The good thing about being a marketer in the digital age: we get lots of metrics.
The bad thing about being a marketer in the digital age: those metrics don’t always relate to actual results or even actual business results.
Let’s back up. When we say “metrics,” we mean any of the results we’re provided by our digital ads. Back in the day, if you put up a billboard or run a television commercial, you could probably get estimates of how many people saw them, but you didn’t know for sure how many people watched your commercial. Now, we can tell you how many people watched your video ad—and we can tell you how many watched all the way, the average number of seconds they watched, and how many people saw the ad without watching it at all.
Digital marketing gives us mountains of metrics just like these—platforms like Facebook and Google love being able to tell you all sorts of numbers about the ads you’ve spent time and money and effort creating and targeting and serving out to people.
But here’s the catch: all those numbers don’t always add up to results. It’s easy (and sounds impressive) to throw them around; it’s much harder to connect them to the real-world impact of your marketing campaigns.
Meaningless Marketing Metric 1: Impressions
Let’s start with impressions. This is going to be the biggest number coming out of your campaign. Throw enough money behind your ads and you can crank this number up almost infinitely. But impressions only tell you how many people saw your message. That’s it. They may have scrolled right past it, but they still count as an impression. If you’re not targeting your digital efforts correctly, you might just be throwing money at them to get them in front of millions of eyes who don’t care about you, your product, or your brand. If you’re getting your impressions from the wrong people, more isn’t always better. In fact, it’s worse—it’s a waste of your time, your money, and your effort.
Meaningless Marketing Metric 2: Clicks
Clicks are pretty self-explanatory. They tell you one thing and one thing only: that someone clicked on your ad. They went from your ad to your destination, wherever that might be—your website, your landing page, your Facebook profile. That’s it. It might have been an accident—someone trying to mute a loud video or minimize something taking over their screen. Even if it wasn’t an accident, a click doesn’t necessarily tell us anything useful. Unless you’re talking about Amazon’s one-click ordering, a click isn’t a result. It’s just a sign of someone moving along the path to a result.
Meaningless Marketing Metric 3: Click-Through Rate (CTR)
We’ve now entered the realm of the jargony marketing acronym—a place we normally try to avoid. The click-through rate, or CTR, isn’t even its own metric. It’s just math: the ratio of how many people saw a message (impressions) vs how many people went through it to the destination (clicks). If you can divide, you can figure out a click-through rate. There are some industry standards for average click-through rates, but they’re just averages, and they change by industry and platform. Anyway, why would you want to settle for average? (We don’t.)
Now that we’ve made these three metrics feel terrible about themselves, let’s back off a bit. Are these measuring techniques completely useless? Of course not. We’re incredibly thankful that we have these tactics to help guide our efforts when it comes to digital marketing, and we’ll always take more data when we can get it. But we don’t treat these numbers as a be-all, end-all. Instead, we use them as tools, not results.
Metrics like these (and others) inform the rest of our marketing strategy. They help us see, from a 20,000-foot-view, what’s working well and what’s not. They give us a foundation to build from as we optimize campaigns in real time. If something’s getting massive numbers of impressions but no clicks, we know our targeting or our messaging is off, and we adjust things. If our click-through rate is miles above an industry average, we pay special attention to what’s delivering those numbers and actively apply those lessons to other pieces of our marketing plan.
On their own, these metrics aren’t good or evil—they’re just shallow. They scratch the surface of a campaign. We go deeper. Thankfully, digital allows us to actively measure a wide range of aspects of our advertising that allow us to truly measure results, not just numbers. These include things like lead generation, conversion, cost of acquisition, and other more tangible ways to measure how your marketing is doing (and whether it’s earning you money). We’ll dig into that more in a future blog.
In the meantime, get in touch with us. Whether you’re overwhelmed by the “Insights” tab on your business’s Facebook page or want to know how we deliver leads, we’d love to help you solve your business problems and deliver real results—not just meaningless metrics.