How do you know your digital marketing is working?

Digital KPIs explained

Now more than ever, your online presence is critical to your firm's success. But how do you know you're making the right digital marketing investments? The answer: KPIs.

KPIs (short for key performance indicators) are quantifiable measurements that can help you find out whether your strategy is helping you achieve specific goals. Your firm may already be using KPIs to track profits, business development goals, or operational efficiency. But you can also use KPIs to track the success of your digital marketing.

What kind of performance data can you collect?

What's great about digital marketing is how much data it can produce. But that's also the biggest challenge. You can't measure everything, and you shouldn't. The data you want to focus on is the data that points back to your goals. That's the "key" in KPI.

Before you decide what performance data you want to collect, consider the landscape of data available to you. Whether you're looking at numbers related to your website, broadcast emails, social media, or banner ads, there are a few basic kinds of data you can collect:

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Impressions: This measures the number of times your content reaches your audience. For websites, you can use Google Analytics to track the number of visitors to a page, which Google calls "sessions." On social media, the platforms can tell you the number of times your post appears in a follower's feed. In general, impressions indicate that you’re building awareness with your audience—that your content arrived somewhere–but not necessarily that it's making a difference.

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Engagement: These are actions taken by your audience. They're clicks, video views, likes, and shares. Engagements tell you that your audience responded positively to your content and is interested in seeing more from you.


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Leads: Use this to measure how much contact information you're collecting. Names, email addresses, and phone numbers are ultimately what your online marketing is aiming toward collecting. They're also reliable indicators of how successful your marketing is because you typically need consent to gather this information. Tracking the growth of your email list or the number of people who fill out an online form will be critical for proving the value of your marketing efforts.

Turning data into KPIs

In general, you put your marketing content out into the world (impressions) and look at what kinds of reactions you get (engagement) and whether new leads are being added to the pipeline. Useful KPIs typically use at least two types of data to offer meaningful information.

For example, if you're posting digital ads on your local newspaper's website, you'll want to know the click-through rate (CTR). That's the number of people who clicked on your ad and went to your website (engagements) as a percentage of the number of times the ad appeared (impressions). If your ad appears to 1,000 people and is clicked by 40 of those people, your CTR is 4% (40 ÷ 1000).

Understanding click-through rate

Graphic illustrating click-through rates

Similarly, if you send an email which is opened by 100 people (impressions) who recently attended a webinar (soft leads) and eight of them scheduled a meeting with an advisor (strong leads), you might calculate an 8% conversion rate if your KPI is focused on advancing leads in your conversion pipeline. If you continued tracking those leads and found that two of them eventually became clients, your firm might calculate a 25% conversion rate if your KPI is focused on turning strong leads into clients.

Understanding conversion rate

Graphic illustrating conversion rates

Get started with marketing KPIs

Any firm can get started using digital marketing KPIs. A good place to begin is Google Analytics. (If you haven't set up Google Analytics yet, here's how to get started.) It's free to use, and it offers valuable information such as which pages on your website are visited the most, how long visitors stay on a page, and what they do next after visiting your home page.

Firms that invest time in understanding the data and adjusting their strategies are more likely to see digital marketing success. This process is a marathon, not a sprint. The key is to be thoughtful and to keep putting one foot in front of the next.

What you can do next