Management Conundrum: Too Many Numbers, Too Little Understanding

How to cut through the clutter of data and create a useful website management dashboard for online publishing

More than 50 years ago, legendary management consultant Peter Drucker was telling American businesses like General Motors that they didn’t know how to count.

More specifically, he said, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” and “what’s measured improves.”

Today, those pithy observations are accepted as common wisdom. Computers help us record and count any and every interaction with our websites and content management systems. But all too frequently, the result is more confusion than clarity.

Anyone who has installed monitoring and reporting software in an attempt to measure what’s happening on their website knows you can easily become dazzled by the number and variety of variables. There are dozens of reporting systems you can use to make decisions, but you risk being overwhelmed with too much data.

So, we’re big fans of what we call “Management by Exception”, which means regularly reviewing a standard set of daily, weekly, or monthly metric reports, looking to see if something is above average, way above average, or way below average. The idea is to manage for the things that are coming out differently than they have in the past or than you thought they would.


Effective website publishers isolate and track a handful of operating statistics using a Key Metrics Dashboard that alerts them to problems and opportunities in their online business.

A Key Metrics Dashboard would provide you with more than enough data to know, at a glance, what items need immediate attention and enable you to spend your valuable time concentrating on more important issues.

As a website publisher, your primary concerns are search engine optimization (SEO), email performance and website traffic. Essentially you want to know the answers to the following 9 questions, plus the results of 5 calculations below:

  1. How big is my website? Using the Yahoo Site Explorer tool, keep track of how many pages of content your site is being indexed on. The more the merrier!
  2. How many links does my website have? Using the same Yahoo Site Explorer tool, keep track of how many inbound links your site is receiving from other website publishers.
  3. How big is my audience? Many of you use internal metrics to measure your unique visitor count – you should also keep track of what free tools like are reporting and understand how visitors are counted.
  4. Which keywords do my audience use to find my website? Most internal metrics tools will tell you the keywords your audience is using to find your site. also has a Search Analytics tool. Analyze your top terms and explore how you could be taking better advantage of that traffic, perhaps by putting stronger conversion architecture on those pages.
  5. How popular are those keyword phrases? Using the free Google Keyword Tool, query how many people are searching for any particular keyword phrase per month.
  6. How many other websites use those keyword phrases? “Google” the term in “quotation marks” and see how many competing web pages are using that term in an exact order. This tells you how many web pages are competing for that phrase.
  7. How many times does that keyword phrase appear on the winning pages? Using a keyword density tool like (for a specific search) or Motoricerca’s Keyword Density Analyzer (for a much broader search) you can analyze the keyword density on the winning pages.
  8. Where does my website rank on that keyword phrase? Using a free tool like, or a paid tool like Advanced Web Ranking, see where your website ranks in Google on any given keyword phrase.
  9. How fast does my homepage load? Using a free tool such as the Web Page Analyzer from to test your website load time


Here are 5 ratios you need to know to run an online publishing business:

  1. Google Visibility Index
    This is your estimated search impressions divided by total searches for a given keyword universe at a point in time.
  2. Unique conversion rate
    Email adds divided by unique visitors for a specific period, normally a month – 5% is a good number.
  3. Revenue per M (RPM) emails sent
    Email revenue divided by emails sent, often a single effort.
  4. Revenue per M (RPM) impressions
    Website revenue divided by unique visitor, for a specific period of time.
  5. Email opt-out rate
    Email opt-outs – both voluntary and bounced – divided by average email subscribers for a given period.

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