The days of set-it-and-forget-it website design are long gone. Today, your municipal website is a constantly evolving entity. As you and your staff work together to enhance and improve your municipal website by adding pages, updating content, and embedding images and videos, you’ll need to perform an analysis to better understand how your updates are impacting your citizens’ ability to use your website as an engagement tool and educational resource. By constantly analyzing your website’s performance, you can maximize your ability to leverage it as a tool to help you meet your citizen communication goals.
When it comes to conducting an analysis, however, where should you start? You likely have access to a litany of data elements, trending graphs, and charts, but may not know which data factors are the greatest indicators of engagement. To help you best leverage the municipal website utilization data available to you, review our website performance analysis tips below.
Traffic is an indicator of the number of total visits, to your municipal website. From there, you can also analyze the total number of unique visitors to your website. In other words, total traffic and unique visitor data are indicators of how many citizens are utilizing your website as a tool, and how frequently they are visiting. If your community has 100,000 citizens, and during an average month, your civic website only sees 10,000 unique visitors, that should tell you that you’re missing an opportunity to reach more citizens, and that you may benefit from doing more to promote your website as a local resource. Low total traffic numbers can also be an indicator that citizens aren’t finding your municipal website useful for what they are looking for, and therefore not giving them a reason to return.
Bounce rate is the number of visitors who arrive at one page on your website, and then leave, never visiting other pages, or reviewing other content. If you have a large number of visitors that only go to specific pages on your website, like your ePayment page, community calendar, or business directory page, it tells you that your citizens are finding some of your content valuable, but that they’re missing out on other features that can improve their civic engagement. To lower your bounce rate, create some communications to educate citizens on more of the helpful features of your municipal website that they aren’t already utilizing.
Keep in mind when analyzing bounce rates that the page itself is an important factor in how much time a user is ideally spending there. For example, having a high bounce rate on your "Contact Us," page is not necessarily a bad thing. If a user arrived directly at your Contact Us page after conducting a Google search, they likely found the information they were looking for (a phone number or address), and may not have had any need to visit another page. The citizen would have had a positive experience, but would also have contributed to a high bounce rate for that page.
Pay special attention to the bounce rate on your homepage, however. If it's greater than 50 percent, it may be an indicator that your homepage could benefit from a change in primary content and/or navigation structure.
Session duration tells you how much time citizens spend on your municipal website, or otherwise, how engaged they are with your website’s content. For example, consider how much time citizens are spending on your blog or news page. If the majority of visitors spend less than one minute, you may need to consider reformatting your content to make it more engaging. Try utilizing more imagery, formatting your articles using shorter paragraphs, adding subheads to break articles into shorter sections of content, or including links to more in-depth information for only those interested in learning more. If you can increase your session duration average to more than three minutes, you can be confident that your content is engaging and valuable to citizens.
Think of a website referral like a recommendation from one website to another. When analyzing your civic website data, referral source can tell you how users are coming to your website, or rather, what site, referred them, if applicable. Referral source data can be a powerful indicator of what external sources are most valuable in helping visitors find your municipal website.
For example, if users are being referred by search engines, you know your citizens are looking for local information, but your civic website isn't a top-of-mind solution. If users are being referred by tourism sites, or chamber of commerce sites, you know those are powerful partnerships and reliable marketing vehicles. If you are running any online advertising, referral source data can also tell you if users are coming from those ads as well, validating the value of your advertising spend.
Referral data can also show you if users are coming to your website directly, which would indicate that citizens find our municipal website valuable enough to bookmark it as a favorite, or enter the URL by memory.
A Note About Frequency of Analytics
Keep in mind that if you are not evaluating your website traffic at least monthly, it will be hard to understand if your website is meeting the needs of your citizens. Month-over-month, and eventually year-over-year comparisons will be important indicators when analyzing the impact of changes to your website, seasonal citizen engagement patterns, and other important factors.
For More Insight
To help give you a comprehensive picture of the effectiveness of your municipal website, download a third-party performance evaluation report. This report will give you additional insight into how your website performs in categories like mobility, speed, readability, and broken-links. Combined with a thorough analysis of key website performance indicators, this report will give you the insight you need to plan the municipal website enhancements that will make the greatest impact on your citizen engagement goals.