Key performance indicators

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Paul Boag Posted by: Paul Boag On Tuesday, 8th October, 2013

Key performance indicators

Your online key performance indicators cannot exist in a vacuum. You need more than Google Analytics, you need offline measurements too.

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Do you know how well your website performs? Key performance indicators are a fundamental business practice and yet few apply them to the web effectively.

The problem is that finding measurable key performance indicators can be tricky, especially when other business processes are not being measured well either.

Take for example Perceptions. Perceptions are a consultancy that helps companies get the most from their employees. They do this by helping senior management understand their staff.

Perceptions commissioned a new website. The website was expected to perform two roles.

It’s primary role was to help qualify leads, filtering out enquiries that were not appropriate. The company receives a lot of calls from smaller businesses that have heard about Perceptions through offline marketing channels but who cannot really afford their services. Unfortunately this is not always immediately obvious and time is wasted following up the calls only to find they are not a good fit.

The secondary role of the site is to support the assessment process. When the company assesses client employees they make use of surveys and exercises. Traditionally these have been done in workshops, but the company is interested in moving this process online so that employees can self-assess.

At first glance you maybe tempted to think the key performance indicators for both scenarios are relatively straightforward. Sales enquiries that have come from the website need to be recorded and the number of people completing self-assessment online tracked.

However, things are not that easy. Let’s take the enquiry tracking first.

Simply knowing how many leads the website generates is not enough. You need to know how many of those convert and what the average value is. This requires offline tracking. Because enquiries go through to a sales person, there needs to be a way of tagging that enquiry as originating from the website and also recording its final value if it is won. This doesn’t necessarily need to be a fancy customer relationship management system, but something needs to be in place, even if only an excel spreadsheet.

Also if you are going to compare the website with other lead generation techniques (such as offline advertising), you need to track all approaches. This means that a sales person needs to have a way of knowing where the lead came from. This could involve separate phone numbers or be as simple as asking the enquirer. The point is that tracking on the website is not enough, it requires offline tracking too.

The same is true for support. The idea of encouraging self-assessment online is to reduce costs. If an employee self assesses he or she doesn’t need to attend a workshop and that saves the company money. At least that is the idea. However, self assessors need support and that means having people to field support queries. To know if this approach is actually cheaper you need to know the cost per transaction. This means knowing how much it costs per head to run a workshop and how much it costs to facilitate self-assessment online. Once again you require figures that many companies fail to collect.

My point here is that the web cannot be viewed in isolation when it comes to key performance indicators. It is apart of a bigger ecosystem with which it integrates and needs to be compared.

Don’t feel overwhelmed

This realisation can lead to one of two reactions. Some are spurred on to start measuring the cost and impact of other business processes. Unfortunately the majority simply give up, feeling overwhelmed and believing that if they cannot measure everything then there is no point measuring anything.

I want to encourage you not to fall into the latter case. Start measuring something even if the metric isn’t perfect. For example in the case of Perception start measuring the number of users successfully completing self assessments even if you cannot compare this to a workshop. After all, if you can improve the site over time so that more self assessments are completed, you do at least know that things are getting better and that fewer people are contacting support.

Equally with sales, you can at least track the number of people viewing the contact us page. You might also add a field into the contact us form that would give an indication of their business size. This would help you further refine whether you were generating the right type of lead.

Are these measurements perfect? Absolutely not. But, they will start you down the road of generating key performance indicators. This will help prove their value and overtime encourage adopting more rigorous measurement across other business processes.

One of the great aspects of the web is the ability to collect immensely detailed data. However, for our websites to be truly effective we cannot just rely on Google Analytics, we need to be measuring metrics across the company.

“KPI or Key Performance Indicator as Concept” image courtesy of

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