Goals vs Metrics: How to Know When Users Leaving the Site is Okay

An image of people leaving a room. If people leave your site that's a metric to follow. But what's your goal?
Photo Credit: The High Road Institute

Today I had an interesting question from a client, concerned about people leaving their site.

“Most of our users visit a site multiple times before they’re ready to purchase. But all of the wireframes and user flows you’ve shown us direct people to call us or purchase. What do we do about people who aren’t ready to call us? They visit our site and leave, but we don’t want a high exit rate.”

They are confusing their exit rate – a metric – with a goal.


Goals vs Metrics

Lately more and more of my clients are interested in measuring success. HOORAH! I fully support this! And the first step in learning to measure success is to identify¬†what success means, and¬†how it’s measured.

Goals and metrics are not the same thing.

Goals are what success means. Metrics are how it’s measured. Goals are things like “we want more people to buy our product” or “we want people to associate us with really valuable educational materials.” We can measure the people who buy a product by online and IRL purchases – easy. But how do we measure peoples’ associations with our brand? We might use page views, traffic, or conversion percentage. These are all metrics.

It’s important that we differentiate between goals and metrics. Too many organizations focus on “more traffic,” forgetting that their actual goal is more purchases. Since they focus on “more traffic” as a goal rather than a metric, they miss the fact that none of that traffic is converting. If traffic doesn’t convert, getting additional traffic is a waste of time and energy.

If instead they looked at “more traffic” as one metric, and “conversion percentage” as another, both working as steps towards the goal “increase purchases,” they would do far better.

Designing for Drop Off

Many of our clients consider users who visit a site and then leave to be failures. They look at the bounce rate or exit rate and see a failure. But in reality, these users are many things

  • Returning visitors
  • Drop offs (failures)
  • Engagement via anything other than conversion

That last option is key, because those engagements are successful interactions, likely connected to a goal such as “increase engagement.” We just need to identify the success metric, rather than seeing their departure from the site as a failure.

A Goal of Drop offs?

When my client asked about the exit rate, they were identifying a need. They needed to identify what their goal was for people at the top and middle of the funnel – those focused on awareness or education, rather than conversion. Although they asked about exit rate, what they really needed to do was choose a goal, such as “become associated with really valuable educational materials.” Or “encourage users to return for more information.”

These goals are measurable – and not by exit rate! We can measure time spent on page, percentage of return users, click-thrus to multiple resources, newsletter sign ups, and the list goes on.

When someone leaves our site, it’s not a failure. The key is to measure our goals, not just collect our measurements.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *