What Should You Measure? Part 3: Common Ground

Melaney Smith

Updated · May 28, 2003

This is the third column in a series aimed at that frequently asked question: What should I measure for my online business?

Parts one and two focused on e-commerce, where revenue is unanimously considered the most critical metric, and online media, for which traffic is the primary metric of choice.

But let’s not oversimplify. There are too many variations in what constitutes “revenue” and “traffic” to assume one stat fits all. A recurring theme of talks I’ve had with executives is each company, and each person within the company, must determine which metrics are most relevant based on objectives.

To illustrate how job function affects the type and sources of metrics people rely on, take a look at CareerBuilder.com. Revenue comes from employers who post jobs to the site, but traffic from job seekers is essential to providing employers with qualified applicants. You might guess this most closely mirrors online media, and, therefore, traffic metrics are the primary focus.

That’s not the case. CareerBuilder.com is an interesting case study in how different departments use different metrics to reach a common goal. CareerBuilder.com calls the common goal “expressions of interest” (EOI). It uses the term to describe the place where customers (employers) and site visitors (job seekers) meet: the submission of an application.

Jim Lunsford, director of relationship marketing and strategic partnerships, is tasked with driving qualified candidates to the site via strategic partnerships. His focus is on traffic from partner sites, the user behavior that results, and costs associated with each partnership.

“I start with unique visitors from each partner site, but it goes much deeper than that,” said Lunsford. “What ultimately matters is how many applications are posted in response to jobs, the EOI. So I evaluate each partnership to see how deep users go within our site and how many applications are posted. I compare that to the costs of each partnership and end up with cost per application. Then I look to see which partnerships are over- or underperforming so I can take steps to maximize our return.”

Jeff Roberts, senior marketing manager, takes over where Lunford leaves off. Job seekers who reach the site must get what they need or they’ll go elsewhere, leaving CareerBuilder.com’s clients with fewer applicants. Roberts’s job is to engage job seekers and make it easy for them to find and apply for relevant jobs. Said Roberts, “I view our site as a funnel, with the narrow end being EOI. My ultimate goal is to turn traffic into applications. I focus on click stream from the home page to evaluate what areas of the site are improving EOI and what areas are detracting from it.”

Roberts also uses click-stream analysis to measure the balancing act of providing relevant content for job seekers without detracting from the application process. “Some job seekers need more information to reach a comfort level,” continued Roberts. “Maybe they need resumé writing advice or other career advice. I have to provide that for them, but without distracting them from the application process. Studying the click stream has helped me find the right place for these things on our site.”

Eric Lochner, vice president of corporate marketing, has his own data focus. “We earn our revenue when jobs are posted. So I focus on the customer side of the transaction: how many customers do we have, what is their job posting behavior, etcetera,” he said. “But the value we deliver to these customers depends on the number of qualified applicants they receive. If their needs aren’t met, they’ll stop posting jobs. So I monitor EOI by customer and take action daily to make sure our customers are getting the right number of applicants.”

Three people, three sets of metrics. Note how they meet in the middle with a focus on EOI: expressions of interest. All three individuals understand their respective roles are interrelated and hinged on a common understanding: CareerBuilder.com’s success comes down to whether job seekers apply for jobs. Lunsford uses traffic data to optimize results by partnership. Roberts uses click-stream data to maximize the performance of each section of the site. And Lochner uses a combination of both data sets, plus revenue, to ensure open jobs are filled and new jobs are posted.

I hope this case study will help you see how your business might determine what metrics are most relevant. Clarify the common goal various departments independently work towards. That is your organization’s definition of success. Identify the differences in how each department contributes to the goal. Then, focus on data sources and types that most clearly identify each department’s contribution to this common goal.

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