If your organization is concerned about monitoring marketing efforts and wants to continuously improve results, then developing a digital marketing dashboard should be a priority. Dashboard reports can provide at-a-glance clarity around current digital marketing efforts with a focus on how digital marketing efforts are contributing to meaningful business results.
An effective dashboard report should be simple, clear, and so easy to digest that marketing analysts, managers, and executives should all be able to understand it without explanation. Marketing dashboards can also be used when developing line of sight metrics that show other departments how their efforts contribute to company growth.
Step 1: Choose the Right Metrics
Choosing the right metrics for your dashboard is critical to the success and adoption of the digital marketing dashboard. If it has too many metrics, or the wrong numbers being reported, then you’ll run the risk of your dashboard being misunderstood (or ignored).
To get started, consult with the various stakeholders in your organization to identify what they’d like see included in this dashboard. Getting feedback and buy-in from all stakeholders is required if you want to make sure your dashboard is not ignored! Next, list out everything all of the stakeholders told you and identify which metrics could be used to provide the requested insights.
After you have a long list of all of the possible metrics the internal stakeholders could want to know, group everything into related categories.
Examples of digital marketing dashboard categories:
- Reach (includes website visits, segmented traffic numbers, or landing page views)
- Marketing channel activity (includes anything from paid, social, or email promotions)
- Engagement (includes on-site or social media engagement metrics)
- Outcomes, or results (transactions, email subscriptions, social media audience growth)
Step 2: Simplify
Very few people want to see huge spreadsheet full of numbers – especially if they don’t know what all of the numbers mean. Trim down the wish list you gathered to the most essential 8-10 items. The fewer the better early on. You can always add more if the business demands it. Keeping focus on the most influential and most meaningful metrics will help align marketing actions with outcomes.
Include Context and Insight
Marketing dashboards are intended to do more than deliver the numbers. The insights provided in dashboard reporting are what decision makers need in order to process, interpret, and react to marketing data.
Adding context is important to fully understand some of the numbers. For example, if conversion rate spikes one month, specify if there was some key driver like pricing changes, promotions, or competitive movements. If the direct cause is unknown, mark it down as something that needs more research.
Make sure your dashboard includes more than numbers. With each report, include 3-5 key points that provide context and insight.
Step 3: Automate
At Webstrategies, most of our dashboard reports for clients are set up with SuperMetrics. The core reason we use Supermetrics is to automate report updates. Before we started using Supermetrics, we had to manually update our reports each month, and it became very cumbersome.
The other thing we really like about Supermetrics is that it plugs in with Google Sheets so we can format the data, use formulas, and insert charts as needed.
Using a linked report, rather than emailing attachments, also has a few advantages, including:
- Version control – The newest report is accessible through the report link, so no one will ever get it mixed up with an outdated version.
- Easy sharing – anyone with the link can access the report
- No more send remorse – if you’ve ever discovered an error after you sent a report, you’ll understand this one! With linked reports through Google Sheets, you can quickly correct your report before anyone notices.
Aside from Supermetrics, there are plenty of other services and tools available to create dashboard reports. Whichever you choose, make sure the report is not too burdensome to update, and automate as much of it as possible.
Step 4: Edit and Improve
The worst thing that can happen is to let your reports go unread, and this will only happen if your team does not find value in the reports. As time goes by, gather feedback about the dashboard reports, and add, edit, or remove the reported metrics so that your stakeholders find interest and meaning in the reports.
Through your regular marketing analysis, you might identify more meaningful numbers to include on the report. You should absolutely include these new numbers on the report, and you should also consider removing any metrics that no one pays attention to.
In a real-world example of this, I have a client that is a local service provider and early on we knew we wanted to grow organic website traffic. It was a key measure, and it was front-and-center in the monthly reports. After several months went by, we achieved a significant increase in organic website traffic, but the monthly appointments from organic traffic were not growing in the same proportion.
After digging deeper into this, we identified that most of the organic traffic growth originated from outside of the local market, while appointments were only generated from local visitors. As a result of these findings, we created a Custom Segment in Google Analytics to report local organic traffic. Our dashboard reports now show year-over-year local organic traffic growth as a key measure, which keeps us focused on developing fresh content that caters to this audience.
However you decide to design, produce, automate and update your digital marketing dashboards, keep this one thing in focus – make sure the report you’re producing is read, understood, and valued. It might take a few versions to get it to that point, but keep at it. If you can collaborate with stakeholders and have them provide meaningful feedback during the process, you’ll end up with a dashboard report that provides actionable insight, and one that everyone actually looks forward to reviewing.