Hits, page views, visits, unique visitors, time spent, click-throughs, other engagement?

While there are far more technical discussions available, here's a brief understandable piece from the The Economist on the vagaries of measuring website visiting.

Being direct response guys, we tend to prefer looking for signs of engagement — have visitors actually been moved to do something when they visit our site or read our posts. For example, how many white papers have been downloaded? How many have registered for a regular feed?

That said, we realize that other legit purposes, like branding, don't necessarily involve direct response. But even there, it would be nice to know the extent to which your visitors were actually absorbing your message … and ideally even passing it along. Which suggests looking at metrics like time spent on the site, or on the individual page, or viral referrals (was an article or video passed along?).

Our impression is that not too many nonprofit webmasters have been pressed to defend their website investment cost in terms of some more meaningful metric than simple visits … “Is our traffic up this month?” Conversion rates off “Donate” or “Take Action” pages might be looked at. But even that would be a start.

On the other hand, when it comes to email marketing (specifically fundraising and calls to action), measurement appears more straightforward.

We can look at messages actually delivered, actually opened, etc. We can establish response rates, average gifts, etc. We can see quickly and definitively the results of testing subject lines and other content and presentation variables.

With email marketing, the measurement issue has more to do with will. Given the perception that email marketing is essentially “free” (particularly as compared to direct mail), many nonprofits do not approach results analysis with the rigor they should.

A final variable in web measurement is the matter of who's in charge. We're willing to bet … If a nonprofit's web presence and online marketing falls under the domain of the direct mail honcho, odds of ROI measurement occurring rise sharply. If the online presence is a separate fiefdom of the “web team,” those odds fall.

Anyone care to dispute us?

Roger & Tom

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