If you aren’t going to do anything with the numbers, don’t bother taking the time to measure web performance. As a number geek, it is hard for me to even write that sentence, but I mean it. Looking at numbers for the sake of bragging rights – look how much web traffic or how many fans on Facebook  – is a waste of time. 

The numbers only have value if you dive in to understand what they mean, and use them to take action.

What type of action?

The answer to that question will vary based on your business objectives, but at the very least when you measure web performance you should treat the data like clues in a treasure hunt. Take time to follow the information like I did back in 2009 when I noticed am unusual spike in traffic to one obscure blog post.

Shout Out to Vincent High School

In that example, I tracked back and found a connection between a referral source and a particular piece of content. Since the spike was caused by a group of students who are not necessarily my target market, I wrote a nice blog post, but didn’t have any intention of going any further.

But the process of looking for unusual spikes is one I repeat often. Doing so on a regular basis has helped us discover areas of interest among our readers, and communities we should be connecting to. That is what happened when Peter wrote an article about SumoMe.com. 

It was a good blog post but a few days after it was published, the traffic blew up. It turns out that there is a user group for this software product on Facebook and one of the members shared the article. As web developers, we actually joined the group and got involved in the conversation. 

Diagnose Your Website Woes with Heat Maps by SumoMe

Where do they go?

It is good to know where your visitors come from, but you also want to look at where they go next. Do they look at your contact form, your service page or simply leave? How do I know where they go next? I simply use the Behavior Flow tool, one of my favorite tools in the Google Analytics page. Using Behavior Flow, you can see how people move through your site.

We used the tool to study one of our most popular blog posts. Every day people come looking for information about Dropbox. Unfortunately, that is all they are interested in. The vast majority weren’t hanging around. They didn’t look at our other information, sign up for newsletters or seminars or fill out a contact form. 

How to Signup for Dropbox and Share a Folder

From the data we came to two conclusions:

  1. Although the blog post was popular, we probably weren’t going to do more on the same or related topics because the people reading that post, much like the students in the first post I mentioned, weren’t in our target audience.
  2. We needed to at least try to capture some of that traffic. So we began experimenting with different links to other information in the blog post. While the vast majority of the traffic still drifts away at the bottom of the page, we have seen a slight increase in people looking around a little more.

The bottom line? Take a little time to go on a treasure hunt of your own. Who knows what you will find, buried in the data if your take the time to really measure your web performance.