I can remember way back in the early days of the web that we used to count hits. This basically meant that we would count every element on the web page as a single item and each time it was displayed, we would get a “hit”. So a page with ten items would rate as ten hits. This would get people very excited! “My page got 1000 hits” could translate to as little as one visitor if you have 1000 items on your page.

Of course, to the web novice, 1000 hits sounded great.

As we got savvier – and as the number of web users grew – we started counting visitors. And then unique visitors. And then repeat visitors. We started to think of our websites as destinations – as homes for our content, our ideas, products and services.

But, inevitably, someone asks about ROI. What is the value of the transactions that come in when measured against the money spent in creating, maintaining and improving your web presence? In the early days of the web, the cost of implementing a payment gateway was astronomical, so very few businesses could afford it. (These days, you can implement a PayPal gateway with a few clicks and a couple of hours!)

But those businesses that got involved in online commerce early were able to learn valuable lessons. The value to their business was not in the transactions that came through the web (as a channel). What they gained was an understanding of the web AS a business. They learned how to translate business models into the online space – focusing on the hard metrics (ie revenue) rather then hits, visitors etc.

In the online world – where attention is scarce – your challenge is to convert your website visitor’s attention, interest and trust into something more tangible for your business. Sometimes that is not transactional – perhaps you want to grow a community or position yourself as a thought leader (if so, think through the appropriate metrics such as subscriber numbers, inbound links, community membership).

Now – make the hard decision.

Divide those numbers by your traffic figures. What is the conversion percentage (ie how many “visitors” sign up or subscribe)?

Relentlessly focusing on that per-visitor statistic will help you improve your efforts and achieve your objectives. Just take a look at the graph above from the Silicon Alley Insider (via the Measurement Standard). Amazon drives conversion at every opportunity – and the results show. Make just one change to your site and see what impact it has. Keep refining it until you see improvement. And once your site is more relevant to your audience – and is easier for them to use – watch as your conversion rates improve.

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