Google's Avinash Kaushik, digital marketing evangelist, makes a point to tell b-to-b marketers not to be “stupid” when it comes to measuring their online marketing.
“Don't measure hits,” he told an audience at the SES Toronto Conference and Expo last month. He went on to say that relying on clicks, visits, page views, video views and followers is also a waste of time.
As Kaushik sees it, the problem with these old warhorses of analytics is obvious: They tell you virtually nothing. What if you get 100,000 page views or the average time on site is 10 minutes? A number of occurrences could be the source, including the possibility that 10,000 people spent 10 minutes each clicking through 10 pages of your site, only to come away frustrated and cursing because they never found what they were looking for.
Instead, he said, look for the only metrics that matter: engagement and loyalty.
“There are two types of customer loyalty,” said Nick Stamoulis, president of Brick Marketing, an SEO firm that specializes in b-to-b marketing. “There are the clients you do business with, and there are noncustomers who you don't do business with, but they are part of your audience and they are loyal.”
Loyalty of the second sort is crucial to online marketing. These are the people who engage with your content and who help build your brand, but they can be harder to measure, in part because it takes so much longer to establish that kind of loyalty.
Instead of tracking all the typical metrics, it's better to watch things like conversions, retweets, comments and the flow of traffic through your site. Where do people land and where do they typically fall off? Is there a way to engage them before they drop off?
This idea—that hits are actual people who can take action—is somewhat counterintuitive to a digital marketing world that has grown used to the idea of simply capturing eyeballs. It means marketers instead have to view hits as people and look to engage with them.
“It's not about ranking,” Stamoulis said. “It's about visitors and what visitors do when they come to the site—and can that convert into business?”
The same applies to social media, said Douglas Burdett, principal with Artillery, a b-to-b marketing agency.
“People telling you how many Facebook followers they have is useless,” he said. “You want to measure interaction. You want to keep track of whose talking, commenting, retweeting and that sort of thing.”
Google Analytics is a useful tool, but for this kind of reporting, it takes a bit of work. Users must set up custom reports and learn how to clearly define the behaviors they are looking to track. There are also numerous software packages and services that can help set up an analytics dashboard to track more interactive measures.
Ultimately, Stamoulis said, the point of all digital marketing should be closely tied to sales objectives, so anything that distracts from delivering sales-ready leads to the sales department—like “renting” paid traffic from search engines or maximizing your site for popular keywords that are too broad to bring in “good” traffic—is a wasteful distraction.