Which are the main KPIs to consider in order to understand the progress of our digital marketing strategies? How are they measured and which ones should be monitored to improve performance? The following article dedicated to digital Key Performance Indicators helps us understand what digital marketing KPIs are, how to choose the ones that best suit our goals and how to read them.
The web is a highly competitive environment that requires companies to constantly monitor their online performance. On a digital level, monitoring our performance means carefully examining certain metrics, called KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). They provide all the information necessary to understand the effectiveness of a marketing campaign and possibly identify and correct errors.
In this article, we will talk about what are the digital KPIs, why they are important and what are the main KPIs to consider for the most important digital marketing channels.
Table of contents
What are the KPIs and how to measure them?
The term KPI is the acronym of Key Performance Indicator. In marketing, KPIs are used to define the set of metrics to monitor to determine the success or failure of a strategy. These parameters allow us to measure the performance of a marketing action and to give real value to a goal. This way, marketers will always have a picture of the progress of the strategy implemented and can quickly make changes if it doesn’t achieve the desired results.
In the digital world, there are several information and data; so, monitoring the results could be at first glance too complicated and discouraging. It is therefore essential, right from the launch of our strategy, to establish which indicators we want to take into consideration to measure the performance of our marketing actions and to maintain the same parameters in the long run. On the contrary, not knowing which specific KPIs to monitor will lead to not having a precise focus and not being able to have a clear idea of what works and what doesn’t. To determine which KPIs to measure, we can consider:
- KPIs that involve the entire company: these are quantifiable parameters that are in line with the goals of our company (for example, lead generation, sales or conversions);
- KPIs related to a single communication channel: we only take into consideration metrics related to one channel, without aggregating them with others;
- Leading indicator: inputs that are used to predict the evolution of the progress of a marketing campaign. For example, if n. users visit our site without carrying out an action/conversion (for example a purchase, download of a brochure, filling in of a contact form, etc.), we can begin to deduce that we have made some mistake and we have the possibility to correct them, trying to improve the performance.
We should avoid considering metrics related to events that are beyond our control as we will not have the necessary tools to correct what does not depend on us. We should also “take with a grain of salt” the so-called “vanity metrics”, i.e. metrics that look positive but fail to provide us with valuable information that can be used to improve our strategy.
To set the KPIs correctly, we can follow the SMART approach, according to which each goal must be:
- Specific: well defined (we can, for example, consider the number of visitors of a specific web page);
- Measurable: easily quantifiable (we could evaluate, for example, the average duration of a visit on a particular web page or the number of followers on our social pages);
- Achievable: accessible and reachable, a goal that isn’t out of our reach (we cannot open a new YouTube channel and immediately expect millions of views);
- Realistic: relevant and with a significant impact on our business (if our goal is to do lead generation, let’s focus more on contact form conversions rather than video views on our YouTube channel);
- Time-related: limited to a time horizon and with a well-defined deadline (for example, monitoring sales in the first quarter of the year).
Let’s now see what are the main KPIs to consider on each digital marketing channel.
The website is one of the most important digital touch points for a brand as it allows the company to connect with its target audience, communicate its values, mission and vision, as well as to showcase its products and services.
Given the importance that a website has for a company, it is essential to know what are the KPIs that allow us to understand the trend of our online performance. The parameters to be evaluated are numerous and also include queries, keywords, traffic sources, site speed, behaviour flows, etc. These data are all available on Google Analytics, which is one of the most used tools to measure the performance of a website and that we can consult when we want to deepen certain aspects. Here we focus instead on the main KPIs.
Users and page views
The user metric indicates the total number of users who have visited our website, blog or e-commerce; the page views metric indicates the total number of pages visited by users.
Both metrics are a great indicator of whether our site is generating good traffic. There are no absolute numbers that indicate success: these metrics should be evaluated based on our target audience. In fact, if we operate in a niche or particularly technical and specific sector, the number of users and page views will certainly be lower compared to those of sectors that embrace a wider audience.
To improve these metrics, regardless of our reference sector, we must aim to improve the ranking of our site on the SERP, optimizing the contents and the structure according to the rules of SEO.
Pages per session
Another metric to consider to evaluate the interest that users show towards our site and our content is pages per session, which indicates how many pages a user views in a given session.
A session corresponds to the period of time a user interacts with the website, so it goes without saying that the higher the number of pages per session, the more likely the user finds the contents of our site interesting.
Average session duration
The average session duration is an important parameter to monitor the performance of our site as it indicates how much time users spend browsing the pages of our website, from the moment they land on the site to the moment they exit it. Even if the time spent on a website is not always synonymous with success, it is still a precious parameter as it helps us to evaluate the level of interest towards the contents of our site and to understand which pages perform better.
Another metric closely related to user interest is the bounce rate, which indicates the percentage of visitors who leave the website immediately after visiting it and without interacting with the page.
The term “bounce” refers precisely to the action of the users who, after landing on our website, immediately leave the page, returning to the SERP or to the website which linked to it. The reasons why this happens can be different and sometimes diametrically opposed. Users who bounce off the page can do so both because they didn’t find anything that interested them on that page or because they actually immediately found what they were looking for (i.e., the opening hours of a shop).
However, sometimes, the bounce rate is strictly related to coding errors, too invasive ads that disturb the navigation or to a poor quality of the contents.
Therefore, this metric should be carefully analysed and evaluated in correlation with the pages of the site.
Another KPI to take into consideration to monitor the performance of our website SEO-wise is the number of backlinks or inbound links. When we talk about backlinks, we refer to direct links to our site that are spontaneously inserted within other websites. Backlinks are important to obtain a good ranking in the SERP, as long as they come from authoritative and relevant sites for our business. If not, it is best to remove them, so as to avoid being penalized by search engines.
The term conversion refers to all actions carried out by users as a response to our Call To Action (CTA), such as, for example, filling out a contact form, registering for an event/webinar, subscribing to a newsletter, downloading an e-book, concluding a purchase, etc.
This metric is basically applicable to any marketing action and, when it comes to our website, it tells us the ratio between the number of users and the number of conversions obtained.
In addition to organic traffic, paid traffic too has a few KPIs to take into consideration.
Whenever one of our ads is shown to a user, an impression is recorded. Consequently, impressions refer to the number of times our advertisement is shown somewhere on the web. This indicator depends on the budget we decide to invest and the number and value of the keywords we choose.
The higher the quality score of our ad, the more chances we have that it will be shown to the chosen target.
CTR is the percentage of clicks our ad has achieved in relation to its impressions. The CTR can be interpreted as an indicator of the interest that our ads have aroused in users who, attracted by our advertising campaign, have clicked on it to discover its content.
Consequently, the CTR helps us understand the effectiveness of our campaigns in capturing the attention and interest of the target audience.
As we wrote, the conversion rate is the number of users who have taken a certain action. When it comes to advertisements, conversion occurs when the user clicks on the Call To Action on the landing page. The higher the conversion rate, the more effective our ad is.
Email marketing strategies can be evaluated according to different KPIs, ranging from parameters strictly related to the performance of the message (such as the open and click rates) to metrics that allow a broader interpretation of the performance, such as the delivery rate, which it also gives us an idea of the health of our database. Before seeing what the main KPIs are of an email marketing campaign, it is good to remember that each email marketing platform has its own dashboard in which we can find useful information and detailed statistics about the performance of each newsletter. We also have to keep in mind that the definition of each metric changes based on how it is calculated by each platform.
Having said that, here are the main KPIs we should measure during an email marketing campaign:
The open rate indicates the percentage of successfully delivered emails and that have been opened at least once by the recipients. A low open rate is often synonymous with poor quality of the newsletter: if users do not find our communications interesting, it is likely that, by recognizing the sender, they will delete our newsletters even before opening them; or it is possible that because of certain technical parameters our communications are filtered as spam.
There are several techniques that can be implemented to improve the open rate. The first factors to consider are the object, the preheader and the sender of the newsletter. These are the first (and only) three elements that recipients see when they receive a new email in their inbox. For this reason, it is necessary to make the most of these elements in order to be successful: an object that is too trivial or a preview without key information could push the recipient to quickly delete our email. Therefore, the first thing to do is to create a captivating object and preheader that convey the content of the email and capture the interest of the recipient.
Another thing to do to improve the open rate is to try to send our newsletters on different days and times, in order to determine which are the best performing moments for our target. Even segmenting our mailing list, especially if it consists of a large number of users, could be a good strategy. For example, we can create specific mailing lists based on the issues addressed in the newsletter or the interest shown by users, in order to send more targeted communications and prevent users from becoming disaffected.
In order not to end up in spam filters, we can optimize our communications by limiting the number of characters and photos, and the weight. Let’s also avoid words and expressions like discount, offer, best price, etc., as our newsletter could end up in spam or in the Promotions tab.
Finally, we must remember that the open rate is very useful but often inaccurate due to the systems and practices that aim at protecting the user’s privacy. For example, Apple Mail introduced Mail Privacy Protection in 2021, offering users who use the app to hide if and when they open newsletters. Often, to overcome this problem, email marketing platforms automatically calculate an opening for all users who use Apple Mail, effectively altering the rate.
When it comes to clicks, we have to take into account two different types of KPIs: the CTR (Click-through Rate) and the CTOR, which stands for Click-to-Open Rate. While the first indicates the percentage of recipients who have clicked at least once on a link in the newsletter, the second concerns the number of clicks in relation to unique openings.
Of the two parameters, the CTOR is certainly more important for evaluating the success of our newsletters as it allows us to monitor user engagement: if these users, after having opened (and hopefully read) our newsletter, also decide to click its links, it means that our message was correctly targeted.
To increase click rates, it is very important to create engaging copy and CTAs.
The delivery rate is the percentage that indicates the emails that have been delivered to the target server without generating errors. It is not uncommon for emails to not be delivered to all the users in our mailing list: it can happen that a person changes email (especially if it is a company email) or that an email address has typos.
The delivery rate is linked to the so-called bounce rate, which is divided into:
- Soft bounce: it indicates a temporary problem because of which it is impossible to deliver the mail to the recipient. The causes of this can be related to connection problems, a momentarily full mailbox, a too heavy message, auto-replies to mails and other types of temporary errors.
- Hard bounce: it refers to a permanent error. The message cannot be delivered because the address no longer exists or has been deactivated, or the recipient’s server has blocked the sender’s one. If a soft bounce is repeated more than three times, the error is classified as a hard bounce.
As mentioned at the beginning, the delivery rate is also linked to the health of our database: if the database is not updated continuously, the risk is to damage the entire email marketing strategy.
The unsubscribe rate indicates the number of users who request to be unsubscribed from our mailing list and no longer receive our communications.
To try to reduce the number of unsubscribers, it is advisable to target and segment the database to avoid saturating users with a large number of newsletters. Our emails are not always suitable for all users. Each database has users with different interests, so we have to make sure that they receive only the messages most in line with their profile. Let’s also avoid to send a too large (or too little) number of newsletters: there is no precise number of newsletters to schedule to ensure success, however it is advisable to send regular and constant communications. The key is to always provide useful, interesting and relevant information.
When it comes to newsletters, when we talk about the conversion rate, we refer to the percentage of recipients who have performed a certain action, including, for example, downloading a brochure, requesting information or registering for an event through the newsletter.
Social media channels also have certain KPIs that can help us evaluate whether the implemented strategy is working or not. Obtaining this information is not difficult as each social media platform has its own dashboard which allows brands and creators to monitor KPIs and insights of individual posts as well as to have an overview of our page or profile.
However, when it comes to KPIs of social posts, it is necessary to make two premises. The first concerns vanity metrics, which are superficial data that may show large numbers but which do not necessarily translate into a significant result for our brand. An example is the number of followers, which should never be evaluated alone but always in relation to interactions: a large number of followers is useless if they do not interact with our content.
The second premise concerns the interactions: engagement on social networks is decreasing and this is a trend that has been going on for some time now. There is also a more subtle, hidden kind of engagement to consider, which entails some form of focus on our content during scrolling but with no direct interaction.
All of this makes it increasingly difficult to get a clear picture of our social media performance. For this reason, the KPIs we are going to list must be evaluated not individually but always as a whole. Let’s see what are the main KPIs that a social media marketer should consider.
Social networks are one of the main channels used by companies to create brand awareness. At this stage, the main goal is to make ourself known by the target. For this reason, the KPIs to be taken into consideration concern the community and potential followers. These are:
- Reach: it indicates the number of unique users (not necessarily followers) who have viewed a certain content.
- Impressions: it indicates the number of times a content has been viewed by users (not necessarily followers).
Another parameter to be taken into consideration in a social media marketing strategy is engagement: it evaluates user engagement and the strength of the relationship between the brand and the user. The more the relationship with our brand is solid, the more users will be inclined to perform certain actions on social media, and to convert into customers. To measure engagement on social media, various parameters are used, including:
- Visits: how many times a user visits our company’s page on a social platform.
- Followers: the number of users who follow our brand page/profile.
- Interactions: the number of likes, comments and reactions to our posts.
- Shares: how many times our contents are shared by others.
- Mentions: the number of times users have mentioned our brand.
Another really important metric for our social media marketing strategy concerns conversions. This is a parameter that cannot be ignored as it indicates the actions that are performed by users. Each social media marketing strategy aims to achieve one or more goals and through conversions we can measure whether the implemented strategy is working or not.
When we publish content on social networks, we often conclude with a CTA in order to ask users to take a certain action. For example, through a click, we can direct users to our website or to a specifically created landing page where the real conversion will take place (for example, a purchase, registration for an event or a newsletter).
In a highly competitive environment such as the digital world, having an overview of our performance allows us to understand the effectiveness of our marketing strategies across all channels and act promptly.
KPIs are great allies of digital marketers and cannot be ignored. As we have seen with Apple Mail, privacy actions are changing the way user data and behaviors are recorded. It is important to be constantly up-to-date on the ways in which search engines, social media networks and e-mail marketing platforms collect data to correctly understand how to interpret KPIs.
EOS Mktg&Communication can help you implement the digital strategy that best suits your company’s needs. Visit the page dedicated to our services or write to email@example.com to receive more information.