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How to See an ROI on Your Digital Marketing Campaign

Sarah Schaffer
Sarah Schaffer

Before you pay for digital advertising, learn what you need to already have in place and how to measure the results of your paid campaign.

Many business professionals think that a digital marketing strategy is a no-brainer. However, it's surprising how many small businesses turn to marketing professionals and pay for a digital campaign without even a thought to what they're trying to accomplish.

Businesses pursue digital marketing to accomplish sales. And you're right, that is a goal. However, there are so many more goals out there that digital marketing can accomplish to help you acquire sales.  

The rise of technology has opened the door to make marketing strategies more effective but the competition for sales fiercer. Digital marketing is so much more than getting your brand seen – it has changed the marketing landscape to show why your brand matters. Therefore, it's more important than ever to have a solid digital marketing strategy to make your business's digital marketing truly show a return on investment.

What does a digital marketing strategy look like?

A digital marketing strategy is a game plan to execute and measure your online marketing efforts. It goes beyond creating copy and a target audience. It's how you'll capture the right target audience, how you'll hold their hand along the way throughout their customer journey and how you'll measure the results.

These are some of the key components you should think about when creating a digital marketing strategy:

  • How you'll stand out from your competitors
  • How you'll convert online traffic to sales
  • Where your target audience is spending time on the web
  • What your current digital marketing foundation looks like
  • How you'll measure your results

These elements are often overlooked in digital marketing strategies, but they can make or break your return on investment.  

Check your digital marketing foundation.

Before even considering implementing a paid digital marketing strategy, take a look at your small business's current digital marketing foundation. Your foundation is your website, SEO, Google My Business page, social media channels, and other free tools and programs that you use to form an online presence. Make sure these tools and platforms are up to date, accurate, working appropriately and indexed properly.

Double-check that your Google My Business page has accurate information and showcases the pictures you want to represent your company, that your social media pages are being consistently updated, and that your website is being indexed by Google's search engine, operating smoothly, loading at a decent speed and formatted to current technology standards.

This is important because these foundational elements will be the backbone of your paid efforts' success. For example, if you participate in a social media advertisement, but your website loads slowly or isn't formatted for mobile devices, then you're going to turn away a lot of potential site visitors. According to 2018 research by Google, 53% of mobile users leave a site that takes longer than three seconds to load. It doesn't make sense to be paying money on an advertisement if over half of your engagement is leaving before the site even loads.

Measure your return on investment.

It's interesting how many businesses launch a digital marketing strategy with very little concept of how they're going to measure the results or even what they're looking for. If this is you, pay attention closely. Digital marketing isn't a linear sales process. The sales cycle for digital marketing, depending on the product or service, can be anywhere from instant to over a month and even longer if you're in the B2B industry. People like to check their options before committing to a purchase. It's not likely that they'll complete a transaction the first time they see or click on your advertisement.

So how do you measure results on that? The answer is looking at your data and going beyond vanity metrics.

You can see your digital marketing strategy generating data every day. This data tells you how well you're completing your goals. However, don't confuse vanity metrics with the data that really matters. You should always set up conversion tracking with any type of digital marketing campaign, because this will show you how many website visitors are completing the correct transactions to make you money. This isn't all, though; there are so many more data points that can help you gauge your return on investment outside of transaction conversions.


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Clicks are not an effective measurement of ROI.

Different marketing strategies can offer different results and contribute to a different type of return on investment. Please take note that clicks are usually not an effective way of measuring results. Remember the mobile site loading speed example in the section prior? Let's say that your social media advertisement to a slow site received 100 clicks. If 53% of those clicks didn't even follow through to your actual website, that means only 47% of those clicks actually made it to your site as a legitimate website visitor. Then it's what they do on your website that matters, not just how many people showed up.

The only time when clicks are an effective way of measuring digital marketing success is possibly during an A/B test, in which you're trying to figure out which ad your target audience is more attracted to. The number of clicks was a defining metric in return on investment a few years ago, but now, there is so much more data and information available to show you where your money is going.

What metrics do work for measuring ROI?

Different strategies have different indicators of success. Here are some tactics that will help you understand your return on investment for an SEO strategy:

  • Measure your organic website traffic on Google Analytics.
  • Find your search engine ranking and placement with Google Search Console. 
  • Track your conversions in Google Analytics to measure your sales from organic search.

You can use these metrics to judge your return on investment for a search engine marketing and/or social media strategy:

  • Measure your paid website traffic on Google Analytics to see how many ad clicks are actually turning into legitimate website traffic.
  • Track your conversions in Google Analytics or Google Ads to see how many of these website visitors are taking valuable actions.  
  • Look at your number of impressions and session rates to measure brand awareness.
  • Find your bounce rate and session durations on Google Analytics to see how much of your ad traffic is actually interested in your product or service.

As technology grows, so, too, do the insights we have to verify that our digital marketing strategies are effective. A strong digital marketing foundation should be your first priority; make sure you have one before paying for any advertising. When your foundation is strong, then a paid digital marketing strategy may be able to boost your sales. [Ready to choose an internet marketing service? Check out our best picks and reviews.]

When you launch a paid campaign, though, it's important to measure your results accurately based on your goals. If you take away anything from this article, please let it be how to go beyond vanity metrics and measure the right data to meet your goals and get your money's worth from digital marketing.  

Image Credit: Rawpixel/Getty Images
Sarah Schaffer
Sarah Schaffer Member
I have over ten years of digital marketing experience working with multi-million dollar companies, both nationwide to small locally owned businesses. I've been employed by marketing agencies, and have been self-employed as well. When it comes to digital marketing, I've seen great success with digital strategies and campaigns, and unfortunate fails. I'm now trying to help spread the word on digital marketing and help small businesses make sense of their digital marketing data, go beyond the vanity metrics, and help them find the true ROI for their digital marketing efforts.