Inbound Marketing is getting a hotter and hotter term nowadays. And off course it should be! When done properly it is a powerful way to reach your audience, to leverage and build brand advocates (even outside your current customers), position yourself as a thought leader in your industry, but one of the most sought after reasons is to build relationships and nurture potential customers through your sales funnel.
In the end though everyone wants to get something out of any of their marketing efforts. A Return On Investment (ROI). Because spending money on online advertising, can give you easily concrete data on how many clicks etc. for a lot of people Inbound Marketing ends up being a bit vague. You might end up with questions like:
- Once I get my Inbound Marketing up and running, what do I measure?
- What are the numbers I’m looking for?
- Why do I need to analyse anyway?
There are hundreds of possible metrics to choose from, and almost all of them provide some measurement of value for any company. Think of things like SEO rankings, the number of inbound links, number of articles published, content downloads, reach (e.g. Facebook fans / Likes / Shares, LinkedIn followers, Twitter followers / retweets / favourites blog subscribers), comments, clicks, traffics, leads.. and so many more.
Even though this list is enormous, measuring your potential ROI isn’t as difficult as you might think. And it all starts with having a good plan in place. Choosing and using the right points to measure, and then actually consulting your metrics on a regular basis to see what is working for your business.
Establishing your brand presence online is, however, a long and careful process that involves your website, your potential customers and the ever-changing search engines. Getting found, building trust and in the end making sales is going to require planning, patience, and above all.. time. Depending on what type of business you are in it can take several months or longer for a site will begin to drive traffic and for you as a business owner to start noticing any changes you might like.
What do you want to accomplish?
Everything starts however with a first step. In our case, we need to define some goals based on our business, our brand, and our product.
Your goals, as well as your planning, will determine what you will measure and how you can define success along the way. If your goal is just to get more visitors on your website, then sure, it might be a nice thing to notice that you had 20.000 visitors on your website this month. However that one number doesn’t say anything without the proper context, how many did you had last month?
So we start by asking ourselves, do we want:
- More brand awareness?
- More product awareness?
- An increase in website traffic?
- An increase in sales?
- To build a database of emails or leads?
- To increase customer engagement?
- To build (better) customer loyalty?
Each of these reasons might be a valid or important goal for creating your online presence. Each of these questions, however, bring different metrics and analysis with them that are needed for creating your marketing plan.
When looking at metrics though always try to go for actionable metrics. It might be cool to see that you’ve got more visitors on your site but be careful about measuring activity instead of results. When it’s hard to measure business outcomes, marketers use metrics that stand in for those numbers: activity not results, quantity, not quality, efficiency not effectiveness. Vanity metrics such as the total number of followers may sound good and it might help you impress your significant other, but they don’t measure business outcomes or indicate how to improve marketing performance and profitability.
In the end, you might end up allocating resources and energy to activities that don’t have an impact on revenue. That’s why it is essential that you (and your team) use credible financial metrics that show how marketing is helping the company generate faster growth and more profits than your competitors.
That being said, there are still a lot of statistics that you can track. Here’s a simple list to help you get started:
1. Conversion Rates
Conversion Rates are one of the most important metrics you (and especially you as an inbound marketer) can measure. That’s because conversions give you the number of customers or leads on your website who have taken a desired action. Business conversions can vary and should align with your overall digital marketing objectives. For example, the website of a plumber might want to measure conversions in terms of the number of people who have filled out a contact form while an eCommerce website might measure conversions in terms of purchases. Another example could be where your website is being used for lead generation, the conversion could then be if someone downloads a white paper on your website.
There is lots of different software for tracking conversion, one of the easiest way for any business though is by using the Conversions Reports section of your Google Analytics. For this section to work you will first need to set up your Goals. Let’s see how to do that:
- Login to your Google Analytics account.
- Click Admin (in the header).
- Go to View and select Goals.
- Select a template or create your own custom template
- Give your Goal a name – e.g. Whitepaper Download (ensure this is intuitive and easy to remember).
- Select the Destination button and click Next Step.
- Under Goal details, set the Destination equal to your thank you URL – e.g. /thank-you.
- Select Value > On and attribute a monetary value to your goal -e.g. $10. (optional)
- Click Funnel > On and enter the URL of your landing page and select “Required > Yes”. (optional)
- Click Verify this Goal
- Click Create Goal.
Once your Goals have been set up and your customers have started to convert (for example when people start downloading your white paper), you can access your Conversion Reports in your Google Analytics dashboard.
To access your Conversion Reports, just simply login to your Google Analytics account, click Conversions (on the left navigation bar) and select Goals to view a quick summary of the total number of goal (or conversion) completions made on your website.
Some of the terms on these reports might sound new to you, so lets quickly review the most important ones:
- Goal Completions = the total number of conversions.
- Goal Value = the total value attributed to goal conversions on your website (displayed in monetary terms).
- Goal Conversion Rate = the total (or sum) of all goal conversion rates.
- Total Abandonment Rate = the percentage of goals which have been abandoned on your website.
2. Engagement Metrics
If you track your social media performance always track your engagement over your contents reach. The reasoning for this is very simple. Your reach only determines the size of your audience, even though it’s important that your audience is always growing, it’s even more important though that your fans are actively engaging with your brand and your content. The world is noisy, and just because someone follows you doesn’t mean they are engaging with your brand. Social engagement becomes even more important as prospective buyers use social sites more than email. It’s through social engagement that you enable “seed nurturing,” the process of building relationships with qualified prospects before you have their contact information.
Engagement figures can also significantly expand your reach by ensuring your content is getting shared and talked about amongst the right crowd (your fans’ like minded friends) and helps you identify which content your fans like best so you can focus more on that type of content.
You can easily measure the number of shares your content is receiving using a content analysis tool like BuzzSumo (paid after your top 5 of content), SharedCount (paid, but the free option gives you 10K of daily queries), or NinjaOutreach (14 day trial, but they also do influencer outreach).
3. Website and Blog (organic) traffic
It’s important to track both your website traffic and blog traffic month-on-month to ensure that all of your inbound marketing efforts (including blogging, guest posting, connecting with influencers and social media activity, etc.) are paying off and are resulting in more Unique Page Views.
Organic traffic is people who are finding your website by means other than paid promotion or direct brand awareness (e.g. by typing in your URL or searching for your company’s brand name). It’s worthwhile to track how much of that traffic convert into leads. Don’t forget to tag the lead source properly so you can see whether those leads turn into revenue.
To view your site traffic over a specific period:
- Login to your Google Analytics account.
- Click Behaviour on the left hand navigation bar and select Site Content from the dropdown menu.
- Select All Pages.
- To view your website traffic over a set period, click the date box on the upper right hand corner of the screen.
- Enter your chosen date range and click Apply.
- You will be presented with a visual graph displaying your website traffic growth over the set period of time you have chosen.
- The table below your graph will show you the most popular pages of content on your website in terms of Unique Page Views, etc.
- From here you can isolate and measure your blog traffic (by typing in the term ‘blog’ in the search box below the graph).
4. Lead generation by content, channel and initiative
Beyond core organic traffic and leads, track lead generation by content asset and source. What sources are driving the most traffic? What kinds of content drive the most leads? The most revenue? It can also be insightful to track how these vary by product line or business unit.
By using tools like Moz Open Site explorer, ahrefs or Majestic you can easily find out all the backlinks to your site and see where you get your most traffic from and what kinds of content drive more leads. This helps you to focus on written the content your visitors want, but maybe you can even approach one of the back link providers with a great guest blog for their website and help get the word of your brand to spread.
By regularly monitoring your metrics, you can make your Inbound Marketing more effective, and channel resources into the tactics you know work best. The end results are more leads, more customers and a greater understanding of how you got them.
How do you measure the value of your Inbound Marketing efforts? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.