So you’ve hired a digital marketing agency. Perhaps just a few freelancers that call themselves SEO experts. Or maybe you’ve brought on a small but, what you hope to be, capable in-house digital marketing team. How do you know if the time and money you’re spending on these resources are producing any measure of return? How do you know these efforts are providing a positive return on investment that will help you grow your business? The answer is the consistent measuring of KPI’s (key performance indicators). No matter what stage your business is at, you’ve undoubtedly been doing this in one form or another for various aspects of your business. But it’s also possible that you aren’t measuring the right digital marketing KPI’s. Fret not; this article is all about which digital marketing KPI’s you should be measuring, why you should weigh them, and how to measure them accurately.

One note to keep in mind before we go on: if you’re just a few person company or small organization, don’t feel overwhelmed by the amount of KPI’s suggested in this article. The good news is that, in most cases, you won’t need to measure all of these. The amount and complexity of KPI’s you measure from your various digital marketing channels will grow both with the size of your organization and the complexity of your digital marketing endeavours. The even better news? You can probably delegate your internal or external digital marketing team to measure these for you and provide consistent feedback on whether your digital marketing dollars are performing at the level they are supposed to be.

One final thing to note before we dive into the meat of this piece. While I’ve laid out a decent number of digital marketing KPI’s herein, this is by no means an exhaustive list. You should always be considering what other KPI’s are an essential indicator of your digital marketing campaigns. But of course, the question you’re probably asking yourself, how to choose what to include? As a guide, consider these three principles:

  • Measure quantifiable metrics that align with your BUSINESS GOALS
  • Consider what would be leading indicators that can provide particular insights about your marketing efforts, your business, your customers, and your products or services.
  • Try to avoid vanity metrics as much as possible; these rarely show valuable insights and therefore, should not be turned into measurable KPI’s.

This article is laid out primarily by Digital Marketing Channel, so if your organization is not involved in using one particular channel or not, you can skip those sections. Additionally, I discuss the KPI’s you should be tracking in each channel, and I’ll first discuss general digital marketing KPI’s you should be tracking regardless of what channels comprise your comprehensive digital marketing strategy.

GENERAL DIGITAL MARKETING KPI’S EVERYONE SHOULD BE TRACKING

If you’re running a digital marketing campaign, you should be tracking some if not all of the following KPI’s. Many of these are often overlooked in a rush to measure specific KPI’s from your various channels, but, indeed, ignore these at your peril. They will often pain a broad picture of what is and what isn’t working and which KPI’s are crucial to sales growth and ROI along with which KPI’s you need to focus your improvement efforts.

% OF CUSTOMERS / LEADS COMING FROM YOUR DIGITAL MARKETING EFFORTS

Consider this as an overall conversion number. That is, out of all of your digital marketing efforts, what % of your customers or leads came as a result of those efforts. Knowing this number will lead to several invaluable insights.

How to Measure
This will depend entirely on the digital marketing channels you are using, as well as what your other lead generation/sales channels are. That said, if you can at the very least have the total # of leads/sales as a result of your digital marketing efforts enumerated, you can then compare that against the total and see what % it makes up as the total. Keep in mind that unless you’re in the e-commerce business, or selling services or goods directly online, you’ll have to have systems in place that allow you to effectively track your digital leads to the point of sales completion. Conversely, you’ve also got in place a system that will enable you to track your sales/leads as a result of your non-digital marketing efforts. For small organizations, this can be as simple as a spreadsheet that someone is in charge of updating manually, while for mid to larger organizations, no doubt, more sophisticated lead and sales tracking software systems will come in to play.

Why Measure It?
Measuring the percentage of leads or customers coming from your digital marketing channels will allow you to make smarter decisions about where to allocate your marketing budget. If you’re a small company, it’s possible that your entire marketing budget is dedicated to digital, but if you have salespeople, event budgeting, offline advertising, and other traditional non-digital marketing channels, you need to know how effective your digital marketing effort is as compared to these different channels.

LEAD ACQUISITION COST

Even if you’re running an e-commerce operation, not all of your site visitors will convert. Some will turn into leads that you can then nurture into buyers. Examples of these kinds of leads include:

  • Customers that abandon shopping carts
  • Customers that signup for your newsletter
  • Customers that create an account but don’t complete a purchase

You can count these as leads, and indeed, if you have the correct measurement and analytics tools in place, you can calculate how many of these leads came directly from or assisted by your various digital marketing efforts.

Why Measure It?
If you do not measure what it costs you to bring in leads via your digital marketing channels, you’re going to have a hard time figuring out whether your lead acquisition cost is practical. It’s possible that the price to bring in your leads via non-digital channels is more cost effective, and you should be putting your marketing dollars there, or perhaps the data will show that the opposite premise is true. But without actual hard numbers, you won’t know.

How to Measure It?
Your Lead Acquisition Cost will be the total amount you spent on your digital marketing channels divided by the total number of leads that arrived via digital channels. There is also the question of how exactly to measure the cost of your digital marketing channels. Some organizations choose to add up direct costs such as the expenses of website hosting, direct paid channels such as PPC advertising, influencer advertising, and other direct paid channels. This is the easiest way to add up your digital marketing spend, but for medium to larger companies, it probably makes a lot of sense also to add up the cost of staff that are engaged with these digital marketing channels, after all, they are a significant cost center also.

CUSTOMER ACQUISITION COST

The cost of customer acquisition is similar to that of Lead Acquisition, except that you measure the customers or clients that converted into actual sales.

Why Measure It?
Customer Acquisition Cost is one of the most critical KPI’s your business can measure. On the digital marketing side, it will allow you to see how cost-efficient your efforts are to bring in customers through the proverbial door. Depending on your overall business strategy, your available funding, and the maturity of your organization, you may deem individual customer acquisition costs acceptable, but it certainly helps to know what they are to determine marketing budgets as well as identify areas of improvement. Like with lead acquisitions, it’s important to compare your digital customer acquisition cost against your offline channels.

How to Measure It?
Your customer acquisition cost will be the total cost of your digital marketing costs divided by your total customers/sales in any given period.

ROI PER DIGITAL MARKETING CHANNEL

This is a subset of understanding some of the above mentioned KPI’s, but somewhere you should be comparing the ROI of your digital marketing channels.

Why Measure It?
Having the ultimate ROI per digital marketing channel will allow you to decide where you should be investing more of your money. Due to the demographic nature of your target customers, there’s no doubt that specific channels will show a better ROI than others.

How to Measure It?
Ultimately this will be decided by a simple equation.

Digital Marketing Channel ROI = Total sales from marketing channelTotal marketing costs in channel

CUSTOMER RETENTION RATE (CHURN)

Getting a handle of what your company’s customer retention rate is not just crucial for organizations that rely on recurring subscription revenue, but also for any company that is looking to extract more value from customers that may purchase infrequently.

Why Measure It?
For many businesses, the customer retention rate is one of the most important signals of the health of a business. It’s also a leading indicator of satisfaction with a company’s products or services as well as the surrounding customer service. For more mature organizations it’s also a good measure of the effectiveness of explicit retention efforts, and can even be A/B tested on subsets of customers to determine which retention promotions or programs are more successful than others.

How to Measure It?
Here’s the formula:

((CE-CN/CS)) x 100

CE = number of customers at the end of a time period
CN = number of new customers acquired during that period
CS = number of customers at the start of that period

AVERAGE TIME TO CUSTOMER CONVERSION

Knowing the average time, it takes from the first point of contact to when a customer or client converts will help you get a fuller understanding of your entire sales funnel.

Why Measure It?
There may be hidden flaws in your customer journey where customers are dropping off that you may not be seeing. There may be other flaws in it that are increasing the overall average time to customer conversion. Measuring this, and perhaps even measuring it on a per digital channel basis will likely provide some new insights. It should also provide your company with the ability to better forecast sales.

How to Measure It?
Many sophisticated tools for medium and larger organizations allow for complete customer tracking throughout the sales journey. These are usually relatively complicated and expensive solutions and require an entire organization’s commitment to proper implementation. Smaller businesses can start with more manual means such as tracking new e-mail or accounts signups and then mapping out how long it took that unique customer to make a purchase. Other methods may include measuring PPC retargeting efforts or tracing other more manual touch points such as incoming customer inquiries by e-mail or phone or social media channels.

LIFETIME VALUE OF A CUSTOMER

How do you know how much a customer is worth to you throughout your relationship with that customer? That’s what the lifetime value of a customer equation aims to answer.

Why Measure It?
Knowing the lifetime value of a customer should help inform the following things:

1) It should colour all of your interactions with that customer as it will provide you valuable insight on JUST EXACTLY what the customer is worth it to you in the long-run. Too many businesses see their customers as the current-day transaction in front of them and as a result, often make poor decisions when interacting with that customer.

2) It will inform your marketing budgets and help you understand how to budget for your customer acquisition costs properly.

How to Measure It?
Customer lifetime value is measured in any number of ways. Larger organizations often use more sophisticated equations using dozens of variables to come to a real lifetime average value. Others still take various methods and then average out the resulting customer values to come up with what they deem to be a genuinely representative lifetime value of a customer. Here’s a good rundown of a few methods.

Most small-to-medium sized companies won’t’ have to go much beyond the following equation:

Average your variables.
Let’s say you have 100 customers unless you only ever sell 1 product or service at the same price, the amount each customer spends with you will be different. So the first step is:

Grab a subset of customers and average out their order revenue.

Then figure out your customer purchase frequency. In other words, how often do your customers on purchase from you in a given year? Whatever that # is, is your customer purchase frequency.

Then figure out the average # of years you can reasonably expect your customer to stay with you.

Once you have these three primary variables, you can run the following equation:

Average order revenue X customer purchase frequency X average # of years = Lifetime Customer Value

A quick note, some lifetime value equations like to include the cost of acquiring that average customer which is then subtracted from the lifetime expected revenue.

YOUR WEBSITE KPI’S

Your website is always going to be one of, if not the most important digital marketing channel. Consequently, there are several KPI’s you should be measuring to determine the health of your website and help build an overall picture of how well your digital marketing channels are driving traffic to your site and how well that traffic is converting. Note that I plan on writing a much more in-depth article about your website’s KPI’s, what each means to your business and how to interpret those numbers but for now we’ll include a summary of what we think are the most critical on-site KPI’s you should be keeping your eye on.

  • New Users
  • Website visitors
  • Average session duration (will help you determine the stickiness and engagement of your content as well as whether it’s connecting with the visitors that are coming to your website)
  • Page views
  • Pages / session
  • Bounce rate
  • Organic search sessions (how many visitors to your website are landing there as a result of searching for something in a search engine)
  • Referral sessions (incoming links & incoming linking domains)
  • Social sessions
  • Direct sessions
  • Paid search sessions (how many visitors to your website are landing there as a result of paid advertising – PPC campaigns)
  • On-site conversions
  • Popular navigation paths
  • Top performing on-site pages / content
  • Top on-site search queries (if your website has an internal search function, what are your visitors searching for most / least)
  • Source of on-site conversions/types of conversions
  • Conversion rates per incoming traffic channel to your website
  • Sessions by device
  • Sessions by location

How to Measure Website KPI’s?
Most of the above-mentioned website KPI’s can be measured using any competent analytical software package, many of which are free, such as the industry’s gold standard, Google Analytics.

PPC KPI’s

While companies are still exploring various channels around pay-per-click advertising, there’s no question that most of the marketing spend has coalesced around two platforms: Google and Facebook. The reason is simple. These companies have put in a tremendous amount of investment in both the data that they’ve made available to advertisers as well as the tools offered to utilize this data to hyper-target potential customers. As I’m sure you’ve seen in the news, this has had some additional, somewhat deleterious effects on things like politics and the world at large, but that’s beside the point I’m trying to make here. Additionally, Google and Facebook have made it easier to find customers at various parts of the customer purchase intent journey.

That said, while this list is again, not comprehensive, here is a breakdown of some critical PPC KPI’s you should be measuring:

  • Click through rate
  • Cost per click
  • Cost per action
  • Cost per conversion
  • Conversion rate
  • Total cost
  • Quality score (ads)
  • Budget attainment
  • Impression share
  • Average position

Look for a future article from me where I break down PPC KPI’s in more detail.

SOCIAL MEDIA KPI’s

Believe it or not, social media is now considered a mature marketing channel. With new channels always emerging, it may not seem like it, but many of the established social media giants have now been around for longer than a decade, and as a result, their primary interactions with consumers around the world have now been well defined. And while KPI’s will differ somewhat from each other depending on which social media channel you’re considering, there are some primary KPI’s that run across all of them:

  • Total # of followers/likes – in recent years, there has been a lot of debate about the value of these totals as the general population has become aware of things such as bots and fake followers. My belief, however, is that follower counts still represent a great deal of social cachet and proof. It’s always a strong signal to the rest of the world that what you’re offering / selling / discussing is worth knowing about.
  • Engagement rates – an increasingly more critical metric. Ever heard of being ratioed?
  • Social shares – an increasingly important metric when it comes to the statistics of content marketing. After all, how compelling is the content you’re producing?
  • Brand mentions (negative and positive)

SEO KPI’s

Still a significant driver of website traffic (though Google is putting it’s best foot forward, one inch at a time to change this), organic traffic is still vitally important to the health of your business. Accordingly, it’s important to track the following SEO KPI’s:

  • Keyword rankings (present)
  • Keyword rankings (changes over time)
  • Top searched for queries from organic search (Google search console)
  • Top searched for queries that result in the most on-site conversions
  • Number of unique keywords that drive organic search traffic to your channel

Look for a future article discussing SEO KPI’s in greater detail.

EMAIL MARKETING KPI’S

I’m a huge fan of e-mail. Sure it’s a bit of a 48-year-old mess, but it’s by far one of the most important marketing channels and direct means of communication your organization can ever hope to have with your customers. If you have an active e-mail marketing program running, here’s the KPI’s you should be measuring:

  • List size and growth
  • Signup conversion rates
  • Open rates
  • Conversion rates on e-mail marketing campaigns
  • Bounce rates
  • Unsubscribe rates
  • Click-through rates
  • Revenue generated from e-mail campaigns

E-COMMERCE KPI’s

Those running e-commerce operations have a potential galaxy of KPI’s related to their business. It’s easy to get lost in the numbers and cross-analytical stats. Trust me, I know. Having run two multi-million dollar e-commerce stores in the past, I know how easy it is to go cross-eyed staring at spreadsheets trying to derive meaningful data from various indicators. So while I’ll leave the discussion of potentially dozens if not hundreds of potentially valuable e-commerce KPI’s to a future article, I’ll mention what I think are some of the more important ones to track for any e-commerce operation:

  • Revenue
  • New vs returning customers
  • Average order value
  • Customer frequency
  • Average order size
  • Average return rate
  • Average order margin
  • Cart abandonment rate
  • Average promotional rate
  • Average site conversion rate
  • Product page conversion rate
  • Average conversion rate per product category
  • Average conversion rate per product

OTHER KPI’S

There are numerous specialized digital marketing KPI’s that we may not have mentioned here, but at the end of the day, the most significant deciding factor you should consider as to whether measure something or not and treat it as a KPI is the following. Does it conceivably play a role in determining the success of your marketing efforts and your business? If yes, and if it’s a number you’re interested in improving, chances are you should measure it.

Here’s a few more for you to consider:

  • Content downloads
  • Content download leads
  • Positive or negative reviews across 3rd party review platforms
  • Account registrations
  • Marketing qualified leads per month – leads that the marketing team has reviewed and passed onto the sales team
  • Sales accepted leads – Prospects the sales team has taken and will contact

If you’re a bit overwhelmed by all of these, don’t worry, there’s professionals like my team and me to help. Just give us a shout, and we’ll have a look at your organization’s needs and help you figure out what KPI’s you should be measuring, and more importantly, how to improve them.

Subscribe to Strategic Rocket

Join thousands of business owners and digital marketers wanting to grow leads and customers by getting weekly digital marketing tips.

Sebastian Arciszewski

Author Sebastian Arciszewski

Sebastian Arciszewski is the Director of Digital Marketing at RocketFocus Consulting - an Ottawa, Canada based digital marketing firm with clients all over North America. With over 20 years of experience as a successful digital marketer, Sebastian has a proven record of helping companies of all sizes grow.

More posts by Sebastian Arciszewski