I’m sure you’ve heard the saying: You can’t change what you can’t measure. This certainly holds weight in many aspects of marketing, especially in the digital space. And while measuring and gathering data is relatively easy in the digital world, it’s how you reflect upon and react to this information that makes all the difference.

These days, you can access a seemingly endless amount of data related to digital marketing. Technology lets you measure practically anything: number of impressions and clicks, the location of your audience, demographic information. The problem is, measuring alone isn’t enough. These figures don’t give you the full picture; you need to put on your analytical hat to determine if your marketing needs some tweaking.

Drowning in data

Let’s take a moment to think about your digital marketing options and what sort of data you can collect. You’ve got Google Analytics, which can tell you anything from how many people are visiting your site, to what pages they visit and how long they stay. This can give you key insight into what kinds of content, approaches and messaging resonates with specific audiences.

Social media tracking functions yield similar sets of information. Here, you also need to look at what posts people are reacting to. On Facebook, for example, you might find that a campaign aimed at increasing website visits yielded more responses than a simple boosted post, or single images performed better than carousel posts.

It’s also worthwhile determining if your marketing is reaching the right people. Analyse what audiences you were targeting with paid ads, and who’s engaging with them. You might be paying more for boosted engagement on LinkedIn than Facebook, but if you’re reaching more appropriate people, isn’t the extra cost worth it?

Campaigns need to run long enough to gather useful data, but not so long you’re just throwing money in a wishing-well. Dipping your toe in the water of digital marketing isn’t enough. By trying something for just enough time to generate some results – good, bad or otherwise – you will equip yourself with valuable, actionable information with which to hone your campaign.

But delving into the data and reading between the lines is not always straightforward. You must be careful that you’re drawing the right analysis from the metrics, rather than leaping to convenient assumptions.

A time to reflect

The powerful data arsenal that digital marketing provides makes it tempting to jump in with all guns blazing. Almost all platforms have made it really easy to spend your money! Facebook and Instagram let you create ads or boost posts with just a couple of clicks on your mobile phone, and Google even have people ringing you up to “help” with your Ads campaigns.

But before you go spending more and more, take some time to look at the data and really try to work out what it’s telling you.

On social media in particular, “vanity metrics” can be an expensive habit. Views, clicks and likes from people who aren’t genuine potential customers might make you feel good, but they won’t actually impact your business goals.

Comb through your results to determine if they are moving you towards those goals. By combining digital stats with your real-world outcomes, you can gauge the true success of a given campaign.

monkey with mirror

Considered reaction

Only once you’ve really taken the time to reflect on your digital results should you allow yourself to react. In the digital world, there are a lot of things to react to and a lot of ways in which to respond. You need the time to ensure you’re interpreting the data correctly in order to take the right course of action.

For example, we found that the bounce rate for one of our clients’ articles was unusually high. We thought something was amiss in their website navigation, or perhaps that its SEO was set up in a way that people are landing on their site by mistake. But this was not the case.

In actual fact, our client’s blogs were delivering exactly what the searchers were looking for, so they felt they didn’t need to explore the site further. How did we figure this out? By cross-referencing bounce rates for each blog with the time readers spent on that page. The read times were really high, so we inferred that the pages were giving readers exactly what they wanted.

By the same token, maybe your social media posts aren’t getting the engagement you hoped for. It could be that your text is too long, or too short. Perhaps you’ve employed too many images, or the ones you chose aren’t resonating with your audience. Maybe your sponsored posts are hitting an audience a few degrees away from where you’d like, sending your marketing miles off course. For more complicated cases like these, you might need to engage in some A/B split testing, changing just one thing at a time to see what’s really going on.

Measuring the unmeasurable

It’s also vital to acknowledge that some marketing goals are harder to measure than others – it just takes a bit more creativity to track. If your campaign is geared around branding, for example – building solid brand recognition within your sector over a longer period of time – it’s probably not going to be useful to measure this goal in clicks on your web ads and banners. 

Often, building brand recognition is about ensuring your audience gets repeated exposure to your banners and messaging. These “impressions” might not look like much on a spreadsheet, but they add up over time to build a positive view of your business in their minds. 

What you’re trying to measure here – potential customers’ opinion of your brand – is much harder to measure than the number of hits on an article. You might need to think outside the box and gauge industry response and awareness at an expo or conference. Alternatively, you might consider conducting surveys to collect qualitative data alongside the automated numbers.

Whatever it is, the principle remains the same: ensure you’re looking at the right data to measure your specific marketing goal.

The full marketing picture

Marketing can be the thing that turns a business around. It can also be a huge disappointment. You can pour a lot of time and money into advertising but if it’s not effective, you won’t see the results. 

To ensure your marketing dollars don’t go to waste, be prepared to put in enough resources  during this “learning” stage of marketing. Finding what does and doesn’t work for your business will be one of the most valuable things you can do.

Crafting your content and launching it is just the start of your marketing journey. Success comes when you closely monitor the results, analyse them and adapt as necessary. 

Despite the speed of the online world, digital marketing is not a “get rich quick” or “get results quick” scheme. Campaigns can be set up relatively quickly, generating the data, assessing the results and tweaking the strategy all take time – so enter with patience.

If you’re still unsure on how to measure, reflect and react with your marketing, find someone who can do this for you.  It’s a slow process in the beginning, but in the long run you’ll save yourself not only headaches and wasted cash, you’ll also be better equipped than ever to steer your business in the right direction.

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