Smart marketers make informed decisions based on data gathered from analytics platforms and processes.
Yet far too few marketers have a firm grip on their analytics. A whopping 87% of marketers consider data the most underutilized asset in marketing organizations, according to the 2015 Global Data-Driven Marketing Survey by Teradata.
Here are some more insights from the survey - the top benefits of using data to make decisions, according to the 1,500+ marketers that participated.
So what gives? If we generally agree on the benefits of data-driven marketing - and its magnitude - realize the risks of shunning it, and concur it's underutilized, why not just get it in gear?
It's complicated, that's why.
"Companies have so many analytical options at their disposal that they often become paralyzed, defaulting to just one tool," writes a trio of authors from McKinsey & Company, in the post Using Marketing Analytics to Drive Superior Growth. They continue, "But an integrated marketing-analytics approach is the key to driving growth."
Advice for getting started with marketing analytics
First, understand marketing analytics is not solely Google Analytics. Yes, you should pay some mind to your Google Analytics, extract data from it, and optimize accordingly.
However, doing marketing analytics effectively calls for gathering data from your entire spectrum of marketing channels, including traffic and conversion from SEO, online advertising, social media, and email.
Second, start simple. Gather advice from professionals who can help simplify the practice of digital marketing analytics. You'll feel more comfortable going forward and far less likely to be overwhelmed.
Third, understand why you're diving into the world of marketing analytics and which metrics will be most useful to help you improve your outcomes.
I recently interviewed five top digital marketers to get some expert perspective on digital marketing analytics skills as part of a project for Alexa (you can their full insights here).
I asked each person on the expert panel similar questions regarding:
- The value of analytics
- Metrics to get started with and focus on
- How to put analytical insights into action
- Examples of data-driven marketing that drove results
Here are some of the key insights from the interviews.
Analytics for SEO
Eric Enge, co-author of 'The Art of SEO'
I asked Eric how should a search marketer should act on their analytics.
"One of the challenges with analytics is you can easily find yourself in a situation where you can spend hours digging through numbers and go deep into different rabbit holes that aren't very productive.
So at the end of the day, once you've established where you have opportunities to make more money than you are now, by tying it to traffic, then it becomes a matter of how do you improve those pages for SEO so they're more likely to rank? How can you promote those pages more effectively so they get visibility - most notably in the form of links from third-party websites, which will help your SEO rankings improve.
The thing that we do often is look at what's going on for competitors and what's working for them. I love competitive analytics, because it really gives you a lot of insight into who is winning on given search terms and given businesses."
Analytics for conversion
Andy Crestodina, author of Content Chemistry
I asked Andy the same question - how should a conversion-minded marketer act on their analytics?
"You can look at your analytics and see where people are leaving your website. Then you go look and see if you can somehow improve that page to keep them there.
For example, you can see if people are leaving your contact page. One example of a report that shows this to you is your funnel visualization report. It will show you how many people completed the contact form - and, if people left - where they went.
To keep them from leaving, look for ways to put information there that they wanted to find, but didn't. So that's an example of a way to optimize.
Maybe your contact form is asking too many questions. Try removing fields from your contact form and see if it converts at a higher rate. Or add a picture of a person. Or add urgency. Or change the call to action. These are all little things that you can do to one specific page to keep people there and to maximize the value of the visitors you already have.
That's the definition of optimization. It's not a one-time thing; it's an ongoing thing. And it's not based on opinion; it's based on data."
Analytics for pay-per-click (PPC)
Larry Kim, founder of WordStream
Larry provided a very practical and powerful take on the metrics to focus on when optimizing your PPC programs. He began by explaining "cost per conversion" and how it differs by company types and then continued with...
"A pay-per-click marketer is going to be thinking about all sorts of metrics in order to achieve a decent return on ad spend or a decent cost-per-lead. One of the most important metrics for pay-per-click advertising is click-through rate. That's a measure of user engagement. Are people actually engaging with the ads that we're showing on Facebook, Twitter, AdWords, or Gmail? What are the click-through rates? Are they high or low?
They're very important because the way these advertising systems work is they favor high engagement advertisements. So if you have a very low click-through rate in a Google search ad, Google won't even bother showing it. It's a pay-per-click system. Why would they bother showing an ad no one is clicking on? So click-through rate is really important because it tells you whether or not the keywords you're using are resonating or not."
Analytics for social media
Steve Rayson, director at Buzzumo
I began my interview with Steve by asking him to explain the essential value of social media analytics and loved his response.
"First, you use the analytics to prove the value of what you're doing or to prove the impact of what you're doing. Lots of us are answering 'up-the-line' to somebody, so we need to know that we're actually making a difference, and it's just good to get proof.
Second, you gain insight so that you can improve what you do. We can all learn and by looking at the analytics data we can start to understand to a degree what's happening and come up with strategies for improving what we do. For me, that's the most important one, as I'm always looking to improve every day. Let's get more shares. Let's get more conversions."
Analytics for email marketing
Chad White, author of Email Marketing Rules
When Chad and I were discussing which email metrics to focus on, he offered a refreshing, and somewhat surprising point of view.
"Don't get too distracted by campaign level metrics. It's important to measure campaign level responses, but don't overemphasize it.
Think about it in terms of the subscriber relationship. How is one email building on the next in terms of a relationship? Focus on the long-term. For instance, we like to think a lot about opens and clicks. I would encourage everyone to look at open reach and click reach. These metrics are essentially looking at the percentage of your subscribers that have opened at least one email over a period of time."
Some great, valuable insights.
A great digital marketer would never claim to have all the answers. Instead, he or she never stops asking questions, such as:
- How are our marketing programs performing?
- Where do our competitors excel?
- What channels are producing the best outcomes?
- How can we better allocate our resources?
- What can we do to improve?
The answers come from marketing analytics. To get a holistic perspective on marketing programs, digital marketers must inspect website behavior, but also understand the channels driving traffic, such as advertising, email, and social media.
You can access the full Alexa 'How the Pros Turn Marketing Analytics Into Effective Marketing Strategies' eBook at this link.