Digital analytics vs web analytics is a lot like a bear vs an alligator

When deciding what to measure, many marketing executives don’t fully understand the significant differences between “digital analytics” and “web analytics.” They aren’t kissing cousins. Digital analytics vs web analytics is more like a fight between a bear and an alligator.

Each one is formidable. But, it’s better to use digital analytics for measuring brand awareness, but web analytics for measuring website traffic. And it’s smarter to use digital analytics to measure the engagement of users with your social media pages, but web analytics to measure the higher conversion rates on your website. And when it comes to measuring sales, it depends. You should use digital analytics when transactions occur in your physical business location and other offline channels, but web analytics when transactions occur on your ecommerce website.

Now, three years ago, I created an Advanced Content Marketing Certification Training Course that is still being offered by Simplilearn. To help people learn how to become best-in-class content marketers, I also created 5 practice projects – and the fifth one was designed to help Sue Bonchi, the Vice President of Marketing at Odysseys Unlimited, to decide what to measure when launching a new content marketing initiative. By the way, Sue is a real person, Odysseys Unlimited is an actual tour agency, and my wife and I have taken several of their small group tours.

Deciding what to measure

Let’s begin by looking at the Content Marketing Institute’s B2C Content Marketing 2017 – Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends – North America, which reported that B2C marketers said the content marketing goals their organizations would focus on back then were:

  • Brand awareness (74%),
  • Engagement (71%),
  • Lead generation (66%),
  • Customer retention/loyalty (63%),
  • Sales (53%),
  • Building an audience via subscriptions (50%).

Now, let’s look at which metrics these same 480 B2C marketers said their organization would use to provide truly measurable results of their content marketing efforts:

  • Website traffic (44%),
  • Sales (35%),
  • Higher conversion rates (32%),
  • Social media sharing (29%),
  • SEO ranking (25%),
  • Time spent on website (25%),
  • Subscriber/community growth (23%),
  • Sales lead quality (21%).

Now, compare the two lists. Yes, “sales” is a great way to measure “sales.” And “subscriber/community growth” is a good way to measure “building an audience via subscriptions.” And “sales lead quality” is one of two ways to measure “lead generation.” (The other is “sales lead quantity.”) But, as I pointed out in “People have 87 hard questions about social media marketing,” conversation, amplification, and applause rates are better measures of “engagement” than just “social media sharing.” And “website traffic”, “higher conversion rates”, “SEO ranking”, and “time spent on website” aren’t the right ways to measure “brand awareness” or “customer retention/loyalty”.

So, some of content marketing’s goals appeared to be disconnected from the metrics that were used to provide truly measurable results. That’s why the first thing that Sue needed to do in order to set up the new content marketing initiative for success was identify key performance indicators (KPIs) that were linked to business outcomes instead of marketing outputs. This would create a shared understanding between her content marketing team and Odysseys Unlimited’s President Bruce Epstein of how they all needed to measure results.

What’s the right way to measure brand awareness?

Some content marketers mistakenly think that the right metrics for measuring brand awareness is “impressions” or “views.” But, before adopting these metrics as KPIs, Sue should ask her marketing team the following question: “How many impressions or views do we need to increase brand awareness by 17%?” If nobody has an answer, then it’s dangerous to use impressions or views as KPIs.

So, what is the right way to measure brand awareness?

Well, as I wrote in Tubular Insights back in October 2016, Google’s “brand lift” solution and Facebook’s “brand lift” offering, which was formerly called brand polling, provide advertisers with a better set of metrics. Now, I realize that the ad budget is generally different than the content marketing budget. But, if there are lessons that content marketers can learn from advertisers, then they should learn them.

Google’s brand lift solution measures the direct impact that YouTube ads are having on perceptions and behaviors throughout the consumer journey. Within a matter of days, Brand Lift provides insights into how an ad is impacting the metrics that matter, including lifts in brand awareness, ad recall, consideration, favorability, and purchase intent, as well as brand interest, as measured by organic search activity on both Google and YouTube. Advertisers can easily optimize their campaigns mid-flight, based on these near real-time results, which are broken out by demographics and other factors.

Here’s how it works: Google isolates a randomized control group that is not shown an advertiser’s YouTube ad and an exposed group that does see the ad. About a day after seeing (or not seeing) the ad, Google Consumer Surveys delivers a survey to both groups. Since the only effective difference between the two groups is whether they saw the ad, Google can accurately determine the lift attributed to your campaign.

In addition, Google’s brand lift solution measures the impact of a YouTube ad campaign on creating interest in a brand by using organic searches on both Google.com, the world’s largest search engine, and YouTube.com, the world’s second largest search engine. Similar to surveys, Google randomly picks a group that saw an ad and a control group that didn’t see an ad. Google then compares the organic search behavior of both groups, looking at how often they search for keywords related to a brand or campaign. The difference in searches can be attributed to the campaign.

For many advertisers, the primary goal for online video advertising is increasing brand awareness: reaching as many people as possible as efficiently as possible in the shortest possible time. And YouTube reported back in April 2015 that 65% of Google Preferred ads on YouTube saw an increase in brand awareness, with an average lift of 17%.

Facebook also offers brand lift polling that enables advertisers to measure brand awareness and ad recall. Like Google’s solution, Facebook randomly puts part of a target audience into a control group that isn’t able to see an ad. The poll is then served to the control group and a test group with identical characteristics. The lift between the control and test groups accurately shows the impact of Facebook and Instagram advertising.

Both of these surveys provide brand advertisers and their ad agencies with significantly better metrics than “impressions” or “views.” And content marketers should borrow this survey-based approach.

For example, Sue can also use Google Surveys to get fast, reliable opinions from consumers across the internet and on mobile devices — allowing him or her to make more informed business decisions, understand content marketing’s impact, and keep a pulse on the health of Odysseys Unlimited’s brand.

Here’s how it works: Sue needs to choose her target audience, type her questions, and watch the results roll in within hours.

When it comes to picking an audience, Sue has several targeting options: women and men ages 18-24 and/or 25-34; Android smartphone users with the Google Opinion Rewards app; or audience panels, which are a way to target groups of respondents that are generally difficult to find, such as students.

Pricing starts at 10¢ per completed response for a one-question survey, $1 per completed response for a 2-10 question survey, and $3.00 per completed response for a survey that includes screening questions.

Next, Sue can ask up to 10 questions at a time and select from a variety of question formats, like single answer, two choices with an image, multiple-answers, and multiple answers with an image, which can all be used to screen respondents. She can also select other question formats, including: rating scale, rating scale with text, rating scale with an image, open ended, numeric open ended, open ended with an image, side-by-side images, and a menu with an image.

Finally, Sue can get real answers from real people. Her questions live across a network of news, reference, and entertainment sites, as well as within Google’s mobile app. There, people answer questions in exchange for access to premium content, and credits to Google Play.

Google Surveys accurately determines the age, gender, and location of online respondents based on their browsing history and IP address. While on mobile, app users answer demographic questions up front. Which means Sue gets a representative sample of thousands of respondents without having to ask demographic questions.

Sue should use Google Surveys before her new content marketing initiative is launched to establish a benchmark and then conduct follow-up surveys on a quarterly basis. If 74% of B2C content marketers in North America say their organizations will focus on brand awareness over the next 12 months, then they should also put their metrics where their mouth is.

These digital analytics are the right way to measure brand awareness

What’s a better way to measure engagement?

As I mentioned above, “conversation, amplification, and applause rates” are better measures of “engagement” than “social media sharing” by itself. In addition, Avinash Kaushik recommends using these metrics as KIPs for the top of the sales funnel – or the early stage of the customer journey – because they measure the “See” audience intent cluster, which is the largest addressable qualified audience.

Fortunately, tools like True Social Metrics can help you to use conversation, amplification, and applause rates to:

•             Get a better understanding of what content is effective – and what isn’t;

•             Connect any social media page to True Social Metrics, even if you don’t own it;

•             Compare your posting density effectiveness with your competitors or other top brands;

•             Compare how many ‘dead’ posts you have to other brands and your industry average;

•             Compare your best and worst posts with competitors to find insights and inspiration;

•             Compare videos, photos, links, and plain text to find the most effective content type;

•             Compare your current posting times with the suggested most effective times to post;

•             Segment your content to discover your most effective post topics and content campaigns;

•             Connect your Google Analytics account to True Social Metrics to see economic value.

These digital analytics are a better way to measure the real active engagement of users with your social media content.

What’s a better way to measure lead generation?

Google Analytics does a pretty good job of measuring micro conversions. These are activities that users frequently engage in before purchasing. Websites commonly have several kinds of micro conversions, so it’s likely that Sue will want to set up at least two or three goals, including:

  • Ordered free catalogue: Sue should create a URL Destination goal for ordering the free catalogue and define the “Thank you for signing up” page as the goal page. She should then establish a value for this goal. This value will be used to calculate the Average Session Value in Google Analytics reports. To determine a value, Sue should evaluate how often the users who reach the goal become customers. For example, if 10% of free catalogue orders eventually result in a purchase, and Odysseys Unlimited’s average transaction is $4,000, then Sue might assign $400 (i.e. 10% of $4,000) to her “Free catalogue order” goal.
  • Created an account: Sue should create a URL Destination goal for the Gen C Pathfinders Program and define the “Account setup completed” page as the goal page. She should create a funnel for the goal and add a funnel step for each step in the account creation process.

There’s an additional way for Sue to improve performance over time by giving credit where it’s due. She should use the Campaign URL Builder tool to easily add campaign parameters to URLs to track Custom Campaigns in Google Analytics. All Sue’s content team has to do is enter the website URL and campaign information into the form and a URL will be automatically generated for them. Although only the campaign source is required, I’d recommend using the campaign medium and campaign name, as well. I’d also recommend using Bitly or the Google URL Shortener to make these links more sharable in social media.

Then, the results of a new content marketing initiative or an influencer marketing campaign don’t get blended or buried somewhere in Odysseys Unlimited’s Google Analytics Reports. Using the Campaign URL Builder will enable Sue to measure each of the channels and tactics that are part of Odysseys Unlimited’s Gen C Pathfinder Program and new content marketing initiative – which should combine existing storytelling assets as well as new ones – using these KPIs:

•             Acquisition – aka website traffic,

•             Behavior – aka time spent on website,

•             Conversions – aka micro conversions.

These web analytics are a better way to measure lead generation.

Is there a better way to measure building an audience via subscriptions?

Sue could report the growing number of subscribers to a new email newsletter and assume that this data will be valued by Bruce Epstein. But Odysseys Unlimited doesn’t currently have an email newsletter, so it may be necessary to “translate” its value for the President.

To do this, Sue will set up a third goal to measure a third kind of micro conversion:

  • Email signup: Sue should create a URL Destination goal and define the “Thank you for signing up” page as the goal page. She should establish a value for this goal. This value will be used to calculate Average Session Value in Google Analytics reports. To determine a value, Sue should evaluate how often the users who reach the goal become customers. For example, if 2% of email signups eventually result in a purchase, and Odysseys Unlimited’s average transaction is $4,000, then Sue might assign $80 (i.e. 2% of $4,000) to her “Signed up for email” goal.

These web analytics are a better way to measure building an audience via subscriptions.

Is there a better way to measure sales than completed purchases?

Now, sales – or completed purchases – is a great way to measure sales. But most high-consideration B2C marketers aren’t expected to generate sales; they’re expected to generate leads that the sales department will close. Which is why the sales department typically gets all the credit for sales. Meanwhile, most high-consideration B2C marketers are expected to focus on “higher conversion rates” and “sales lead quality” – even though this puts them in a lose-lose scenario: If their leads convert, then sales will get all the credit; if their leads don’t convert, then marketing will get all the blame.

Now, I don’t know what the relationship between marketing and sales is like within Odysseys Unlimited, so I can’t provide Sue with any useful advice about office politics. But, I do know a way that she can earn some credit for a KPI that’s even more important than sales: The return on investment in marketing (ROMI).

ROMI isn’t like return-on-investment (ROI) metrics. Instead of money that’s “tied” up in plants and inventories (capital expenditure or CAPEX), marketing is typically expensed in the current period (operational expenditure or OPEX).

Here’s the formula for calculating your ROMI: Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) = [Incremental Revenue Attributable to Marketing ($) * Contribution Margin (%) – Marketing Spending ($)] / Marketing Spending ($). Usually, marketing spending will be deemed as justified if the ROMI is positive.

For example, if Odysseys Unlimited spent $28,800 on a new content marketing initiative and it generated three small groups of just 12 guests apiece to travel to Reykjavik, Toronto, and Tokyo, then the campaign would generate a total 36 guests at an average of $4,000 per person, or $144,000. If the tour agency’s contribution margin is 60%, then the ROMI would be ($144,000 * 60% – $28,800 / $28,800), or 2.0. In other words, every dollar expended on the new content marketing initiative translates into an additional $2 in profit on Odysseys Unlimited’s bottom line.

Now, that’s the conservative estimate. If a new content marketing initiative that cost $28,800 could generate three small groups of 24 guests apiece to travel to Reykjavik, Toronto, and Tokyo, then the campaign would generate a total 72 guests at an average of $4,000 per person, or $288,000. That would mean the ROMI would be ($288,000 * 60% – $28,800 / $28,800), or 5.0. In other words, every dollar expended on the new content marketing initiative translates into an additional $5 on Odysseys Unlimited’s bottom line.

Is that even doable? Well, a case study about SEO-PR’s campaign to help Rutgers Business School Executive Education launch a new Mini-MBA program in Digital Supply Chain Management, which was shortlisted for a US Search Award in 2016, showed that a $2,323 campaign generated 6 registrations at $4,995 per participant, or $29,970 in incremental revenue. Do the math and the ROMI was: ($29,970 * 70% – $2,323) / $2,323, or 8.0.

Now, these web analytics are a better way to measure sales than completed purchases.

What’s the right way to measure customer retention/loyalty?

If a content marketer’s goal is customer retention/ loyalty, then the right way to measure that is by surveying guests – soon after they have come home from one of Odysseys Unlimited small group tours.

Odysseys Unlimited already does this, so Sue doesn’t need to re-invent this wheel. However, she should consider adopting the Net Promoter Score (NPS), a management tool that can be used to gauge the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships. It serves as an alternative to traditional customer satisfaction research and claims to be correlated with revenue growth.

These digital analytics are the right way to measure customer retention/loyalty.

Digital analytics vs web analytics

So, I recommend that Sue use digital analytics to measure brand awareness, engagement, and customer retention/loyalty. But, I recommend that she use web analytics to measure lead generation, building an audience via subscriptions, and sales.

So, when deciding what to measure, it’s not a question of digital analytics vs web analytics. As James Barksdale, the legendary president and CEO of Netscape Communications Corporation, once said, “In a fight between a bear and an alligator, it is the terrain which determines who wins.”

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