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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

Analyze performance data

At the core of the learning phase is reporting. As search marketers and especially strategists, we need to know how to analyze performance data to extract meaningful patterns and insights.

There’s a lot of data that is at our disposal on a minute-by-minute basis, but what we need to be able to do is discern between short-term anomalies and long-term trends.

Short term

On a daily basis, you may notice performance fluctuations, but before deciding to change tack and change your strategy, consider some other possible interpretations. Tracking codes may not be implemented correctly, pixels may not be firing, or it could just be a public holiday, for example. All of these are things that we need to consider before deciding that our strategy simply isn’t working.

Another good way to do this is to look at year-on-year patterns, as well as month-on-month. It provides a healthy perspective because if will of course factor in the seasonal trends that we see in every industry. It’s a good idea to set up reporting meetings with regular frequency. And that’s not to say that the reports that you discuss and that are presented should be identical. They should reflect those time periods.

What we mean by that is that on a short-term basis looking at daily, weekly, and monthly reports which are the short-term performance analysis and adjustments, we do this knowing that it isn’t showing the whole picture. It’s what we’re seeing week on week. We are making small bid adjustments. For example, we’re maybe trying out different devices, different ad copy, tweaks that are within the strategy.

Long term

Long term, we’re thinking about revising the strategy potentially. We’re looking at whether it’s working. Is it really resonating with the audience? Have missed the trick? Is there something new that we need to avail of? So those meetings should be set normally quarterly or biannually and the core of that meeting should be insight that we’ve gleaned from across all channels. Something that can inform major strategic decision making and that may affect the rest of the business, rather than purely focusing on search marketing.

Long-term strategic decisions

Focusing on just the long-term strategic decisions, there are three areas that mainly will shape that and will give you the insights that can inform more long-term strategic decisions.

SEO visibility

With SEO, it’s visibility, more often than not, so we’re looking at the trend here in the SEO rankings over a six-month or a 12-month period, particularly in relation to the positions of your competitors that will give you a good perspective on how well you’re fairing overall. It can do so as a brand. For example, if your branded search volumes are increasing, then there are things that are going right more often than not anyway. Looking at the non-branded terms though, what we really want to understand is what did we set out to achieve six or 12 months ago? How well has that faired? An example we’ve turned to a few times is the one of credit cards and if we set out at position 125 and we expect it to move to place in seven within 12 months. This is a really good barometer of how well things are working for us. If you haven’t moved to the position you expected to, how has the landscape changed?

You can also look for the path of least resistance. It may be that video results have improved, and you might want to optimize that way. Although we set out for long-term strategy, we shouldn’t be afraid to change tack when things clearly aren’t going quite as we expected, or when the landscape shifts completely.

PPC conversion rates

Your paid search conversion rates when taken en masse across all of your ad groups and campaigns and all the subsets that you have within there, will give a really good idea of whether the messages that you have on the website that you are showing to people are really resonating with what they expect. If those conversion rates are really high, you have a product or service that people are really interested in and it could be something that you want to scale. If it’s below where you would expect it to be versus the industry, it could be reflective of a strategy that’s not working, and you can dive into where that is. It could be the targeting, the messaging, it could also be the website. So that’s a really key one when you’re thinking about long-term decision making.

Example: Video

If we look at the video campaign performance, this does give us a very different insight to what we get from SEO visibility or PPC conversion rates. Long-term strategic decisions, SEO bias nature will be in there. PPC conversion rates are a useful barometer, but they don’t tell us that much about the creative side of things, the real side of brand perception. What we can see from video is how different creative assets have performed and over a long-term period we can really understand how that’s working. So looking at views, conversions, for example, can show what the audience is expecting to see from your company and how well you’re performing versus that expectation.

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Clark Boyd

Clark Boyd is CEO and founder of marketing simulations company Novela. He is also a digital strategy consultant, author, and trainer. Over the last 12 years, he has devised and implemented international marketing strategies for brands including American Express, Adidas, and General Motors.

Today, Clark works with business schools at the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and Columbia University to design and deliver their executive-education courses on data analytics and digital marketing. 

Clark is a certified Google trainer and runs Google workshops across Europe and the Middle East. This year, he has delivered keynote speeches at leadership events in Latin America, Europe, and the US. You can find him on Twitter (X)LinkedIn, and Slideshare. He writes regularly on Medium and you can subscribe to his email newsletter, hi,tech.

Data protection regulations affect almost all aspects of digital marketing. Therefore, DMI has produced a short course on GDPR for all of our students. If you wish to learn more about GDPR, you can do so here:

DMI Short Course: GDPR

The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful.

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    Strategy and Planning
    Clark Boyd
    Skills Expert

    This module covers the key steps for planning and implementing a search marketing strategy for your organization. It addresses the key components in an effective search marketing strategy and outlines best practices for planning and research. It also covers how to execute a strategy and evaluate the performance of a search marketing campaign.