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Decoding Digital Marketing KPIs

May 27, 2023
July 22, 2024

Just like goals and targets function in our personal lives, in the world of digital marketing, marketers rely on digital marketing KPIs (key performance indicators) to make sense of their progress and success for their clients and campaigns. 

And just like in “the real world,” the stats and figures we choose to track can either confuse or clarify our campaign strategies. 

Let’s dive into digital marketing KPIs, learn what they are and how to employ them, and discover how marketing performance management and reporting can help agencies turn their data into viable strategies. 

What are digital marketing KPIs?

Digital marketing KPIs aren’t just nice to have; they are the strategic heartbeat of your agency's approach to proving the value and effectiveness of your services. In order to track what’s working and what is not, you have to track KPIs.

While there are several common KPIs that apply to most brands and businesses, digital marketing KPIs should be tailored to align with your goals and objectives. KPIs for SEO won’t look exactly the same as KPIs for a PPC campaign. The same applies to all channels, such as email or display advertising. Digital marketing KPIs can also ladder up to high-level business  KPIs that you might find in an executive summary report such as:

  • Return on investment (ROI)
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

Depending on the business models, lifestages, and goals of your clientele, digital marketing KPIs for one client will most likely look different from another. This is why having a template that orients and arranges common KPIs into an understandable framework is an essential first step to producing a digital marketing reporting dashboard that leaves a meaningful impact. 

How to choose the right digital marketing KPIs?

When it comes to selecting digital marketing KPIs for your organization, it’s important to remember that not all KPIs are created equal, and that you should select marketing performance metrics that match up with your strategy. 

For instance, your PPC and email campaigns may be driving clicks and leads, while your SEO and display efforts might seem like they are underperforming and wasting budget if measured solely by those same metrics. Total impressions might be a more appropriate KPI to watch for SEO and display, more so than clicks and leads.  Without insight and planning for ithe correct KPIs for each channel, you could be heading full steam ahead into setting yourself up for failure. 

Whether it’s social media, SEO, SEM, email, PPC, OTT, marketers looking to track marketing performance metrics will have channel and platform specific KPIs to sort through and curate if they hope to create a reporting workflow that delivers results. 

Let's take a look at a few common digital marketing channels, their associated KPIs, and how your agency can dial in your dashboards and presentations with curation and education. 

Google Ads/PPC KPIs

Get access to this free Google Ads report template, HERE!

A Google Ads/PPC report is focused on paid search performance KPIs, but it can also include other metrics such as local, display, video stats, or calls. The most common Google Ads/PPC KPIs are:

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Cost per Click (CPC)
  • Click-through rate (CTR)
  • Conversions

Start out your Google Ads/PPC report with a summary of top KPIs, but be sure to provide context in the subsequent slides that explain conversion details and show progress and trends over time. Be sure to include ad creatives next to performance metrics to speed up insight. 

Search Engine Optimization KPIs

Get access to this free SEO report template, HERE!

An effective SEO report will allow you to track your search marketing efforts, keep up-to-date on the performance of your content and keywords, and illustrate potential optimization opportunities. Each SEO KPI should be linked to a meaningful objective or outcome.

Begin your SEO report with a summary of the most important KPIs, which may include:

  • Impressions
  • Clicks 
  • CTR
  • Visits
  • Leads and lead conversion rate
  • Page One keywords

You can finish your SEO report with a listing of top performing pages and the associated organic traffic results. This connects strategic metrics with observable effects, giving context while providing a chance to outline tactical steps for the next campaign. 

Email Marketing KPIs

For marketers looking to craft an impactful email marketing report, there are a number of metrics to include in a performance report, including but not limited to:

  • Total emails delivered
  • Open rate
  • CTR
  • Conversion rate
  • Bounce rate
  • List growth rate
  • Unsubscribe rate

At the end of the day, it’s important to understand what the goals of your email marketing campaign are before you build a performance report, so be sure to include insights and contextual summaries that highlight the best analytics that connect to the bottom line. 

Data management and digital marketing KPIs

Engaging and properly using digital marketing KPIs isn't just a matter of selecting the correct performance metrics, it’s also a huge technical issue when it comes to data management. Regardless of your level of strategic savvy, there are too many datasets to keep track of in the modern marketing stack, and the information that pours out of online platforms can overwhelm agencies before the first report is even built. 

Marketers that have successfully wrangled their data and improved data warehousing capabilities already know that better data management improves agency analytics, but garden-variety marketers can still easily drown in the data deluge before ever reaching the safe harbor of reporting their KPIs. 

There are several issues that complicate marketing data management that are worth highlighting. 

  • Data literacy - Just because marketers spend a ton of time with data, doesn’t necessarily mean they know how digital marketing KPIs are best translated and communicated in a report. Without a keen sense of data literacy, marketing performance reports and dashboards can easily be filled up with meaningless metrics.

  • Data deluge - Since data is so widely available in the modern marketing ecosystem, it can be difficult to switch from a “more is better” mentality, to a “relevant is best” approach when curating performance reporting. Backed by a solid strategy, digital marketing KPIs are critical in cutting down the noise and putting the right signals in front of clients.
  • Data integrity - Although the claims at being data-driven emerge from any and every self-respecting marketing team, sorting through and cleaning up data sets is the largest hurdle facing agencies and analytics professionals. With a clear understanding of digital marketing KPIs and a firm grasp on what needs to be reported, and what can be ignored, the pain of going through heaps of garbage data is significantly lessened.

Deciding to refine digital marketing KPIs and concentrate on impactful performance reporting is closely linked to an agency's capability to manage and analyze data effectively. Enhancements in marketing data management can yield significant advantages, such as reducing the time needed to handle data, accelerating the delivery of insights, and optimizing workflows.

Treat digital marketing KPIs as waypoints

Finally, while KPIs are important to understand and report on, they may change over time and should be revisited and optimized as campaigns, audiences, and results fluctuate. What worked before may not work in the future, and what got you here, might not get you there. 

KPIs are great waypoints in the marketing journey, providing context to activities and campaigns. It’s important that marketers keep a firm grasp on their bottom line metrics, strategic goals, and their data management processes, to ensure they create campaigns that align with their desired outcomes. 

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