The Most Important KPIs for Digital Marketing Analytics (and How to Use Them)

What are the most important KPIs to track when you’re running a digital marketing campaign — including, but not limited to paid search, paid social and display ads

Every campaign is different, but most marketers will end up using the following metrics. Think of these KPIs as your campaign’s vital signs, the same way a doctor tracks a patient’s pulse, blood pressure and temperature. They’ll give you the essential facts about how your marketing is performing, so you can shift budget or tactics in order to reach your campaign goals. 

Impressions: Each impression represents a single viewing of an ad, webpage or marketing message. Impressions can help you measure how well you’re getting your message out to your target audience. 

Clicks: Each click represents a single instance of a user following a link to visit another web page or to initiate an action, such as downloading a sales brochure. At a very basic level, clicks help you measure engagement. Were my audiences interested enough to take the next step? 

Click-Through Rate (CTR): Click-through rate calculates how many users saw an ad and then decided to click it. So if 100 people viewed an ad, and 10 of them decided to click on it, that ad had a CTR of 10 percent. It’s one way to assess the effectiveness of an ad. 

Conversion: A conversion is the completion of a desired goal or action — what you want someone to do as a result of your campaign.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a purchase, though that’s usually what it is for an ecommerce company. For a bank, a conversion might be someone completing a form to apply for a credit card. A university’s conversion goal could be a visitor downloading a brochure about one of their degree programs. 

Conversion Rate: Your conversion rate is the average number of conversions per click or visit, shown as a percentage. Conversion rates are calculated by simply taking the number of conversions and dividing that by the number of total clicks or visits that can be tracked to a conversion during the same time period. If 100 people visited your site as a result of your campaign, and five of them converted, your conversion rate is 5 percent. 

Your conversion rate helps you put your conversions in context. Racking up 1,000 conversions might seem impressive, but if you had had 20 million visitors to your site, there might be room for improvement.

Cost: The amount of money spent on an advertising, marketing or promotional campaign or activity. It’s always important to know if you’re spending more (or less) than planned. 

Cost-Per-Click (CPC): This is an online advertising model where advertisers pay for each click on their advertisement. (CPC is a type of cost-per-action.)

Cost Per Conversion: Calculation of how money was spent on advertising per conversion. If you spend $10,000 on advertising and your campaign results in 10 form completions, your cost per conversion is $1,000. 

How to Use These KPIs

There is one caveat to the list above, and it’s a pretty big one: Be careful how you use it. 

What I mean is that you shouldn’t blindly grab a list of KPIs off the internet and use that as the be-all and end-all standard for your paid media analytics. 

Instead, you need to be clear about the objective of your campaign first. Then determine what KPIs will allow you to measure your progress toward that objective. The way I like to think about it is starting with the end in mind. 

marketing funnel

For example, let’s say your campaign has a goal of 50 form submissions by the end of the month, from adults ages 35 to 44 residing in Texas and Oklahoma. These are people who visit your website and complete a form scheduling a call with your team. To measure this stage of your marketing funnel, you’ll be counting conversions. (And probably cost, conversion rate and cost per conversion, too.)  

From past experience, you know that only 2 percent of the people who come to your site will fill out the form. To get your 50 form fills, you’re going to need 2,500 website visitors. Tracking clicks and cost-per-click will tell you if you’re getting the traffic required to reach this goal. 

To attract enough visitors, you decide to run search ads. Maybe 2 percent of the people who see your ad will actually click on it. To get 2,500 visitors, you might need 125,000 people to view your ads. Measuring impressions, along with click-through rate, allows you to assess how much awareness you’re generating.

(And what if more than 2 percent click through? Because you’re getting more web traffic for your dollar, you could reduce how much you’re spending on search ads mid-campaign. You’ll still hit your goal and save money at the same time — pretty cool!) 

Different campaigns may require different KPIs. If you’re running a campaign on YouTube, for example, you might need to monitor average view duration or audience retention.

By starting with clear objectives, you know exactly why you’re tracking each KPI and how it relates to your bottom line. You can make a better, more effective plan for how you’re going to reach that goal. 

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