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Analytics blindness and false expectations

Elephants representing analytics blindnessThe other day I was thinking about how digital marketing programs often get caught-up chasing a metric that doesn’t fully take into account the full picture and I was reminded of the parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant. In the story, three blind men come across an elephant and each forms a picture of the elephant based on their interaction. The first man feels the trunk and determines that an elephant is similar to a snake, the second man feels the elephant’s ear and determines that an elephant is like a fan, and the third man feels the side of the elephant and determines the elephant is similar to a wall. Each was a clearly formed opinion based on a specific set of data, and while accurate, does very little to describe an elephant in it’s entirety.

Taking this parable into the digital marketing world, how often has a campaign/initiative been shut down due to the results of a specific metric?

Nobody clicks on display (banner) ads!

The best example of this is often reflected in display (banner) advertising results. In 2018,  we saw  and average 0.23% click through rate across all of our clients display ads).  So the first question often asked is with such a low response rate, why should anyone spend on display? The basic answer is fairly simple, display advertising is an awareness tactic – the core focus is reaching your core target audience and making them aware of your product or service. Several year’s ago I was speaking at a panel at OMMA where Google was taking credit for a significant share of ecommerce activity from search ads and my question to them at the time was “How often do people search for “blanket with sleeves”? It was awareness advertising that encouraged people to search for a “Snuggie”.  Over the years we’ve built an array of case studies that have shown increases in organic search activity, website visits, and ecommerce and in-store activity directly related to when display ads were in market.

I want to be number one on Google!

This is typically the ask of every client who comes to us for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) services. Being number one on Google is a false goal. Google adjusts it’s results not only based on the quality of your content, but also takes into account your search history and habits. If you have 4 people do the same search, they’ll each likely see different results. So what’s the real goal of SEO? Rather than focusing on being first, you should strive for more traffic from search visitors, and specifically more traffic from qualified search visitors. Defining qualified visitors is the next challenge and it’s primarily based on what you want prospects to do. We recently did an SEO initiative for a client and when we shared their first set of results they were disappointed to see a 25% drop in organic traffic…however when we looked closer at the data, they actually had a 2x increase in the number of inquiries from organic search visitors. As a B2B client, leads are their primary goal and through optimization we brought in more leads, which in turn led them to more business.

I need more likes and should post more often!

Social media is another area where activity and impact are often measured incorrectly. We pay close attention to how many followers we have and how often we’re putting up fresh content, but in many cases those initiatives aren’t driving new customer acquisition (I have yet to find a client who doesn’t want more customers). One of the analytics metrics that’s frequently reviewed is how may people came to my site from social platforms. While this is a valid metric, it’s contrary to how people use and engage in most social platforms. Similar to banner ads, the likelihood that a facebook reader is going to click on an ad/post to come to your site is very low – after all, they are browsing their feed. We don’t have a similar expectation for a person who’s reading a magazine to drop what they are doing when they get to page 7 and see your ad and make a phone call or run out to buy your product – why should we expect them to do that in the social world? Building  a fan base, engaging your current customers are great opportunities within social, but don’t assume that’s the only impact.

Viewing the rest of the elephant

Display, search and social are just the tip of the digital marketing ecosphere – each very important, and all intertwined, but all just a piece of the puzzle. When looking at your digital initiatives, I encourage you to take a step back and look at your business as a whole and truly think about what success looks like, then build the pieces to help drive those initiatives and develop ways to see the crossover impact.

PS – A great way to get started down this path is through our Digital Action Plan, or you can simply drop me a line and I’d be happy to take a look and offer some suggestions.