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How To Measure Inbound Marketing - A Practical Guide

7 minute read

Chris Leone   by Chris Leone January 5, 2016

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The ability to measure digital marketing activity is one of its greatest advantages. Inbound marketing, which leans heavily on digital marketing tactics, has similar advantages. But unlike more traditional digital marketing tactics, which try to convert visitors into customers during their first website visit, inbound marketing is a long term strategy. It involves nurturing visitors weeks, months, or even years before they are ready to make a purchase.

Because of its unique approach to generating customers, inbound marketing requires a slightly different set of tools, and therefore, a different set of metrics for measuring success. The following shows you how to get set up with proper tracking and the metrics you should prioritize.

Setting Up Your Inbound Metrics

Marketing automation platforms come with their own reporting tools baked in. While these tools offer a high-level view of your activity, a more robust tool is recommended. The free version of Google Analytics is perfectly adequate for most small to medium sized businesses.

Check out our post on "Aligning Your Google Analytics and Inbound Marketing Activities"

Most companies investing in inbound marketing are using a suite of digital tools. This may include a marketing automation platform, web analytics software, a pop-up offer tool, or a survey tool. Each tool requires a snippet of code on your website in order to function. The more code, the more of a hassle this becomes for your web developer. A tag manager platform, like Google Tag Manager, solves this issue by only requiring one snippet of code on your site. Each new marketing tool you add to your site can be managed from within the tag manager platform. This eliminates the need for a web developer, and will increase your turnaround time.

We recommend all web masters implement Google Tag Manager for their sites. 

Once your tracking code is in place, you’ll want to define your goals within Google Analytics. A goal represents an action taken on your website that represents success. For example, filling out a contact form, downloading an eBook, or making an online purchase. Once you’ve setup your goals within Google Analytics, you’ll be able to analyze which pages and traffic sources contribute to those goals, and which do not. For example, if you’re investing heavily in search engine optimization (SEO), but your SEO traffic converts below average, you may have a traffic quality problem. Similarly, if your pay-per-click (PPC) traffic converts higher than any other source, you might consider investing more in that channel.

With your tracking code and goals now in place, add IP exclusion filters to exclude your employees from the data. If your employees are located in the same office, ask your IT person for the office IP address. If your employees work from home, have them visit “WhatIsMyIP.com”, then report back their IP address. Creating IP exclusion filters in Google Analytics takes only a few minutes, so invest the time to ensure your data is clean.

Which Inbound Marketing Metrics To Track

Capturing and collecting data is a critical first step, but now the real work begins. Web analytics tools will offer hundreds of different metrics about how your site visitors are behaving and where they’re going. This will help you understand almost anything you would want to know about your traffic’s behavior. Ironically, all this data can lead to inaction. For many, it’s simply too overwhelming.

In our years consulting on web analytics, the most common issue we see is a failure to prioritize the most important metrics.

"If everything is important, nothing is important."

To fix that issue, we’ve put together a list of the most important inbound metrics that are worth tracking. Not all of these will apply to you and your campaigns, but it’s a solid start.  

Primary Website Goal
This represents the most important action someone could take on your site. For service businesses, it would be a phone call or contact form submission. For an ecommerce website, it would be an online sale. If you track nothing else, track your primary site goal.

Where to track your primary site goal: Google Analytics, Marketing Automation Platform (if available), Call Tracking Software

Secondary Website Goal
Secondary goals are the less meaningful actions on your website that also represent success. For example, downloading an eBook, getting a new blog subscriber, leaving a blog comment, or sharing a blog post. Your secondary goals don’t translate directly to revenue like your primary goals, but they do indicate above average engagement.

Where to track your secondary site goal: Google Analytics, Marketing Automation Platform (if available), Call Tracking Software

Visitor Conversion Rate
This metric is calculated as the number of goal completions divided by number of total visitors.

visitor conversion rate = goal completions / total site visits

The average conversion rate for an eCommerce website is about 2%. The average conversion rate for a service-oriented website is generally around 6-10% (at a minimum). If your conversion rates are below these benchmarks, you either have a traffic quality issue and/or a website issue.

Where to track your visitor conversion rate: Google Analytics, Marketing Automation Platform (if available)

Landing Page Conversion Rates
This metric represents how effective your landing pages are at converting visitors. It is calculated as the number of form submissions divided by the number of people who visited the landing page.

landing page conversion rate = form submissions / landing page visitors

Like your site conversion rate, the average landing page conversion rate will vary depending on your business and industry. From our experience, a conversion rate of 25-30% is considered normal; however, it is not uncommon to see landing page conversion rates over 50%.

Why track both visitor conversion rate and landing page conversion rate? The visitor conversion rate is a high-level metric that takes into account both your website traffic and your website usability. The landing page conversion rate is a more specific metric, representing how effective your landing page is at generating leads.

Where to track your landing page conversion rates: Google Analytics, Marketing Automation Platform (if available)

Nurturing Funnel Completion Rate
The nurturing funnel completion rate represents the percentage of website leads who eventually purchase from you. Unlike more traditional digital marketing, which targets those ready to purchase, inbound marketing targets individuals in all stages of the buying funnel. With a good amount of your marketing efforts going towards people early in the buying process, it’s important to understand which percentage eventually become customers. This way, you can place a value on those leads who are months away from becoming a customer, and begin to forecast sales based on lead generation alone.

Where to track your funnel completion rates: Manual Calculation, Marketing Automation Platform (if available)

Social Media Activity
Generating high value content which attracts an audience and increases brand exposure is at the heart of inbound marketing. This is done, in large part, through social media. Therefore, if your inbound marketing efforts are generating meaningful traction, you should experience a fairly rapid growth in social media activity. This includes social media traffic, shares, follows, and comments. Posting more frequently, incorporating popular hashtags, and engaging your followers more frequently are easy methods you kick starting your social media activity.

Where to track your social media activity: Google Analytics, Marketing Automation Platform (if available), Hootsuite, Social Media Platform analytics

Blog Keyword Rankings
There, I said it. Rankings (more specifically, blog rankings) are an important inbound marketing metric. Here’s why: if you are investing the time and money to blog, and your content is not being found through search, it’s likely not being found at all. Optimize your blog posts for the right long tail keywords, then monitor those key phrases in Google and Bing. If you fail to reach the top three search results, consider adding more content to the post or increasing links from your other blog posts. Then check back on your rankings to see if it had the desired impact.

Where to track your blog keyword rankings: Google Webmaster Tools, Marketing Automation Platform (if available), Manual Searches, any one of online rank tracker tools

Inbound Email Statistics
Inbound marketing requires nurturing prospects over a long period of time, and email marketing is one of the most effective channels for doing so. Open rate, click through rate, and unsubscribe rates are the most indicative to success. Typical performance is 20-30%, 2-3%, and <1%, respectively. The more targeted and relevant your email marketing, the better your numbers. Instead of focusing on industry benchmarks, establish your own benchmarks, then tweak your messaging and segment your audience to improve your own numbers.

Where to track your email marketing performance: Marketing Automation or Email Marketing Platform

If you want to get smarter about tracking your inbound marketing performance, begin with the end in mind. Be clear about your specific objectives with each inbound marketing activity, then find the right metrics to tell the story. Did our email segmentation strategy produce better results? Did our new blog approach result in more engagement? Did our email nurturing timing produce more sales ready leads? These are not questions about data, but about impact. Conveniently, each question has data to support it.  Did our email segmentation strategy produce better results (higher open rates and click through rates)? Did our new blog approach result in more engagement (more shares, more comments, more retweets)? Did our email nurturing timing produce more sales ready leads (more replies, fewer unsubscribes)?

Beginning with the end in mind will streamline your efforts and bring your most important metrics into focus.  

Looking for some help? We're both a Hubspot and Google Analytics Certified Partner. Beyond generating inbound leads and sales, we specialize in configuring web analytics tools and measuring their results. 

Contact Us Now.

 


 

As President, Chris is responsible for leading all the day-to-day operations of WebStrategies. His work has been featured on the Google Analytics and Hubspot blogs, and he’s a regular columnist for the Richmond Times Dispatch.

 

Topics: Inbound Marketing, Web Analytics

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