When it comes to digital marketing, there are tons of facts, figures, stats and metrics to take a look at and keep your eyes on. But there are so many, it's easy to get excited about the wrong ones, interpret the data incorrectly, or be distracted by others.
Let's take a little time to understand which of the major and most common marketing metrics to ignore and the alternatives you should be paying attention to.
Update: if you're not sure where to start when it comes to planning out your best marketing campaign yet, our marketing strategy blueprint can help your business growth goals.
It's not who you know, it's what you know...and how you analyse it!
Marketing, in a nutshell, is about reaching more of your ideal customers with messaging designed to highlight your products and services. Whilst traditionally seen as a creative industry, there's actually a lot of scientific processes and methodology involved.
In essence, any marketing campaign is built around a process that involves doing something (i.e carrying out a marketing activity) and measuring the results. The aim, of course, is to do more of what works, and less of what doesn't. The skills involved are being able to judge what is likely to do well at one end, and collecting, analysing and interpreting the data accurately at the other.
However, with a data metrics landscape full of different systems and means to measure what's going on with your marketing, just how do you know what to pay attention to, and what falls into a category we'll call 'marketing vanity'?
What is marketing vanity?
If you've been in business a while, or even just watched Dragon's Den, you'll have come across the old axiom, 'turnover is vanity, profit is sanity'. This relates to the profitability of a business and how it doesn't necessarily relate to how much money physically passes through its doors.
Whilst sounding impressive, it's not much of a boast to say you turned over £500,000 if it took you £499,999 to do so.
Well, it's the same with marketing metrics and data analytics. Sure, getting 100,000 visitors per month to your website is impressive, but if you have a huge bounce rate of 95%, then this traffic might not be considered a success from a marketing point of view.
It's all down to meeting goals (and keeping those goals SMART) and offering a little context with the data. So let's take a look at 8 marketing metrics to ignore and some alternatives to keep your eyes on instead.
1. Website visitors
Without a doubt, the number of visitors a website receives over a given period is one of the most boasted marketing metrics out there. After all, if you're receiving 1000's of visitors a day, your website must be a roaring success, right?
Having a growing number of visitors is important. It's definitely a key part of the Attract phase of inbound marketing. However, looking at the number of visitors in isolation can't tell you much about important points like:
- how successful a particular marketing campaign is
- if the site is relevant to those visitors,
- which parts of the site are more valuable than others
Look at instead:
When analysing website traffic, be sure to look at a number of other factors to gain some perspective:
- Visitor traffic by country
- Bounce rate
- The user path through your website
- Time spent on the site and on which pages in particular
- Growth of the traffic in response to a particular marketing campaign
- Particular peak points in traffic - this will help you see what marketing actions triggered this traffic
2. Bounce rate
Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that entered and exited your website via the same page, without visiting any others. Whilst this doesn't necessarily indicate that they didn't find what they needed, depending on the page they entered via, it's at least likely that there was nothing to tempt them to explore the site a little deeper.
On its own, bounce rate can give you the wrong impression of your website's situation: a low bounce rate can make your site seem like the best site in the world; whereas a high bounce rate or can seemingly highlight a terrible terrible problem with your website.
Again, to understand the bounce rate metric, we have to look a little closer and draw some conclusions and action plans from there. Fortunately, services like Google Analytics provide a wealth of facts and figures to help us out.
Look at instead:
This is a typical bounce rate from within Google Analytics. Although quite high (averaging around 70%) you can see that at the beginning of October, the bounce rate dropped quite significantly. Being able to dig into what activity occurred here would help site owners analyse what they could do more of to maintain this lowered figure.
Bounce rate is an important marketing metric, but don't just look at the single figure, explore the percentage in more detail to discover:
- What pages in particular are driving the highest bounces? Is it your home page, some landing page, or a blog article?
- Pair this data with services such as HotJar, a heat-mapping tool to discover pain points on your website that are driving visitors to exit
- What IP ranges (if available) are your bounces coming from? If you have some from your company, then you can exclude your company IP range from tools such as Google Analytics.
3. Form submissions
Just last month you've seen 100 form submissions from visitors requesting an ebook, or otherwise reaching out to you via a form. Great stuff. But, this isn't enough to start shouting about just yet. If you've had 100, or even a 1000 visitors over that period then it's time to start whooping and high-fiving because that's a good form conversion rate.
If, on the other hand, you've see 10,000 or 100,000 visitors in that time period, then that 100 form submissions statistic starts to seem less impressive.
Look at instead:
You may be able to sense a pattern forming here in that most marketing metrics to ignore are those that live in isolation. Having a high submission rate on your forms is good, but first, you need to focus on attracting more of the right sorts of traffic - i.e. your ideal prospects. Then, you can turn your attention to optimising your conversions to keep the form submissions to visitors ratio sky high!
4. Social media volume
We say it so much it hurts, but, social media is a key part of your marketing mix. It helps generate interest in your company, products and services. It helps share your messages and content, and most importantly, it helps you create a fan base and interact directly with your ideal customers.
The problem with social media is that people get very hung up on volume metrics. By social media volume metrics I mean Likes and follows, depending on the platform.
If you have 10K followers on Twitter then you must be super important and very popular, right? Well yes and no. For a start, it's very easy to purchase followers on social media and gain interest that's largely empty.
With the advent of bots and automated social growth, many companies will be followed by empty accounts, spam / junk profiles or random companies that have no bearing on your products, services, or general area of business. This isn't a problem, but it can give you a false sense of success.
Look at instead:
Look at putting in place a strategy that helps you build an organic social following that is comprised of genuine people and businesses looking to connect and engage with you and do business.
As far as metrics go, look deeper into your social stats to uncover:
- Where your followers are based - if you're geographically limited, you'll likely want more local interest
- How much engagement you receive - by 'engagement' we mean shares, likes, conversations, reviews, feedback, etc.
5. Search engine rankings
How can this be one of the marketing metrics to ignore?! Surely being on the first page of Google is the most important thing in the world! Well, the devil, as always, is in the details.
We get lots of enquiries from businesses solely focussed on getting to the top of page one on Google. Whilst climbing the search engine rankings is important for any business and digital marketing campaign, lasering in on this one area alone is a bad idea.
Being on the front page is good, but purely being there doesn't mean you're going to get all the calls and website visits. Perhaps you've got meta description that's quite generic or not compelling and it's putting people off clicking your website from the search listing.
It might be that you get a lot of traffic from being on page one, but your bounce rate is really high. Could your site be broken, non-friendly to mobiles, or does it contain content or design elements that are turning people away?
Look at instead:
Getting to the top of the search rankings is really important, but remember to keep your broader goals in mind when it comes to marketing and make sure there is something in place to support your top ranking positions.
- Landing pages need to be analysed and optimised for conversions
- Websites need planned user journeys to direct your visitors to the right areas
- They also need to be mobile-friendly and bug-free
- Do your search-ranked pages offer a compelling reason for your visitors to contact you?
6. Blog subscribers
Blog subscriber numbers are the email and blog equivalent of website visitors. Having 100's or 1000's of subscribers on your blog list is impressive and certainly one aspect of traffic growth to aim for. However, it doesn't give you the fullest picture of what's happening all on its own.
For instance, does your website enjoy a significant increase in visitors upon a blog article publish? If you send out updates and news emails to your subscribers, what sort of engagement do you see in response? If you have a large subscriber base, but aren't seeing the fruits of labour applied to that base, then it may not be working for you.
Look at instead:
Subscriber rates are one of those marketing metrics that need to be pulled into focus alongside other, related data. By using a platform such as MailChimp, HubSpot, or even Google Analytics, you can get a broader view of how engaged your subscribers are.
7. Email volume and open rates
Emailing en masse to a huge number of subscribers isn't a sure fire way to generate more leads. Actually, it can hurt your subscriber lists if you send people too much information or the wrong information, or even, too frequently.
Generally, on average, email lists and databases will see around 25% churn per year. This is largely due to factors such as unsubscribers or dead emails (e.g. someone left a company and no longer has that email). You can see that with your lists already suffering, it's a good idea to minimise this and avoid adding to the churn.
When it comes to open rates, the open rate of an email tells you one thing, and one thing alone: your subject line was compelling enough to warrant the email being opened...
By stopping there, on the email open rate, you'll be missing out on the pertinent information: how do people engage with the content within the email? If you're enjoying a high email open rate, but not driving website traffic or conversions then there's a mismatch that needs addressing.
Look at instead:
A better approach to sending out all emails to large sections of your contact database is to look at segmenting your database into as many groups of contacts as necessary. Target those lists on a case by case basis with timely, relevant content that will both increase engagement, share rates, and boost conversions.
As for open rates, look to write subject lines similar to those that have the largest open rates, but combine this with the most engaging content to ensure your click rates are kept high. This combination of more emails opened and more links clicked will drive more website traffic and aid conversions.
8. Leads generated
If you're marketing efforts are generating lots and lots of leads then you must be doing something right. Well, yes, and no...
Sure, it's great that you're getting lots of leads, but if they're not converting into customers then you have identified a flaw in your sales system. It might be that you need to tweak your sales processes, or look at the types of leads you have coming in at the top of the funnel to make sure they're of the highest quality.
The issue might lie in a number of areas:
- Your conversion optimisation at the middle / bottom of the funnel
- Your sales processes
- The types of leads flowing into the top of the funnel
Look at instead:
Whilst marketing and sales are largely a numbers game, you have to look at the whole of the funnel to optimise and improve your end sales results.
It's quite common when switching to an inbound way of marketing to see lead generation numbers stay the same, or dip a little, but end customer figures increase. By shifting the focus on attracting more of your ideal prospects and optimising your conversion and sales processes, you should find that you can do more with less - fewer leads, but more customers!
Keep it in perspective and contextual
As a rule, if the metric in question is quite broad (e.g. think website visitors again) then it needs to be analysed alongside additional metrics to give it some context, much like the turnover analogy at the beginning.
Adding SMART goals to the mix allows you to focus on how you'll achieve your goals and which metrics can be used to measure your success.