Marketing metrics and marketing analytics are the new buzzwords in digital.
And, for good reason. Marketing metrics improve decision-making so your campaigns are optimized. Unlike traditional marketing, digital marketing yields a number of hard metrics (as opposed to squishy ones such as awareness). In that respect, digital marketing looks a lot more like direct marketing, than traditional marketing.
Take a look at the infographic below on the 29 essential content marketing metrics,from my friends at Curata . These are a great starting place and offer great insights to help manage your marketing function more effectively and generate more income.
Let’s start today’s discussion by taking a look at these metrics before we dive into a deeper discussion of metrics.
Essential content marketing metrics
Curata’s infographic divides metrics into several categories — those related to revenue generation and those related to costs. Importantly, their revenue generating metrics include both those at the top of the funnel (awareness) and bottom of the funnel (conversion).
If you’re not familiar with the concept of a marketing funnel, check out some recent posts like this or this. As a shortcut, here’s one conceptualization of a marketing funnel for inbound marketing from Smart Insights, along with recommendations for tools that help move prospects down the funnel. While it’s designed with inbound marketing in mind, modifications to implementation make it suitable for any business.
Top of funnel metrics
Curata includes 4 types of metrics that fit at the top of the funnel. Basically, these metrics track message consumption and amplification across multiple platforms.
While these marketing metrics are useful, many are what we call vanity metrics because they don’t correspond with behaviors that generate bottom of the funnel actions. Metrics such as followers, visitors, subscribers, and likes, while having some value, don’t really translate to sales. You can do very well along these metrics and still do a terrible job in the revenue department.
Engagement metrics are likely more important than vanity metrics because they reflect behaviors consistent with moving down the conversion funnel.
Bottom of the funnel metrics
Companies are more consistent in measuring bottom of the funnel metrics. It’s important to note that, while these translate more closely with revenue, without top of the funnel activity, there’s a smaller flow-through to the bottom of the funnel. A 1% increase in traffic at the top of the funnel could easily result in 2X revenue. Keep that in mind as you evaluate the success of your marketing campaigns.
Another important correlation between bottom of the funnel and the top is attributing bottom of the funnel activity to the appropriate top of the funnel actions.
- For instance, does your email list convert at 20% while your social media only converts at 1%?
- Does Facebook generate more conversions than Twitter?
- Does a particular image or headline generate convert better?
- Publishing times matter. Do you see a higher conversion from a particular time of day or day of the week?
Attributing conversion to actions provides insights that helps improve performance by doing more of what works. Beware, however. Doing too much of something because it converts well is dangerous if you overload the channel to the point where you’re annoying your audience.
What happens at the bottom of the funnel?
Notice, metrics stop with conversion.
That’s a mistake. The funnel analogy stops working at the bottom because customers flowing through the bottom of the funnel don’t just disappear. They hopefully become loyal customers who not only buy more product, but recommend you to others and defend you if someone attacks your brand — they become brand advocates. That’s one of the reasons I like the funnel from Smart Insights — they recognize that a sale isn’t the end of the marketing process.
That means you need more metrics for customers. Metrics like CLV (customer lifetime value), customer retention, customer referrals, and AOV (average order value).
Finally, almost all these metrics make a lot more sense when plotted over time to show improvement, patterns, and fall-offs in performance. Absolute metrics don’t really have much meaning, but a spike suggests something important happened — something you should investigate so you can reproduce positive spikes and limit negative spikes.
Don’t forget costs.
What you’re looking for is a cost/ benefit analysis. For instance, maybe an activity doesn’t have a high conversion rate, but it doesn’t really cost much. It has a high cost: benefit ratio. Meanwhile an activity with a high conversion rate that’s very expensive may have a lower cost: benefit ratio.
Another consideration is balancing costs across the funnel. Thus, while top of the funnel actions have costs that only generate a small conversion, focusing all your investment on conversion means your funnel empties very quickly. A symptom of this is a revenue stream with hills and valleys. Unless such a stream is a function of seasonality (like lawn mowers and snow blowers), such hills and valleys are dysfunctional because it causes your human and machine capital requirements to similarly endure hills and valleys.
Ratios and cross-tabulations
Speaking of ratios, they’re a good way to create a clear picture of your marketing metrics. Instead of simply looking at pages per visit, you might look at the pages per visit by visitor type (new vs returning, for instance). Similarly, you are more interested in time on page for landing pages vs information pages.
Google Analytics provides resources for constructing ratios as well as cross-tabs to better understand segments within your visitors and various types of actions performed by visitors.
To better understand your marketing metrics (at least those related to your website) construct a custom dashboard (like the one to the left) in Google Analytics.
Be sure to include ratios and cross-tabs within the dashboard (omitted in this example to protect my intellectual property).
Using marketing metrics
Don’t stop there!
Collecting marketing metrics is a waste if you don’t use them to improve performance. Learn from the insights contained in your marketing metrics.
Notice, I primarily display my metrics as performance over time, which helps build these insights. Notice, for instance, the huge spike in time on site for Dec. 26. “What caused this spike?” is the question you should be asking yourself.
Also, notice that an enormous amount of traffic comes to a single post. Creating more posts like this will likely generate more traffic to the site, but is it the kind of traffic that will convert? Why does this post generate more traffic that other posts. Find out by tracking where folks went AFTER they visited this page.
Investigation of this situation shows that it captures an enormous amount of traffic because it shows up in the #1 spot in SERPs (search engine pages). Why? More investigation shows there’s little competition for this post’s topic. Does the page generate sales? No, most folks reading this page are doing research, not buying marketing services. Having some pages like this helps by improving the SEO of the site and, by extension, every other page on the site, but having too many pages like this won’t help generate revenue. So, a balance is appropriate.
Image courtesy of Curata