Measure your online marketing
There is a wide range of online marketing tactics that you can use for your business, these include:
- pay-per-click advertising
- social media
To get the best from your online marketing, you must understand how your customers interact with you and use digital media. The best results will be achieved through an integrated approach to online marketing. Use a number of different online channels that best match your customers' behaviour.
Benefits of measuring your digital marketing
When developing an online marketing strategy, there is a wealth of data available to you. This data is often detailed and immediately accessible. Not all this data will be useful. You need to know what to measure and how to use it to make informed decisions about your online marketing.
Consider the following:
- which online channels you choose to use
- how these channels sit in the overall customer journey - eg awareness, acquisition or conversion
- what you are looking to achieve with your online marketing - eg increased sales, increased visits to your website, online registrations or downloads, etc
You should also consider the relationship between online and other marketing activities. Don't forget your wider business objectives.
It's important to measure different kinds of online activity. For example, you could measure:
- the number of pages viewed per visit on your website
- how long visitors stay on the site
- what kind of keyword searches and referrals are used
- the number and cost of advertising clicks through to your site
Consistent measuring across different online channels will help you attribute value to different tactics.
These measurements will allow you to:
- use your digital marketing budget efficiently
- make sales activity more effective by improving your conversion rates
- choose the right channels to reach your target audience
- make more effective campaign decisions
- improve your return on investment
What is web analytics?
Web analytics is the process of collecting, measuring, analysing and reporting web data. It helps businesses to improve your understanding of how their website is being used. You can collect and analyse huge amounts of data, so it is important to know what data you need to collect to get the most from it.
Web analytics can help you understand how users interact with your website. It can help with:
- finding out how visitors find your website - telling you where and how best to advertise
- seeing what people look at on your website - telling you how easy your site is to navigate and what is the most successful area of your site
- seeing whether any sections of your site do not perform as required - telling you if you need to make changes to your site to improve its effectiveness
- measuring the effectiveness of your website beyond simply counting visitor numbers
- gaining a detailed understanding of all of your e-commerce activity
- judging the effectiveness of your web content by tracking different content types
- benchmarking your online marketing, which will help you plan, optimise and measure future campaigns
Web analytics can help you get a full picture of the effectiveness of your online marketing. This gives you the best chance of converting visitors to customers. The website sits at the end of the customer journey in the online marketing mix. It is essential that it performs well. Even if you do not sell through your website, it can still be a valuable marketing tool.
Key web analytics metrics
The criteria for analysing the effectiveness of your site depend on your business and online objectives. There are certain metrics that most website owners will want to measure.
Most web analytics software can measure a wide range of metrics. The most common include:
- Unique visitors - the number of individual people visiting the site during a reporting period. Each visitor is counted only once. The software will usually filter out non-human visitors such as spiders, robots, and website crawlers. These visitors periodically scan websites or download content for search engines.
- Bounce rates - a 'bounce' is a visit that consists of a single-page view, eg where visitors do not navigate beyond the landing or home page. The bounce rate is the percentage of visits to a page that 'bounce'.
- Conversion rate to goals - this is the percentage of visitors who complete target actions. This might include registering for more information, signing up for a newsletter, completing a purchase or asking for a price quote.
- Average order value - this is a calculation used on e-commerce websites, which is the total value of sales divided by the number of individual orders. It is often used alongside order conversion rate as a key performance indicator of the site's effectiveness.
- Shopping cart drop-out rate - this is the percentage of people who start the online buying process, but stop before completing the purchase. It can highlight a problem with the buying processes on your site. For example, complicated forms or a lack of clarity about delivery charges.
- Keywords used - this shows what visitors were looking for when they came to your site. If you have an internal search facility, it can show what they looked for when they reached the site. These can be invaluable in maximising search effectiveness.
- Referring domain - this is the site where your visitors were before they came to your site.
- Visitor information - usually including where they came from and their network location.
- Pages visited and dwell time - it is important to see what pages in your site visitors look at, and how long they spent on each page.
Metrics can be helpful to find out:
- persuades visitors to complete your marketing goals
- whether there is something that causes you to lose prospects at a particular point
- whether cross-selling or up-selling works on your site
On e-commerce sites you can track the user journey from product view through to purchase. Consider whether there are points in that journey where customers are dropping out.
Web analytics tools
How to decide which web-analytics tools are right for your business including choosing between open source, propriety and hosted or cloud solutions
When choosing the right web analytics tool for you, you need to consider both your budget and which features you will need. Tools can be divided into three general categories:
- Open source - these are generally offered free, although functionality may be limited. You can develop the software yourself or use new features created by the open source community.
- Proprietary - paid for software that you use under a licence. Most proprietary software comes with support and upgrades provided.
- Hosted or cloud solutions - provided over the internet and hosted on the provider's server: you access the data through a web browser.
If you work with an online marketing agency, they will be able to help: they may offer analytics as part of their service. Bear in mind, however, that in order to get the most value out of web analytics, you should have access to the data itself, and not just the agency's analysis of it.
For more information on software types see computer software for business.
Criteria for choosing web analytics tools
Which type of web analytics tools you use will depend on various criteria, including:
- whether you want someone else to host it, or to have it installed on your network
- what kind of reports you want, and what content/media you want to track
- whether you want to integrate it with other tools and reports
- whether you need the tool to provide additional information as your business grows
- how much support you will need
- set-up and running costs
You need to think about the impact on your internal resources - eg if you host the analytics yourself, you will need sufficient IT expertise in-house to run it efficiently.
Cookies are text files that monitor browsing preferences of users, eg types of goods searched for, pages visited and length of dwell time on each page.
Measuring display advertising and affiliate marketing
Online display and affiliate advertising involves placing adverts and links to your site on other websites.
Online display advertising includes options such as:
- Banner advertising - a visual ad at the top of the web page. It can be static or dynamic.
- Expandable banners - which reveal panels when the mouse cursor rolls over the banner.
- Video advertising - which can be within another ad format and streamed to create a richer user experience. In-video advertising is also becoming more common.
- Floating advertisements - which move on the web-page, without altering the page itself
- Tear-backs - which 'peel back' when the cursor is rolled over one corner of a web page
- Takeovers - where clicking on or rolling over an advertisement causes the entire webpage to change
Affiliate advertising is measured by performance, where you pay a cost per action - eg per click, download or new customer that you gain. It involves placing adverts on third party sites. this includes:
- search engines
- price comparison websites
- more targeted content sites
It can be set up and managed in-house or outsourced to a third party provider, eg affiliate networks.
The majority of affiliate marketing uses cookie-based tracking. See using cookies and the law.
The focus of this is payment attribution - which site you should award the commission for an action.
Display advertising key metrics
There are two categories for metrics for display advertising - planning and performance.
Planning metrics include:
- Number of ad impressions - how many times the ad is shown.
- Cost per Mille - the cost of showing the ad per 1000 times.
- Cost per Click - total campaign cost divided by number of click throughs.
- Cost per Action - total campaign cost divided by number of successful actions.
- Click through rate (CTR) - number of clicks divided by number of impressions.
Performance metrics include:
- Brand awareness - any increase in search activity resulting from campaign
- Engagement metrics - amount of interaction with rich media advertisements
- Direct response metrics - CTR
You can also profile the visitors to your website using visitor information metrics and cookies. You can match these profiles against your campaign objectives and target customers. You can use data to target advertising to customer actions - known as behavioural targeting. This helps you target the customers who are most likely to convert.
Measuring social media campaigns
You can measure your social media marketing using web analytics, tools provided by the platform and third party tools. Measuring and monitoring your activity helps you improve future campaigns and get a return on investment.
Types of social media
Types of social media include:
- social networking platforms - such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter
- photo and video sharing platforms - such as YouTube, Instagram and Flickr
- bookmarking tools - such as Pinterest and Reddit
- syndication and aggregator sites - such as content sites and price review sites
- onsite or 'owned' media - such as blogs, customer reviews, product ratings, etc
For information on measuring specific social media platforms, see:
- measure and monitor your Facebook activity
- measure and monitor your Twitter activity
- LinkedIn for business
- Pinterest for business
Key social media metrics
You should track and measure both your own social media campaigns and what people are saying about your brand online. Metrics include:
- how many people follow you on social media platforms
- engagement rates with your social media posts
- number of views of your videos and time spent watching
- geographical spread of followers or viewers
- brand sentiment - ratio of positive to negative comments
- share of voice compared to competitors - frequency of conversation about your brand
There is a wide range of tools to monitor and measure your social media activity. You need to establish benchmarks of your current performance, against which you can measure future progress.
Measuring your email marketing campaigns
Sending an email to a list of opt-in contacts or to a bought-in list may be a quick way to market your product or service, but it may not be the most effective. As with all direct marketing, it is important that you:
- have clearly defined objectives
- make sure you get the message right
- target the correct people
- get the required response
The best way to conduct any email marketing campaign is to use email campaign software with web analytics software that will help you measure the effectiveness of your campaign.
Email marketing key metrics
Some of the key metrics to be tracked for email campaigns include:
- delivery rate - the number of emails delivered as a percentage of those sent
- bounce rate - the number of emails that cannot be delivered as a percentage of those sent
- open rate - the number of times an email is opened as a percentage of those delivered - can include multiple openings
- unique open rate - the number of times an email is opened as a percentage of those emails delivered, excluding multiple openings
- total click rate - the number of times the links in the email were clicked as a percentage of emails delivered - can include multiple openings
- unique click rate - the number of times the links in an email were clicked as a percentage of emails delivered, but excluding multiple openings
- responder rate - the number of recipients who clicked on one or more links in an email, as a percentage of emails delivered
- click to open rate - the number of unique clicks as a percentage of emails opened
- unsubscribe rate - the number of respondents who unsubscribe, as a percentage of emails delivered
- member get member rate - the number of new opt-in registrations as a result of recommendations by existing recipients
These metrics will help you decide whether your email marketing campaigns are effective, and if there are any issues that might impact on response rates. They will help you identify any problems with the quality of your mailing list, the effectiveness of your targeting or the design of your email.
As with all metrics, it is helpful to benchmark results to provide a key performance indicator for future email marketing.
Measuring paid and organic search marketing
New visitors to your website will often have searched for a particular product or service and found your site in their listings. The most popular search engines include Google, Yahoo! and Bing. Search marketing combines natural or organic search with paid or pay-per-click advertising.
Organic search marketing
In organic search, the user types a keyword or words into a search engine and the search engine presents a list of relevant web.
Achieving the best organic search results requires the use of the right keywords and tags on your website - a process known as search engine optimisation (SEO). A well-optimised website will appear higher in organic search listings.
The basic measures for SEO performance include:
- how highly ranked your website is in the main search engines for your chosen keywords
- the quantity and quality of back links to your website
- how many pages of your website are being indexed
By benchmarking your current performance you can assess the impact of changes to your SEO.
Paid search marketing
Pay-per-click (PPC) and paid search advertising uses programs such as Google AdWords and Bing Ads.
The key metrics used in measuring your PPC campaigns include:
- the click through rate - number of ad clicks divided by the number of ad impressions
- cost-per-click - the amount you paid for each click
- conversion rate - the percentage of those that clicked on the advert who went on to complete the campaign objective, eg completing a purchase
See setting pay-per-click campaign budgets for a full list of the key metrics.
At the centre of both organic and paid search is your keyword strategy. Good keyword management is vital to maximising effective traffic reducing unwanted clicks. This is particularly true of PPC, where cost relates to keyword popularity and bidding prices.
You need to make sure that you choose the right keywords, and you should analyse which keywords are most effective. PPC advertising is an excellent test bed for your keyword strategy. You can continually measure, test and adapt the keywords you use.
You can use free online tools to research your keywords. You can use web analytics software to see which keywords customers use to get to your website. This will help improve both your SEO and PPC performance.