Measuring marketing results can be a tricky business, with some aspects being more quantifiable than others. When it comes to identifying what marketing activities are working and what needs to be rethought, the key is to leverage the measurable activities in your plan to give a more holistic picture of how well your marketing strategy is driving sales and brand awareness.
Back in January 2014, before I joined Suzanne Shelton at The Shelton Group, we had a conversation about the expanded capabilities of the business, including analytics and measuring client success. It’s a conversation that summed up the who, what, why and how of measuring digital advertising, and it’s a discussion we’ve found helpful to recount for clients on occasion. So, for those of you who have ever wondered, “how do I know if my website, digital ads and all of those social media posts are really working?” We have revisited that early “analytics 101” conversation below to demystify all of that digital data.
Shelton: Okay, so there are tools out there that can give me information to fine tune a company’s digital marketing?
Pauli: That’s right. Hundreds of tools are available to measure everything from your website visits to the number of people finding your brand through social media, and the good news is that many of the tools are free. Sure, there are more expensive options that give you even deeper insights, but for most companies just beginning to measure their digital efforts, the free tools work really well.
Shelton: Where is a good place to start?
Pauli: Well, you really don’t start with any online resources at all. The first step is reviewing what products you’re selling and the buyers you are trying to reach. Clearly defined sales objectives and an understanding of your intended audience will be the information you’ll use to determine the success of your online marketing efforts.
Once you have an overall view of what you are trying to accomplish and who you are trying to reach, it’s time to start assessing your digital marketing efforts.
The first place to start is with your website. Head to google.com/analytics and sign-up for a Google Analytics account. Once you’ve verified your website, Google Analytics will provide a block of code you can drop into your website pages. The code won’t be viewable to the public, but it will track visitor behavior and all kinds of other metrics to help determine the success of your website. After a few weeks of collecting data, you’ll have information about how long website visitors stay on your site, the paths they take to move through your site, and even demographic information to help you start building a customer profile. It can also tell you if there is a specific page on the site that may need revising based upon viewer behavior.
Google also allows users to set up specific conversion goals. A conversion is a specific site action a visitor performs. For instance, if your brand sells a finished product to the public, a helpful conversion to track would be the “Add to Cart” button associated with a product or the “Find a Store” link if the product isn’t sold online. If you sell ingredients, you’ll likely want to track actions that indicate an interest in receiving a sales follow-up or opting-in for additional brand information. Actions like white paper downloads, newsletter sign-ups and clicking to email the sales team are great B2B conversions to track for ingredient suppliers.
The point in tracking website behavior and visitor conversions is to identify opportunities for improving the site content and optimizing the navigation to make sure site visitors are becoming paying customers.
Shelton: What about online ads? Are there metrics to measure the success of the campaigns clients run?
Pauli: Definitely. This is also a function of Google Analytics. Whenever you send a digital ad to a media outlet, you can easily include a specialized URL that will track the success of the campaign. Google supplies an easy form that prompts details like campaign theme, the website the ad will appear on and the format of the ad. With this information attached to the URL, when a person clicks on a banner ad or any type of link, your Google Analytics account will display information about that campaign. You can find the form here: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1033867.
Tracking ad clicks not only reveals how the ad performed overall, it can also tell where the visitor headed within your site after clicking the ad. This information will reveal a lot about the success a particular ad campaign and whether or not the ads are driving people to the conversion goals set up on your site.
Tracking ad campaigns with Google Analytics is also tremendously useful when it’s time to renew advertising contracts. Any ad rep these days will be able to provide online ad impressions and click through rates, but in our specialized industry, most click through rates average about the same from website to website. What’s really valuable is knowing which advertising opportunities led to meaningful audience engagement on the site. For instance, an ad that results in visitors signing up for an email newsletter means you now have a way to reach out to that potential customer regularly and move them through the sales pipeline. Knowing which advertising opportunities are successful in this way allows you to shift advertising budget to those sites that deliver the best conversion rates, and we all know it’s easier to negotiate rates when you have meaningful metrics to guide the process.
Shelton: Is there a way to track the success of social media?
Pauli: Yes, there are a lot of methods available to track the success of your social media efforts and even use metrics to get a better picture of exactly who makes up your social audience. While not free, Sprout Social (SproutSocial.com) is a reasonably priced tool for tracking your brand’s social media efforts, as well as associated campaigns and hash tags.
If you’re searching for information about brand sentiment, or the way your brand or products are perceived online, Social Mention (socialmention.com) is a great, free tool. Simply enter a keyword on the homepage and social mention will search blog posts and popular social sites like Twitter, YouTube and Reddit to provide an idea of how frequently your brand is being discussed, the ratio of positive vs. negative comments being made, and the top sources and hash tags associated with the keyword.
For a deeper look into your brand’s Facebook audience, you can’t go wrong with Facebook’s own Insights section. Provided you have admin rights to your brand page, you’ll find the Insights tab along the top navigation menu. From there, you can drill down into more specific metrics about your page’s “likes,” reach, visits, posts and people.
Another aspect of digital marketing that is important to track is your email newsletter. So much of today’s digital marketing landscape is about building an engaged audience and email newsletters continue to play a vital role in that process. Using MailChimp or a similar email service allows you to track newsletter activity by measuring opens, clicks and even partnering with Google Analytics to tell what website pages individual email recipients visit after reading your newsletter. Identifying newsletter performance provides the ability to segment and audience by their interests and provides an opportunity to tailor content to each segment, leading to higher conversion rates.
Shelton: Once a brand manager knows where to look for analytics, what should she do with the information?
Pauli: The key to using analytics is to identify trends in terms of the content a brand posts online and the makeup of the brand’s audience. Using analytics to identify these trends will help you adjust the marketing strategy to convert as many people as possible from casual site visitors to engaged customers and brand advocates.
A great way to keep track of trends is to develop a monthly digital scorecard that tracks the brand’s entire online audience and reflects the growth trends across all the online and social channels your brand uses. The scorecard should also highlight content trends, showing how your website, digital advertising, social media and newsletter content work together to build a loyal brand audience. NIE