Lee Odden

The Role of KPIs, Marketing Goals & Business Objectives in Online Marketing

Online Marketing GoalsThe moving parts within a marketing organization often get tied up in the mastery and performance of specific tactics like content creation, search engine optimization and social media marketing. Not seeing the forest for the trees can cause some blindness towards the bigger picture.

Before a business decides how, why and what to optimize, socialize and publicize, it’s important to take a step back and ask this essential marketing question, “What are we trying to do?”  The answer is usually pretty obvious: “We’re trying to get more people to buy what we’re selling!”

That’s the big picture for most companies, but practical online marketing objectives will be unique to each company’s individual situation. The role of content works across departments and the interaction between departmental content within a company can actually amplify overall business outcomes.

Some companies want to grow customer engagement, some are more focused on revenue or cost savings.  These are all worthy online marketing objectives, but tying them to overall business goals is essential. Some examples of these types of goals include:

Engagement Goals

  • Members, network size
  • Posts or threads
  • Comments
  • Inbound links
  • Tags, votes, bookmarks, shares
  • Referrals
  • Post frequency

Cost Saving Goals

  • Issue resolution time
  • Account turnover
  • Employee turnover
  • Hiring and recruiting
  • Percent of issues resolved online

Revenue Goals:

  • Speed of sales cycle
  • Percent of repeat business
  • Percent of customer retention
  • Transaction value
  • Referrals
  • Net new leads
  • Cost per lead
  • Conversions from the community
  • Members
  • Posts or threads
  • Comments
  • Inbound links
  • Tags, votes, bookmarks, shares
  • Referrals
  • Post frequency
  • Issue resolution time
  • Account turnover
  • Employee turnover
  • Hiring and recruiting
  • Percent of issues resolved online

While there are these and more KPIs and marketing outcomes to consider, the simplest thing to do is assess your online marketing strategy for what has worked so far and what needs improvement. 

For example, a review of your web site analytics may show a steady increase in search traffic but there may be a significant opportunity to improve the quality of that traffic in terms of leads, sales and profitability. Ten visitors who spend an extended amount of time learning about your brand and your products are more valuable than 100 who bounce after a few seconds.

To tie marketing goals to overall business goals, think about how well the web site is performing currently and what the overall online business goals are for the future. Look at each business goal whether its focus is revenue, retention or service and then decide how that translates to your content marketing plan.

Business goals can be broad, but to create actionable plans to achieve them, it’s important to break them down into the key performance indicators that communicate progress and provide feedback for optimization.

For example, if you discovered leads that travel through your sales cycle fairly quickly are more apt to close, you’ll want to decide what content marketing tactics you can put into place that will move leads faster through the lead generation and nurturing process.  If more leads close more quickly, your marketing objectives will be achieved more effectively. In this situation, you may want to target content optimization and promotion towards prospects that fit a fast-buyer profile.

Another example might involve creating a stronger sales message in your content by using resources that better educate and inform shoppers on issues that have slowed buyers in the past. Many social media marketing efforts omit any suggestion of making a purchase.  While it’s often a mistake to be too aggressive or “salesy” on social networks, it’s also a missed opportunity not to provide a way to continue the conversation in a business context if people want to do so.

For marketing-centric objectives think about the specific things you want to accomplish through content that will ultimately lead to overall business goals, such as:

  • Elevate Brand Perception
  • Establish Thought Leadership
  • Drive Customer Engagement
  • Provide Better Customer Service
  • Increase Customer Retention
  • Grow Per Customer Profitability
  • Shorten Sales Cycles
  • Build a Bigger Referral Network

Once there’s a firm understanding of overall business goals, then you can map them to supporting marketing objectives.

Combining search and social media as channels to reach target markets means that content has to provide relevance according to where it’s found and deliver specific problem solving value based on what the target audience needs – especially according to their position in the buying cycle.

As an example, searchers using broad keyword phrases may be focused on educational or informational-themed content to learn about the category of products and services. To serve those top of funnel information needs, our job as marketers is to create optimized content focused on answering those general questions. Content should be useful and compelling enough that those who interact with it might be willing to share to their social networks. Part of social media optimization means to make such sharing easy through the use of widgets that call out specific social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+.

Alternatively, customers that are looking for your products and services specifically may be further along in the buying cycle and therefore content would need to be created and optimized to address those specific information needs to guide the buyer to purchase.

Marketing related goals for content that relies on search and social media for discovery must consider the overall business goals of the company, objectives that are specific to marketing and especially, the needs of the buyer. Long term business goals that are mapped to marketing will help keep the program in context of what’s important to the business. An understanding of how to meet customer needs through content marketing leading to purchase is a win for all.

Excerpt with permission from Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing, published by Wiley.

Image source: Shutterstock

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Really an informative stuff. Amazing tips to achieve online marketing Goals!! Thanks for sharing..

  2. Avatar Innovation says

    Sounds like a solid business model to weight efforts and metrics against. A formidable baseline.

  3. Avatar James Dean says

    Thank you for laying out such model. Great help!

  4. Avatar Sheetal Sharma says

    Superb classification Lee, thanks so mush for this post, it is a must read, i will definitely give this link to my social media marketing team at Synechron.

  5. Avatar Patrick J Whelahan says

    Great post Lee, easy to follow, good usable info.