Aaah, metrics. They help us make informed decisions about what’s working and what’s not — and what we should do about it. But they can also be overwhelming if not presented with insightful takeaways, or if you don’t have established goals and benchmarks to know what’s good and what’s not. That’s where we come in.
Here are some of the most common questions we get from clients — and some simple answers to show that metrics reports don’t have to be overwhelming.
Which ad metrics matter most?
Put simply, it depends on the goal you’re trying to achieve. All too often, we see people trying to compare apples and oranges, which can unfairly portray a successful tactic as an unsuccessful one. For instance, you shouldn’t be solely comparing the click-through-rate (CTR) of a video ad to a programmatic display ad if the goal of the video is awareness and the goal of the display ad is website traffic. CTR is one good measure of success for a goal of traffic, but much less so for an awareness video. Let’s take a closer look at important metrics by goal type.
- For an awareness goal, you want to look at how many people saw your message and for what cost. So, impressions, reach, cost-per-thousand (CPM) impressions, and (in the case of video) video views and view rate, should be the primary metrics you’re concerned with.
- For a brand affinity goal (which is commonly a goal for organic and paid social), you’re mainly concerned with whether people are positively engaging with your content. The primary metric to look at would be engagement rate – which is calculated as the sum of likes, comments and shares, divided by total reach, and multiplied by 100.
- For a consideration goal, you’re trying to convince someone of something. A common measure of success would be how much time someone spends digesting your content and further researching your product/service. The key metrics to look at may differ depending on the exact tactics, but as an example, if you’re using ads to drive traffic to consideration content on your website (e.g., a blog post), it’s important to look at both ad metrics and on-site metrics. Primary ad metrics would be CTR, clicks and cost-per-click (CPC), and primary website metrics would be bounce rate, average session duration and average pages per session. Note, session data will still be available once the July 2023 transition to GA4 happens, but GA4 will prioritize new metrics categorized as events. More on that later in this blog.
- For a conversion goal, you’re generally trying to get someone to fill out a form or make a purchase. So, obviously, completing that desired action is your primary goal. But again, to judge a campaign’s effectiveness, you’ll need to look at both ad metrics and on-site metrics. Primary ad metrics include CTR and CPC. Primary website metrics include conversion rate, total leads/sales and cost-per-lead (CPL).
For a deeper dive on recommended ad types, content/messaging and primary/secondary KPIs for each phase of the journey, check out our recent blog: How to align paid media, digital and content strategy across the journey.
What should my ad performance benchmarks be?
Establishing benchmarks early on is important, so you know what’s over- or underperforming. If you have historical performance data to leverage year over year, that will be your most effective benchmarking tool, as it’s specific to your own performance. But if you’re just starting to get into measurement, your best bet is to seek out industry-wide averages through some good, old-fashioned Googling (or enlist your agency partner to do that for you). There are a number of websites that track trends in metrics over time to determine industry averages. Here’s one we often use to estimate social media performance benchmarks.
Note that benchmarks of the same metric can differ significantly by ad type, by channel and by industry. Once a plan is built, and the goals of each campaign are established, an experienced partner like Red Dot can put together estimated benchmarks for each of the individual tactics in the plan. However, as true performance results come in, it’s a good idea to leverage that historical performance data to adjust your benchmarks over time, as needed.
How many leads will we get?
For clients running lead-gen campaigns, this is often the first question we get. It takes some calculation based on the established benchmarks, but it’s generally pretty easy to get to a target goal for the number of leads generated. Here’s how we can help you determine that.
First, if we’re running your paid media plan, we should already have an estimated number of impressions for all the tactics. From there, we use our benchmark CTR to determine how many clicks we should expect from all the tactics. Then, we’d ideally be able to establish a benchmark conversion rate based on Google Analytics data for the landing page in question (or a comparable landing page, if this is a brand new landing page). Voilà! There’s your estimated number of leads.
But wait … ad clicks and reported website traffic aren’t matching up! Yes, this is common. Would you like to ask us about that? Please do.
Why aren’t reported ad clicks matching up to website traffic in Google Analytics (GA)?
For one, you’ll need to factor in the bounce rate. If someone lands on your page, but doesn’t take any actions (e.g., clicking anything on the page, progressing to another page on the site, filling a form, etc.), it will not count as a session in GA. This can often cause confusion, because someone could have spent considerable time reading and digesting the content on the page, but still not show up in GA as a measurable session. This is likely one of the reasons Google is moving toward an event-based model with GA4 (more on that shortly). Secondly, if your website has a cookie consent banner upon initial entry, those who opt out will not be tracked in GA.
So, if you’re setting benchmark goals for measurable sessions on the site, you’ll need to look at both your benchmark bounce rates and your historical percentage of website users who opt out of the cookie consent. From there, you can determine your goal for measurable sessions and an estimate of what the true number of sessions actually is.
Do we need to use UTMs?
We get asked this all the time. If Red Dot is managing a comprehensive reporting program for you, our answer will always be yes. Using UTMs is what enables us to see which specific tactic (down to the individual ad, social post or email) is tied to which website metrics (e.g., sessions, pages per sessions, conversions, etc). This gives us a complete picture of ad effectiveness. For instance, one ad may have a significantly higher CTR and lower CPC than another ad, but may drive far fewer conversions on the site once they arrive there. Wouldn’t we like to know that?
That said — if nobody is taking the time (or the budget) to report to that level of detail on the website, then creating UTMs for each individual ad, social post and link within an email may not be an effective use of time. It would be like taking the time to buy and prepare all the ingredients for a delicious meal, but never putting them in the pan.
How can I get a complete view of all my channels in one place?
Part of why so many marketers struggle to draw strong conclusions from metrics is that they’re all coming in piecemeal, in different places, for different channels, often from different people or teams who may not be collaborating as they should. Maybe your internal team is managing the website and GA, one of your agencies is managing the national media buy and another agency is handling social. Maybe someone else is handling your CRM and email nurture campaigns. If each party is reporting independently, it’s no wonder you’re frustrated with the metrics you’re getting. For more on this, check out our recent blog post: A guide to working with multiple agencies successfully.
In the ideal scenario, each responsible party’s data is feeding into a shared dashboard, and there’s a shared UTM strategy to ensure everything is being labeled consistently. There are a lot of different data aggregation tools out there that can pull from multiple sources into a customizable view – such as Google Data Studio, or Tableau (among many others). The process of setting up a dashboard is the easy part. The real work happens in developing a collaborative reporting strategy prior to building the dashboards.
How will the transition to GA4 impact our reporting?
Google is transitioning to a new version of Google Analytics – GA4 – in July 2023. It will open up opportunities for tracking additional website metrics, including enhanced event tracking (instead of just session tracking), active users and engagement rate. Because of this, 2023-24 will require that you reevaluate your goals and benchmarks around on-site sessions and events. If your company hasn’t taken the necessary steps to transition to GA4, you’ll be automatically transitioned in July 2023 – but you may lose some historical data. Before that happens, you should export any historical data that you’d like to keep, while simultaneously setting up a GA4 property, so that data is being collected in the new model (even if you haven’t phased out your current Universal Analytics account yet). If you don’t know where to start, this is something Red Dot can help with.
How can Red Dot help?
If you’ve stumbled upon this blog post, hopefully we’ve answered some of the questions you’ve long hoped to have simple answers to. But a blog post is just a blog post. If you’re ready to tailor a measurement plan to your business — reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.