Not all KPIs are created equal

I advocate for metrics tied to actual business value, like KPIs, but I sometimes see these miss the mark.

For example, I worked with an eCommerce software company and was tasked with meeting an SEO target of increasing the sites ranking to increase revenue. This was in early 2016 when Google and other search engines weren’t crawling single-page applications properly. So the site was not appearing high up, or at all, in searches for our product catalogue.

On the surface, this is a very reasonable target. We spent several weeks investigating rewriting parts of the single-page application to pre-render server-side to allow the search engines to crawl the data. This was going to be a radical rewrite which would take many months involving most of the engineering teams.

However, during this process, we started to look at the data we had around our user-profiles and the usage patterns on the site. The site sold high-end luxury fashion clothes and jewellery. The conversion rate was quite low but the average basket value was very high (> £30k).

By examining this data and publishing a survey attached to the registration and checkout processes we determined that almost all of these high value clients were not even searching for our site through search engines. The traffic to the site was driven evenly from fashion magazine advertising and social media posts.

Due to this revelation, we switched our efforts from SEO to streamlining our registration process, checkout process, and started to sponsor social media influencers. This increased conversion rate (albeit lowering the average basket value) and more efficiently pushed high-value clients to the site.

As a happy side effect less than four months after abandoning the attempts at increasing site ranking, Google’s crawler was updated to crawl single-page applications and our page ranking increased without us having to expend more time on it.

Sometimes, it’s worth challenging the hypothesis behind a target as not all KPIs are created equal.

If you want to discuss how to use hypothesis driven development please contact me through the comments, email or LinkedIn.

Photo by Lukas

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