One of the biggest challenges facing digital marketers in 2015 is how to measure success. It’s not as simple as putting up a website and watching your business grow; digital marketing requires a large investment of time and resources. If you don’t have a solid process for measuring success then how can you be sure you’re putting your money where it needs to go? How can you be sure any success you do have is a direct result of your digital marketing efforts, and not a consequence of some other part of your business? If you’re not getting the results you want, how can you be sure where the problem is (and how to remedy that problem)?

It’s a tough proposition, but not an impossible one.

The first step to measuring digital marketing success is to set specific goals. Not only do you need specific goals, you need to know which metrics to track to see if you’re reaching your goals (or falling short). What I’m talking about here are KPIs.

What is a KPI?

A KPI, or Key Performance Indicator, is a measurement tool you use to track the success of a specific campaign. Ultimately, a KPI lets you know if you’re on track, if you’ve reached your goal, or if you’ve fallen short.

Each campaign should have its own KPI or set of KPIs that you choose right at the start. The way you track the success of a social media campaign will be vastly different from an SEO campaign. Because of this, it’s important to narrowly define your KPIs, so you can show real results. A well-defined KPI can result in an impressive graph that details your success along every step of the campaign, while a poorly defined KPI only confuses and yields contradicting results.

Choosing the Right KPIs to Measure Digital Marketing Progress

There are many possible KPIs to measure digital marketing. Choosing the right KPIs starts at the beginning of any campaign, along with a carefully crafted declaration of intent. Basically, you’re creating a hypothesis of what you believe success will look like, and how to measure it so you’re sure you’ve achieved it.

To choose the right KPI, first determine which digital marketing goals are most important to management and which goals are most important to the growth of the business – these two things need to be aligned and in harmony. If you’re not sure what digital marketing success should look like (in terms of the actual metrics such as site traffic and social media shares, for example) then your digital marketing agency can help you decide what is most important. Of course, how you chart success will depend on your type of business and industry (whether you’re local, B2B, B2C, operate mainly through referrals, etc.).

With the right KPIs in hand, you can begin to create a campaign that aims to increase those indicators and achieve your overall goals.

Marketing Metrics Examples

In general, here are the metrics we consider to be the most important for measuring digital marketing success:

  • Total site traffic. This gives you a broad baseline with which to analyze your overall efforts. An increase in traffic is encouraging, but it doesn’t paint a complete picture.
  • Traffic sources/channels. Where is your website traffic coming from? If your SEO strategy involves targeting keyword phrases, you should be experiencing a lift in traffic from search using those specific phrases.
  • Number of leads generated (and from what channel). A website that doesn’t generate actual leads won’t give you the success you need. How does your website transform user traffic into genuine business for your company?

To help you get a sense of how these three KPIs work together, here’s the processed we used for one of our most effective marketing campaigns for Jumptown Inflatables (click here to read the case study).

Jumptown’s main goal was to generate more leads through their website. To track the success of our campaign, we decided on the KPIs of total site traffic, traffic from non-branded keywords, and the number of bounce house reservations generated from the site. Once we settled on these three KPIs, we then formulated our digital marketing strategy:

  1. Optimize the site for general SEO
  2. Create content to rank well for targeted keywords
  3. Incorporate an online form for visitors to easily make a reservation

Our efforts paid off with a 52% increase in overall site traffic, a 71% increase for targeted keywords, and hundreds of reservations (when the old site was only averaging 2 per month).

Benefits of Measuring Digital Marketing Success

The main benefit of measuring KPIs is that you can track your marketing costs and compare them against the revenue generated. It’s a way of tracking your ROI, which can be tricky when it comes to digital marketing. Thankfully, with the right KPIs you can determine the success of all aspects of your campaign (and identify areas that need improvement).

One of the best things about SEO is that it continues to generate results even after a campaign ends. That’s because once you’ve built an effective website optimized for search, it will still attract traffic for months and even years. And If you continue to track KPIs, in the long run you can be a step ahead of the curve, and handle any drops in traffic before they become a big issue as well as look for potential for growth and continued success.

Adam Fifield
Adam Fifield is the Content Marketing Manager at Big Leap. His background is in journalism, and you'll find him playing jazz piano in various Salt Lake City saloons and speakeasies until closing time. Connect with Adam on Twitter: @adamonthekeys