June 16, 2020
In today’s digital world, the average person is exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 digital advertisements in a single day.
Consuming everything from a new shoe ad that is scrolled past on Facebook to a quick 15-second video of a local car dealership that must be watched in order to watch the latest music video on YouTube.
Even the top search results when looking for a new restaurant from Google is an advertisement.
Considering the volume of advertisements consumers see daily, it is clear to see that it is no longer enough for a brand to just be seen.
With that in mind, it comes as no surprise that most users will only interact with ads that provide some sort of personal interest to them.
If there were not some form of internal filtering done by the user, then the majority, if not all, of their time would be consumed by clicking on ads.
So with all the competing noise in the market, how can you tell if your digital marketing campaign is effective?
Read along to learn how or you can jump ahead to each section here:
The simple answer is by looking at the campaign’s analytics.
However, there is much more that goes into a digital marketing campaign than just looking at numbers.
More so, in an industry that is continually evolving with new technology, saturated with acronyms, and creating new ways to measure success, it can sometimes be difficult to make sense of the large amount of data.
It can also be a very daunting and time-consuming task if not familiar with how to read the analytics.
Similarly, brands may be able to read their analytics, but not be able to fully comprehend what exactly is being measured or what it means for their campaign.
There is also a very good chance a lot of insightful measurements may be missed as it does not come from direct engagement, such as through a phone call or click on an ad, and will require the implementation of additional analytic tools.
Brands need to start from the very beginning. In order to measure the effectiveness of any digital marketing campaign, first and foremost, a brand’s goals need to be established.
These goals should be provided prior to the start of the campaign and S.M.A.R.T, or more simply, specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
Not only does this avoid any ambiguity within the goals, but it also defines exactly how the campaign should run.
Can a brand define exactly what they want to measure? Is it quantifiable and realistic to be met?
Does it serve a purpose to the brand and the business model? Can a deadline be set?
Setting a goal of “I want to double engagement” is much more interpretive and arbitrary than say “I want to increase clicks driving to our website by 50% in Q2.”
Better yet, what purpose does a goal serve if you are not able to change it? In addition to being S.M.A.R.T., marketing goals should also follow the IPA rule.
When establishing goals, brands should ask themselves, is this goal important and meaningful to the campaign, does it have the potential for improvement, and do we have the authority or the means to change it?
If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” it may be beneficial to reevaluate what can be measured and improved upon, or enlisting in the help of a white label marketing agency.
In the planning stages of a digital marketing campaign, be sure to ask the question of “do we have the means necessary to execute this?”
Running a digital marketing campaign requires extra resources, putting together a team, access to the right systems, and time to grow.
An alternative to running in-house marketing would be to enlist in a white label marketing agency, such as Conduit Digital.
Briefly, white labeling is the practice of offering rebranded products or services and passing them off as your own. Many brands will enlist in these services either for a specific product or as their complete digital marketing solution.
White labeling has its benefits for not only the brands they partner with but also their goals. Some of the benefits include, but are not limited to the following:
By enlisting in the services of a white label agency, brands are not required to be specialized in each marketing product. This allows a brand to not only expand their campaign and visibility but also broaden their marketing portfolio.
White label agencies have gone through beta testing, troubleshooting, and fine-tuning of each product they offer. Brands enlisting in white labeling have access to all the tried and true products without having to put in the work.
By white labeling, brands can save on costs associated with having a full-time in house marketing team such as salaries, trainings, and overhead costs.
While the marketing aspect is being handled by trained specialists, brands can spend more time on other integral components of their business.
If anything were to go awry in the marketing aspect, responsibility would fall on the white label instead of the brand.
Partnering with a private label digital marketing agency leads to so many benefits tat you may want to consider before taking on a new client.
One other factor to consider when establishing goals is where the brand falls in the marketing funnel.
While the internet provides a plethora of variations of the marketing funnel, sometimes known as the sales funnel, it can best be broken down into three stages: awareness, interest, and conversion or action.
While a simplistic example, think of the last purchase you made, whether it was a new sweatshirt or concert tickets.
There is a fairly high chance you were aware of the clothing brand or band before you made the purchase. It is also fair to say you had expressed a bit more interest in them before making that decision, such as reading customer reviews or listening to more albums by them.
Ultimately, your consumer journey resulted in the sale.
It is important to note that a brand can fall under more than one stage of the funnel at a time, as well as switch stages later on. Think of if you were to open your very first restaurant.
Initially, you may want to focus primarily on raising awareness in the area prior to your grand opening in order for customers to know you are there.
Later on, if you decide to open a second location nearby, you may choose to focus on increasing awareness in the area and driving conversions as your brand has already been introduced.
Now that the goals are established and the campaign is underway, a brand will want to ensure their campaign is being seen by the right audience and engaging.
So how exactly do you determine that?
There are a multitude of ways to see the effectiveness of a campaign, but for a “snapshot” of sorts, you will want to look at the key performance indicators, or KPIs for short.
A key performance indicator, or KPI, is a measurable benchmark that demonstrates how effective a campaign is at achieving its goal.
A quick data point to determine the progress of a campaign, KPIs vary for each campaign and are as versatile and unique as each brand.
The limit to what can be considered a KPI is endless.
When looking at the overall progress of a campaign, it is easy to become overwhelmed at the data and deciphering exactly which numbers are most relevant to the campaign.
More often than not, brands can result in tracking almost everything, but not learning nearly as much as they could be. It is important to remember that every metric will provide insight, but every KPI should provide an impact.
Every KPI is a metric, but not every metric is a KPI.
One of the common misconceptions of measuring a campaign is to focus solely on the largest numbers.
Metrics such as impressions, email list size, and servable domains are typically larger numbers indicating the campaign is reaching a large audience.
While these provide a promising outlook on the exposure of the campaign, these metrics, known as supporting metrics or “vanity” metrics, often provide very little insight on the overall effectiveness of the campaign.
The campaign may be reaching a large audience, but is it the right audience?
In the era of targeted advertisements and personalized recommendations, simply reaching large audiences is not enough for brands to run effective digital campaigns.
If you are a school trying to increase enrollment for kindergarten, your messaging may not be well received by those who do not have children or by those who have older children.
For that reason, while these metrics may make you feel good, they should not be considered viable KPIs.
Relying on these metrics as your primary KPIs parallels the ineffectiveness of the outdated “spray and pray” marketing method.
A common strategy used throughout print marketing campaigns, the “spray and pray” method involves distributing large amounts of marketing materials in the hopes that it will reach your ideal audience.
It also heavily relies on the fact that no matter how much content is put out, at least some users will consume it.
Despite the lack of insight in overall effectiveness, these metrics are not rendered useless or irrelevant to the campaign.
The KPIs inform of the overall engagement relevant to your goals, but the supporting metrics do just that, support the KPIs and provide insight as to why.
For example, if your KPI was to measure the open rate of your targeted emails and it suddenly dropped from 75% to 45%, further inquiry into the metric of successful email sends may indicate there was an issue sending to a particular email domain.
So what then are viable KPIs to measure the effectiveness of a campaign? While KPIs could be almost anything, a brand will want to ensure their KPI is not only relevant in achieving their goal, but inspires actionable events.
Some KPIs can measure direct engagement, such as the percentage of clicks or actions taken, or more indirect, such as website interaction.
One of the most common and used, Click-Through Rate (CTR) is a KPI that can be tracked for virtually any type of digital marketing campaign.
It is the percentage of clicks an ad or link receives in comparison to the amount of impressions served, or the number of times it has been seen by a user.
One of the reasons CTR is a widely used KPI is that it takes into consideration the proportion of clicks to impressions.
Think of it as if you were targeting the state of Texas and Vermont.
Texas is notably larger in population, therefore, will most likely drive more total clicks than Vermont.
However, Texas may have 100 clicks for every 10,000 impressions it served, producing a 0.01% CTR, while Vermont may have 100 clicks for every 1,000 impressions it served, producing a 0.10% CTR.
CTR acts as a valid starting point in understanding effectiveness, but while useful, there are other measurements that provide greater insight into a campaign.
With the rise of using video formats for advertisements, Video Completion Rate (VCR) and View Through Rate (VTR) are insightful measurements that are easily accessible and aid in gauging audience interest.
Almost interchangeable, VCR is the percentage an ad was viewed in its entirety compared to the amount of impressions served while VTR is the percentage an ad was viewed until a certain point or in full compared to the amount of impressions served.
VTR is a bit more flexible as its measuring points are determined by the brand. Either KPI can be used, it would just be within best practices to maintain consistency throughout the campaign.
While VCR is the more commonly used KPI of the two, VTR does provide critical information into how long a user is engaging with the ad.
If working as a supporting metric, brands could take a look into their VTR and see if and where there is a large drop off of users.
If there is a significant dropoff around the 35-second mark, this could then serve to improve the campaign by introducing a shorter video that is maybe only 15 or 30 seconds long.
Similar to CTR, conversions and conversion rates are other widely used KPIs. They are also dynamic in the sense that they can be used to measure efficiency among all digital marketing products.
Conversions will vary in what exactly they are measuring as dictated by the overall campaign goals.
Depending on the nature of the campaign, this could mean measuring different actions such as how many forms were submitted, downloads took place, signups for a newsletter, appointments scheduled, or items purchased once a user visited the website.
For campaigns that are running a geofencing tactic, this could also mean physical visits to a brick and mortar location.
To narrow in on conversions at a granular level, brands could look at the Conversion Rate. The conversion rate is the percentage of actions taken in relation to the total amount of visits.
Depending on the set up of the campaign, high and low conversion rates could mean many different things.
For example, high conversion rates could mean a website is easy to navigate and provides enticing content for its users.
Meanwhile, a low conversion rate could potentially mean the desired action is too off base, such as wanting to increase appointments scheduled but having the main action displayed be a newsletter signup, or that there is an issue completing the action.
While not a single unit measurement like CTR or VCR, it is equally important to understand where traffic is coming from to further maximize a campaign’s effectiveness.
Measuring website traffic sources does require the use of a web analytics service, whether it be Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, Clicky, or another analytics service.
While users can find ways to a brand’s website in a variety of ways, there are 4 main categories each way will fall under: direct, referral, organic, or campaign.
Direct traffic is when users type the website URL directly into the browser.
Referral traffic is when users visit a website after clicking on a URL from another website, such as clicking on a link that is embedded in an online news article.
Organic traffic is when users visit a website after entering a keyword search on a search engine like Google or Yahoo and clicks on the listing.
Campaign traffic is when users visit a website through a dedicated digital marketing campaign, commonly measured through the use of a UTM code at the end of a URL. (Example: www.conduitdigital.us?utm_source=Conduit&utm_medium=Blog)
Building upon traffic sources, it would also be ideal to also measure which devices users are coming from.
In Q3 of 2019, mobile devices generated 51.5% of all global website traffic. Measuring the device source can provide valuable insight into how an audience is interacting with a brand, as well as where it could be improved.
If traffic from mobile devices is high, but overall engagement low, this could mean implementing a mobile-friendly website, adding an array of ad sizes to be read on various screens, or even creating a mobile app to better improve the campaign.
As with website and device source traffic, it is beneficial to know what type of users are visiting and engaging with a website.
Measuring the type of visitors to a website will require a website analytic service. Just as it is important to gain a new audience and drive them to a website, it is equally important to ensure the audience is retained.
The nature of each brand will ultimately determine which metric, if used as a standalone instead of a dual metric, is weighed more heavily.
If a brand is looking to increase organic website traffic, they may want to focus more on increasing new visitors.
If a brand would like to increase media consumption on their site, returning visitors would be the preferred of the two.
The visitor type metrics can be used in conjunction with other website activity metrics, such as the number of sessions, or the engagement of a user on a website within a certain time frame, or the time of sessions to further evaluate the website’s relevancy for users.
One of the challenges with measuring new and returning visitors, particularly with returning, is that if a user deletes their browser cookies, uses a different device or browser, or their device does not accept cookies, they will not be considered returning if they were to revisit the website.
Although they sound similar, the bounce rate and exit rate are not synonymous.
While the bounce rate is typically associated with email campaigns as the percentage of users that did not receive the messaging due to being returned by the email server, it can also be used to analyze website traffic.
For website traffic, the bounce rate is the number of users that visit a site then leave without navigating to any other page compared to total visits.
The exit rate of a campaign, on the other hand, is the percentage of users who left the website in proportion to the amount of total visits that page received.
So while a bounce can be an exit, an exit cannot be a bounce. A user who visits the homepage then leaves without navigating to any other page is considered a bounce and an exit.
However, a user who visits the homepage, then catalog page, but then leaves the site once they get to the checkout page, they are considered an exit from the checkout page.
Bounce rate provides pivotal information into how effective a website is at driving users to learn more.
If the home page or landing page provides all the information a user will need, this may not be as impactful of a KPI as if the website required further exploration by the user.
The exit rate can help a brand understand why users may be dropping off at pages that are intended to push them further through the marketing funnel, such as Checkout pages.
Reasons for high exit rates could be due to a number of things, but most commonly slow loading speeds, distracting content, or even navigation issues from one page to another.
As daunting and intimidating as it may seem to have an endless list of metrics to choose from, the more metrics that are at a brand’s disposal, the better the brand will be at measuring their campaign’s effectiveness.
As evidenced by the few above KPIs, measuring website engagement alongside direct engagement provided by the product platform is monstrously more informative.
Referring back to the very first sentence, consumers see thousands of advertisements in a single day.
The likelihood of each one receiving an engagement is very slim, thus making website analytics a huge asset in a campaign.
This unlocks a whole new set of data points that can be used to not only improve how brands drive consumers to a website, but also how to improve their experience once they have arrived.
It goes without saying that the KPIs used and the metrics deemed the most relevant to a campaign should be readable and easily accessible by all involved.
Through the use of a dashboard, displaying on a television screen in the office, or report, not only does this increase the impactfulness of the KPI, but it also serves as a continual reminder to look for ways to improve.
If working with a white label agency, a brand will want to ensure there is a form of transparency. This not only increases the partnership but also solidifies the brand making the right marketing decision.
It goes without saying but there is no one set way to measure a campaign’s effectiveness or strict list of KPIs a brand must meet to be considered successful.
Context is key! While industry benchmarks can aid in gauging how a campaign stacks up to similar industries, all things are relevant.
For starters, when considering which marketing product to use, some products are better suited for certain KPIs than others.
Brands will typically use Audience Targeting (AT) to increase brand awareness as this product is not reliant on prior consumer engagement, such as account or subscription.
While AT can produce conversions, they will be relatively lower in comparison to those produced by products such as Pay-Per-Click (PPC) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO), where these are intended to drive that final consumer push.
Similarly, while it is not enough for brands just to be seen, certain aspects of a campaign may appear to be underperforming but would do well to remain in the campaign.
A good example of this would be through individual keyword performance. If a lawyer’s office was running a campaign in hopes of increasing their cases for worker’s compensation, keywords such as “workers comp lawyer” and “injured on the job” may be worth it to leave in the campaign even if they are not driving the most engagement.
In this scenario, while these keywords may be driving low engagement, they are great for brand awareness and branded marketing.
So while users may not be clicking on the ads if they see them four times a day, when they are in need of those services, they will remember the lawyer’s ads and directly search for them.
So while direct engagement may be low, branded marketing will increase the overall direct website traffic.
Just as highly relevant keywords are great for branding, so are premium domains. While there are thousands of domains and applications advertisements can be served on, some are more well known and regarded higher than others.
Leaving a few premium domains with low engagement may be worth leaving as being associated with “household” name websites are always a step in the right direction.
One thing to note about campaign KPIs is that they are not intended to be stagnant. As a brand evolves, so should their overall marketing goals.
KPIs are intended to be checked regularly and used as a guide to further improve the overall campaign, moving audiences through the marketing funnel.
Reiterating the importance of minding where a brand falls within the marketing funnel, this will guide which KPIs will be most important for each campaign.
At the beginning of the campaign, a brand may want to ensure the ads are being seen and driving users to the website, thus focusing on CTR and New Users.
Once these have achieved their intended goal, the brand may choose to evolve their KPIs to focus on conversion rates and returning users. From there, they could then choose to focus on increasing traffic from search engine searches or mobile devices.
KPIs vary for each campaign and are as versatile and unique as the brand. No one wants to have an idle brand, therefore no brand should have idle KPIs and goals.
Posing the question once more, with all the competing noise in the market, how can you tell if your digital marketing campaign is effective?
By now, the answer to that question should be more clear. By starting with defining S.M.A.R.T. goals that are important, have the ability and potential to be improved upon, and are being executed by the right team, whether in-house or through a third-party.
Measuring the effectiveness continues with defining the right metrics and understanding them. Every metric will provide insight, but every KPI will provide an impact.
It is great to drive users to a website, but it is even better to understand how and why they are being driven, and what they do once they arrive.
Finally, measuring effectiveness should be blatantly clear and accessible in the form of either a dashboard or report that serves as a continual reminder to evolve as the brand does.