What's New

Our experts share industry and business news, marketing trends and the latest digital marketing solutions.

Digital Marketing Analytics that Matter: Seeing the Forest and the Trees

Digital Marketing Analytics that Matter: Seeing the Forest and the Trees

July 7, 2019 | By Kimberly Pfaff

It’s easy to miss the forest for the trees.

That analysis is especially astute when looking at metrics in digital marketing. With so many metrics available to track the success of your campaign, it’s easy to get lost in the data and not realize what’s most important in the big picture your digital metrics show.

While all metrics can play a role in optimizing campaign performance, what’s most important depends on the goal of your campaign. We’ve broken these into four areas of your digital marketing campaign, each with key goals and metrics.

Search Engine Marketing

Key Metric: Conversions

SEM is a bottom-of-the-funnel tactic, best used when purchase or specific actions are the goal. SEM is best measured by conversions and direct actions like phone calls, form fills, location page views, etc.  While clicks are important, SEM is not measured solely by clicks. A click does not always equal a desired action. In order not to waste budget on non-converters, we need to optimize our SEM campaigns to conversions rather than clicks.

Clicks help you measure two important things: the quality of your ad copy and the relevance of your campaign. High click-through rate (CTR) will lead to a higher quality score and a lower cost per click (CPC), which helps increase the number of conversions overall.

Social Advertising

Key Metric: Clicks

Social works best for maximizing awareness or consideration as we move users through the consumer funnel.  Here we look at clicks to measure success, because clicks show us how many users saw the paid social ad and visited a website in the form of traffic to the site.

Another metric to consider with social advertising is engagements including comments, shares and reactions. While they show us how well a creative message resonates with the target audience, it is important to note that this is not the key performance metric.  Conversions — specific actions on a site — are also important to track, but since with social we are reaching consumers on the awareness and consideration stages, when they may or may not be ready to buy, conversions should be thought of as a bonus, not the key focus metric.

Targeted Display

Key Metric: Impressions

Like social, targeted display ads work best for maximizing awareness and consideration. Therefore, key metrics are impressions, measuring potential viewers who were exposed to your advertising message.  Conversions, including key page views or a specific action taken after a user has been exposed to your ad, are also important to track, but since they are reaching consumers on the awareness and consideration stages, when they may or may not be ready to buy, conversions should be thought of as a bonus, not the key focus metric.


Key Metric: View Rate

Video advertising includes pre-roll video, connected TV (TV that’s connected to the internet by streaming devices), over-the-top TV (the content being streamed and viewed on various devices), and YouTube TrueView.  Much like programmatic display, video is best if used for awareness, at the top of the consumer funnel. Impressions show the amount of potential viewers who were exposed to your video, but view rate shows the portion of your video that got viewed,  in quartiles — 25%, 50%, 75% and 100%.  Completed views measure those that viewed the entirety of the video, a great indicator of the quality of the creative.  Digital video, such as YouTube, is a relatively inexpensive way to test out messaging before investing in a traditional television spot.

The abundance of metrics is one of the reasons digital advertising is so attractive to advertisers.  It allows one to see what creative, audience-targeting and other optimizations can be made to help meet the goals of a campaign.  However, don’t confuse trackability with success.  Often with tracking, there are some things that simply can’t be measured.  Phone calls from an organic search after seeing a display ad, for example, will not be seen in the data.  Store traffic from a products page view on a paid search campaign can’t be definitely traced to paid search.  Asking yourself questions beyond the campaign data is key.  How were sales month over month, year over year?  Was store traffic better, worse or the same as last period?  What outside factors may be coming into play that could produce a lift or a decline on your results — weather, economy, competition in your industry, flu season, etc.?

Digital success is a journey in which data is used to pivot and optimize towards something, rather than expecting exact outcomes or guarantees.  Digital isn’t magic, it is just trackable.  We can use the data to move closer towards goals and learn where our next step should be.

Digital metrics help us rise above the trees to get a better view of our forest, and show us steps we must take to navigate the journey.

About the author: Kimberly Pfaff is the Account Services Manager for Seattle Times Media Solutions digital agency. Kimberly and team analyze digital marketing data and provide reporting, consultation and recommendations to clients running digital managed service campaigns.


Back to Top