JD Prater | Growth Marketer | San Francisco

discovering what's possible

I'm a seasoned growth marketer living in the San Francisco bay area. I'm quick on my feet and excel at digital strategies and storytelling.

5 Simple Steps for Defining Your Website Goals

One of the biggest challenges businesses struggle to overcome is defining a primary goal for their websites. Creating a great user experience on your site is the result of a concrete website goal that aligns with both user and business targets.

Website goals come from the reason to have a website. You want the website for something? Then someone has to do something on the website. That action is your website goal. The design and functionality help accomplish the goal by driving people to that specific action.

But determining your website goals can be difficult. So I’ve broken down the process into 5 easy-to-follow steps.

1. What Are Your Business Objectives?

The first step is to clearly define the goals and vision for your website. This fundamental step is critical to determining the type of technical functionality the site will need as well as the design and content.

However, you can’t understand your website’s goals until you know what your organization/program is trying to achieve. That’s what organizational objectives are. Your objectives are the specific targets you’re trying to achieve to fulfill your program goals.

For example, many organizations’ objective is to increase revenue by a certain amount or percentage by a certain date. Or maybe you want to increase the number of donors during a campaign.

What’s the goal of your organization? Define what your organization is trying to achieve, and remember your website’s goals should be complementary to those organization or program objectives.

2. Who is the Intended Audience of Your Website?

Your audience may be very specific. For example: “low-income people in Colorado looking for retirement information.” Most likely, your audience will be more complex with a primary audience and secondary audiences. Your primary audience may be low-income people, a secondary audience may be agencies working with low-income people and additional audiences include the general public looking for information about retirement. It is also possible that you will determine that there is not a “primary audience” but rather you want your website to reach multiple audiences equally.

A good place to start is by building a persona of your intended audience. Begin by filling in their basic information.

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Family size (Do they have kids? How many?)
  • Level of education
  • Income

But these things are just the basics. You should also know things like:

  • Where your customers shop?
  • Which websites they frequent?
  • Where they get their news/information?
  • How often they need or want your product/service?
  • What they currently think of your company?

Gathering this information for your intended audience not only contributes to your website’s success, it will also serve as a guide for writing your content.

3. What Actions Do You Want Website Visitors to Take?

When you research the audience and the market, you see if the audience will be willing to do what you want them to do on your website. Ultimately, by knowing your goal, you’ll be able to define the action your audience needs to perform on your website. It is the only or primary action you want your visitors to do.

Here are a few examples of how to translate your business objectives into website actions.

An Ecommerce business’ objective is to increase revenue. They do that by selling things online. Therefore the actions they want are:

  • More people to buy their products.
  • Get people to buy more per order (upselling).

Service-based businesses (like home security, landscaping and other companies) also want to increase their revenue. However, because they don’t sell products online, the actions they want people to take on their site are different. Their desired action is:

  • To get people to contact them (also called a lead capture)
  • Get people to subscribe to the newsletter or download something

Nonprofits are a different beast entirely. Their business objectives are usually less money-focused and more cause-based. However, they do need money to function. But they also need help spreading their cause. So a non-profit may want their website visitors to:

  • Make a donation via an online form
  • Volunteer to help out at an event
  • Share their cause with their friends/family

You will likely have additional actions that are more unique to your organization/program objectives. The important thing is to find the website actions that will help achieve your objectives.

Make a list of specific actions you want visitors to take on your website.

4. What Type of Content Does Your Audience Need to Take Action?

Depending on the goal, you’ll create the content around it and your target audience. Here, you will want to define the content goals for your website.  You need to determine the type of content you will post to the website. Examples of content include contact information, services provided by your organization, a directory of available financials resources (such as financial education materials or community education), or self-help information.

What content are visitors going to reading/downloading/purchasing from your website? Create compelling content that your audience needs and will want to share with their networks.

5. How to Measure Website and Content Success?

Setting specific and measurable goals is a vital stage before defining Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). KPIs can be defined as a measurement that is in place to measure the performance of any business activity. Keep in mind that not all websites are created with the same business goals.

General KPIs for a website include:

  1. Conversion Rate: This ratio displays how many visitors are converted into desired actions. An example could be out of the 1000 monthly visitors, 100 made a donation = 10% conversation rate.
  2. Goals Conversion Rate: Shows how many visitors reached at least one of the goals that you have setup by using Google Analytics.
  3. Type of Users (user defined): The user defined is a variable that helps you define specific types of users that have completed a goal or a specific action in the website (pageview, form completion etc).
  4. Bounce Rate & Time on Site: These are two extremely useful KPIs which indicate whether your visitors find what they are looking for in your website or if they leave your site immediately. This metrics are also very useful to focus on when you evaluate the various channels/sources of traffic.
  5. Type of Sources: This is a complex report which is generated by segmenting the traffic by specific sources and mediums such as Search Engines, Referring sites, Direct, E-mail or custom campaigns. Focus not only on the total number of visitors but also on the quality of the traffic (bounce rate, time on site, transactions etc).

Take some time to determine the KPIs for your website. These can be changed refined later, but you need some way to measure your site’s performance.


When you define the goals of your website, it should become clearer:

  • Who your audience is
  • What exactly you are offering
  • What you need to have on your website
  • How to measure website performance against your program’s goals

After reading through these steps, are you finding it difficult to determine your website goals? Share your experience and thoughts in the comment section.