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Mar 2, 2012

The Problems of Measuring Marketing Success (Especially Digital)

One of the most common factors that make up job satisfaction lists is “success”. It is evident that those people who are able to be successful at their jobs generally enjoy more job satisfaction than those who don’t. This includes people who work in marketing. Yet a problem exists – it is often much harder to measure success in marketing than it is for other jobs/industries. 

For example – if a plumber is hired to fix a broken central heating system, the plumber and the customer know clearly when he has done his job, i.e when he has been successful – the heating comes back on again. But when a marketer runs a marketing campaign for a client, it is much harder to gauge whether the campaign has been successful. This problem is especially acute on forms of advertising on mediums such as the Television. 

If a TV advertising campaign costing millions is enacted by an agency to raise awareness of a brand, then how is success measured? By the sales/profit of the brand/company? This could used as a measurement, but is not a perfect metric – it could be influenced by other parts of the business e.g other, previous marketing ; an increase of word of mouth or “organic” marketing. 

You could do some market research and find out what proportion of the public are “aware” of the brand, following the advertising campaign. This has its problems though, as people may not be consciously aware of a brand, yet may gravitate towards it in a shop. 

As someone once said of advertising: 

Half my advertising budget is wasted, the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” 

This expresses succinctly what I was trying to say earlier – that advertising is like a black box – you know what you are putting in, but don’t fully know what you are getting out. 


So What About Digital Marketing?


Is it easier to track and measure success online than it is in offline marketing? To some extent, yes. Let us take the example of PPC advertising. With a system like Google Adwords, it allows you to place an advert on the Google search engine or partner websites, which displays only when someone types in specified keywords, so it is highly targeted. The key element is that the advertiser only pays when someone clicks on his ad, making the system pretty measurable. You can even track the number of conversions (any action you want the user to take on your website) resulting from the PPC ad, and can run a cost per conversion system, which allows you to pin down the figures further. So you can see that PPC advertising gives you a tracking system that allows for relatively fine measuring. 

What About SEO?

How does organic search marketing compare to PPC? Well, it’s not as clear cut as PPC. For example, you can measure the success of SEO with the number of links gained, traffic levels, or number of conversions. However there are problems with each of these metrics. 

First, if you use number of links as a metric, the analysis may not very accurate, since it’s easy to get thousands of rubbish, spammy links that do nothing for a brands’ online marketing, very easily. So using links as a metric is out. 

So What About Traffic?

Well, this could work, if you only count non-branded traffic, since that is the SEO traffic, not the traffic that comes from other forms of marketing. Non-branded organic search traffic is sometimes used in SEO as a success metric. However, this has its flaws, too. I have got thousands of non-branded visitors for a website (as shown in analytics), only to be told that 99% of the traffic is useless, non-targeted visitors. So this metric is not perfect. 

And What About Conversions?

Well, this is the most common form of tracking success in SEO, and has already been seen to work well in PPC (see above). If you take non-branded conversions, and the amount spent on SEO, then you can work out the SEO ROI. However, this method is not without problems – the website may convert mainly in phone calls, not through a web form, which means that many conversions would not be taken into account when calculating ROI.

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