In the good old days of digital marketing circa 1971 (when the first ever email was sent), the best indicator of campaign success was whether or not someone looked at what you put out into the world. Now that technology is more advanced and the market is flooded with content, marketers need to use a more sophisticated approach. Enter digital marketing KPIs.
Today, agency and marketing directors use digital marketing project KPIs to improve profit, streamline resources, and prove return on investment to their clients. Keep reading to discover the definitions, examples, and tools top marketers use to remain competitive in today’s digital landscape.
What are digital marketing KPIs?
KPI stands for key performance indicator which is also known as performance metrics. A digital marketing key performance indicator is what marketers use to measure the success of a particular strategy or marketing channel. The KPI or KPIs you choose will depend on what your goal is for the project.
Marketers will often choose one or two primary KPIs to support their main goal and a handful of relevant secondary KPIs to support any additional objectives.
For example, let’s say you run a social media campaign on Twitter and your goal is to increase your engagement percentage within your existing audience. Your primary KPIs will be the number of comments and retweets each original tweet receives.
There are three main categories of digital marketing KPIs to know:
Awareness is all about getting your brand in front of as many new people as possible. If your brand is already established, the next challenge is to help potential customers learn about new products or services they might be interested in. Common marketing tactics in this phase include cold emailing and calling.
The goal of this phase is to make a sale. Marketers often do this by building long-term relationships and trust. Content like blog posts and podcasts with problem-solving advice for the audience works well for this stage.
After you make a sale you can use analysis KPIs to determine how much you spent in resources to acquire each new customer. This information will inform your next campaign.
Why set KPIs in digital marketing?
KPIs in digital marketing prove return on investment to clients and stakeholders. They also help you measure progress, streamline processes, and quantify what would otherwise be intangible marketing benefits. Using KPIs in digital marketing will help you better understand why something does or does not work for your particular brand or strategy.
Without KPIs, marketing agencies run the risk of throwing spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks. If your agency does not assert its value and authority through actual proof, it’s hard to get or keep clients long-term. KPIs translate into concrete numbers that prove what you’re doing is getting real results.
Who sets KPIs in marketing?
At an agency, a marketing or agency director will set the KPIs. Otherwise, the responsibility falls on the campaign manager.
Whoever chooses the KPIs also has to come up with a plan for tracking them. They may adopt related marketing tools and habits to make sure results are consistently recorded and monitored throughout the lifetime of each campaign.
Agency project management tools such as Wrike can help streamline these processes. Users can easily assign monitoring and reporting tasks to designated teammates so that nothing slips through the cracks.
Marketing KPI examples
Marketing KPIs differ from project to project, platform to platform, and goal to goal. Use these most common marketing KPI examples below as a jumping-off point:
Email marketing KPIs
1. Number of emails successfully delivered, opened, and/or replied to
What it is: The total of all emails interacted with compared to the total sent.
Why you need it: This information tells marketers if their messages are getting through to inboxes. It also demonstrates whether or not the subject line is persuasive enough and if the campaign promotes further engagement.
How to measure it: Use an email marketing campaign software to bypass spam filters and track open rates.
2. Embedded link and CTA button click-through rates
What it is: The percentage of people who have both opened your emails and clicked the link or button inside.
Why you need it: The click-through rate shows how effective your offers or calls to action are.
How to measure it: Add a link tracking app to test components like CTA messages, colors, and placement.
3. Social shares and forwards
What it is: The number of times a post has been shared or sent to other people from social media.
Why you need it: Sharing is a high-value form of engagement that gets your posts in front of more people which is great for increasing impressions and expanding your audience.
How to measure it: Most social media apps include this information within your Analytics.
Social media KPIs
1. Number of followers versus number of unfollowers
What it is: The total number of people who have followed your account that day or week compared to the number of people who have unfollowed your account in the same.
Why you need it: Ideally you'll have more followers than unfollowers but this KPI shows whether or not your content is targeting the correct audience and is interesting enough to keep their attention.
How to measure it: Your number of followers is publicly available at the top of your social media profile. However, you may need to use a third-party app to track unfollowers.
2. Likes, comments, and shares
What it is: These are the top forms of engagement for any social media post regardless of what platform it's on.
Why you need it: Better engagement equals higher conversion rates, steadier audience growth, and stronger relationships over time.=
How to measure it: This information is made publicly available on most social media platforms.
3. New impressions
What it is: The number of times your content was organically shown to someone on the platform whether or not they interacted with it.
Why you need it: This social media KPI demonstrates reach, which you should aim to increase over time through paid ads, better engagement, and more followers.
How to measure it: Creator analytics or a behind-the-scenes app will show your new impressions by day, week, or month.
Content marketing KPIs
1. Unique visits
What it is: The total number of people (or IP addresses) clicking on your website within a given time frame.
Why you need it: Unique visits document the volume of traffic over time, which is useful for selling products and services. However, some unique visits might be from bots which is why it's critical to also track engagement and conversions at the same time.
How to measure it: Website analytics platforms like Google help users track this data after it’s set up, which means historical data will not be available.
2. Average time on page
What it is: The average amount of time all visitors (both unique and returning) spend on each individual web page.
Why you need it: Your goal should be to make the average time on page high because it will likely lead to better sales conversion rate. Plus it shows that your content is relevant to your audience.
How to measure it: Website analytics tools will help you measure it.
3. Link and CTA button click-through rates
What it is: The percentage at which all site visitors click on links and buttons.
Why you need it: Most website links and buttons are tied to sales or important data capture such as email newsletters. Having a high rate of success means that your offers and audience are in alignment.
How to measure it: Website analytics tools or third party link tracking apps are best.
1. Keyword search engine ranking
What it is: How high your website ranks for a specific keyword or phrase within popular search engines.
Why you need it: Your goal should be to rank number 1 on Google and Bing. Or on the first page, at the very least, so that more people will find and click on your website.
How to measure it: Type in your keyword phrase into a search engine to see if it shows up or use a tool like SEMRush for more advanced analytics.
2. Organic traffic
What it is: Site traffic from anything other than paid ads.
Why you need it: High rates of organic traffic means that more people are finding your products and services by simply searching related questions or words, which indicates that your SEO strategy is working.
How to measure it: Use a website analytics tool.
3. Link click-through rates
What it is: The rate at which people are clicking on paid search advertisements or web pages that appear organically in search results.
Why you need it: For paid ads, the link click-through rate shows how effective your copy is.
How to measure it: Website analytics and third-party apps help you track individual links. Also, whichever search engine advertisement platform you use will likely track this data automatically.
1. Click rate
What it is: Percentage of people who see your ad in search engines and click on it.
Why you need it: The higher the percentage, the more persuasive your copy is.
How to measure it: Your advertising platform will have user analytics for you.
2. Sales conversion rate
What it is: The total number of sales divided by the number of interactions with a given paid ad.
Why you need it: This number shows whether or not the offer promised in the ad is still relevant for the audience the ad is being shown to and if it aligns with their expectations enough to persuade them to buy.
How to track it: Your advertising platform will have these statistics for you.
3. Cost per acquisition
What it is: The dollar amount you pay for every new customer you obtained through a paid advertisement.
Why you need it: This shows exactly where your budget is going and whether or not your campaign is worth reinvesting in.
How to track it: Use an analytics tool or divide the total cost of the PPC campaign by the total revenue made from it.
What are the challenges of marketing KPIs?
The main challenge of marketing KPIs is choosing the right ones, monitoring them effectively, and turning data into actionable insights. To choose the right marketing KPIs every time, create SMART goals then match KPIs to link your channel type (like email or social media) to your desired outcome. To monitor them effectively, make sure that all your KPIs are measurable and that there are tools in place to capture all related data. Finally, turn data into actionable insights by using a professional services management platform to create automated reports plus easy-to-read insights.
What to do when KPIs aren't met
Now that you have your digital marketing KPIs set, it’s important to know what happens if your KPIs are failing. If they’re not connected to strategy, overshooting (or undershooting) your goals, or are too outdated now, the best way to get back on track is to adopt a marketing project management solution like Wrike.
Why Wrike can help you with digital marketing KPIs
Wrike helps directors and managers use digital marketing KPIs to make informed decisions. Wrike Report automates marketing, data capture, assessment, and reporting using visual graphs so that KPIs are easier to understand. At-a-glance updates like these save time and make collaboration that much smoother.
Marketing teams can also create templates for repeated campaigns or to relive the success of another client’s strategy for a new project.