Can I share a vulnerability with you?
I’m easily influenced by numbers and stats that don’t really matter.
Things like website views, Twitter followers, or Facebook likes.
These are frequently referred to “Vanity Metrics.” They sure look pretty on the outside, but they’re surface level numbers. They don’t necessarily measure what actually matters.
It’s easy to fall into this trap. Vanity metrics are fun! Who doesn’t want lots of people on their website? How could that possibly be a bad thing?
The Problem With Vanity Metrics for Nonprofit Websites
The problem with focusing on things like site traffic is that it takes focus away from what really matters. It comes down to asking yourself: is what we’re measuring having an effect on our mission?
(By the way, if this topic interests you, check out our webinar from last week on the topic)
In the case of site traffic, it only affects your mission if the right people are coming to your organization’s website.
Let’s say you have a nonprofit website that gets 10,000 visitors a month, and another one that brings in 1,000 visitors a month.
10,000 is better than 1,000, right?
Well what if only 50 visitors to the first site were interested in the work that organization is doing, but 500 of the visitors to the second site were interested in their work?
Suddenly, that 10,000 number seems far less important.
We can extrapolate this same lesson to social media followers. How important is it to have thousands of Facebook likes if those people aren’t connecting with the work you do?
If your end-all, be-all goal for your organization’s website becomes “drive more traffic,” you might find yourself in a situation in which the wrong behaviors are being rewarded and incentivized. The focus of your message gets sacrificed in order to appeal to the masses (rather than the people you need to connect with most), cheap tricks are utilized to get people to share and like images on Facebook, or you end up spending resources to create things that aren’t related to your work.
What You SHOULD Be Measuring
Now I’m not here to tell you “go delete your Google Analytics account and never measure site traffic again.” It’s good (and easy) to measure that, it just shouldn’t be the only way you’re keeping tabs on the health of your organization’s website.
So what should you add to your metric mix?
Here’s a few ideas.
1. Subscriber Growth
A page view really just tells you that someone decided to check out something on your site. It doesn’t tell you if they thought it was any good, how long they were there, or (most importantly) if they ever plan on coming back.
But when someone subscribes to your organization’s content (be it a blog, newsletter, videos, whatever), it’s an indication that they found value in what they’ve already seen and they want to see more.
Growing your audience should serve as a sign that the work you’re doing is seen as valuable by people.
Just make sure you’re putting your subscriber form in a good place.
2. Email Open/Click Rate
If you’re collecting email addresses, you’re going to be sending them emails right? And if the email you’re sending are engaging, people should be opening and clicking them.
This is a great way to keep tabs on whether the people who have agreed to hear more from you (your subscribers) are connecting with the messages you’re sending. If you consistently deliver value to them on a regular basis, they’ll keep opening and clicking.
One of the quickest ways to blow this? Treating your email list like an ATM and only communicating with them when you’re making an ask for money. It’s perfectly fine to use your email address as a fund development tool, but make sure you mix up your asks.
3. Net Promoter Score
Net Promoter Score (or NPS) is a great tool. Don’t worry, it’s simpler than it sounds.
Essentially, it’s just a measure of how many people are likely to recommend your content to their friends. And that’s a high indicator that someone enjoys what you’re doing and is likely to stick around themselves.
NPS is measured with one simple question:
“On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend [YOUR ORG’S CONTENT] to a friend or colleague?”
Users can then indicate their rating and all those scores are tabulated to give you a score from -100 to +100. People who rate 9-10 are considered promoters (they add points to your score), and people who rate 0-6 are considered detractors (they subtract points from your score). 7 and 8’s are considered passives, and they don’t affect your score.
There are plenty of services that offer ways to easily measure this on your website (SurveyMonkey being a popular free option), so you can start measuring this quickly.
4. Engagement Level
Even if people are coming to your site repeatedly, subscribing, opening your messages, and enjoying the work you’re doing, one important question remains:
Is this having an affect on your mission?
To answer that, we need to look at what type of engagement or behavior you’re trying to effect.
It could be donations, volunteer sign ups, or something else entirely. But how is the work you’re doing affecting these behaviors?
You Improve What You Measure
Remember: you improve what you measure.
Measuring something that doesn’t matter? You’ll improve something that doesn’t matter.
Measuring something that DOES matter? You’ll improve something that matters.
The worst thing you can do is allow the fear of doing the wrong thing prevent you from doing anything. You can always adjust your course in a few months if your metrics aren’t accurately giving you an idea of how your org's website is operating. Just write a few goals and get to it!
That’s how you make your organization’s website work for you, and not the other way around.