The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

Take Charge and Define Your Metrics

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Mon, Jul 30, 2012


With giddy anticipation, I recently opened an email from the social influence site Klout hoping for a new Klout perk (What would it be? A magnet, a new sticker, or offer for some hipster clothing line my 42-year-old body doesn’t fit into??)

However, hopes were dashed as I noticed it was my “Weekly Influence Summary”:

Klout Score

What?? My Klout score went down!! Do my friends no longer love me? Do my colleagues suddenly think I’m a blithering idiot? Does the world now think of me as a lonely dweeb babbling away in a remote corner of the internet?

I quickly realized I wouldn’t need to drown my sorrows so I put down the (unopened) bottle of Jack Daniels, gathered my composure and remembered this:

    • I had just returned from vacation and had been off social media. OF COURSE my score went down.

    • More important, my Klout score is not a measure of who I am or the quality of my work.

Too often, outsiders decide the metrics that define online success. Questions around the number of Twitter followers, Facebook likes and your Klout score have come up in job interviews (Check out this VP candidate who didn’t get a job because his score was too low) and have even defined the most influential thought leaders in the association space.

So why does this matter to your association – and your association’s website?

It’s a good axiom that “You can’t manage what you can’t measure” and as a website manager, web analytics play a key role in defining how to manage your website.

So who defines this? And what should you measure?

First, it helps to know what your website’s goal is so you can align measurement with those goals. Some high level examples might include

    • Advertising Revenue = page views and time on site

    • Thought Leadership = number of referring sites

    • Industry Expert = page views of specific content areas (e.g. white papers)

    • Global Expansion = increase in visitors from other countries

The list can go on and on, but it starts with knowing what your goals are so you can align the metrics to know if you are getting there.

Beyond the basics of “we had x visitors who spent x time and viewed x pages,” here some other metrics and items to consider:

Page Views Over Time

The default view in Google analytics is generally one week of traffic. This gives a quick glance of what’s going on right now – but web traffic patterns take months to define. Improve your analysis by expanding the timeframe to at least 3 months and check “compare to past.”

Google Analytics Report Range Settings 

Also keep in mind that associations follow activity patterns throughout the year – annual meeting, elections, fundraising campaigns, etc. So looking at a limited view doesn’t take into consideration the timing of this activity (“My traffic is up 200%. Oh wait, annual conference is next week.”).

New Visits and Bounce Rate for Search Traffic

When users find your site through a Google search you want to know two things – Are they new visitors (e.g. potential members) and did they find what they were looking for (e.g. user value)?

Two metrics to help you know this are if the number of new visitors is higher than your site average and if the bounce rate is lower than the site average (did someone land on your site, think “not what I was looking for” and exit right away?).

Google Analytics Search Traffic Overview 

From here you can start looking at specific sections and pages and identify areas of your site that need more (or better) targeted content and some improved search engine optimization.

What your users REALLY doing?

The key to website management is going beyond knowing what you WANT your users to do and knowing what they actually ARE doing. When you first open the traffic reports it can be daunting to look at a list of URLs and see the page views. And if you are a visual learner it gets even more confusing.

Enter Visitor Flow!

Google Analytics Visitor Flow 

This interactive tool was introduced last year and is my favorite Google Analytics tool. You can quickly narrow your focus to a country (or state), review traffic through certain pages and groups of pages called “nodes,” and see where users drop off. As you test and make changes to layouts and conversion points, you can monitor over time to see if your changes are getting users into your site’s most valuable content.


Of course, there are many more tools such as in-page analytics, goals and more. But the key is to start by knowing why you want to measure something in your site, and then figure out what the right measurement is.  Track it over time to see how site changes, new content and external campaigns affect your traffic and visitor’s experience and share that with your teams.

And most important, don’t let someone else define what is important to you. Only you know your site, and it’s your job to measure and manage it.

Ray van Hilst is Director of Client Strategy and Marketing at Vanguard Technology. Connect with him @rvanhilst or rvanhilst(at)

Topics: web strategy, Ray van Hilst, Uncategorized, Klout, Metrics, web operations, Authors, analysis, Google Analytics, Websites

Subscribe via E-mail

New Call-to-action

Follow Me

Latest Posts

Our Most Popular Posts