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5 Digital Marketing Analytics That Actually Matter

By Maren DickeyOct 10, 2017

It’s easy to get swept away by the flood of digital marketing analytics. There are so many things to track, how do you know which ones are really integral to making sure your business stays afloat, or better yet, sets sail? 

The key is to focus your attention to the buyer’s journey, how visitors go from not knowing your company to becoming a customer or evangelist, ultimately bringing in revenue. The important part is that your analytics can be tied back to ROI.

While there are a number of metrics that tie back to your business goals, companies often get caught up in “vanity metrics”...and down stream they go, trying to chase every number in the book.

What is a “vanity metric”?

A “vanity metric” refers to a number that looks great (or poor) on paper, but doesn’t necessarily play a significant role in the big picture. These metrics are deceiving, because who doesn’t want 1 million Facebook likes? The problem arises when a company sets its focus on these metrics when they aren’t actionable. Of those 1 million Facebook fans, how many have visited your website, downloaded a piece of content and talked to your sales team? Large numbers can feel like great accomplishments, but if only a small portion of those numbers actually matter to you and your company, should you really be spending so much time and effort on them?

While it doesn’t hurt to get your numbers up, here are five digital marketing analytics that do tie back to the end goal and provide actionable insight into your business efforts.

>>Want to know how best to share these numbers with your boss? Download our ebook about presenting data to the c-suite.

1. Traffic

Let’s be clear, this number without any context also could be considered a vanity metric, but broken down, it can be extremely valuable to your marketing strategy.

Segmenting your traffic by source is a great place to start. Track these top five channels.

Organic: Those who have typed in a query and come to your site because it showed up on a search engine results page (SERP)
Direct: Those who typed in the URL to get directly to your site
Referral: Those who came from another website via link
Social: Those who were directed from social media to your site
Paid: Those that have clicked on a paid ad or promoted piece of content

Most of the time, companies are focused on bringing in organic traffic, hence the need for search engine optimization (SEO). But separating out your traffic by source can help identify other opportunities for your company, like whether you should focus more on brand awareness or increasing social engagement.

Most content management systems (CMSs) allow you to break down your traffic by source. The HubSpot platform makes it really easy with its analytics dashboard. Google Analytics also provides this capability, however, it can be a bit more difficult to decipher if you don’t spend much time in the platform.

HubSpot analytics dashboardYou also can dive deeper into your traffic numbers to see how visitors are interacting with your site. Pay close attention to:

  • How much time they spend on your site
  • How many pages they view during their visit (and which pages they’re spending the most time on)
  • Whether they are a new or returning user
  • Whether they are using desktop or mobile

The goal is to be able to identify things like:

  • Which content pieces drive the most traffic
  • What actions visitors are taking on your site
  • Where a majority of your visitors are dropping off
  • Opportunities to optimize portions of the user journey

This will help you focus your efforts on the areas of your marketing strategy that matter. Once you understand more about your visitors, how they’re getting to the site, what they’re interacting with and where they’re dropping off, you can develop a plan of action to keep them engaged and lead them to conversion points.

2. Conversions

Conversions are the good stuff, the actions you want people to be taking on your site. We often think of “macro” conversions, like downloading an eBook or filling out a contact form, but “micro” conversions, like subscribing to your blog, are equally important. It gets a visitor into your system as a contact. From there, the goal is to get them to be a customer or evangelist, but how?

We’re all familiar with the four main steps to gaining new customers in inbound marketing: Attract, Convert, Close and Delight. But let’s break this down a little further. How do you establish a relationship with your potential customers from the outset?

  • Create content that is helpful and engages your visitors
  • Establish trust and expertise
  • Help them identify their problem or need (they may not even know they have one yet)
  • Provide a solution

By tracking conversions, you can start to recognize the actions visitors typically take before becoming customers. Maybe your average customer reads three blogs, downloads a piece of content and receives five emails before agreeing to talk to a salesperson. This knowledge can help you optimize the user’s journey to conversion.

Once you understand your customer, you can identify common themes and develop content with helpful suggestions, responses or answers. As with any marketing tactic, the most important part is measuring the success of these efforts. Some pieces of content, emails or ads may work better than others. This is where conversion rate optimization (CRO) comes into play. You know what they say — never stop improving. Take the insights you gain from tracking conversions to improve your marketing performance.

One great example you can follow is from Kuno’s own social media strategy: Instead of creating ads on Facebook and hoping they stick, identify posts that already have high engagement and boost those.

This way, you already know the content is relevant and more likely to reach an audience of like-minded individuals.

3. Engagement

When thinking about the influence of social media, many often think of reach, or the number of people who could potentially see your social media post or ad. It’s a great number to reference when you plan to promote something, since it can help justify to your boss why you’re using social media in the first place, but it is another one of those numbers that (without context) could be considered a vanity metric. Since it is just a potential number, it doesn’t take into account those who don’t see your ad, those who totally tune it out and those who are actually interested in what you have to offer.

Think of it this way: If your company had the opportunity to create a commercial for the Super Bowl, your reach would be incredibly high. But some of your most valuable customers may have missed your commercial because they were in the other room, some weren’t able to catch the game and others just may not be interested in your business. (Hint hint, this is why targeting is so important.)

A better measure of social media analytics is engagement. Engagement refers to the number of likes, shares or comments a post receives. Visitors who are engaging with your brand are much more likely to be customers or evangelists (since they’re taking the time to connect with you) and often, this also leads to more qualified audiences. Keep track of your traffic and engagement from social media. If you’re getting a number of contacts and qualified leads from social, it might be time to focus on beefing up your social presence to drive more engagement.

4. Click-Through Rate (CTR)

For internet users who aren’t sure they have a problem yet, or don’t know your solution exists, another way to drive brand awareness is with paid campaigns that target people using certain criteria. The click-through rate of your ads is an important indication of relevance. Your audience wants to feel like you understand them.

It’s important to pay attention to the performance of your ads as a low CTR can mean a few things:

  • Your target audience isn’t specific enough
  • The landing page does not match the expectations given in the ad
  • Your offer isn’t strong enough 

To identify the issue, try A/B testing. Switch up the offer, update your landing page or try a more targeted audience.

5. Site Load Speed

We all know how frustrating it can be to go to a site and wait...and wait...and wait. In fact, how many of you have given up and left a site that took too long to load? According to Kissmetrics, 40 percent of people abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. That’s an awful lot of traffic to lose.

A great tool to check your site load time is Google PageSpeed Insights. While this is a helpful tool to see how you might be able to improve your site, as Google says, “A high score is correlated with a fast user experience but does not guarantee it.” The tool focuses on two areas—above-the-fold and the full page—and uses only those aspects of a page unrelated to network connection. However, this doesn’t take into consideration items like animation that may delay load on purpose.

It’s unlikely your site will score 100/100, which is perfectly fine. The goal is to improve your site load speed so that users don’t get frustrated and leave, not necessarily to impress Google. Pay attention to these key areas for optimal speed:

Image sizes: You obviously want images on your site to be clean and crisp, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be thousands of pixels in size. Compress your images and size them according to how large they will need to be displayed on the site.

Site code (CSS, JavaScript and HTML): For all those non-developers out there, I’ll try to simplify this one. To keep your load time short, try to minimize the HTTP requests and keep your code compact by combining your CSS files into one, and doing the same with JavaScript. You can also minify CSS and JavaScript to compress the code and remove unnecessary characters.

Content Distribution Networks (CDNs): CDNs are used to house your website content closer to your end user, therefore reducing the amount of time it takes for a server to load a request (this delay is known as latency). Be sure you’re using a CDN to help decrease the distance your website information has to travel to your website visitors. (Congrats HubSpot users, you already have this.)

You can read more about the specifics of site load speed and how important each aspect is in this awesome Moz post.

Knowing which digital marketing analytics are important to your bottom line will help you stay focused on things that matter. Before getting started on any marketing initiative, define your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) like traffic, engagement and conversion rate and how they tie back to your business goals. Then create an action plan to optimize the performance of your content and campaigns.

Need help presenting this data to your C-suite? Get our must-read eBook and learn how to share your marketing analytics with confidence.
How to Present Marketing Data

Additional Topics: seo , paid media
Maren Dickey
The Author

Maren Dickey

Maren's strength lies in creating cohesive environments in which creativity flows and people thrive. She utilizes her relentless curiosity, passion for people and strong organizational skills to achieve success. As a marketer, she consistently keeps clients top of mind to ensure they are provided with a helpful and welcoming experience throughout all stages.
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