How do you define success for your website? Success on the web is measured differently for every business, every organization, every web application, every Internet endeavor. Just as in the world of business, what constitutes a metric of achievement for one company, may or may not be true for another. The most important, common value in measuring your effectiveness is this:  it is vital that you define it.

I’m saying two things here:

1. Success Should Be Defined. Having “fuzzy goals” is fine, especially if you are starting out and have no idea where your business is going to take you. There is a certain value in heading in the general direction you wish to go, as opposed to moving “backwards” or “down” in relation to your competition. However, defining the metrics of success should be done fairly early on in your endeavor, so that you can judge what is working and what is not, and make continual improvements to the effectiveness of your site in meeting stated goals.  Don’t be afraid of definition, and adopt of value for progressive definition.  The better you get at defining and measuring specifics, the more effective your site will be.

2. Your Success Should Be Defined By You.  Don’t be concerned with how others (particularly competitors, peers, Internet busybodies, critical family members, and other non-customer-parties-with-an-opinion-about-everything) will or will not measure your site.  What matters is how YOU define it.  Your definition will help you stay focused on the kinds of initiatives and actions that contribute to your goals and “move the needle forward.”

So, how can you define success on the web?

To some degree, measuring web success is as individual as the company or organization itself.  Each entity, by nature, will have unique goals and aspirations to achieve their own particular vision.  However, there are some broad categories of success metrics which you ought to consider as you become more intentional about monitoring your progress.  Here are 9 key question categories for pursing your own customized definition of success on the Internet.

1. Branding – Does your site truly reflect who you are, and does it help to position you appropriately to your prospective customers?

2. Visibility – Can your site be found in search engines for the keywords and phrases that are important to your business, do you have a strong social media presence, and are you linked to from a wide variety of topically related sites?

3. Traffic – Do you have a sufficient volume of traffic, and more importantly, do you have qualified traffic that is likely to respond to your efforts to connect with them?

4. User Engagement – Do what degree are your users actively digesting content, contributing their own content, interacting with you, or utilizing tools and functionality that you provide?

5. Referrals – Do you get lots of qualified referrals from other sites, and do you refer your users to sites in a way that promotes your business model?

6. Sales – If you are aiming to sell products and services online, how’s that working for you, and to what degree are you reaching your potential?

7. Lead Generation – If your site is designed to generate leads, are you getting both enough leads and enough quality leads?

8. Virality – Not virility, although that may help, too, but virality.  In other words, in what respects does your site succeed in creating viral buzz through unique features, content and “sticky” functionality?

9. Bite Sized Conversions – How well does your site provide visitors with a variety of conversion options (not just “sales” or “leads”), that give users easy and simple ways to connect and take action?

It’s important to start asking these and related questions when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of your website. In additional posts, I will expand on each of these questions.  For now, start percolating.