During coffee with a client yesterday afternoon, our discussions raised a point which I think is pretty important when it comes to measuring the success of a website - the statistics are only important if you can tell what they are saying.
What's the Message in the Stats?
Now I know that asking what the stats mean is a question that sounds like it goes without saying, but you would be surprised how often the volume & noise of statistics out there means that the context of those statistics is over-looked.
Lets look specifically at unique numbers of visitors to your website. (I'll continue to explore different statistics as this blog continues.)
In the above example, we were looking at the client's unique visitors per month - 1,500. They asked me if this is a good number or not and in order to answer this question, we need additional information to help give the numbers some context. Imagine that the customer's target market was made up of 1,500 people - that would make this one of the most successful sites on the Internet. (That's if the business goal was simply to bring all the customers to the website.) Then again, if they're trying to be the next social media platform, they've got a little way to go...
Watch the Trends
Ultimately how successful your site is depends upon what goals and drives you have set in place for it. One really good rule of thumb with statistics is to measure how the statistics are trending, i.e. how they are changing.
By identifying the changes in the statistics, we can start to make a call on how "good or bad" those numbers really are. In this example, our client provides a niche product with a small and highly focused target audience. They started off with just 100 hits per month, and a strong focus on exposure and growth. Within 12 months they've hit 1,500 visitors per month. And that's without a particularly active online marketing campaign.
In my mind this is a successful site, and this trend shows that there is plenty of potential to continue growing this website.
Relate Trends to Your Objectives
So what's the point? Focus on growth & changing statistics and always relate these trends back to your key objectives. Don't just look at the specific numbers. Set yourself realistic goals to grow your website, and hence your business. Then you can call your business reports "analytics" instead of "statistics".