If you are incurring costs for your website (and who isn’t?), you should be tracking how those costs drive to your bottom line. It’s just good, basic analytics strategy. It’s so easy to get caught up in the latest social media site or new tool that allows us to pierce deeper into our target audience, but when we begin to use these new tools, we sometimes begin to skew our measure of success.

All of a sudden what once was a very clear goal of increasing our sales and achieving our ROI metric has now become more cloudy; we are now tracking how many likes we have accrued, the number of new followers we have amassed, or how many re-pins we generated without regard for how any of these things affect the bottom line. The interesting thing is it often takes years before we begin to apply the same success metrics to these “new” sites and tools, while workhorses like paid search and email are brutalized for even the smallest deviation from normal performance.

These new initiatives, even during testing, can and should be effectively measured.

All things online have the ability to be tracked, reported on, and thereby, improved, but someone has to lead the initiative, monitor the campaign, and know how to improve it. Far too often, measuring the impact of new advertising on the end goal falls by the wayside as easier-to-track actions take the forefront. These actions are normally those easily found and publicized by the publisher: think fans on Facebook, pins on Pinterest, or followers on Twitter. The publisher, however, is not privy to our ROI goals and is focused on their own specific metrics. Although their platforms may be built around their own action goals, that doesn’t mean we can’t find a way to apply our own strategies utilizing their platform to achieve our goals.

Most recently, we have seen paid advertising appear on even the newest social media sites; most brands (at least the smart ones) will be demanding results for their spend, so you better believe someone else has figured out how to leverage that new site to hit their goal. It’s great to try on the latest trend for size, but just like any other new advertising effort (even adding a new set of keywords to paid search!), you have to test and evaluate to see if that’s the right option for you.

Testing is a critical piece in expanding our marketing; it adds fresh sources of profitable sales to our overall campaign and introduces new customers to our brand. Because it is so important to the success of our business, it needs be treated with the respect that the rest of our campaigns receive, meaning a testing plan should outline exactly why the test is being performed, what the desired outcomes are, what the measures of success will be, how those measures will be tracked, what the milestones are, and the overall duration of the test.

Measure Twice / Cut Once.

Asking these basic strategy questions before launching the new initiative defines the parameters and desired outcomes for the test and also acts to vet the campaign. Sometimes just going through process can help point out huge errors in logic or discrepancies in cost vs ROI. Knowing why you are running the test and what you expect to get and when will help you know how well you are doing during the test.

At the end of the day, if a new initiative has had significant time to breathe (this varies) and still isn’t achieving the overarching business goal, then what good is it? If you are not tracking the initiative, you will never know if you are reaching your business goal or wasting your budget; it is our job as online marketers to figure out how to track and measure our efforts. If you are tracking your initiative and it’s close to your goal but not there yet, then what can you do to improve it?

If it is so far off that it’s not even close, it’s time to cut your losses. Testing is important because the latest “trend” is only good for your business if testing reveals that it drives towards the overall goal. The smart marketer knows when something is worthy of improvement efforts and how to actually improve them or when it’s time to let go.

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