What you measure matters – here’s what you should be asking for
Digital marketers worth their salt know that measuring results is essential. Only a few understand that what you measure is just as important. If your metrics don’t connect to tangible results for your business, they’re not worth your time and energy.
‘Vanity metrics’ are what we call those results that look great on paper, but don’t necessarily deliver. Social media likes and shares, follower counts and comments, views and bounce rates – all these measures have the feel-good factor, but don’t always correlate with real business results.
Despite this, many businesses still gravitate towards vanity metrics when working on digital campaigns. This type of metric is easy to track and simple to understand and share with stakeholders. Some digital agencies are still pushing businesses to use vanity metrics – whether it makes sense for their specific campaigns or not. But there is a better way.
See beyond the surface
‘Likes’ and other social media metrics have been a marketing mainstay for years. They do show that people are seeing and responding to your content, but these surface-level numbers don’t have a direct correlation with sales, signups or ROI. Any engagement will be boosting brand recognition and delivering other less concrete results in the long term, but if you’re aiming for actual growth and ROI, you could be looking in the wrong place.
If you’re appealing to the wrong audience, for example, you could have a campaign that garners serious engagement, but makes little difference to your sales figures or profitability at the end. Changes to your content or strategy based on those engagement metrics could move you further away from your actual audience – making your campaign even less impactful.
The secret is to understand the inner workings of your campaign and develop metrics that connect digital activity to real-world results.
Is your agency up to the job?
Because digital marketing is so complicated and fast-moving, it can be hard to know what to expect from your agency. Is it using the right tech, measuring the right things, buying media most effectively? To find out, don’t be afraid to ask some probing questions.
Before your next campaign, get into the nitty-gritty about how your agency works, the tools it uses and how it’ll report back to you.
Here’s what to ask in each area:
KPIs and measurement
You should understand the KPIs you’re using for each campaign and know how they’ll be measured. Rather than focusing on vanity measures like cost-per-click (CPC), likes and shares, your agency should be helping you zero in on how measures impact real-world results. For example, the quality cost-per-click (qCPC) breaks down the customer journey and looks at a whole range of touchpoints, rather than the click itself. As a metric, it’s far more powerful than CPC.
Ask your agency: What metrics are you using, and how will they be measured?
Reporting and analytics
You need frequent feedback and clear information to drive decision-making. Ask for results to be broken down by site, exchange and creative size as a minimum. Some agencies will provide manual reports, while others offer a real-time dashboard with performance and cost metrics, so you have constant access to your data. Analytics are also key, especially when it comes to providing actionable insights rather than simple results.
Ask your agency: Will my reports include actionable insights? What will be included?
Media buying can have a huge impact on the cost and outcome of your campaign – and it can be pretty complex. Supply path optimisation (SPO) is about finding the best price for the most effective media slots. It can be fully automated or require manual input from your agency. Curated marketplaces, on the other hand, offer higher-quality media buying options thanks to a screening process.
Ask your agency: Are you using any form of SPO? Are you buying through a curated marketplace? What percentage of your media is bought directly vs other marketplaces? Why?
Targeting and responsiveness
Putting data to use is the next step. You need to know how your agency is analysing your information, how often it’s checking things like website tags and tracking information, and how it uses them to inform your work. If metrics like your cost-per-action (CPA) are going up, is it the creative, the agency or the media buying that’s at fault? The answer could be illuminating.
Ask your agency: Does targeting change halfway through a campaign if KPIs are not being met?
Asking the tough questions
Digital marketing is a fast-moving, high-pressure field. In this environment, it’s not surprising that many marketers turn to the most obvious metrics for success. Likes, shares, traffic, views – these are all easy, quantifiable numbers that you can view instantly. For marketing teams under pressure to demonstrate results, they’re an easy solution.
Digital agencies have pushed these metrics for many of the same reasons – they’re quick, simple and free. Going deeper requires time, testing and technology, which eat into budgets and extend project timelines.
If you’ve been using vanity metrics but want to make the switch to growth-focused measurement, you’ll need to make that clear to your ad provider. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough, technical questions – and if your agency won’t or can’t deliver what you want, it could be time to switch to a different provider.
Want to understand your digital marketing on a deeper level? Talk to the team at Acquire.