” or “convincing” your website visitors of the value you have to offer. Then think about the ways your visitors demonstrate that you’ve convinced them. Those are your conversions!

Visitors who’ve been convinced of the value of a blog will subscribe, become regular commenters, share your content on social media. If you have other types of content, visitors may interact with your site by viewing videos or downloading files or using custom tools or widgets you’ve created.

Similarly, a high level of user interaction shows that visitors are finding value in tech support or help forum sites. Is there evidence of a user community, i.e., are visitors returning to ask more questions or search for answers? Are they rating articles as helpful? Do they regularly contribute answers?

University websites serve diverse audiences from prospective students to alumni, from university staff to the surrounding community. Visitors may show they value your university site by making use of the online application process, participating in the alumni career center, or reading and sharing university news, to name just a few examples.

Hospital sites may offer everything from patient services to community health information to news about academic research. If your hospital site has integrated resources for managing appointments, or insurance and account payment, or even creating personal diet and exercise plans, are visitors taking advantage of those resources? Are visitors in the academic and medical communities, or the community at large, accessing and sharing your news content?

And think of all the things you might do on a government website: pay your taxes, apply for licenses or benefits, look up real estate assessments, read pending legislation, contact your representative… the list goes on and on.

When you’ve “sold” a visitor the value of your website, “conversions” like the above activities happen. They all demonstrate the value of your website and they’re all behaviors you can measure.

Steps for getting started

The next step is collecting conversion data so you can start to take full advantage of goal-related features like multi-channel funnels and attribution modeling. In future posts, I’m going to show you how to set up goals and measure these “not e-commerce” conversions in Google Analytics.

Which types of goals are you most interested in setting up for your website? Are there others you’ve considered that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments.