12 fundamental website performance metrics for site tracking

You’ve built your website, added beautiful images, and written compelling content to help convince customers that you offer the best solution for their needs. And now, it’s time to release it out into the world. But once you hit publish, how do you know that your site is reaching the people it needs to reach? 

That’s where website performance metrics come in. These data points — of which there are dozens — track various elements of your site and audience behavior to help you assess if your website is doing its job. And thankfully, you don’t need to follow every single bit of data to know if it’s performing how you need it to. The 12 fundamental website performance metrics in this guide provide an in-depth picture into how your site is keeping up and what you can do to improve it.

How do performance metrics translate to business goals?

Acquiring new customers is the lifeblood of any successful business. And with the data that flows through every website — including yours — you have a powerful source of information at your fingertips. With this body of data, you can make educated decisions about the role your site plays in attracting and converting new customers.

Whether you want to raise awareness, encourage more sales, or get more subscribers, a clearly defined goal shapes the “how” behind what your website needs to meet those goals. Knowing which performance metrics to track supports that growth, ensuring you come closer to meeting your business’s goals. 

12 fundamental website performance metrics you can start tracking today

The most important website performance metrics go hand in hand with user experience. Visitors expect fast sites that are easy to navigate and have a clear direction. To that end, these 12 fundamental website performance metrics cover both technical performance and creative choices. Here, we’ll discuss how each of these measurements impacts your visitors.

Site speed

How fast your site loads is one of the most important metrics to keep an eye on. A fast site supports a good customer experience, as visitors expect your site to load immediately. Any wait time beyond more than a few seconds — even more than 2 seconds — can drive visitors away. Making sure your site meets important speed benchmarks helps to ensure that it’s performing at its best.

There are several important measurements within a site speed assessment, including, but not limited to:

- Time to title: This is the time it takes for your website’s title to appear in the browser tab.

- First contentful paint: This is the time it takes for content to load on the screen. This is one of the most important site speed factors. This is different from largest contentful paint, which is how quickly all content on the page loads.

- Time to start render: This is the time from when a visitor clicks on something to when the content begins to load — not when it’s fully loaded.

- Time to interact: This is the time it takes for site elements like forms and clickable links to be ready for visitors to use.

Each of these metrics can be improved by optimizing your site for fast loading times. This involves the use of compressed images and off-site hosting of large files like videos, among other tactics. You may also want to consider a content delivery network (CDN), which helps cut site load time by decentralizing servers, allowing for faster content delivery.

DNS lookup time

The domain name system (DNS) lookup time is the “travel time” that elapses from when a user types in or clicks on a website URL, the site requests the content, and then the content is delivered to the user’s browser. This important metric is an overall assessment of site speed and site health. It’s measured in milliseconds — that’s how lightning-fast this metric needs to be. 

Just like the other site speed metrics, DNS lookup time contributes to the overall real user experience by delivering content as quickly as possible. A slow DNS lookup time can result in errors or frustrated visitors who don’t get what they need fast enough. Using a fast DNS is key to keeping this metric at lightning speed.

Error rate

This metric tracks the number of issues on your website at any given time, especially when compared to the total number of visitors. These are not directly related to speed, but they can be tangentially related. For example, a high error rate due to high traffic could point to a slower site speed.

While there are many factors that can influence error rate, following this figure can help you identify problems before they occur and affect user experience. For example, the error rate may increase if you launch a new product on your website and there's a subsequent increase in traffic to your site. With this information in hand, you can better prepare for an expected traffic influx to your site.

Traffic source

Where do your site visitors come from? This is referred to as “traffic source.” With this metric, you can glean a clearer understanding of how your website is performing. 

You can use this data to determine where your marketing efforts are best placed and to analyze which avenues may not work as well for you. For example, evaluating your traffic source can help you determine that far more visitors come to your site through Facebook than Twitter, and you may want to produce more content for Facebook as a result.

Some common sources of traffic include:

- Direct: This is when your visitor types your website’s URL directly into their browser. (By some metrics, such as Google Analytics, direct traffic also includes site visits where the origin can’t be determined.)

- Organic: This is when your visitor found your site through a search engine and clicked on the search result that leads to your site.

- Social: This is when your visitor came to your site through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other large social media platforms.

- Referral: This is when your visitor found your site through means that don’t include search engine results, such as a link in an article.

- Ads: Paid search, banner ads, and other types of digital advertising can be tracked separately by property or method.

Unique visitors

Unique visitors is the number of individuals who visit your site in a given period. This metric is determined by tracking a particular browser that accesses your website.

Tracking unique visitors can provide important insight into how people find your website, what content they find interesting, and how you can further bring these visitors into your conversion funnel. It can also be a great measure of reach, especially if your goal is to bring more visitors to your site. If this number is stagnant or not increasing at the rate you’d like it to, you may want to try introducing different content types to your marketing to attract new visitors.

google analytics on macbook pro
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Returning visitors

Returning visitors track when someone who’s been to your website before comes back. Just like unique visitors, returning visitors tracks the number of times a browser visits your website.

The returning visitors metric is an important one for attracting new customers and converting visitors into leads. Most potential customers need more than one interaction with your company before deciding to reach out, so the returning visitor rate can be a good indicator of lead conversion potential. These visitors are often looking for new or additional information, so regularly publishing new content or optimizing current content to help capture contact information can go a long way.

Average time on page

The average time on page tracks how long all site visitors spent on a certain page. This is calculated by dividing the average amount of time spent by the number of users in the period being assessed. Importantly, for Google Analytics in particular, the average time on the page is only registered if a user clicks an element on the page. So a page left open on a browser for three hours does not count, but the time “actively” spent on the page by clicking is counted.

The average time on page can be a good indicator that you’ve published engaging content or you have several elements on the page for visitors to interact with, such as quizzes, FAQs, or forms. You can apply this insight to other pages that may not be performing as well as others.

Session duration

Session duration is the average time spent on your site. Unlike the average time on page metric, session duration measures all time spent site-wide. This figure is calculated by dividing the amount of time each user spent during the session by the total number of sessions in a given period. 

This metric is particularly meaningful when it comes to your site content. If you publish an interesting blog, offer a helpful FAQ page, or embed a cool video about your product or service, that can all contribute to extra time visitors spend on the site. And the longer they spend on the site, the more likely they are to click on other content and eventually take action, whether that action is to sign up for emails or add a product to their cart.

Bounce rate

Bounce rate tracks the amount of visitors who come to your site for a short time and don’t interact with your site at all. These visitors arrive on one page on your site, look around for a short period, then leave without looking at other pages, clicking any links, or signing up for a newsletter, for example. This is calculated as a percentage of overall visitors. 

A high bounce rate can be an indicator that the content on the page doesn’t match what your visitor is looking for. It can also tell you that you need more elements for your visitor to interact with on the page, such as an email signup form or buttons directing them to other content to read. As you examine your bounce rate, pay attention to the user experience on the page in question. If it’s missing the mark, it may be time to add new, more exciting content.

What’s considered a “good” bounce rate can greatly depend on your industry, marketing goals, and traffic source. It could be normal for some industries to have a higher bounce rate, or for others to have a low bounce rate as a standard. A high bounce rate can even indicate a good thing – for example, if you want visitors to spend several minutes reading the content on a particular page. A “good” bounce rate can clock in anywhere from 25% to 55%, depending on these factors.

Exit rate

Similar yet slightly different from a bounce rate, the exit rate clocks how many people left your site through a particular page. So while bounce rate measures people who took no action and left that same page, the exit rate tracks the visitor’s journey throughout the site and takes note of which page they left through.

While every visitor leaves your site eventually, a particularly high exit rate on one page can be an indicator of struggling conversion rate optimization (CRO), or the number of visitors who become leads or customers. Pay attention to pages with a particularly high exit rate and target those for a refresh.

Click-through rate

Abbreviated as CTR, click through rates measure how many visitors actually engage with the content on the page. It’s used to measure the success of many digital marketing campaigns and platforms, including the performance of a landing page or other element on your website. 

The CTR is a key metric to watch out for, as a click brings a visitor one step closer in the conversion funnel. A click is an indicator that the person reading your content is interested in your product or service, as they were motivated enough to complete an action. A low click-through rate can indicate that you need to make a change to see better results.

To calculate CTR, the number of visitors is divided by the number of times an element on the page was clicked. For example, if 1,000 visitors came to your landing page, and 20 of them clicked on the call to action to sign up for emails, the CTR is 2%.

The average click-through rate isn’t astronomical. For a website, an average CTR of anywhere between 3% and 5% is considered a success.

Conversion rate

This is one of the biggest website metrics that will affect your bottom line. The conversion rate tells you how many people complete a desired action on your website. 

Let’s take a webinar registration as an example. If the webpage had 500 visitors, and 15 of them signed up to get the link to watch the webinar, your conversion rate for this campaign would be 3%. 

Your conversion rate gives you insight into your customer base — what resonates with them, what information they’re looking for, and what solutions they’re in search of. A high conversion rate can show that you’re hitting the right notes and your customers clearly understand your value. A low conversion rate could indicate that you need to experiment with new messaging to better explain what you have to offer.

Just like several of the metrics on this list, there’s a lot of leeway as to what’s considered a “good” or a “bad” conversion rate. It depends on what you’re trying to get people to do, your industry’s standards, and your own goals for the campaign. Rates as low as 2% and those as high as 5% or more are common. This is why you need goals for your website marketing plan — they establish a benchmark against which you can measure how you’re performing.

How do you check website performance metrics?

There are lots of free online tools that allow you to check website performance metrics. 

One of the most popular is Google’s suite of tools to assess site traffic and check site performance. Google Analytics is a great source for information about where visitors come from and how long they spend on your website. Google Search Console can provide insight into how customers find your site, while Page Speed Insights can flag any issues regarding load times.

In addition to Google’s suite of free tools, there are plenty of third-party tools that you can try. SEMRush, WebPageTest, Sematext, and GTMetrix are among some of the more popular tools. You can sign up for a free trial for many of these services so you can get a hang of how they work.

Performance metrics make for a better performing site

Whatever your goals are for your business’s website, site performance metrics can help you get closer to meeting them. In order to increase conversions, reduce your bounce rate, or see where your marketing time and dollars are best allotted, you need data that can help you make educated decisions about the best way to optimize your site and ensure it’s at peak performance. And with Namecheap Site Maker, your site can be up in minutes, with changes live as soon as you want to make them and reliably fast site speeds. Get started today by signing up for a free 14-day demo of our platform. 


Nick Allen

Nick Allen

Nick Allen is a writer, photographer, and content marketer. He’s also the founder of BrainBoost Media, a boutique content and operations studio. With a wide range of interests, he enjoys reading and writing about sports, entrepreneurship, and start-ups.
More articles written by Nick.

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