One of my most important takeaways from this year’s MarTech conference was how technological innovation will drive marketing performance measurement. The ability to measure the effectiveness of marketing tactics will further challenge B2B marketers and differentiate successful organizations.
Right now, many B2B marketers are loosely or manually connecting metrics from multiple reporting platforms, to obtain a somewhat complete view of buyer behavior in digital channels.
While this is not necessarily a negative, we do need to be wary of assumptions and misconceptions in marketing performance analysis along the way.
Here are five misconceptions in the analysis of online marketing tactics that need to be considered when evaluating B2B marketing performance and making judgments on what works and what needs to be improved.
Misconception #1: Week To Week Traffic Is Down, So Overall Website Performance Must Be Down Too
When traffic is down from week to week or even month to month, it might be easy to jump to the conclusion that overall performance is trending downward as well. However, it is important to consider additional influences, site-specific as well as offline, before drawing conclusions on total online marketing performance.
In one example, a client’s leadership team was worried that a two-week downturn may have been indicative of more significant issues in performance. The site had received significant traffic increases in the preceding weeks, but this was due to intensive conference participation and sponsorship. Once this was explained and trends were monitored over the next few weeks, trends returned upward as expected.
Conferences, speaking engagements, and for publicly traded organizations, financial forecasts and business news, can have a positive or negative impact on website performance metrics.
Key Takeaway: B2B online marketers need to be aware of the complete range in strategic marketing endeavors, and sometimes broader business initiatives, being executed before assuming a periodic downward trend is indicative of poor performance in existing tactics.
Misconception #2: Year Over Year Traffic Is Up So Performance Must Be Up Too
While we certainly recommend benchmarking traffic performance over a time period (i.e., year over year, month to month, quarter to quarter, etc), don’t assume that just because traffic is up, program performance is as well.
We were highly encouraged when a client with more than three years history with us experienced year over year gains in organic search traffic, when evaluating Q1 2016 versus the same quarter in 2015 (+19%). But the real win was realizing that this gain exceeded performance from previous year over year comparisons, when traffic improvements were at an all time high.
Factors such as site mergers and information architecture transitions may impact performance too.
During the preliminary analysis of a recent prospect’s Google Analytics profile, we were initially puzzled when we realized year over year organic traffic performance was up significantly. Upon further review, we realized that they moved a blog that was off-domain into the existing site architecture, which greatly inflated visitor traffic being reported.
Key Takeaway: It is great when year over year traffic is up but make sure to dig deeper in website reporting to develop a full picture of performance. Compare and contrast performance with longer time periods and previous years to validate long-term improvements.
Dive into deeper segments of site architecture to get a better understanding of the specific sections of website and content marketing assets that are driving improvements (or declines).
Misconception #3: The Blog Post With The Most Traffic Was Also The Most Successful
Blogging is a common tactic we recommend and have written about in past posts, for improving traffic and lead growth in SEO and social media marketing. Analyzing the type of blog posts that perform better than others helps drive program improvements over the long run.
The key is not to assume that blog posts driving the most traffic will always lead to success.
In the example highlighted above, the theme of an existing client’s blogging efforts was driving more than 50% of the total traffic but further analysis revealed that this theme only generated 16.7% of all blog-specific contact forms. While the traffic gains are fantastic, deeper analysis into content themes that drove a higher percentage of contact forms also needed to be considered in making ongoing topical recommendations.
Key Takeaway: A range of performance metrics needs to be considered when determining the type of content marketing themes to recommend ongoing. While overall traffic should always be considered, don’t forget conversion goals and percentages as well.
On the other end of the spectrum, engagement metrics such as inbound links, social shares, and prospect-specific page views, should also be reviewed. The key is to evaluate multiple points of performance when determining if blog posts and other content marketing assets were successful (or not).
Misconception #4: This Tactic Performed Best Last Time, So We Should Use The Same Tactic This Time
There are several best practices we rely on for generating performance in search and social programs across client initiatives. That said, it’s important to avoid the temptation to copy the exact tactic simply because it did well in the past.
In the example above, our client failed to see a huge spike in page views when they tried to duplicate tactics executed in the following year.
Key Takeaway: Consider current trends and new developments in the industry and in resources as well. It is not to say that successful tactics in one period won’t remain successful but it is important to dig deeper into the reasons for success, which may be impacted by a range of factors.
In this case, our client did indeed re-evaluate the reasons why one campaign was successful and the other was not. As result, their adapted program yielded much more positive returns in the following quarter, based on lessons learned from deeper analysis in historic program performance.
Misconception #5: Lead Volume Is Up; We’ve Done Our Job
Generating more leads from an online marketing program is certainly an important objective and one to be celebrated in most cases. But, unfortunately, and as the MarTech Conference made many realize, the B2B marketer’s job is not done when those leads are passed to along to sales.
Key Takeaway: As platforms and reporting tools continue to improve, it becomes that much more important to analyze lead performance all the way through the buying cycle.
Even if B2B marketers are relying solely on Google Analytics and free/low-cost resources, updates like Google Analytics’ User Explorer and Treemaps dashboards provide further opportunities to understand visitor behavior and make recommendations for improving site performance.
The role of digital marketing in the B2B organization continues to increase in significance. As detailed in recent report coverage here at KoMarketing, 62 percent of CMOs believe digital marketing skills are most critical to their team’s accomplishments; 49 percent indicate data analytics.
But with all of the information and opportunity at hand, it’s even more important to dig deeper into performance reports and metrics, avoiding misconceptions that can be realized in the first levels of reporting capability.