Pat Reese, Chief Media Strategist, Rooster Strategic Solutions
There’s an old adage in marketing that says, “What you can measure, you can improve.” And that’s true, although it was certainly simpler when marketing only had the “4 P’s,” as opposed to the alphabet soup of metrics available today.
How do you know which metric is best? Start by flipping the adage – instead of looking at what you can measure, decide what you want to improve.
If you want to improve web performance, look at: Time on Page, Pageviews, and Top Pages.
For most of my clients (and most B2B companies, to be honest), web traffic is the primary goal. That’s where all your important information is housed – all your product/service information, specs, videos, testimonials, mission statements, etc. Getting the right customers to the right pages (and keeping them there) is critical.
Start with Time on Page (TOP), which is simply the average amount of time a reader spends on your website (all your web pages, not just a single page, despite the name) before leaving. Use TOP as a baseline to measure changes or new initiatives. If you see TOP increase, that means prospects are consuming more material, which is good. If you see TOP decrease, your readers are either not interested in what you’re presenting or aren’t able to find what they want. Both are valuable insights.
You can and should use TOP in conjunction with the Bounce Rate, which tracks the number of visitors who only look at the landing page before leaving. This suggests they either hit your landing page by mistake, or weren’t interested in what they initially viewed.
Similar to Time on Page, Pageviews shows you the total number of pages a reader visits in a single session. More important to you as a marketer, it tells you which pages the reader is visiting, and in what order.
Most marketers have a fairly prescriptive journey they want prospects to undergo – i.e. landing page to customer testimonial to find-a-salesman. Pageviews can confirm that your customers are following this journey, or warn you that they’re blazing a new trail, in which case you may want to change up the material you have on your pages to ensure they’re getting the best information.
Top Pages is similar to Pageviews but tells you which page is driving the best performance. You obviously want to put your best information on the page that’s already drawing the highest number of prospects; Top Page makes it obvious where to invest your time and effort.
One note about web metrics: the metrics that interest a traditional IT group are different than the ones most marketing groups care about, but these metrics are easily generated.
If you want to improve Search Engine Optimization (SEO), look at: Keyword Rankings, Click Through Rate, and Page Load Speed.
The world of search is a lot like real estate: it’s all about location, location, location. Where your website is positioned when someone uses a search engine is critical. We all want to be in the top slot, or, at the very least, on the first page, and there are two factors that determine where your webpage is listed: how much you’re spending with the search engine company, and the keywords you’re using.
Start with the cheaper solution: keywords. Ensure that you’re using the same words and phrases that are important on your website consistently in all media (digital ads, e-newsletters, social posts, etc.). This will give a boost to the algorithms that search engine companies use to move your webpage up the list (where it belongs!).
Keyword Rankings shows you where you are on the list and helps you decide if you should make an additional investment to move your page higher, either by bidding on the price of important keywords or buying an ad on the search engine page. (Side note: I know some media strategists look down on paid ads and point out that users routinely skip past ads to reach the first “non-paid” listing. But if your webpage is buried on page 3, and you’ve done all you can with keywords, I’d rather know that users are skipping over an ad featuring my page as opposed to not seeing it at all!).
In similar fashion, Click Through Rate (CTR) tells you how often searchers are clicking on your link when it appears on a page of results, and whether the term they entered into the search bar was organic (a word or phrase that you use in your ads and on your webpages) or paid (a word or phrase that you bid on with the search engine company). Many marketers underestimate the importance of this metric. It’s not simply a measure of how often a user chooses your web page versus the other 8 or 10 links on the page, it gives you valuable insight into the users – knowing what terms they’re using can help you refine the keywords you use, and determine the value of the investment you have in paid keywords.
Analyzing paid vs. organic performance is extremely valuable, but it’s not the easiest thing to measure. If your IT group balks, there are companies like Media Radar who can help you with comparisons like these for a nominal cost, and in my mind, it’s well worth the investment.
Last but not certainly not least, check Page Load Speed, which is simply the time it takes to click from the search page to your website landing page. Nobody likes the “circle of death,” and studies show that users won’t wait more than 8 seconds before they go somewhere else. If your page loads slower than that, check a few competitors or other sites to make sure it’s not your computer. If your page takes a long time to load, it’s likely a factor of having too many complicated or high-res photos/graphics or auto-play videos on your landing page. This is an easy fix.
If you want to improve social media performance, look at: Social Media Conversions.
Likes, shares, and comments are the Kardashians of the metrics world – they get a lot of attention but there isn’t a lot of substance there. As noted above, the most important reason to use social media (or search) is to drive people to your website. So that’s what I measure. If they liked your post, or shared your post, or said something nice in the comments section, that’s fine ¬– but what you really want is for them to visit your website.
Social Media Conversion (SMC) is simply a measure of the number of times a social post leads to a web visit. Obviously, the higher the number is, the better – but don’t be discouraged by a low referral rate. A recent study by the Ag Research Council suggests that only 16% of farmers are active or highly active in social channels, which means that all the time, money, and effort you’re spending on social media now is an investment that will pay dividends in the (hopefully very near) future.
Having said that, there are a number of ways you can improve SMC scores. Using video in your posts is a no-brainer, as it generates significantly more traffic than static (text/graphic-only) offerings. Make sure the posts are conversational – more telephone, less megaphone. And, whenever you can, try to make the posts fun, engaging, and conversational, which all lead to higher engagement scores.
In summary, these are the top metrics you should use to gauge how well your web, social, and search tactics are performing. If you want to explore how to use these or other metrics more effectively, I’d love to have a conversation.