How to measure and improve web performance

Fernando Maciá

Written by Fernando Maciá

Scorecard to measure the performance of a Web siteA website always involves an investment of resources that is only justified to the extent that it fulfills its objectives. But are you clear about the objectives of your website? More importantly, do you know how to measure and improve the degree to which your website is achieving its goals?

The management of traditional economy companies has led to the development of numerous methods to evaluate the degree of achievement of their objectives. Increased productivity, cost savings, fulfillment of sales objectives or total useful impacts achieved by an advertising campaign all correspond to a quantifiable goal to be achieved within a given time frame and a method of evaluation to establish the extent to which the pre-set objectives were met. By achieving the various short-term objectives, the company aims to achieve its strategic objectives in the medium and long term.

When the same managers who are used to handling customer classifications, penetration percentages, profitability thresholds or turnover increases are confronted with the new paradigms of the virtual economy, they seem to forget that most of what is applicable in the traditional economy – including common sense – is equally valid when it comes to the online economy. In many cases, it becomes impossible to identify how their company’s website aligns with their overall business strategy. In the most serious cases, the website serves no purpose other than to certify the company’s presence on the Internet.

This situation is even more paradoxical if we take into account that the Internet, due to its technological support and interactive nature, is one of the scenarios where it is easier to “try things out” and faster and cheaper to “see what happens”, extract knowledge and act accordingly. Let’s see, then, what are the conditions that allow us to measure the performance of our website in terms of Return On Investment (ROI) and what is the gap that our managers in the traditional economy must fill in order to apply their valuable knowledge to the virtual economy with the same guarantees of success.

1. Your website must be aligned with your strategic objectives.

The website’s objectives are aligned with the company’s general strategy, as defined by the General Management. So when we talk about web, we are not talking about IT or Systems. We are talking about Marketing, Sales, Human Resources, Purchasing, Customer Service…. (If your company’s website is in the hands of IT, you have reason to worry).

2. Your website should have tactical objectives to meet

Based on strategic planning, each department establishes the objectives of its own area, also on the company’s website.

For example, a customer service department can offload some of the workload from its call-center by having a comprehensive FAQ page on its website or by inserting an inquiry form that can be answered during off-peak hours (many people will prefer to fill out a form with their inquiry rather than wait 25 minutes to be answered while listening over and over again to the boring tune of their 902 number).

We already have a goal: to reduce call-center workload and increase customer satisfaction. And we will be able to measure it: percentage of total inquiries arriving via 902 versus web inquiries.

Another example: a real estate agency’s second-hand property acquisition department can concentrate more on the most in-demand property profiles. We already have a goal: to optimize the adaptation of our real estate portfolio to the evolution of demand profiles. And we will be able to measure it: percentage of successful queries in the real estate search engine of our website.

3. Identifying Key Performance Indicators

Based on the tactical objectives of each department, ways of measuring the improvement in the degree of achievement of these objectives should be established on the website. Although it is interesting to know the overall traffic figures of your website (unique visitors, page views, referrals, etc.) it is clear that we must study in much more depth those visits that reach the end of the objective of our website (purchase, request a quote, request information, arrange a visit…).

This is easy to see in an e-commerce site: of the total number of visitors accessing the home page, only a fraction will use the product search engine. Of these, only some will add products to their shopping cart. And of the latter, only a certain percentage will finally complete the online payment process. The ratio between the total number of visitors and those who finally bought gives us the conversion rate to customers of our site. Obviously, the higher this percentage is, the higher the performance of our website will be. This would be a Key Performance Indicator of an e-commerce.

But even if our website does not sell anything directly, its objectives must still be identifiable and measurable. In the examples above, the percentage of people moving from the FAQ page to the inquiry form is a key performance indicator: the fewer people who need to use the form, the more effective our FAQs are and the less work for our Customer Service department. In the case of real estate, a higher percentage of successful property searches over our database indicates a better fit with demand. We could also measure, out of the total number of people who consult a property file, the percentage of those who finally make an appointment for a visit, etc.

4. Measuring web performance

The identification of Key Performance Indicators allows the implementation of two fundamental processes to improve the performance of a website:

– Translate” traffic statistics data into concepts and values easily identifiable by the heads of each department.
– That they will be able to transform this data into knowledge and make decisions, i.e., to act

Let’s take it one step at a time. Web traffic statistics generally contain technical information in an excessively specialized language and measure a myriad of parameters, most of which are of little relevance to a department manager. These factors cause this information to be consulted only by IT or webmasters and only sporadically.

However, if we identify only the data that allow us to measure each of the Key Performance Indicators that we have established for our website, what we will actually be doing is “translating” the set of statistical data into a much closer language that those responsible for each area will be able to identify and relate. You will not see, for example, that has received 23,547 hits in the last month. The number of users who have needed the consultation form has decreased by 10%.

Faced with each department only with those relevant data that serve to measure the behavior of its Key Performance Indicators, it is much easier to decentralize the statistical information of our web traffic and make it available to the person in charge of each area in the form of an executive report.

And we can expect a greater degree of involvement in the study and periodic follow-up of these data by the managers of each area. In fact, the second key – transforming this data into knowledge – depends on managers tracking the evolution of these few data over short periods of time: every two to four weeks. In this way they will be able to appreciate trends, anticipate developments and perceive the effect of changes and will be more motivated to act.

5. Improve web performance

Once the Key Performance Indicators have been identified, we begin to measure point 0, i.e., the starting point for each indicator. From that point on, each department can propose and develop strategies to improve the performance of its area. With clearly identified indicators and a consistent and continuous way of measuring them, we are in a position to “test” strategies and evaluate their positive or negative impact almost immediately. This feedback will stimulate decision making and the initiation of actions to improve the performance of each area. Ultimately, the evolution of Key Performance Indicators will give us the extent to which our online presence is aligned with the company’s overall strategy.


The joint work of the different areas applying a coherent performance improvement strategy can only lead to an overall improvement in the performance of a website in all its areas. If we establish a relationship between the cost of each improvement and the return it generates (in terms of call-center cost savings, for example, or increased customer conversion rate, visits that lead to an appointment or quote request, etc.) we will be able to evaluate the ROI of our website, and we will be able to adjust the investment in it on a solid budgetary basis. The web is one more scenario in which to develop business. Let’s set objectives, measure their achievement and act to improve. The principles of economics still apply. Also in the virtual one.

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Fernando Maciá
Fernando Maciá
Founder and CEO of Human Level. Expert SEO consultant with more than 20 years of experience. He has been a professor at numerous universities and business schools, and director of the Master in Professional SEO and SEM and the Advanced SEO Course at KSchool. Author of a dozen books on SEO and digital marketing.

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