According to recent research from Hubspot, CMOs are planning to increase their budgets for web analytics by 60% in 2015. That may sound like a lot, but it’s money well spent when you consider that web analytics are the key to measuring, understanding and optimizing the effectiveness of your digital marketing programs.
With the vast amount of data available from modern web analytics tools, it’s easy to get lost or focus on the vanity metrics, missing the truly valuable insights that can benefit your business.
For example, it’s tempting and all too common for businesses engaging in Facebook marketing to focus solely on increasing ‘likes’ to their page and content. It’s certainly not a bad idea to track this metric, but on it’s own it doesn’t say much about the real business impact. Tracking and reviewing actions like referral traffic to your website from Facebook, leads generated or social sales will tell you much more about the true business impact of your Facebook marketing initiative.
To make sure your marketing team is leveraging marketing performance analytics effectively, the first step is to identify and clearly define your objectives. Starting here will allow you to tie your business goals to measurable metrics and actionable insights.
Make sure to consider a range of macro and micro objectives, including:
- High level program objectives
- Tactic and team specific objectives
- Campaign level objectives
As an example, let’s say a staffing software company has developed a new platform which they plan to market through digital channels using a variety of tactics and campaigns. A few relevant objectives would be:
- High level: generate platform sales
- Tactic specific: increase site traffic from search engines by drafting and promoting optimized blog content
- Campaign level: capture leads through distribution of a form gated ebook
While it’s normal and completely OK for your goals to evolve over time, don’t make the mistake of waiting until you are in the midst of your digital marketing program to define business goals. That’s like starting a marathon without knowing where the finish line is.
Mapping to the Customer Journey
After defining objectives, the next step is to consider the customer journey, which is the process by which a prospect becomes a customer. As with objectives, there is no one-size-fits-all model and the paths are likely to evolve over time.
That said, there is often enough consistency in sales cycles between businesses and industries that it makes sense to start with a tried and true methodology, then customize to your unique circumstances.
At TopRank Online Marketing, we subscribe to a 3 phase approach to mapping the customer journey or sales cycle:
To effectively measure the success of your digital marketing, your web analytics methodology should map closely to your sales cycle, with metrics that are representative of each stage.
By definition, Attract level tactics are intended to reach prospects who are early in the sales cycle. Building brand awareness, answering questions, providing value and reaching your customers where they are likely to be spending time online are the primary objectives.
Meaningful attraction web analytics metrics include:
- Organic search rankings
- Social reach
- PPC positions
- Search and social impressions / clicks (organic and paid)
- Inbound traffic to your site
Coming back to our previous example, analysts at the staffing software company could measure the impact of the blog content they are publishing by tracking organic search rankings, impressions / clicks and traffic to the posts.
Engaged prospects interact with your website and social content, discuss and potentially advocate for your brand and ideally go on to convert and become loyal customers.
Meaningful engagement web analytics metrics include:
- Website bounce rate, time on page / site and pages per visit
- Social shares, likes, favorites, comments and mentions
- Mentions of your brand on external websites
- Links to your site
For example, the staffing software company I mentioned earlier could measure engagement of their blog marketing by tracking the activity of visitors after landing on their posts. Content topics of the pages most viewed could be compared against SEO and social media messages to determine alignment accuracy. Bounce rate and pages per visit will show whether they are leaving right away or sticking around to read more posts or browsing to other pages on the site. Social shares or links indicate whether visitors found the blog posts good enough to share and endorse to their circles.
If you’ve effectively attracted prospects to your brand content and engaged them through their journey thus far, the final step is to close the deal by providing them with just the right offer, at the right time, optimized to be consumed on the platform and channel of their choice.
Converting informed prospects to buyers will take different tactics and it will be important to both offer and track opportunities for micro and macro conversions. Micro conversions include things like whitepaper downloads, subscriptions to mailing lists and requests for product demos. Those macro conversions provide contact information for nurturing through marketing automation or email campaigns. Examples of macro conversions include specific requests for information, ecommerce sales and appointments with sales reps.
Meaningful conversion metrics include:
- Performance of content offers
- Marketing qualified leads
- Sales qualified leads
- Conversion rate
After plenty of testing, tweaking and elbow grease, our example staffing software company has found a good mix of topics and formats that are bringing in plenty of traffic. Their visitors are going on to read other posts, sharing on their social channels, checking out product pages, reading reviews and case studies and signing up for their staffing tips newsletter. Now the next step is to convert all that traffic into leads and customers.
By tracking calls to action leading to forms to schedule product demos and connect with sales reps in strategic areas throughout the site, the team is able to compare conversion rates to see which offers are performing the best. Integrating web analytics with sales CRM data allows the analysts to attribute revenue to specific channels, campaigns, topics and offers.
This holistic view of analytics across the sales cycle through Attract, Engage, Convert not only quantifies the true ROI of the digital marketing program, it helps to uncover valuable insights into the habits and traits of visitors who tend to convert into customers. Insights captured during a program provide many different opportunities to optimize the performance of the program from persona refinement to more compelling calls to action.
Insights from web analytics about the most effective topics, formats, and channels will help the marketing team optimize where they spend their time and resources. Marketing performance data will also help business and marketing leadership allocate budget where it’s likely to achieve the best return on investment.
Putting it all Together
Web analytics are only valuable when they result in meaningful and actionable insights which drive business decisions.
To make sure you are getting more than just numbers and pretty charts from your web analytics, it is critical to present them in a way that is intuitive and actionable for the intended audience. This is where custom role based dashboards come in.
A great role based dashboard includes all relevant metrics needed by the recipient to understand the current situation, is formatted in a way that is quick and easy to digest and leads to making strategic, data driven decisions.
When deciding which metrics need to be included in each of your role based dashboards, also take a critical eye to what not to include. Everyone has a ‘data threshold’, which is the point at which their eyes glaze over, they stop reviewing the dashboard and probably delete the next ones you send. Every irrelevant metric you include will push them closer to the overload point, so make sure every piece of their custom dashboard is relevant and actionable.
Doing web analytics right isn’t easy, but the rewards of a data driven organization are worth the effort many times over.
If you need help getting started, consider partnering with a digital marketing agency such as TopRank Online Marketing. We’ve been helping businesses large and small to set up, manage and optimize their digital marketing programs for over 10 years.
How are you leveraging web analytics to make better business decisions?