Project planning is often focused on problem solving; defining a solution to an organisational challenge. At this stage, there may be some general idea of the desired output(s) of the project; however, further work is often required to map out the detail of what defines success and how it will be measured as this can create efficiencies further down the line.
What can we measure?
There are several categories of metrics that can be used to measure performance and success in digital projects.
But before determining measurable information, analysing historical data can be useful to establish baselines and seasonal trends, against which we can benchmark the performance of the new project. If historical data is not readily available, it is often useful to research industry standards so that you know you’re setting achievable targets. Some useful resources include:
Mailchimp provides industry averages for email opens, clicks, unsubscribes and spam reports here https://mailchimp.com/resources/email-marketing-benchmarks/
Information about Google Analytics benchmarking reports with over 1600 industry categories can be found here https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/6086666?hl=en
Key performance indicators (KPIs)
When everyone is excited to start a project, it is easy to not get too granular about KPIs, particularly if they seem obvious – more sales, more website visitors, more engagement… there may be details relating to our organisational model, industry, or target audience that at first seem trivial, but may impact KPIs and confound expectations of success or the speed of growth.
Instead of relying on the obvious, it’s more valuable to spend some time choosing a small number of meaningful KPIs that consider the intricacies of your organization and ensuring you can easily report against these. For example, reporting on overall sales when you’re running a very specific product or service campaign may dilute the metric of success for the particular product or service you’re trying to push.
Whether you’re producing your own content or using a third party, it’s important to understand how this content is disseminated, on what platforms and what the call to action will be – which will all feed into how the engagement related to this content is going to be tracked.
You can use canonical URL tagging to monitor the performance of different activities and content and use Google Tag manager to measure ROI on your marketing efforts. You can find out more about how to use Google Analytics and associated products here https://www.hma.co.uk/insights/get-the-most-out-of-google-analytics/
Web activity data
Basic measurements including visitor numbers, page views, bounce rate etc. are often used to report on the success rate of a campaign but these headline metrics often don’t tell the full story and are not truly reflective of user activity and engagement.
High visitor numbers may mean increased visibility but if one of your KPIs is more sales and those visitors aren’t converting to customers then it indicates there is a problem somewhere in the user journey and you can use the data to understand more about this.
Conversely, blog pages may record very high bounce rates, as the user is engaged in reading and scrolling, but has few, if any other interactions.
Be careful not to misinterpret apparently poor performance statistics without thinking carefully about how they reflect the nature of the item being measured.
Crunching the numbers
To plan an effective data strategy, it’s important to understand data structures and platforms available. In this context, there are many standard web tracking technologies such as Google Analytics, Tag Manager, Search Console that can be leveraged and the implementation of these will depend size and nature of their dataset requirements, which will also determine whether there needs to be a case made for utilising a data warehousing platform.
Accessing the data
For many digital projects, the data hub will be Google Analytics. If this is the case, it is straightforward to access the data required to measure performance. However, it may be necessary to integrate several data streams in order to get a feel for the big picture. For example, it’s common to combine email marketing metrics (e.g. opens, clicks, subscribes) with other web-based activities such as website traffic or sales revenue.
It’s important to understand how many different data sources are required to perform a meaningful analysis and to get a true picture of project performance.
Comparative statistics & timescales
It might seem over-the-top to discuss statistics and for the most part, there’s no need to dive into any detailed discussion of statistical methods or tests. However, it’s important to establish what sort of comparisons will be used to assess success and performance; are you interested in daily performance, monthly, or quarterly? Gross or net sales value?
In addition, other factors might need to be considered when comapring two metrics or KPIs. For instance, there may be predictable lag between two or more KPIs and this must be taken into account when assessing performance. A small drop in sales one month may impact the client’s absolute bottom line, but might also be perfectly normal based on seasonal patterns. For this reason, it’s important to observe at least one year’s previous data (if available) to get a feel for trends and patterns before jumping to conclusions about performance.
Reporting is a key feature of any digital project that requires some form of benchmarking or measure of comparative performance. In the early stages of a campaign, you may want to monitor this daily to ensure anything glaringly obvious that may require tweaking is picked up. Moving then to weekly or monthly reporting is the norm to ensure that there is enough data to make informed decisions about changes to the campaign.
Important considerations relating to reporting include:
Who needs to know?
Who will be the main contact for distributing reports and will they provide feedback or act upon the insights?
How often do they need to know?
Will different reports be needed for monthly, quarterly, and yearly performance, and will these look the same or contain significantly different analyses?
How will reports be delivered?
For website activity reporting, Google Data Studio is an excellent and relatively simple option. See our post about using Data Studio alongside Google Analytics here https://www.hma.co.uk/insights/get-the-most-out-of-google-analytics/
Commentary and recommendations
With any reporting, it’s important that the data can be interpreted and lead to recommendations of actions to be taken or improvements in campaign activity and performance. Ensuring that there is a narrative behind the data and actions taken removes any ambiguity that may come with interpreting data without context.
Early discussions around data capture, measurement, and key performance indicators are crucial to assessing the effectiveness of a digital project. It’s important to identify what is a true measure of success, how the data needed to assess this can be captured, what factors might confound these measurements, and who will be responsible for managing the data. Finally, deciding how frequently, and to whom reports will be delivered will establish a chain of responsibility when updating KPIs.