Importance of tracking key marketing metrics
No other marketing discipline generates as much data as online marketing. Unique users, clicks, impressions, view through, conversions, CpX – the list of possible measurements and key figures is almost endless. Often, several systems are used in parallel, which provide contradictory information and also have to be painstakingly compiled and compared. No wonder why the analytics side of online marketing can be very confusing. But how can dashboards help here? When are they worthwhile and what should you look out for when choosing a system and setting it up?
Pros of Marketing Dashboards
A marketing dashboard allows you to keep an eye on important marketing KPIs 24/7/365. It helps marketing professionals monitor defined goals and evaluate various campaigns and measures in terms of effectiveness and profitability.
Many companies use Google Analytics (GA) to track visitor behavior on their corporate website. A well-structured Google Analytics Dashboard gives you an ideal overview of the most relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) of your website.
For example, with a Web Analytics Dashboard you can see at a glance how many visitors you have had over a certain period of time and whether they are new or returning visitors. Furthermore, you are able to quickly see where your traffic actually comes from. Usually a subdivision into organic and paid traffic, referrals, social media and direct accesses provides a good first overview. By observing in detail which traffic sources work best, you can adjust your company resources (e.g. time spent and budget) accordingly.
By using a custom Marketing Dashboard you can import not only Google Analytics Data, but also important metrics from other Analytics services in order to easily monitor key KPIs such as the bounce rate, the average session duration of a visitor and the average pages per session. With these KPIs, you can examine the quality of your traffic more closely. For example, if your bounce rates are very high, it signals user dissatisfaction and you know it’s time to rethink your content and your unique selling points (USPs).
Most important of all, a well-designed marketing analytics dashboard provides you with your conversion rates so that you can see if your website is achieving your goals. This data point in the dashboard allows you to compare conversion rates for different channels, campaigns or landing pages and easily identify the most effective and valuable campaigns and landing pages. Of course, this also helps you identify the worst performing channels, campaigns and landing pages.
Marketing Dashboard Setup
Before we dive into the depths of technology and details, we should ask ourselves the most important question of all: what information is relevant to me at all? Precisely because the range of data sources, measuring points, observation periods and graphics is so large, one should concentrate on really relevant data and prepare it clearly. Whether visual contact with the advertisement, the reach of the campaign, clicks or visits to the website or leads and sales are the focus depends primarily on the marketing objectives.
Dashboard helps focusing on the relevant KPIs in digital marketing
Even within a sales-oriented performance marketing campaign, we still have the choice between cost per order, the new customer ratio, the cost-turnover ratio (CTR) or the absolute number of orders per day. So let’s remember: not everything that is available should also appear in the Digital Marketing Dashboard, otherwise clarity suffers. It doesn’t hurt to include some accompanying information, but the key figure that is at the heart of the optimization should be immediately visible.
Sensible observation period for meaningful case numbers
The next question is how often the data is made available or how often the online marketing dashboard is viewed later. It is certainly fascinating to be able to view all activities on the website in real time, but really relevant insights for optimizing the campaign, website or offer cannot be drawn from these case figures. Many systems can change the observation period very flexibly, a reasonable standard value (e.g. weekly) prevents random fluctuations from causing irritation.
Marketing Dashboard integrations
When choosing a reporting system, there are now a number of options available, all of which have different advantages and disadvantages. First, you should check whether all important data sources can be integrated from the dashboard system via a ready-to-use data interface. Google Analytics as a web analysis tool serves all systems, as it is the most widely used and is free in the basic version (well, you pay Google with your own data, but most companies have come to terms with that). In addition, the relevant social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn should be supported on the dashboard platform. Ready-made interfaces are also often available for ad servers, mail systems or demand side platforms (DSPs) for programmatic advertising.
Typically, online marketing dashboards can also process any other data sources via CSV import. This is especially important if a rather unusual system or even a proprietary development is to be integrated into the Marketing Dashboard as a data source. However, integrating additional data sources can sometimes be a very time-consuming task. If you don’t consider the establishment of a dashboard as a longer IT project, but simply want a better overview of display campaigns, search engine marketing, social ads or mobile marketing in a timely manner, you should pay attention to the integrations already available.
The capability to import data from other platforms is key for a Marketing Dashboard platform. If that function is not available, where is the benefit of using one?
Besides compatibility with the main marketing-data platforms like Google Analytics or Social Media Networks there are many other platforms your Marketing Dashboard should support. The following list gives you an overview about important tools you can incorporate in measuring the performance of marketing campaigns:
SEO optimization Platforms:
- Ahrefs.com: One of the most comprehensive and accurate platforms for SEO data. It tracks keywords, backlinks, organic traffic, cost-per-click-data & many more metrics useful for any online marketer.
- Moz & SEMrush: Similar to Ahrefs, but in our opinion better for competitor analyses.
- Adform: Great platform for campaign planning and optimization
- Bing Ads: Online advertisement platform of the search engine Bing
- Facebook Ads: Ad platform for Facebook ads
Other online marketing tools:
- Clickmeter: Marketing analytics platform. Like Google Analytics but for ads.
- Formstack: Platform which manages the creation process of ads.
- MailChimp: Email marketing platform for reaching out to customers or partners.
These are just a few of the platforms available, there are many more. Which of them you want to use is up to your personal preference. But you should check, if your Marketing Dashboard platform supports the services and platforms you are already using in your marketing activities.
When visualizing in dashboards, less is often more
Which visualization is best suited for which data should be based on the clarity of the presentation and not on the “fancy” look. Not everything that looks cool is also useful in everyday use. Most users can understand time series data as line graphs more intuitively than pure columns of numbers. However, classic tables or lists also have their place in a presentation of top products or campaigns. Donuts or pie charts are nice, but only up to four categories are really easy to read.
Which dashboard system is best suited to the respective needs depends on the requirements but also on the budget: complex tableau solutions are more suitable for very large campaigns, the Google Data Studio generates a standard solution with a few mouse clicks using ready-made templates, but is only applicable for campaigns in the Google world. Systems like Funnel.io or dashthis.com achieve good results with manageable effort and can already display and relate a variety of data sources. Or you can choose the most obvious solution: a customized Google Analytics Report, which can only display advertising campaigns to a very limited extent. In any case, a strong password is also important to protect against unwanted users.
What are KPIs?
Once you have set your marketing goals, you should also measure them regularly. That’s why marketing key figures and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are important.
Why shouldn’t you focus on Vanity Metrics?
Sometimes smaller companies think they are data-driven, but actually they’re not. If you look at metrics that don’t say anything real and don’t make you act on them, they are called Vanity Metrics.
Vanity metrics are metrics that flatter your ego, but don’t help your business.
Pageviews or page impressions are a good example. What do they say? How can you draw conclusions about your growth?
Real key figures and KPIs (also called Actionable Metrics) inform, guide, improve and give you a clear direction. They answer the question: “What do I want to do differently now that I have this information?
The conversion rate (CVR) is particularly important here. It describes in percent how many people have performed a desired action. If you change something, the CVR tells you whether it was positive or negative. You can also compare it with other companies and know roughly where you stand.
What marketing metrics and KPIs are really important?
The beauty of digital marketing is that almost everything is measurable. But that can also be a disadvantage materializing as Information Overload. Too many KPIs.
You should concentrate on the essentials. This approach offers the best reward-to-cost-ratio.
If you google this topic, you’ll find that everyone else thinks other metrics are important. There is always an overlap, but there is no right way. Every business is different and there are other metrics to measure. However, there is a certain set of KPIs that are interesting for every business model. That’s why we focus on the most important and universal ones.
There are many more interesting KPIs you can measure and analyse, but these are all figures that are not that important. We can do without them in case of doubt.
Categories of KPIs:
- Basic KPIs
- Website KPIs
- E-Commerce KPIs
- SEA KPIs
- SEO KPIs
- Social Media KPIs
- Email Marketing KPIs
In online marketing, each channel is considered individually, but some basic KPIs are relevant at all times:
- Number of conversions
- Conversion rate
- Return on investment (ROI)
- Return on Adspend (ROAS)
- Cost-turnover ratio (CTR)
Number of conversions: The number of conversions adds up the conversions evaluated daily, weekly or often monthly. A conversion refers to the successful execution of a (purchase) promotion.
Conversion rate: The conversion rate (short: CR) describes the proportion of conversions in relation to the number of visitors to the website.
Conversion rate = conversion / visitors
CPA: Cost per action is a key indicator in online marketing. It compares the total costs of an advertising campaign to the recorded conversions. The CPA indicates the advertising costs of a conversion.
CPA = advertising costs / conversions
We receive 150 clicks on an AdWords campaign and 10 registrations for an advertised training course. The costs for the 150 clicks are 200 Dollar.
CPA = 200$ / 10 registrations = 20$ (cost per action)
This is a pure cost consideration. You could now go one step further and calculate, which profit the training company will gain per registered participant. Then you can determine whether the advertising campaign in AdWords should be scaled up. If we assume, for example, that participation in the further training measure costs 390$ for a one-day seminar and the further training company generates a profit of 110$ per participant after deduction of all personnel and room costs, a further 90$ remain after deduction of the CPA of 20 EUR. The advertising campaign is therefore successful.
CPO: Cost per order is particularly relevant in e-commerce for online shops. The cost per sale or order always refers to the cost of the entire shopping cart that the buyer has purchased in the online shop.
CPO = advertising costs / number of orders
The operator of a costume online shop had 500 orders in the last month with an average shopping cart value of 125$. For this, the shop operator had advertising costs of 7500$.
CPO = 7500$ / 500 orders = 15.00$ per order
The shop owner knows that with a good purchasing department he has a trade margin of about 50%. After the cost of goods, he is left with approx. 60$ of his 120$ for rent, personnel and other costs. The advertising costs of 15.00$ has to be subtracted from the 60$ left in order to get a profit of 45$ per order.
Return on Investment (ROI): ROI is the ratio of profit to capital employed. This is one of the most important economic indicators.
ROI = profit / capital
If a provider receives an additional profit of 10,000$ through a conversion optimization with costs for the of 4,000$, the ROI = 2.50. The ROI should always be above one, if possible, so that the decision is purely economically worthwhile.
Return on Ad spend (ROAS): ROAS is calculated as the quotient of profit and advertising costs employed and is therefore a very important key figure in the AdWords sector.
ROAS = Profit / AdWords costs
The ROAS should always be positive so that the advertising measure is economically viable.
Cost-turnover ratio (CTR): The CTR indicates as a cost-to-sales ratio how sensibly the advertising costs used contribute to sales.
CTR = advertising-costs / sales
The lower the value of the CTR, the more attractive the advertising measure was for the advertiser from an economic point of view. The value can vary greatly depending on the strategy (reach campaign, branding, start-up, performance, and so on).
- Visitors / Unique Visitors
- Page impressions
- Bounce rate
- Dwell time
- Recurring users / New users
Visitors / Unique Visitors: The Unique Visitors are the individual users of a website or visitors to the website. This value is usually viewed daily, on a weekly basis or in most cases monthly to identify a trend. This metric also indicates the reach of the website.
Visits: Visits refers to the number of visits of individual users. If a Unique Visitor regularly returns to a blog once a week, this leads to about 4 visits per month.
Page impressions / page views: The page impressions are the calls of individual pages of the website. If a user surfs 80 articles in an online shop, he has also generated 80 page impressions. When evaluating media values for display and banner campaigns, the monthly page impressions are often given as a proxy for the reach of the website. It should be noted that some websites use various measures, such as image galleries, which require a click for each image to increase the number of page impressions.
Bounce rate: The bounce rate indicates how many of the total number of visitors leave the website without clicking again. At this point, the execution of the conversion is not important. However, it is better to have a low bounce rate as you want to convert the visitor to do a certain action (click on a link, order something, etc.).
Dwell time: The length of stay indicates how long a visitor has been on a website and thus allows conclusions to be drawn about the use of the content offered. It measures the time between the first visit and the last measurable interaction of the visitor. The length of stay can often be increased by elements that invite interaction, such as picture galleries or videos.
Recurring / new users: The ratio of returning and new users indicates how high the proportion of regular users is compared to new users. The higher the proportion of new users, the better. Overall, the number of unique visitors should increase as much as possible, regardless of whether they are new or recurring users. To take seasonal fluctuations into account, it is often advisable to analyse a comparison of the current month with the same month of the previous year.
- Order per visitor
- Cancellation rate
- Return rate
Turnover: Turnover in e-commerce is the absolute number of goods values sold and thus often the core figure to be optimized with the highest priority. Turnover can be measured precisely and unambiguously with web analysis tools and is therefore often the means of choice for optimization. The profit, however, is often determined by purchase or production costs, which are not as easy to measure.
Order per visitor: Order per Visitor indicates the average number of orders per visitor.
Cancellation rate: The cancellation rate is an important key figure in e-commerce, because it tells you how many orders were cancelled in a certain period of time. Cancellations reduce the number of orders and increase the CPO.
Return rate: The return ratio tells you how many of the orders were returned. The CPO also increases due to returns. The cost of returns in e-commerce is enormous, as the goods have to be checked again for resale and sometimes cannot be sent back to new customers.
SEA stands for Search Engine Advertising and the respective most important KPIs include:
- Cost per Click (CPC)
- Click-Through Rate (CTR)
- Quality factor
- Cost per Mille (CPM)
- Cost per lead (CPL)
CPC: The Cost per Click is abbreviated as CPC and refers to the costs incurred in the SEA by clicking on an advertisement. The CPC thus has a great influence on the performance of the campaigns. Since competition is constantly increasing on many platforms, such as Google AdWords, the CPC costs, which are usually determined in the bidding process, are also increasing.
CTR: CTR is the click-through rate. The CTR can be increased in SEA by using an appealing and click-through-requiring formulation. The CTR should always be as high as possible. However, promises in the ad text that cannot be kept should not be used to increase the CTR. For example, no price offer “from 100$” should be promised if the products on the advertised landing page are only available from a price of 150$. The user notices this quickly and the costs incurred for the click lead to a worse conversion rate overall.
Quality factor: The Google AdWords quality factor is an estimate of the quality of the ads, keywords and landing pages. Thereby higher quality ads can be combined with lower costs and a better ad position. The quality factor is expressed as a KPI on a scale of 1 to 10.
CPM: The CPM is the cost per mille and thus the cost to publish 1,000 ads. This key figure is equivalent.
CPL: The cost per lead is abbreviated as CPL and refers to the costs per lead or per prospect contact. If the goal of an advertising campaign is to generate leads for a product, for example, test drives for new cars, the CPL is the target figure to be optimized and should be kept as low as possible.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Important KPIs include the following:
- Visibility index
- Indexed pages
- Keyword rankings
- PageRank (formerly important)
- Click-Through Rate (CTR)
- Domain popularity
- Domain Trust & Authority (trustworthiness)
- User signals, such as jump rates and dwell time
Visibility index: The visibility index is an index value that displays a visibility rank over time. A visibility index can be retrieved by SEO analysis software, e.g. Sistrix, Xovi, Searchmetrics or others. The calculation basis is always similar. At regular intervals, the servers of the software providers crawl the Google search results for immense amounts of keywords. These data are evaluated and weighted according to the search volume of the respective keywords. The visibility index can be retrieved for each website. It then takes into account the rankings for the respective keywords and their search volume. Positive changes lead to an increasing index, negative changes to a decreasing index. The effects are greater if the changes occur for keywords with a high search volume than for keywords with a relatively low search volume.
Indexed pages: The indexed pages indicate how many of the individual pages of a website are indexed by Google. Only pages that Google knows and that are indexable can ultimately rank. If more pages are indexed than the website has, this indicates that there is duplicate content. If the index is smaller, Google seems not to be able to find all pages.
Keyword rankings: The keyword rankings are often seen as a key performance indicator of search engine optimization. The keyword ranking describes the positioning of a website in the Google index for a specific search query. The SEO success should also be measured in traffic and sales via the organic Google search results.
PageRank: The PageRank has long been a very important KPI for SEOs. The PageRank (named after Google founder Larry Page) was regularly published by Google for each website and its detail pages. The KPI calculated the number and quality of incoming backlinks to the respective website. As the number of links and websites increased, the calculation became more and more time- and server-intensive and therefore less and less frequently performed and published.
CTR in SEO: The click-through-rate in SEO maps the clicks on free (organic) search results in relation to the impressions within the search results. This CTR is given in the Google Search Console for many keywords. The CTR can be influenced in SEO by the formulation of the page title and the meta description. But also by the possibility of using feature snippets in Google.com.
Domain popularity: The Domain Popularity describes the number of different linking domains in the external links (backlinks) to a website. Google tries to cluster the origin of backlinks as precisely as possible, so not only the number of links in total counts, but also other values. One of these is the Domain Popularity, which has established itself as an efficient comparative value. However, the sole consideration of the Domain Popularity to evaluate the backlink profile is far too little. Qualitative metrics are also very relevant.
Domain Trust & Authority (trustworthiness): The domain trust value is a measure of the quality of the outbound and inbound links of the website. The Domain Authority provides information on how many high-quality websites link to the website to be analysed. Both indicators are collected by various SEO tools, e.g. Moz.
User signals in SEO: As described in the website section, there are different key figures for measuring the user signal and thus the behavour of the users on the website. Google is beginning to include the evaluable behavour of users in the relevance calculation of the rankings. It is assumed that the click on a page, the time of the stay and the return to the search with the subsequent deeper specialized search (previously poor results) and the search for a completely new topic (answered search query) has an ever-increasing influence on the search results.
Social Media KPIs
- Social media awareness
- Number of social media contacts
- Community growth
- Number of contributions
- Retweet rate
Social media awareness: Social Media Awareness summarizes the mentions of a company, its products and brands. For such an indicator, social media tools record all activities on Social Networks.
Social media subscribers or social media contacts: The social media subscribers are the number of subscribers to the social feeds in the respective channels, such as Facebook or Twitter.
Community growth: The growth of the community within a selected time period is shown as a percentage and provides information about the profit of additional subscribers. Since some subscribers become more and more inactive after a period of time, a steady growth should be a target.
Number of contributions: The number of active contributions to the company or products illustrates how popular the brand is and how strong the subscribers’ identification with the brand is.
Retweet rate: The retweet rate reflects the quality of contacts on twitter.
Email Marketing KPIs
- Number of subscribers
- Delivery rate
- Hard vs. soft bounces
- Opening rate
- Click-Through Rate (CTR)
- Unsubscribe rate
Number of subscribers: The number of subscribers indicates how many users have left their e-mail address for the newsletter dispatch and have signed up to receive it. Thus, the number of subscribers is the theoretical range of the e-mail campaign.
Delivery rate: The delivery rate is the total number of e-mails sent and includes hard and soft bounces. These are not the opened mails, but only the sent messages.
Hard vs. soft bounces: Bounces are called undeliverable mail in email marketing. If e-mail addresses are incorrect or no longer exist, this is called a hard bounce. If the inbox is full or the sent attachment is rejected due to size, this is called a soft bounce.
Opening rate: The opening rate indicates how many users have actually opened the mail compared to the mail sent (delivery rate). This value should always be as high as possible if the delivery rate is up-to-date.
CTR in e-mail marketing: In e-mail marketing, the CTR describes how often a link contained in the e-mail was clicked on. In email marketing, the CTR can be influenced by the type of link, the banner or even the time at which the email is sent.
Unsubscribe-rate: The unsubscribe-rate is the quotient of newsletter unsubscriptions in relation to the total number of e-mails sent.
All these KPIs are key figures that should be regularly checked and continuously monitored and reported if you want to work on the respective online marketing channels seriously and sustainably. Suitable reporting processes and dashboards are the basis for this. Ultimately, however, each KPI and each report is only as valuable as the measures derived from them.