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The Single Most Important Website Metric

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This story appears in the October 2013 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Since Google Analytics was made available for free in 2005, marketers, media experts and everyone in between has struggled to make sense of the various metrics it records--page views, visitors, uniques. Meanwhile, many business owners have ignored this data entirely, focusing only on the number of sales or leads a site generates. After all, if a website doesn't generate revenue or collect prospects' contact information, then something must be wrong.

Illustration by Romulaldo Faura

According to Jakob Nielsen, co-founder and principal of Nielsen Norman Group, a Fremont, Calif., firm that conducts evidence-based online user research, neither the marketers nor the business owners are entirely right. The one data point that matters most is conversion rate. This counts what percentage of visitors responded to calls to action on your site, such as clicking on an article, scheduling an appointment or buying a product. The rate provides an accurate measure of your website's effectiveness at engaging visitors, no matter whether you see 1,000 or 1 million visitors each month.

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