What are Digital Marketing Analytics? The Complete Guide

There’s no doubt that digital marketers need to be creative, decisive, and intuitive to the needs of their business and audience. But they needn’t rely on instinct alone. The dawn of big data means digital marketers have countless opportunities to back up their decision-making with hard evidence.

The emergence of digital marketing analytics has transformed the marketing landscape. It can help you evaluate the success of individual campaigns, track customer behavior, and even inform the development of new products. And the best part? You needn’t be a data analytics expert for your work to benefit from digital marketing analytics.

So what exactly does digital marketing analytics involve, and how can you use it to improve your practice? This post covers everything you ever wanted to know about digital marketing analytics and more. We’ll cover:

  1. Digital marketing analytics explained
  2. What are the most important digital marketing metrics?
  3. Why are digital marketing analytics important?
  4. How to use digital marketing analytics in your strategy
  5. Summary and next steps

 Ready to get the lowdown? Then let’s jump in.

1. Digital marketing analytics explained

Digital marketing analytics involves measuring, collecting, and analyzing data from various digital channels. Doing so provides insights into user behavior and how they interact with digital content. 

Relevant data can come from a wide range of sources. This might include websites, social media, search engines, and email, to name just a few—any digital channel can provide data that will be useful in some way. 

The specific metrics you might analyze are even more diverse, including everything from website traffic to landing page performance, conversion rates, engagement rates, and more (see the next section for details).

Whether insights come from dedicated data analysts or digital marketers with an analytical slant, they can inform real-time strategy on practically any channel. By supplementing natural intuition and creativity with hard facts about what works, what doesn’t, and where best to allocate budget and resources, digital marketing analytics has quickly become an indispensable tool for improving marketing strategies on the go.

Learn more: What does a digital marketing analyst do?

Furthermore, data collected from digital channels doesn’t just inform current strategies. By comparing the impact of past and present campaigns, marketers can better optimize future ones. The result? Improved ROI, less risk of wasting resources, better targeting, and ultimately, happier customers. And, in theory, that leads to increased revenue. 

Everybody wins!

2. What are the most important digital marketing metrics?

We touched on a couple of digital marketing metrics in section 1, but which are the most important?

Unsurprisingly, the answer to this depends on exactly what you’re aiming to achieve. The metrics you use to evaluate the success of an e-commerce site, for instance, will differ quite substantially from those used to measure the results of an email marketing campaign.

While there is often crossover, in this section, we’ve listed some of the most common digital marketing activities you might undertake and popular metrics you can use to measure them. While you might already be familiar with some of these, we’ve included explanations for clarity.

Metrics for evaluating content marketing or websites

  • The number of website visits: The total number of visits to a website, typically measured over a given period.
  • Time spent on site: The total amount of time (in minutes or seconds) a user spends on a website or web page.
  • Pages viewed: The number of pages a user sees during their visit.
  • Returning visitors: The percentage of users who have visited your website more than once.
  • Bounce rate: The percentage of visitors who leave your website after viewing a single page.
  • Average page views: The average number of pages a user looks at during a single website visit.
  • New visits: The percentage of first-time visitors to your site.
  • Referral sources: Web sources that have directed traffic to your site, such as email, search engines, and other external links.

Metrics for evaluating a social media campaign

  • The number of followers: The number of active users following your organization’s social media account/s.
  • Number of engagements: Total number of likes, comments, and shares a post or ad has received.
  • Reach: The number of unique users who have seen your post or ad.
  • Impressions: The total number of times a post or ad loads on a page (a single user may account for multiple impressions, and a user might not see the impression).
  • Click-through rate: The percentage of people who have clicked on a link from a post or ad.
  • Conversion rate: The percentage of users who clicked on a link and then completed the desired action, such as making a purchase or sharing the link.
  • Cost per action: The calculated cost associated with the desired action achieved (usually a function of the overall cost of a campaign and the conversion rate).

Metrics for evaluating an email campaign 

  • Open rate: Percentage of emails opened out of total emails sent. This can indicate the effectiveness of your subject line and snippet content. A high non-open rate might indicate your email didn’t stand out.
  • Click-through rate: Percentage of people who clicked on a link or button in your email.
  • Unsubscribe rate: Number of people who unsubscribed from your mailing list after receiving your email.
  • Email bounce rate: The percentage of emails that didn’t reach their intended recipient due to a technical issue, such as firewalls or incorrect addresses.
  • Conversion rate: Percentage of users who completed the desired action after receiving your email, such as clicking a link, or completing a survey.

Metrics for evaluating an e-commerce website

  • Revenue: Total amount of money generated from sales of goods or services.
  • Conversion rate: The percentage of visitors who completed a product purchase, signed up for your newsletter, etc. (as you’ll have noticed, the precise definition of what counts as ‘conversion’ varies depending on your objective)
  • Average order value: The average amount spent per purchase, either across the website or per user.
  • The number of transactions: The total number of purchases made—again, this can be across the whole website, or it might drill down to individual users.
  • Average items per order: The average number of items purchased per order.

Metrics for evaluating lead generation

  • The number of leads: The percentage of people who have interacted with your company or brand in some way.
  • Lead conversion rate: Percentage of leads converted into customers (this is calculated by dividing the number of conversions by the total number of leads).
  • Cost per lead: The amount of money spent to generate a single lead.
  • Lead quality score: This measures the quality of the leads generated. It is based on various other metrics such as demographics, and user interests/activity. It determines how likely a lead is to convert into a customer.
  • Return on investment (ROI): ROI is a measure of profitability, in this case, for a lead generation campaign. It’s measured by dividing the revenue generated from the campaign by the total campaign cost.

As you can see, even for these few selected digital marketing activities, the potential metrics you can measure are numerous. And this is far from an exhaustive list! Once you start digging into data you’ll soon find new things to measure, many of which perhaps you weren’t even aware of until you started looking for them. This unpredictability is part of what makes digital marketing analytics such an interesting area to explore.

It’s important to remember that each digital marketing metric is just one piece of a larger puzzle. A comprehensive understanding of how your efforts are performing requires a holistic approach. It’s also the case that you’ll often need to compare metrics across numerous channels simultaneously. Digital marketing is rarely neatly segmented! 

3. Why is digital marketing analytics important?

Digital marketing analytics is about more than just crunching numbers. It is an invaluable tool for understanding your audience, your tactics, and assessing the effectiveness of your digital marketing spend and overall strategy.

Here are some specific reasons why digital marketing analytics are so important:

You can track customer behavior and preferences

By tracking customer behavior in real time you can quickly identify content that resonates best with your audience. Learning their passions and pain points helps you quickly update content, hitting your audience with the right messages.

You can assess campaign performance in granular detail

Once a campaign has taken place (and even during) digital marketing analytics helps you measure its effectiveness. Going far beyond merely ‘successful’ or ‘unsuccessful’ you can drill down into specific elements of campaigns, such as the channel, the timing, or the targeting. You can then make adjustments—even to ‘successful’ campaigns—to further improve given aspects in the future.

You can optimize UX design

UX design is at the core of the customer experience. In turn, then, this is a fundamental aspect of digital marketing. The right analytics can help optimize your websites, apps, and other customer touchpoints to improve the customer journey. For example, you might use customer feedback and website analytics to see which user journeys are currently the most popular, therefore helping you prioritize which ones to optimize and which to cut.

You can identify growth areas

Before getting a new product, service, or campaign up and running, digital marketing analytics can help you identify emerging opportunities for growth. For example, tracking popular keywords, trends, topics, or products—what’s good and what’s getting poor press—can help you shape the development of your products and campaigns.

There are many other reasons why digital marketing analytics are necessary. And the increased number and versatility of tools on the market means no area of digital marketing is off limits. Understanding how to use data effectively for each project you’re working on can ensure your campaigns are as efficient and successful as possible.

4. How to use digital marketing analytics in your strategy

So, now we know what digital marketing analytics is, what metrics you might want to track, and why all this is important… How can you put this information into action?

This section is a step-by-step guide to embedding digital marketing analytics into your strategy. We’ve deliberately kept it high level since the specific steps you’ll take will vary depending on the channel you’re working with and what your objectives are. But the fundamental principles are essentially the same.

Step 1: Set your objectives and select appropriate metrics

The first step in any data-driven digital marketing strategy is having a solid understanding of what you’re trying to achieve and a set of metrics. Put simply: set goals that you can measure.

Your metrics should be relevant to the project and broken down into smaller, achievable steps. As the basis of your entire strategy, it’s important not to rush this step.

For example, if you’re setting up a new website, your objective might be to boost lead generation by 50% on current levels (for example). Metrics you’ll need might include lead conversion rates and website traffic metrics.

Alternatively, if you’re setting up a new email marketing campaign, your objective might be to increase sales revenue for a particular product. Metrics such as open and click-through rates might help you measure this. These are simple examples, but they give you an idea of the questions you’ll need to consider.

Step 2: Choose the right tools

Once you’ve established your objectives, the next step is to choose the right digital marketing analytics tools to help you. This could include web analytics tools like Google Analytics, social media analytics tools like Sprout or Hootsuite, or email marketing tools like MailChimp or HubSpot

The key is to choose the right tool for the right job. There’s a wealth of digital marketing analytics tools that offer data analytics across the board, while others may offer niche but more targeted functionality. 

It’s also good to be aware that big-name providers that promise everything might not always be the best option. If nothing else, you might have a limited budget, and these tools can be quite expensive. Finding a more niche offering for your needs could be a better approach.

Step 3: Benchmark the current state of play

Once you’ve selected your objectives, metrics, and chosen an appropriate tool, you should establish a baseline. Put simply, measure your current performance. Even if your existing campaigns aren’t doing great, measure your chosen metrics precisely, so you have something against which to benchmark future efforts.

For example, if you’re launching a new website, you’ll want to track things like page views, clickthrough rate, and conversions on your existing site first. This will help you see if the new site is doing any better. Other metrics you might want to measure include bounce rate, time on site, and so on.

Naturally, if you’re trying something for the first time (creating a new presence on social media, for example) you won’t always be able to measure existing performance. However, you can still make an informed guess. This might involve looking at your current activities on other similar social media platforms, for example. Or it might mean measuring your performance on other channels that you expect to integrate with your new campaign.

Once you’ve established your baseline, you can start tracking and measuring progress over time.

Step 4: Collect and analyze new data

You’re now ready to implement your new campaign and collect data. Create reports using your chosen data analytics tool. More often than not, these digital marketing tools are specifically designed for non-technical users and come with inbuilt reporting functionality. 

Remember, though: analyzing data is more than just looking at automatically generated charts and graphs. You know the business and your objectives better than anyone. Only you can evaluate how well your digital marketing efforts are going. In short, tools can provide insights, but only you can make the right decisions based on these.

Your analysis should always be driven by the objectives you set out in step one. 

For example, if you’re running a PPC campaign, your analysis might include looking at the click-through rate of your ad and the conversion rate of the landing page connected to it, to see how many users you lost along the way. This could help you determine if there is something wrong with the landing page copy, for example.

Meanwhile, if you’re running a social media campaign to boost brand awareness, the most important metrics might be things such as likes or shares, rather than conversion rates (since the former are metrics more commonly associated with raising awareness). 

If you’re in doubt about which metrics to use, measure them anyway! It’s better to end up with more data than you need than to find yourself lacking.

Step 5: Monitor, adjust and make the tough calls

Finally, the most vital step of all: monitor and adjust your strategy. This is where the real power of digital marketing analytics comes in. By constantly analyzing data and tweaking your approach, you can ensure your campaigns are always performing at their best.

For example, if you’re executing an SEO strategy, you might find some keywords performing better than others. If so, what can you do to optimize these pages? 

Meanwhile, if you’re running a social media campaign, you might find that video content is receiving more shares than still imagery. To boost your shares further, you might opt to assign more of your budget to video production in the future, maximizing engagement. 

Whatever you’re working on, try to remain as dispassionate as possible about what the data is telling you. It can be tough when you’ve poured your heart and soul into a campaign only to find it’s not working. Similarly, when a strategy seems to be working well, it’s easy to get caught up in the buzz and overlook potential improvement areas. But in both cases, this is what digital marketing analytics is for. It shines a light on the dark spots and helps you improve overall. 

5. Summary and next steps

We hope this has been a helpful introduction to digital marketing analytics. In this post, we’ve learned that:

  • Digital marketing analytics involves measuring, collecting, and analyzing data to gain insights into user behavior and how customers interact with digital content.
  • There are many digital marketing metrics you can measure, and they depend on the channel. Some common ones include website traffic, social media followers, impressions, email click-through rates, and conversion rates.
  • Digital marketing analytics is vital for tracking customer behavior, assessing campaign performance, optimizing UX design, identifying growth opportunities, and more.
  • Applying digital marketing analytics to your strategy involves setting clear objectives, benchmarking your performance, collecting and analyzing new data, and monitoring and adjusting your approach accordingly.

Whether you want to supplement your broader digital marketing skills with analytics know-how, or you’re keen to become a dedicated digital marketing analyst, there are plenty of routes to progress in this area of digital marketing.

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