November 19, 2013

Marketing Research Chart: What metrics should you track?

SUMMARY: What gets measured gets done. But these days, you can only measure so much -- so what should you measure?

If you are engaged in landing page optimization, the metric you are optimizing heavily influences the success of your optimization efforts.

In this week's chart, we'll take a look at what metrics marketers are using to measure the effectiveness of their websites.
by Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content

In the MarketingSherpa 2012 Website Optimization Benchmark Report, we asked marketers …

Q: Which of the following website objectives is tracked by your marketing department?

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These numbers add up to more than 100%, which is good. It means the average marketer is tracking more than one metric.

In a perfect world, one might argue every single one of these metrics would be tracked by 100% of marketers. That is, marketers were tracking every aspect of their website's performance, and using that to determine where the drop-off is in the sales process and where they should focus their optimization efforts.

Of course, we live in an imperfect world. You likely don't have the bandwidth to track each and every metric that you would like, and therefore you must make decisions based on limited information. So, let's take a quick, and also imperfect, look at the pros and cons of each of these objectives. After all, these metrics will serve you better when you factor in not only their abilities, but their limitations as well.



  • It's easy. A free analytics platform can give you this data. You can get a basic understanding of what it means, even if you didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. Perhaps that's why this was the most popular metric to track, with 79% of marketers indicating they tracked it.

  • It can help you get an idea of how your top-of-the-funnel marketing activities are performing.


  • Unless you're a media company, you likely don't sell traffic. You are trying to sell a product, get a lead or solicit a donation. So, you can do things to boost this metric while hurting your company's overall performance.

For an (extreme) example, if you promise a free iPad in a PPC ad, you will likely drive a lot of traffic to your website. Whether that is ultimately a wise business decision is another matter entirely.

Perhaps that's why 44% of marketers who used traffic as an LPO objective considered it to have an only "somewhat significant" impact on improving website performance.

Conversion, clickthrough or other KPIs


  • This involves an actual action on the part of the customer. So, when you're engaged in landing page optimization combined with A/B testing, you can use this knowledge to understand what messaging does and does not resonate with customers, and build a customer theory from those test results to help improve your marketing.

  • This may be the KPI you or your department is measured on, so it hits close to home. For example, if your department is measured on number of leads generated, that may be the only important thing to you.


  • As with the above, very few companies outside of the media industry actually make money on clicks or similar intermediate metrics.

  • Just because you improve conversion with your landing page optimization, does not necessarily mean you will improve overall business performance.

"I'm running a test right now where we drive more traffic to get more leads on a landing page, and have increased leads by 100%. It's a download of a PDF," said Ben Huppertz, Senior Manager of Research and Strategy, MECLABS.

It would be easy to claim success if conversion is your only goal, but Huppertz brings up a good point.

"Some of the people may just become a lead to get the PDF. We call them garbage leads. So, the next step is measuring the money. While we increased the leads, we may not have increased the sales. Will these leads just be more work for Sales? Or actually result in more revenue?" he asked.



  • You see this in quarterly earnings reports to Wall Street. That means it is very, very important to the CEO — which means bigger budgets and more success if you can optimize for this metric. Perhaps that's why 83% of retail or e-commerce marketers told us they tracked sales.

  • When customers vote with their wallets, it gives you the ultimate understanding of not just your marketing messaging, but the products as well. Getting back to those retail or e-commerce marketers, 36% told us that using this metric for website optimization helped them have an impact on the organization's overall website performance — that was tops across all industries and objectives.


  • If you have a complex sale, it can be extremely difficult to tie sales activity to the website. It can be very difficult for brick-and-mortar retailers, consumer packaged goods and other offline companies as well.

Engagement metrics


  • See the "cons" under "sales." If you have an offline product, this may be the best, or at least most resource-reasonable way to track website performance. As opposed to simple brand awareness, there is an actual customer action tied to it.


  • I click a lot of "like" buttons. That's just me. I'm a nice guy. But, it doesn't mean I've bought anything from all of those companies. This may be good for Facebook's stock price, but is it really helping yours? You're making a big assumption that engagement is translating into a purchase action.

Brand awareness


  • If you have an offline product and don't use your website for activities that would promote engagement (and why not?), this may be your best bet. It's also helpful to know if you have a new company or brand.


  • While there is value to brand awareness — after all, people buy based on brands every day — I can't help but wonder if this was a metric cooked up by an agency or consultancy to justify a budget when they couldn't show any impact on sales. Perhaps that's why only 7% of retail or e-commerce marketers track this metric, and just 3% say that using this metric as a website optimization objective has helped improve site performance.

Product awareness


  • This can be helpful to know if you have a new product or are a new company, especially if you're trying to penetrate an established market — 29% of marketers who used this metric did consider optimizing for product awareness to have a somewhat significant impact on the organization's overall website performance.


  • Only 14% of marketers use this metric. Also, 29% of those marketers said optimizing for this metric had little or no impact on website performance. Just 3% of retail or e-commerce marketers felt it had an impact.

Much like brand awareness, simple awareness alone, while a possible first step, does not drive a purchase. After all, we're all aware of the moon, but how many of us have visited?

Related Resources

Social Media Marketing: Social metrics from “likes” to ROI

Marketing Research Chart: Improper metrics set-up presents challenge to tracking key optimization metrics

Marketing Research Chart: Top email marketing metrics, tracked by email maturity phase

PPC Advertising: How to track AdWords and Facebook ads in 5 steps

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