Digital Marketing Analytics That Matter

Matt Berringer Headshot

Written by Matt Berringer

December 3, 2020

In digital marketing and content publishing, there is potential to gain complete visibility over the outcome of your efforts. When you post content on digitally optimized platforms, you can see everything from dwell time to which links your audience clicks. In the digital world, almost any audience action is quantifiable and trackable. As a result, you can probably find upwards of 50 metrics you could choose to focus on.

The catch is that not all these metrics have a real impact on your marketing success. Plenty make your marketing efforts seem effective — and impress some of your non-marketing colleagues — without saying much at all. It’s impossible to drive any real success focusing on so many possible metrics at once. The key to owning marketing’s impact is to choose the digital marketing metrics that matter most.

Your digital marketing key metrics will depend on your company’s goals. The analytics you track will also look different depending on your industry. A company looking to optimize costs will track different marketing metrics than one that wants to increase brand awareness. The metrics you use need to be accurate and drive decision making. They also need to focus on things the marketing department has a direct influence on. In other words, you should be able to improve your metrics. Let’s dive deeper into your digital marketing performance and how to track it effectively.

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What Are Digital Marketing Metrics?

Your digital advertising metrics are the specific values your marketing team uses as a yardstick for success. You’ll likely organize these data points into a digestible dashboard that lets you see progress over time. The key is to focus on metrics with a direct impact on revenue. While many metrics can quantify digital marketing success, some of the more common ones include:

What Is KPI in Digital Marketing?

KPI stands for key performance indicator. As the name implies, these numbers have the most significant impact on your marketing success and are the most important metrics to watch. Among all your metrics, your KPIs represent your company’s vital signs. They’re generally tied to quantifiable goals. For example, to increase conversion rates from 1% to 3% over the next quarter.

Any department can use KPIs to track performance. For example, human resources might track employee retention rates. Your company might also have a set of KPIs related to business objectives. The KPIs you focus on in marketing should directly impact those enterprise-wide KPIs.

Most companies or departments choose to focus on four to 10 KPIs at a time, letting them hone in on those numbers. In digital marketing, you might set one KPI related to each arm of your digital marketing strategy. For example, you might want your social media channels to increase your reach. Meanwhile, you expect your content marketing to drive engagement.

How Do Digital Metrics Differ From Traditional Metrics?

Digital analytics for marketing tend to say more about your performance than traditional metrics. For example, imagine you mail a flyer to a group of existing and potential customers. You know how many you send, and how much it costs to send them, and not much else. You don’t know how many people looked at the flyer, much less whether it was a factor in swaying customers.

Let’s say your marketing team is running several campaigns at once, including the mailers, a TV commercial and some billboards. While your sales may climb, you won’t be able to attribute success to any one channel. In the digital world, you can attribute each cost directly back to a source. You know how many people open your emails, how many visit your website from a search result, and how many people become customers thanks to your marketing efforts.

Metrics are shifting in the digital world. For instance, in the magazine industry, the focus has shifted towards multi-channel engagement. Now, publishers need to consider more than their subscription and renewal rates. Instead, they’re focusing on page views per session, email signups, referral traffic and more.

Vanity Metrics vs. Value Metrics

When choosing which digital marketing metrics to track, you want your focus on valuable, revenue-impacting metrics. Tracking metrics out of your control and that don’t contribute to growth isn’t helpful. If your numbers fluctuate from month to month despite your efforts, your marketing team will appear ineffective. If your goals don’t correspond with boosted profits, you could stand to lose some of your marketing budget. So, your team needs to understand the difference between vanity metrics and value-driven metrics.

What Are Vanity Metrics?

Vanity metrics look good on paper without providing any real value to the big picture. While they might make you look like a successful marketer, they don’t have a tangible impact on revenue. They also don’t help you understand the success of your campaigns or whether you’re improving. For example, your number of subscribed users doesn’t say much. Knowing your subscriptions increased 5% over the past quarter lets you know your marketing aimed at unsubscribed users worked.

Many vanity metrics lack context. Site traffic tells you nothing without data about where the traffic comes from. Page views on a lead-magnet page only make sense within the context of how many people gave their contact information. Technically, any number can be a vanity metric. Your organization must define and track numbers based on how they influence revenue. Otherwise, your data analysis may be in vain.

Can Vanity Metrics Provide Any Value?

Sometimes, vanity metrics work well as a marketing tactic. Many companies advertise their subscriber count, their total downloads or some other metric as a form of social proof. A company’s lifetime number of hamburgers sold can certainly convince a hungry customer to stop for lunch. A brand’s number of Instagram followers might persuade a few more followers to join in.

One benefit of that “number sold to date” metric is even if your sales decline, the number still goes up. While the number will have little meaning to those in your company, it could impress your customers. Likewise, that number can look exciting to investors or even to other departments who don’t understand marketing. It can even be a point of pride and a morale-booster within your marketing team. Beyond that, vanity metrics don’t hold much value without the right context.

Understanding Value

Metrics become helpful when they are actionable, repeatable and generate value. Since any metric can be a vanity metric, it also holds true any metric can have value. Adding context and goals to a metric lets it represent more value and helps you improve. For example, site traffic in-and-of itself is a vanity metric. However, site traffic might translate into sales. The key is increasing relevant site traffic to the pages most likely to convince a reader to convert.

Picking valuable metrics requires an understanding of how a particular metric contributes to your return on investment (ROI). When you use metrics to measure your revenue-adding goals, they become useful.

Digital Marketing Analytics Metrics

In general, the metrics you should focus on can be divided among the upper, middle and bottom levels of your sales funnel.

Top of the Funnel Metrics: Traffic

While increasing traffic for its own sake isn’t useful, it’s critical when you understand your buyers’ journeys. It’s likely many of your digital marketing strategies revolve around driving traffic to your website. Social media content, search engine marketing, email marketing and ads around the web all seek to drive traffic.To track your monthly visitors in a meaningful, actionable way, dive deeper with traffic-related metrics. To make sense of your raw traffic, you need to know where it’s coming from. This data sheds light on which marketing tactics are working. Your traffic sources may include:

Looking at your traffic sources in proportion to each other and overall traffic tells you which marketing channels are most effective and where you can improve.

Another aspect of your traffic is your percentage of new and returning visitors. New visitors represent new introductions to your sales funnel, and returning visitors are ready to travel further down the funnel. New and returning visitors are both critical for growth. Ideally, your site will convert first-time visitors into your regular readers.

Another thing to look at with your traffic is how viewers access your content and where they come from geographically. You might have more international or mobile visitors than you realize. Understanding your visitors’ viewing context is less about tracking how your marketing is doing and more about optimizing the experience. For example, if you have many global or mobile visitors, it’s crucial to design content for these visitors.

Middle of the Funnel Metrics: Engagement

As web visitors continue their journeys, the primary measure of success is engagement. In the middle of the funnel, your web visitors know who you are. The question is whether you keep them interested, so you eventually turn them into customers. Engagement builds relationships with your audience and leads them down to the bottom of the funnel.

You can measure engagement in several ways, including:

It’s crucial to set realistic engagement goals. Among the highest traffic digital news outlets, the average visitor spends 2.04 minutes per session. Depending on your industry or niche, you can expect a similar number. Take a baseline for your current engagement rates and set an attainable goal for improvement.

Bottom of the Funnel Metrics: Conversion

Metrics with the most significant impact on revenue are those at the bottom of the funnel. Here, the metrics to track are conversions. Conversions can be soft conversions, such as downloading gated content or filling out a contact form. They can also be hard conversions, counting those who sign up for services or checkout on an e-commerce site. Your conversion rate is the percentage of visitors who complete your goal action. As you dig into your internet marketing analytics, you might look at a few conversion metrics, like:

Calculating ROI

While only 43% of B2B marketers measure ROI, 67% of top-performing B2B marketers do. Earning traffic, engagement and conversions come at an investment. If you’re managing your metrics right, those investments will lead directly to revenue. The question is, how much? Understanding your digital marketing ROI metrics will also require some revenue-based metrics, like:

How to Measure Digital Marketing Success

Measuring digital marketing effectiveness requires a strong understanding of marketing analytics concepts and your own performance. Once you know where you stand, set goals for improvement based on your chosen KPIs. You’ll measure your success based on whether you meet your target KPIs.

Choosing Relevant KPIs for Your Industry

Marketing success looks different for everyone. The KPIs that make sense for your business depend on your industry. For example, dwell time is a big one for publishers because it shows how long a reader spends engaged with the content they produce. Another valuable KPI in the publishing industry is the click-through rate on advertisements within the publication since it helps sell ad space.

A marketing agency will need to track their clients’ ROIs since this proves their worth to their customers. An e-commerce site will look at conversion rates to see how their traffic translates into purchases. Travel and leisure content creators may look at which articles perform best in engagement. They might also look at their most-searched-for topics within their publications or search engines to get ideas for future content.

An excellent place to start as you select KPIs is by looking at your company-wide goals and deciding how marketing can contribute to them. Select a manageable number of KPIs to improve over a set period, such as a month, quarter or year.

Examples of Digital Marketing KPIs

What KPIs should you aim for? The number can vary, so it’s essential to take a baseline for your own content and set goals based on your current performance. Here are some examples of attainable target KPIs across various metrics:

Micro Conversion vs. Macro Conversions

Your conversion rate will probably be essential to focus on, no matter your industry. Broadly defined, a conversion is any desired action you set. It can represent a new visitor taking a step down to the middle of the sales funnel or an engaged user pulling the trigger to talk to a representative or checkout online. You may have different marketing campaigns geared toward visitors at various steps in the sales funnel, which require you to track different types of conversions. They include:

Micro conversions: A micro conversion is a small milestone on the way to future customer acquisition. While they may not have an impact on revenue right now, they might in the future. A newsletter subscription, an e-book download or a free account setup can all be micro conversions.

Macro conversions: Macro conversions impact revenue. Contacting a salesperson, requesting a demo or placing an online order are all forms of macro conversions.

Digital Marketing Analytics and Reporting Tools

Once you pick your KPIs, you need a way to measure and make sense of them. That’s where your suite of digital marketing analytics tools comes in. They could include:

Understand Your Content Readership With PageRaft by Nxtbook Media

Content published through PageRaft boasts an average of seven minutes of engagement per session. How do we know? Our trusted data and detailed analytics, which you can access when you develop and host content on PageRaft. It’s an excellent solution for digital publishers, enterprise marketers and marketing agencies who need to dive deep into their content performance. To learn more about how you can make your content stand out and your metrics accessible, schedule a PageRaft demo today.

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