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Goal! Which digital analytics should your marketing report include?

Posted by Robert Stead on Feb 2, 2018 9:18:11 AM



You’re a Premier League football manager, watching your team play the last five minutes of a crucial title decider. In that moment, what do you need to know?

Stats are so ubiquitous in the game now that you could find out the number of tackles made; the possession achieved by each side; or how many metres each player has covered across the pitch.

But these metrics are irrelevant when the pressure is highest. What you really need to know is how many goals you’ve scored, and whether it will be enough to win.

So it is with marketing. Business owners are routinely presented with marketing reports, bursting with impressive lists of figures and colourful graphs about their email marketing, website, PPC campaigns and paid-for social advertising. At best, these stats are a distraction. At worst, they’re misleading – giving the impression that the business’ marketing is successful when actually it needs improvement – fast.

So which digital analytics should business owners be tracking, and how can they spot a misleading metric from a highly valuable one?

Goals vs activity

An effective marketing report is one focussed on goals over activity.

Reports filled with numbers of web visits, conversion rates, click-throughs and open rates have their place, but not for the busy business owner who needs to know how marketing is affecting their bottom line, and quick.

Metrics like these demonstrate that marketing is being done, but not what marketing is doing for a business. They are the responsibility of the Marketing Director, not the business owner. Executive teams should absolutely have access to this activity data, if they want to dig deeper, but more important are reports on the effectiveness of marketing activity to help the business achieve its wider goals.

Whether a metric is activity or goal-focussed will depend on the goals of the business in question. For a business with a well-established inbound marketing strategy, bounce rate - i.e. the percentage of visitors to the site who only view one page - might simply be a vanity metric. For a business working hard to increase their number on online sales, the same metric is vitally important.

If a marketer presents a barrage of stats in a review meeting, business owners should do the ‘so what?’ test and ask:

How does the metric in question prove that we are achieving or missing our business goals?

Effective metrics

Marketing plans without defined business goals are not plans; they’re to-do lists.

The first step to picking the right digital metrics is to understand the business’ goals. For more help on this, you’d do well to read our Mastering Marketing article on marketing planning.

Next, your marketing consultant or director should highlight the digital metrics that most accurately reflect success for these goals.

  • To generate more leads via inbound channels, track how effectively channels drive traffic to the website. Whether organic search, social advertising, paid search or PPC work best should affect ongoing marketing activity.
  • To increase your number of overseas sales, track the location of website visits. This will indicate markets worth spending more marketing budget in.
  • To improve how you use content to encourage sales conversations, track web goals. Businesses offering an ebook or white paper should track conversions via their download page, for example.
  • To drive more sales via e-commerce, track online sales. This will indicate products or product ranges worth expanding or retiring.
  • To make the website work harder, track conversion rates. It’s less important for a business owner to know how each minor change made to a website affects its performance. More important is that they can see a trend of improvement, and understand that their investment in their website is working.

In each instance above, the metric is derived from the marketing goal, and not the other way around.

Remember also, there are two marketing metrics every business should measure - cost per acquisition and marketing as a percentage of sales.

Ineffective metrics

For the business owner, unnecessary metrics are those not related to their business goals, or those focussed on granular detail which do not reflect the ‘bigger picture’ of the effectiveness of the channel in question.

For websites, this often means sessions on site, time on site, number of users or visits to landing pages. For social media posts, this can mean number of views, number of clicks, number of followers and number of ‘likes’.


Again, these stats are important for the marketer, but a business leader or owner does not need to know marketing results in such granular detail

If a business’ goal is to improve these specific metrics, it should consider revisiting its marketing strategy.

Quality, not quantity

For a business owner, an effective marketing report should cover one-side of A4 at most with the option of delving deeper into the stats if they want to.

Marketing teams should not seek to prove how hard they’ve worked by offering comprehensive detail. Instead, they should present the three or four stats that matter most to the wider success of the business.

On top of that, and perhaps more importantly, is the insight. Analytics and data tell a story. The marketer should have interpreted the statistics, assessed successes and failures and mapped out a plan in response. The ability to articulate the findings is more powerful than a pile of graphs and numbers.

A focus on marketing goals – not activity – is the only way to score big – regardless of the business in question.


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Topics: Marketing guide, marketing planning

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