How To Measure and Improve Site Success
Part 1: Plan and Evaluate Marketing Programs
by Bobette Kyle

Measuring and understanding your Web site's success is a 
critical process that is sometimes overlooked. Many times,
marketing efforts stop at getting traffic to the site.

Traffic alone, however, does not make a site successful. By
"connecting the dots" between your marketing programs and
end results, you can improve performance. Ultimately, site
success depends on how well your site performs with respect
to your goals. Measuring actual results against those goals
tells you how well your site is succeeding.

In my view, improving results lies not with measuring the
results themselves but in measuring, understanding, and
adjusting the events that lead to those results. Further,
having a marketing plan that identifies general strategies
and specific programs for meeting your site goals will give
you a higher baseline performance to work with when improving 
upon your site's success.

Have a Plan

Whatever your Web site goals, a marketing plan helps you better 
meet them. By including two or three general strategies to meet 
each goal as well as *specific* programs under each strategy, 
you are better able to evaluate and improve upon performance.

For example, let's say you make high quality, custom-made 
scarves and wish to sell them regionally:

* A Web site goal could be to begin selling scarves online
and achieve "x" amount of sales in the first six months

* One general strategy for meeting that goal could be to get
the site known locally by fashion conscious ladies in your

* A specific program to support this strategy could be to
hold a contest on your site, with the prize being a free,
customized scarf. To promote the contest, you could issue a
press release, which you send to fashion editors, etc.

By taking this funneled approach - planning down from the
broad goal to the specific program - you are better able to
evaluate how well each program supports (or fails to support) 
your goals.

From the start - when you are developing your plan and deciding 
upon site structure - think about how to measure performance. 
Measures will differ, depending upon the situation, but should 
be both quantitative and meaningful with respect to helping you 
improve site performance. Choose a set of measurements that tell 
you not only how your marketing programs are working but also 
how well they support Web site goals.

Evaluate Marketing Programs

In order to evaluate a marketing program's success, first decide 
your objectives. Then, most importantly, "connect the dots" 
between those objectives and your site goals. Later, when 
analyzing program results, evaluate not only whether the program 
succeeded in meeting objectives, but also how well it moved your 
business toward its Web site goals.

It is possible to meet a project objective while failing with 
respect to site goals. A frequent example is traffic generation 
programs. I often read stories of a business participating in 
"hit" programs with disappointing results. They reach "hit" 
goals, but see no benefits.

Consider Return on Investment (ROI)

One way to evaluate marketing project results is through a 
Return on Investment (ROI) analysis. The ROI is a computation 
that tells you how much you got back compared to what you put 
into a project. You can express ROI in terms of a dollar amount 
or as a ratio. Either way, the formula itself is simple.

The dollar amount formula tells how much you increased profit in 
total dollars as a result of the project:

(Cost savings and earnings as a result of the project) minus
(Dollars invested)

The ratio formula tells how much you got back, in dollars, for 
each dollar you invested in a project:

(Cost savings and earnings as a result of the project) divided 
by (Dollars Invested)

IMHO, things get sticky when you try to define "cost savings and 
earnings as a result of a project". This is because returns from 
marketing investments are broader and often more abstract than 
returns from some other types of investments. Marketing 
investments result in not only direct monetary benefits, but 
indirect benefits as well. To make matters even more difficult, 
the indirect benefits are often intangible and difficult (if not 
impossible) to measure.

If you are part of a typical small business with limited 
resources you may be in a seemingly no win situation.
Accurately computing ROI requires a detailed analysis for
which the internal resources and expertise are often
lacking. Outside consultants can spend hours unearthing data
and computing an accurate ROI, but this can be expensive on
a small budget.

This does not mean, however, that you cannot make your best
effort and use ROI as only one of several inputs into your
project evaluation. When figuring ROI and evaluating project
success, keep in mind that each project will realize
different types of benefits. Aside from direct dollars cost
and direct dollars returned, consider other potential
project benefits, including how well it supports your site
goals. Other aspects to consider:

Improved Customer Relationships

Happier customers can represent a return on investment. This
can be gauged through repeat order patterns, by a change in
the number of complaints/compliments, or through customer
surveys comparing pre and post project satisfaction.

Influence On Off-Line Sales

Online activities often have an influence on off-line
transactions. You may experience sales leads originating
from your Internet programs. Customers may also be driven to
your off-line store as a result of online information.

Brand Building

Online activities can mean better long-term growth for your
brand. Market share changes, online interactions, and brand
awareness surveys are some ways you can judge brand-building

Company Growth Potential

Factor in long-term growth prospects when evaluating your
project. For many businesses, the Internet provides access
to new markets and customers. If you have a local business,
for example, your Web site could extend your business far
beyond the city limits.

3 Step Approach

Take into account these broader implications, pay attention
to how well a program supports your site goals, and measure
project results. By taking this three-pronged approach, you
can better choose marketing programs that will result in a
successful site.

In Part 2 of the Web Site Success Series, I look at several
Web metrics, ways to measure and improve your site by
understanding the data. Read "How To Measure and Improve
Site Success, Part 2: Evaluate Site Activity With Web
Metrics" here:

Bobette Kyle is author of the Marketing Plan Guide "How Much For 
Just the Spider? Strategic Web Site Marketing for Small Budget 
Businesses". Read more about the guide here:
Copyright 2003, Bobette Kyle. All rights reserved.