Marketers have a broad range of metrics to choose from as benchmarks for the success of their digital campaigns and marketing strategies. All too often, we religiously track and report on the ones that have the least significance while ignoring other metrics that might be more important.
Sometimes, we blindly follow the numbers and the technology without understanding what the numbers really mean. Let's look at some of the common ways marketers go wrong when they're measuring the success of their campaigns.
Kicking against the clicks
Impressions and clickthroughs are easy to measure and having this data at your fingertips is invaluable. That said, they should not be considered the primary gauge of success since they tell us little about how successful our ads are in driving consumer interaction and interest.
Interaction rates, click stream and repeat visits - as well as consumer interactions with all of your marketing components - are what you should be measuring instead.
To get really great results from online marketing, you should measure and track your campaign from the user's exposure to your campaign, through to the success event (user buys something, signs up for a newsletter, etc).
Knowing how much you spent and what increase or decrease you saw in sales is the most fundamental and strategic metric for any business's success. You may counter that the objective of your campaign is simply to build your brand, and so, impression and click data is all you really need.
But I disagree. Building a brand is not (and never was) the end goal of marketing. Building a brand is ultimately about driving sales or increasing market share, which is the same goal of any marketing strategy or initiative. No marketer in the world spends money with no expectation of generating a return on investment.
If you want to measure the impact an online campaign is having on your brand, impressions and clicks are poor measures in any case. Awareness, favourability and commitment are far better ways of determining how successful you have been.
Getting customers engaged
Engagement is one of the factors that marketers are most eager to measure, but most are at a loss about how to do this.
Engagement measurement is not the method of looking at the impact of all ad exposures and what contribution each made to the final sale. Engagement is really about measuring brand interaction, intimacy, involvement, influence, and ultimately commitment.
Microsoft's Engagement Mapping (EMAP) is one popular approach to engagement measurement but it is really attribution measurement. While a useful line of analysis, there are a number of flaws in this approach.
Firstly, it allows advertisers and agencies to make discretionary assumptions about the expected impact of particular attributes (ad size, creative type etc) in the absence of any statistical evidence that their assumptions are valid.
Secondly, before you can partake in attribution mapping properly, you have to collect a massive amount of data and integrate all channels. Carrying out attribution mapping with only a few preceding exposures - and without including all your channels - will simply give you a partial view, as opposed to the bigger picture.
Thanks to the fragmented media landscape we live and work in today, it's difficult to understand total attribution and engagement. In the Web 2.0 environment, a visitor can engage with your brand outside of your Website. How do you know if a visitor is on your website, talking about you on Twitter and participating in a group on Facebook about your brand? Where does "visitor engagement" start and stop?
Another concept that seems conceptually straightforward, but isn't in reality, is the pageview. Pageviews are a measure of the number of times users view your content - in theory.
In reality, the internet is swarming with bots querying servers for content that no human will ever see. Also, in the age of AJAX and widgets, it's hard to quantify what exactly a pageview is. Users are spending more time online, generating more and more pageviews on sites such as Facebook. It's not news that pageviews are not a particularly meaningful measure, so it's amazing how people still cling desperately to the pageview metric.
Another mistake many marketers fall prey to is to measure customer data attributes, but not use them effectively to segment databases. Sure, demographic and geographic data is used because it is easy and there is an umbilical cord to more traditional marketing and segmentation methodology, but more advanced forms of segmentation are neglected.
What about segmenting people according to how they interact with your brand? Click and open email rates are seldom used when segmenting, neither are acquisition source and date of last purchase. These are basics that many marketers are neglecting.
Some metrics we use religiously add little value; indeed, some are close to meaningless.
To deliver business value, we need to set realistic goals and ensure that we measure them with the right metrics.
Unless we address our inability to make accurate measurements of digital advertising's effectiveness, it will continue to result in misallocation of marketing budgets and impede the online industry's growth into the future.