How to Read a Performance Report
Easily Understand Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Your Site
We want you to be able to understand what your website is doing to grow your business, so we provide reports that show you the KPIs for your site. It’s very easy to fall down the proverbial rabbit hole when looking at site metrics, and our goal is to avoid that while still providing useful insight. This article covers the definitions and purposes of the report, but is by no means a comprehensive guide on these metrics.
If after reading this, you have further questions, please reach out and ask. We’re happy to go into more detail.
The SEO and Analytics pages are the meatiest pages in the report, and as a result, tend to have the most technical “mumbo-jumbo” on them. It all starts with three numbers.
- Backlinks – A backlink is created when another website links to a page on your site. Backlinks act as a recommendation of sorts. When a website refers people to another site, the referring site is, in a way, vouching for the usefulness and credibility of that other site. As a rule, you want to give and get backlinks.
- Organic Keywords – This is the total number of keywords that your site is ranking for. Generally you want this to be high, but it’s important to remember that the keywords need to be valuable to your business. For example, if you own a bike shop, ranking for the keyword “root canal” wouldn’t be very useful. However, if you’re a dentist, “root canal” is something you would probably want to rank for.
- Estimated Organic Monthly Traffic – Google will give you the exact number of times a page on your site shows up in its search results, but it won’t tell you if it was in a place where it was likely to be seen, like the top 3 results, or a less likely place, like the bottom of page 10. Since they make money from paid advertising, it’s not really in their interest to give exact data on organic (non-paid) results. So we rely on third party services to provide us with this number. This represents times a page on your site shows up in a position on the Search Engine Results Page (or SERP) where it’s more likely to be seen.
Why we Include Keywords by Impressions and Clicks
Pages that get high impressions indicate that’s what google thinks your site is about. Pages that get the highest clicks show what the users intent is for visiting. Ideally, these two will overlap a lot, but by looking at them together, you can find ways to optimize your site so that the right people end up visiting.
Analytics has 4 different numbers.
- Site sessions – Think of this as the number of times an individual visits your site. Higher is better.
- Page Views – The total number of pages viewed by all people. Again, higher is better.
- Pages per session – This is simply the page views divided by the sessions. The more pages per session, the better. This means people are visiting multiple pages on your site, which search engines see as a signal that your site is legitimate and useful.
- Bounce Rate – When a person visits only one page on your site and leaves, that is considered a bounce. That means they didn’t find the info they were looking for, so they “bounced.” This is always expressed as a percentage, and the lower, the better. Generally speaking, anything below 40% is outstanding. 41 to 70% is average, and over 70% is considered bad. So if only 4 of 10 people stay on your site, it’s doing okay.
All the other sections are pretty straightforward, maybe with the exception of the speed and performance section. While it’s easy to forget about things like updates and security, it’s important to keep the website polished and running at peak efficiency.
There are three components to monitor and update on a WordPress website: Plugins, Themes, and the Core.
- Plugins – These are like applications that add features and functionality to a website. For example, a contact form on a website would use a plugin to work. Plugins are the most commonly updated components of a website.
- Themes – A theme is used to dictate the design of a website. You don’t typically change themes because doing so can drastically alter how the site appears. Updates to themes happen occasionally, maybe 1-2 times a year, or less.
- Core – This is an update to WordPress itself. Like themes, it happens a couple of times a year.
While it’s called uptime, it’s actually reporting if the site went down for any amount of time and if so, for how long. The goal here is 100% uptime, and if it’s not, we can provide details of what happened to cause and resolve the downtime.
Websites are always under threat of attack, even small ones. We monitor for malware and signals that there are problems, then provide the report to you. On this report we want green checks and green boxes that say “no”
In all honesty, the goal for both the Uptime and Security reports is that they are boring. Boring is good in these cases.
Page Speed and Performance
The last part of the report is about page speed and performance. A fast-loading page is more likely to rank well with search engines, and people honestly expect fast pages today. If it takes too long to load, they’ll leave (bounce). We test using two well known tools from GT Metrix and Google. To make it easier to understand these scores, they are color coded. Green is good, yellow is average, red is poor.
These are letter grades given by tests run through PageSpeed and YSlow. They mean the same thing as school grades, so the’re easily understood. There will always be either a green or red arrow, or a yellow diamond that indicate the performance too. Green arrows and a letter grade of “B” or better is the goal.
The Page Details are more important, but harder to understand than the Performance Scores.
Fully loaded Time is, as implied, the amount of time it takes for every part of a webpage to load and be viewable in the browser. Keep in mind that most pages are usable before being fully loaded, but faster is always better here. Again, look for a green arrow.
Total page size is the size of the page in kilobytes (KB) or megabytes (MB). Again, the smaller the size, the faster it will load. In a perfect world pages would always be smaller than 1 MB, but that isn’t always possible. A green arrow indicates the page is well optimized.
Requests. Anytime you load a webpage, your browser has to make requests. Fonts, images, java components, and video all have to be requested, and each request takes time. Well optimized pages have fewer requests, so the lower the better.
Google provides 10 metrics, and all of them are somewhat “techie.” The first 4 are shown on a chart and scored from 0-100. Google tends to be harsher in its evaluation, so anything above 85 is pretty good.
Measured on a scale of 0-100. Higher is better.
All four of these are important, but we give a little more weight to Performance and SEO.
Measured in seconds (or milliseconds). Lower is better.
Again, all of these are important, but if you want to simplify what you’re focusing on, we’d recommend First Meaningful Paint and Time to Interactive.