Can’t find the wood for the trees?

Any business that wants to ensure that their website is delivering value needs to be doing web analytics. But with so many metrics available in Google Analytics it’s often difficult to find the wood for the trees. Should every metric available play an important role in your website analysis? For example, is Page Exits a useful measure?

Page Exit Rate measures the percentage of people who exit the site from a specific page. For many, the implication being that if a high proportion of people exit from specific pages the pages must be ‘bad’ and need to be fixed.

Everyone leaves eventually?

However brilliant your website, every visitor will exit the site eventually! Consider this web journey:

  • visitor arrives on Home page
  • visits About Us page
  • visits a few Blog pages
  • visits Contact Us page
  • visits some Product pages
  • revisits Home page and exits

If the above journey is typical of the majority of web visitors to the site then the Home page is likely to have a high Page Exit Rate, so it must be a ‘bad’ page that needs fixing. No it isn’t. Without knowing the specific objectives for the site, the above journey shows the visitor spent a reasonable amount of time on the site, viewed numerous pages and found out quite a bit about the company. They may subsequently contact the company by phone or return and buy on the next visit.

Exceptions to the rule

Page Exit Rates have limited use apart from 2 key exceptions. The first is a special kind of Exit called Bounce Rate. This measures the percentage of people who landed on a page and immediately exited the site without clicking a second page on the site. Clearly, this is not desirable behaviour and needs to be investigated.

The second exception is that Page Exit Rates are useful when analysing a structured page flow. This could be a 5 page application process or a shopping cart process where visitors are expected to go from page 1 to page 2 etc. If a high proportion of people abandon at page 3, it might suggest that there is a problem on that page that neeeds investigating.

Measure the metrics that count

Any web analytics program is likely to have hundreds of metrics. Focus on the ones that will make a difference to your business. If you can’t find the wood for the trees, get some help from a web analytics expert