Measuring Marketing Success

As the old saying goes, “When you have a hammer, all your problems begin to look like nails.” The same could be said of data analytics and the way many companies are measuring marketing success.

Take pageviews, for example, a vanity metric that measures how many times someone has clicked on your webpage. After analysing a month’s worth of user data across 2 billion web visits, Tony Haile, CEO of web analytics company Chartbeat, reports that on average 55 per cent of people spent fewer than 15 seconds on a webpage. For marketers trying to measure web traffic, that’s a problem. If people don’t read what they click on, then pageviews are dim indicators of how deeply readers are actually engaging with their content.

But what about social media endorsements? Surely Facebook “likes” and tweets indicate some meaningful measure of engagement?  Here, again, the data defies popular understanding. Haile: “We looked at 10,000 socially-shared articles and found that there is no relationship whatsoever between the amount a piece of content is shared and the amount of attention an average reader will give that content.” In fact, the story with the largest volume of “total engaged time” had fewer than 100 Facebook likes and fewer than 50 tweets. And the story with the largest number of tweets? Just 20 per cent of the total engaged time the most engaging story received.

When it comes to user data, we swim in a vast sea of riches. But we also risk drowning in assumptions about what all of this information can tell us. The problem with privileging pageviews and endorsements over other metrics is that what you measure is often what you tend to produce. So begins a vicious circle: 100,000 Facebook likes beget strategies designed to attract 1,000,000 Facebook likes. Meanwhile, we lose sight of the things we really should be measuring in the first place; we fixate on hammers and all our targets begin to look like nails.

At Pilot, we like to remind people that just beyond the focus of every pageview, tweet and like is the one and only metric that really matters: conversion. Converting a visitor to your website means getting him to do what you want him to do: buy your product, make a donation, vote for your candidate, and so on. All the web traffic and analytic tools in the world won’t help you succeed unless your site is converting—so let your conversion goals determine your analytics, and not the other way around.

If you’re a publisher, getting users to spend more time on your website is probably a worthwhile goal. But if you’re an online retailer, the opposite may be true: lengthy visits could mean people are getting lost, frustrated, and potentially exiting your site before making it to the virtual check-out counter.

That’s why metrics designed to measure deep engagement—like the quality of your users, what they say and tell others about you online, and how much time each spends with your content—should be used alongside business measurements to determine success.

In order to convert people, you first need to earn their attention. Not just their clicks. We can help you optimize for that.

To learn how to set up goals and build custom reports using Google Analytics, check out 4 Custom Google Analytics Reports to Improve Your Business.