The Easiest Way to Measure 8 Vital Website Metrics
November 16, 2021·9 min read
As a website owner - whether you want to deliver an incredible experience on your website, or increase conversion rates - it's critical to understand how your end users are truly experiencing your site.
Measuring your website's most important metrics is particularly important as you make changes to your website over time and may introduce issues without realising it. Nothing frustrates visitors more than a slow website, a complicated UI, or unfamiliar navigation patterns. That's why it's mission critical to continuously monitor for user experience and performance issues.
At Panelbear, we'll be covering some of the most important website metrics you should be measuring in the pursuit of a better user experience.
Why is it important to measure website metrics?
Website metrics can provide invaluable information to website owners about how their site is performing and the various traffic sources people come from. People visit different pages throughout your site with various intentions (eg. informational, navigational, transactional).
This information allows you to see which parts of your site are working best, where you're getting quality traffic from and what areas need improvement so that you can truly understand what's working and increase your conversion rates with real data.
Also, there is a greater chance of visitors returning to your site if they have a positive interaction with it earlier on.
Basic traffic metrics vs performance metrics
Within the realm of website metrics, traffic metrics and performance metrics represent two distinct groups.
Traffic metrics deal with the interactions of users on your site while performance metrics deal with how your website behaves when users attempt to interact with it.
How to measure website metrics
- Add a tracking code to your website
- Code collects data about visits to your website
- Analytics software summarizes the data for you
Step three is where you'll need to make some decisions. There are a ton of options when it comes to analytics software. Some are free (e.g. Google Analytics). Others are paid (e.g. MOZ). Some offer real-time tracking (e.g. Panelbear). Others offer estimates (e.g. SEMRush).
Many people are drawn to Google Analytics for the simple fact that it's free, but that isn't always the best decision. Here are a few reasons why you might want to steer clear of Google Analytics:
- GDPR Compliance: Google Analytics isn't GDPR compliant by default, meaning you'll need to make settings adjustments. Other services (like Panelbear) take care of this for you.
- Cost: Google Analytics is free... to a point. Once you hit 10M monthly page views you'll need to upgrade to Google Analytics 360 at the cost of $150,000 per year.
- Complexity: Google Analytics tracks over 200 website metrics. While that can be a good thing, it also comes with downsides like an overcomplicated dashboard, slower website load times and more compliance liabilities. Services like Panelbear aim to provide basic website traffic metrics that website owners actually need (more on those below).
Useful traffic metrics to measure
Unique session count
This web metric gives you raw data points about how many visitors have entered your website over a certain period. It's one of the most basic traffic metrics around, but that doesn't mean it isn't important.
For starters, tracking sessions helps you get a sense of the overall trajectory of your website's growth (or lack thereof). An upwards trend is likely a sign that your growth efforts are paying off. A downwards trend might mean you need to change up your marketing strategies.
In addition, sessions are a great way to test out the impacts of specific campaigns and engagement efforts. If you launch an SEO campaign and see a 50% increase in sessions over the following month, it's probably worth checking out if the increase in unique sessions can be attributed to that campaign.
Session duration (or average session duration) is a metric that measures the average amount of time visitors spend browsing your website's various pages and elements. This data is usually assumed to be representative of a user's engagement with the website in general. Longer visits mean they're getting the value they came for, shorter visits mean they aren't.
Of course, there are negative factors that can lead to longer session durations, too. For example, a website that's difficult to use or slow may lead to longer session durations than one that isn't.
Like many website metrics, session durations vary from industry to industry. According to a Content Square report, B2B websites see the lowest session duration at 2.28 minutes while grocery websites see the highest at 5.01 minutes. While this wide range makes it difficult to offer a single benchmark, according to Databox, 3 minutes is a good target for an average website.
Pages per session
Pages per session is a metric that gives you the average number of pages a visitor clicks onto during their time on your website. This metric can be a great way to measure engagement. Put simply, the more pages a visitor views on your website, the more likely they are to become a user or customer.
A 2020 survey from Littledata found that the average number of pages per session was 2.7 across all industries. If you're looking for a benchmark, this is a great place to start. However, it's important to note that website structural variety limits the usefulness of one-size-fits-all benchmarks. For example, a website with a single landing page can expect fewer pages per session than a multi-page site.
Bounce rate is a traffic metric that measures the percentage of people who enter your website and "bounce" (leave) without clicking on any other elements. Maybe they close their browser. Maybe they click an outbound link. If they're gone in a single click, they've bounced.
If users are bouncing it means your website isn't presenting something that interests them. Thus, measuring bounce rate is a great way to measure how compelling or engaging your website content is.
When it comes to establishing benchmarks, bounce rates are highly dependent on website type. Research from CXL shows that eCommerce and retail websites should aim for bounce rates of 25-40%. In contrast, blogs should be aiming for a bounce rate of 65-90%. That's right... even if 90% of the people who click onto your blog leave immediately, you might be doing okay!
If your website is falling below these benchmarks, there are a ton of corrective actions you can take:
- Make the layout more intuitive, use familiar UX design patterns
- Improve load times
- Add more appealing visuals
- Make the website content more readable
As we just mentioned, what device people are using to access your site can affect their behaviour in major ways. That makes the device used a key website metric to track, especially if you're hoping to get more out of the other website metrics you're tracking.
While using website analytic services like Panelbear, you can segment data by the devices, browsers and operating systems your customers are using. This allows you to focus testing efforts on the devices, browsers and operating systems that access your website most frequently.
When you imagine a high-performing website, it probably includes a high number of conversions.
How many users are completing your intended goal? If that number is way too low, then you need to rethink how you're presenting said goal and what conversion strategies you can take to increase its appeal to potential customers.
Conversion rates vary from industry to industry, but averaged benchmarks are often around 2.4%. If your site is falling below this, there are some general best practices you can adopt to increase the chances of conversion:
- Make your CTA prominent
- Communicate value proposition or unique selling point (USP)
- Don't get too "salesy"
- Ensure language is straightforward
Time on page
One final traffic metric you should be tracking is average time on page. This metric records how long users are spending on each page they click onto. Time on page is great for getting a sense of how engaging the pages on your website are relative to each other.
Using a string of time on page figures you can start to build an accurate picture of what an average visitor's experience is with your site. You can also start to compare this experience with industry benchmarks.
While these figures tend to vary between industries they can still be useful. Research from MetricHQ shows that the average time on page is 52 seconds and that the average time at checkout is 65 seconds.
Useful performance metrics to measure
Page load time
Page load time is a pretty self-explanatory class of performance metrics with huge implications. As you might have guessed, this metric records the length of time between users requesting your site and your site completing some stage of the rendering process.
For example, Time To First Byte (TTFB) records how long it takes your site to deliver the first byte of data to the user's browser while Page Load Time records how long it takes all page elements to be visually rendered and functional. In total, there are eleven stages of web page loading that can be used as a bookend for page load time. Panelbear also shows other performance-based metrics, such as the time spent on the frontend, backend and network while loading your page.
Cross-industry research has found that the average TTFB is 1.3 seconds on desktop and 2.6 seconds on mobile while the average Fully Loaded time is 10.3 seconds on desktop and 27.3 seconds on mobile.
If you fall a few seconds short of one of these benchmarks, it can be tempting to look past it. That would be a mistake. According to data from SmallSEOTools, every additional second of page load time decreases your conversion rate by 7%. That means an eCommerce website making $100,000 per month in sales with a TTFB of 3.3 seconds is missing out on an extra $16,000 per month!
If tracking software reveals a subpar page load time, don't worry. There are tons of ways to increase load speeds, like:
- Streamlining HTML
- Optimizing images
- Using a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- Cleaning up libraries and databases
Core web vitals
Core web vitals are a new set of standardised metrics proposed by Google. They were designed to help website owners and developers how end users are truly experiencing a site as opposed to purely technical metrics.
These metrics are:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), the time it took for the main piece of content to load on your site.
- First Input Delay (FID), how soon can a visitor start interacting with your site.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), the visual stability of a website while the content is still loading.
We previously wrote a simple introduction to web vitals which explains in more detail what these metrics mean and how they can help you.
How can these metrics help improve your site?
The answer to this question is fairly simple: Tracking key website metrics is the easiest way to make beneficial and profitable adjustments to your site. In order to improve your website, you need true measurements of how it performs under real world usage.
Website metrics are windows into different aspects of your user's experiences that are incredibly inaccessible by other means. Using a traffic and performance monitoring service like Panelbear gives you the opportunity to spot trends and recurring problems and benefit from valuable insights. Using key metrics, you can better understand what behaviours will increase conversions and which ones aren't worth your time.
With a little analysis, website metrics can inform decisions about everything from how many pages is the ideal number to what kind of marketing campaign to run.