Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.
-John Wanamaker

The 2011 film “Moneyball”, dramatizes the story of how Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland Athletics, got a step ahead of his competitors in Major League Baseball by taking a more analytical approach to evaluating players. Billy Beane used data analytics to identify players with undervalued strengths and built a team that outperformed expectations.

In the same vein, marketing analytics–the measurement and optimization of your marketing activities through data is not so different. In the internet age, a clear digital marketing strategy is critical to the success of your business. In particular for small businesses and entrepreneurs who need to make sure their marketing dollars count, it is important to be able to identify whether your marketing efforts are succeeding, and which specific activities are responsible for that success.

You probably think you don’t know anything about data analytics. Not so! If you’ve ever watched baseball, played a fantasy football league, or obsessively follow Nate Silver’s 538 blog, you’re familiar with analytics.

Here is a quick primer for the small business owner on metrics that will commonly be central to evaluating the success of a marketing effort. With a little familiarity about what to look for, you’ll be in a good position to evaluate how your marketing campaigns are performing and areas in which they can improve.

Key Traffic Metrics
The critical metrics for measuring the success of a digital marketing campaign will often center on web traffic. Most marketing campaigns are designed to persuade the target audience to take actions that increase traffic to your site. For example, your marketing campaign may drive users to a landing page, prompt them to search for more information about your company, or persuade them to fill out an online contact form. You’re therefore going to want to familiarize yourself with metrics that track how much traffic you’re attracting to your website and what users are doing.Here we focus on metrics made available through Google Analytics.

  • Conversions: This is a critical metric that should be defined with care. A conversion occurs when a website visitor completes an activity you have defined as valuable to your business—such as purchasing a product, signing up for your service, subscribing to your newsletter, or downloading your app. Conversions represent your fulfilled target objectives that contribute to the success of your company.
  • Sessions: You are going to want to know how many times your website is being visited and used. The number of sessions initiated every day will tell you just that. While the raw number of sessions alone probably isn’t that useful, knowing the length of sessions or the number of pages visited during a session, can provide you with a better understanding of how users are interacting with your site.
  • New Users: One key metric for traffic is the number of new users you are attracting to your site. While the number of sessions on your site may be a good metric for how often your site is being used, most marketing campaigns seek to attract new customers. This is a good metric to monitor to see if your campaign is reaching people who haven’t previously heard about you or your products.
  • Bounce rate: Bounces deal with bounced sessions, which means a visitor only viewed one page during a session and didn’t interact with a page. High bounce rates are usually a problem. They indicate that the users who are visiting a page do not find the content engaging enough to take further action.
  • Source/Medium: You’re often going to want to know where your traffic is coming from to evaluate the success of a marketing campaign. For example, if you are promoting products on different social media sites, you will want to know which sites are generating the most traffic.


What You Should Agree on When Working with Your Virtual Marketing Assistant

Even when you delegate digital marketing to a specialist, you’re still going to want provide oversight and monitor whether your marketing campaigns are achieving their goals. Here are some steps to take to make sure that your marketing efforts stay on track.

  1. Outline what you want to achieve and set goals. Make sure that your marketing campaign has a measurable and realistic goal. The goal of the campaign may be to increase website traffic to a particular landing page, generate leads, or encourage social media engagement with your community. Define agoal and identify appropriate metrics to track to ensure that you are meeting it.
  2. Periodic reporting. Your marketing VA should provide customized reporting to you based on the key metrics that you have defined as important. The report should include the metrics that you use to measure your goal as well as related metrics. For example, if you seek to drive traffic to your landing page, you will want to know more than the number of users. You’ll want to know the bounce rate, the average length of time users spent on the page, and possibly whether visitors took an action, like signing up for a newsletter or making a purchase.
  3. Suggestions for improving performance. Even if your campaign is performing well, don’t become complacent. Consider actions that can be taken to improve key metrics. For example, if you are using a pay-per-click ad campaign, conduct A/B testing to compare whether changes to ad wording or landing pages improve performance.

Whether you are collecting and analyzing your marketing data yourself or utilizing a virtual marketing assistant to do it for you, a successful marketing campaign requires clearly understanding and defining your goals and monitoring campaign performance to ensure that those goals are being met.