How to Know if Your Online Marketing Is Working

This post is going to answer a seemingly impossible question.

An issue that’s been around since the golden age of Madison Avenue Mad Men.

“How do I know if my marketing is working?”

For a long time, brands would spend their marketing budgets on radio, TV, and billboards.

They’d have an attention-grabbing photo and a catchy headline.

But, unless the ad said “Where’s the beef?” or “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand,” it was hard to connect ad spend with sales revenue.

How do you know if the money you spend on blog posts, email, and social media has a return?

The problem used to be a lack of information. Now the challenge is too much data. There’s a much better way to evaluate your current marketing strategy.

Let’s dive in.

How to Analyze Your Google Rankings

With a few exceptions, businesses are found by people searching on Google.

And ranking higher on Google means more website visitors and more business.

Google doesn’t exactly rank businesses or websites, though.

Instead, it lists specific web pages based on keywords.

Keywords are the phrases a user types into Google’s search bar.

Because Google ranks web pages for keywords, your site could have several pages that rank for a variety of different search phrases.

Having multiple pages rank on Google is great news … but it makes answering the question, “Where do I rank on Google?,” a little more challenging than you’d expect.

How to Understand and Measure Google Rankings for Your Business

The first step to understanding where your business ranks on Google is to know what keywords you want to rank for.

This is a simple process of identifying the top 5–10 keywords that your target audience uses to search for businesses like yours.

Let’s use an example of one of our own clients – an orthodontic practice in Kansas City.

After some educated guesses and keyword research, we helped the practice identify the search terms to rank for:

  • orthodontist
  • braces
  • Invisalign

Because we also know people search based on geography, we added:

  • orthodontist kansas city
  • braces kansas city
  • invisalign kansas city

This client also has several offices, so we created a list of 42 total keywords, including the 6 listed above.

The next step is to find out how the client ranked for those keywords. Our favorite tool to do this is SEMrush, but there are others, such as RavenTools, and Ahrefs.

When we plug in our 42 keywords into SEMrush, we get two important pieces of information:

1. Our position ranking for each term

Semrush Rankings Blinded

2. The URLs (specific web page on our site) that rank

Semrush Landing Pages Blinded

As you can see, we rank in the top 3 for 21 terms and in the top 10 for 37 terms.

That’s powerful information!

Once you understand where you rank for your target keywords, use a variety of tactics to increase your position in Google rankings.

Track keyword ranking

Now that you understand where you rank for your target keywords today, you’re ready for some advanced tracking – competition and trends.

We love SEMrush because it allows us to add our competitors’ websites to our ranking report.

The report shows, at a glance, where we rank and where each of our competitors ranks for each of our target terms.

You’ll know very quickly how you stack up to your competitors on Google.

Here’s the competition report for our orthodontist example.

Semrush Competitors Blinded

Trending is another advanced way to evaluate your Google ranks. Set a monthly schedule to look at your rankings and compare the data to the previous month.

Is your rank improving? What changes have you made in the past month? If your ranking went up, they worked. If it went down, you need to reevaluate your strategy.

Google Rankings Wrap Up

With your list of target keywords in hand, you know how to find your specific rankings for each term along with which page on your site is ranking for each term.

Google rankings are an important part of understanding the effectiveness of your online marketing, but they are missing critical data – website traffic.

You should continuously monitor your Google rankings, but you should also take a close look at the actual traffic to your website.

If you’d like help choosing your target keywords and reporting on your Google rankings, let’s talk.

Analyzing the Traffic to Your Website

A high ranking on Google usually means lots of clicks to your site. But clicks from Google are only one of many different ways a person can get to your site.

Among our client sites, we see visits to their sites from Google, Bing, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Yelp, Facebook ads, Google AdWords ads, and more.

There’s a lot of potential ways to drive traffic to your site beyond Google searches, you just need to know where to find them.

Where Are Your Website Visits Coming from?

To analyze website analytics, we recommend Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is free, easy to use, and has an ample supply of free online resources available.

With Google Analytics installed, you can see who visits your website and where traffic is coming from.

Before diving into Google Analytics, let’s review some terminology

to help make sense of the reports once we review them.

Google Analytics Terminology

We’ll be looking at Google Analytics’ acquisition reports. Each of these reports is segmented in different ways based on where the traffic came from.

While you can segment your visits in countless custom ways, we’ll look at the defaults here.

To get you started, let’s look at Google Analytics’ standard segmentation groups:

  • Sources
  • Mediums
  • Channels

Google Analytics Channels

Channels are the highest-level grouping in Google Analytics. A Channel combines broad categories of traffic for quick analysis.

Google Analytics has a set of default Channels. The defaults will work well for you in most cases. Defaults can be:

  • Direct – Direct visits are usually visits to your website where the user types your website address (URL) directly into her browser or visits from bookmarks.
    • This is also a catch-all group for Google Analytics consisting of any visit where Google can’t define the source (think from a Word doc or Skype message).
  • Organic Search – visits from non-paid search results on any search engine.
  • Paid Search – visits from paid search results (ads) on any search engine.
  • Display – visits from display ads from any advertising platform. Think banner ads.
  • Referral – visits from other websites, excluding major search engines.
  • Social – visits from major social networks.
  • Email – visits from emails
  • (Other) – visits where Google Analytics can’t determine the medium. See below for more about Mediums in Google Analytics.

Google Analytics Mediums

A Medium in Google Analytics is the category of the traffic source. If you’re using the default Channel groups (above), each Medium will match a default Channel.

Examples of Mediums:

  • Organic (same as Organic Search Channel)
  • PPC (same as Paid Search Channel)
  • Referral (could match to Social Channel or Referral Channel)

Google Analytics Sources

This is the most specific default grouping in Google Analytics. A source is the name of a particular origin of a visit to your site.

Examples of Sources:

  • Google
  • Bing
  • Facebook.com
  • Direct
  • NYtimes.com

Analyzing Traffic Channels

Now that you have an idea of how Google Analytics segments your traffic, you can analyze those visits.

Let’s look at an example.

Google Analytics Channels Report 
Google Analytics Channels Report

The above report shows the traffic to our website, strategynewmedia.com. As you can see we’re getting visits from Organic Search, Direct, (Other), Paid Search, Social, and Referral Channels.

Based on the data above, we can start to analyze. Here are some topics to explore:

  • Over 73% of visits are from Organic Search. What searches are driving this traffic? Perhaps we can optimize SEO elements for higher conversions or write content on related topics for more visits.
  • We’ve been putting an emphasis on SEO. This report confirms those efforts have paid off regarding Organic Search traffic.
  • Less than 1.5% of visits are from Social. Perhaps there are social media strategies we could implement to drive more visits.
  • Almost 5% of visits are from unknown Mediums. We should dig into the Sources of this traffic to determine how to better classify them.

Analyzing Traffic Value

As you can now see there is tremendous value in understanding the source of your visitor’s traffic.

A traffic analysis gives you a comprehensive view of visits and can provide the data to review past online marketing strategies and provide data to drive new campaigns.

So far, we’ve seen the value in Google rankings and know how to analyze all of our traffic by Channels using Google Analytics.

We’re still missing a critical part of our analysis, and that’s the economic value and ROI.

If you’d like help conducting a traffic analysis for your website, send us a message.

How to Measure Value for Your Website Traffic

To calculate ROI for any marketing effort, you must define a value of the actions your audience takes. Value can be assigned to many different actions on your website, and this is how the winners of online marketing operate.

If you’re only measuring Google rankings, you’re missing out on understanding the value of those rankings.

If you’re only looking at how your marketing acquires visitors to your site, you’re missing out on understanding the value of those visits.

You need an Economic Value Measurement Model

An Economic Value Measurement Model is a concept developed by Google Evangelist, bestselling author, and digital analytics guru, Avinash Kaushik.

The model assigns values to specific actions a user takes on your website. For example:

  • Newsletter signups
  • Coupon downloads
  • Event registrations
  • Video views

Any action a user takes can have value. The key is to identify the actionable activities on your website and assign values to each.

Let’s look at an example from one of our clients.

Understanding Economic Value Measurement

Recently, one of our clients asked us to evaluate their marketing mix for ROI. Additionally, they wanted to look at opportunities to shift marketing dollars to more profitable marketing channels.

Because this client has done the work to identify goals and values for their website, we had all the data necessary to perform the analysis.

Here’s a snapshot of their Acquisition by Channels report from Google Analytics.

Google Analytics Channels Report

Now we can see the value of the visits from each Channel in Google Analytics. All we need is the cost for each Channel to perform the ROI calculation.

This client has focused on Facebook Ads to drive traffic to their site to claim an offer coupon. We assigned a value to that coupon based on the lifetime value of a new customer.

As you can see from the (Other) Channel (representing Facebook Ads), the client generated $105,000 in value from these visits.

We spent about $850 to create that value. A whopping 12,000% ROI.

The point of this example isn’t the high ROI, though. It’s the concept that you can calculate ROI from your online marketing with a bit of work on the front end.

How to build an Economic Value Measurement Model

The concept of measuring value isn’t complicated, but it’s hard work.

There are 5 steps to creating your own Economic Value Measurement Model:

1. Define top-level business objectives
2. Identify goals for each objective
3. Decide how you’ll measure the goals – Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
4. Set targets for each KPI
5. Identify segments to evaluate

Here’s an example of a complete Economic Value Measurement Model from Avinash Kaushik:

value measurement model

You can see how each of the 5 steps above leads to an item on the model.

A complete model is your key to calculating ROI and finally knowing if your online marketing is working.

If you’d like help creating your Economic Value Measurement Model, contact Strategy today.

Is your online marketing working?

As a business owner or marketer, you always want to know how your marketing is performing. Where should you spend your next marketing dollar? How much will you make by spending that extra money?

With Google’s dominance in everything from search to smartphones, we want to know where we rank on Google. It’s an important part of our marketing evaluation, but it is only part of the picture.

Website traffic is a better indication of success than Google rankings because it includes all sources of traffic and segmentation of data.

And the best way to understand how your marketing is performing is with an Economic Value Measurement Model.

By assigning a value to key actions users take on your website, you can calculate ROI for your marketing spend.

Contact Strategy today to help you get started answering the question, “Is my online marketing working?”

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