Digital Analytics 101: Types of Data and Their Use

Thursday, November 30th
Content Manager

Mark Wilson

Even if you’re new to online marketing and communications, you’re aware of the vast amounts of data available to marketers and businesses.

Making sense of all of this can be extremely difficult, much less applying insights from the data that improve your business decisions.

That’s where we come in. As a company devoted to digital marketing in all its forms, Leadflask uses data to make decisions. It’s through this process that we improve results both for our own processes and for our clients and partners.

Want to learn how you can use analytical data and tools to make your company more successful? Good. We’re happy to pull the curtain back and reveal how to best use data to drive meaningful change for your brand.

What Are Digital Analytics?

Digital analytics is a process of data collection and analysis from online marketing channels that allows marketers to form insights related to the execution of digital marketing strategies.

The amount of data we have available to us across most digital marketing channels is vast. But it’s all related to the analysis and refinement of 

What kind of things can digital analytics inform? Too many to list, but a few could be:

  • What time of day to send an email or post a social media update.
  • What ad types perform better with others.
  • Whether men or women, or a particular age group, responds better to your brand.
  • What the subject line of your email should be.
  • …and many more.

Understanding and Using Digital Analytics

Simply jumping into ALL of the data available to you is a quick way to become confused or, worse, to become misinformed. A methodical approach is better, which we outline below:

ONE: What Data Can You Collect?

Establishing what data is available to you is the first step. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times the leadership of a company will ask for something, not realizing the underlying data required to calculate it.

Return on investment (ROI) for an ad campaign, for example. But to calculate that, you need a series of other data points that might be related to the complicated tracking of revenue for each ad. Do you have that data? If not, how can you collect it?

This step will allow you to assess what you can actually track.

TWO: Establish Benchmarks and Goals

You now know what you can track, so it’s important to establish benchmarks for these metrics. How many people currently visit your website? What’s the open rate of your email campaigns? How many average Likes do you get on social posts?

This is necessary to determine the effectiveness of campaigns, and to measure improvement (or lack thereof).

You’ll sometimes hear goals referred to as Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs. These should be set to ambitious but attainable levels, so that there is improvement on your benchmarks. 

Achieving a 100% open rate on a large email campaign isn’t going to be realistic, for example, but improving open rates from 20% to 25% should be. Strategies for doing that exist, and you can then use analytics to measure the effectiveness of those changes by establishing clear KPIs.

THREE: Execute Digital Campaigns and Collect Data

You can establish some benchmarks before a targeted campaign, but other times you have to run a campaign to gather the data you’ll need. Understand that during this phase, you’re still largely assessing these channels, not expecting immediate growth.

FOUR: Analyze and Improve, Then Repeat

The first version will never be the best. If you see improvement, great! Then analyze the data, focusing on strategies to improve your KPIs, and find ways to make additional progress toward them.

Repeated tests and improvements will yield the best long-term results.

Website Analytics

Your website isn’t a marketing campaign, per se, but it can be a powerful marketing tool. Analytics can be used to improve its performance.

Here are some examples of website analytics:

  • Website Visitors. If you’re regionally based, you’d want to focus only on visitors from your geographic region.
  • Time on Page. If users are using your site for a long time, it means they’re finding value in it. Low time on page, conversely, means you’re not enticing them.
  • Bounce Rate. This refers to the percentage of users who only visit a single page before leaving your site. Ideally, users are clicking through to multiple pages.
  • Sales or Leads Generated. Particularly if you’re an e-commerce site, this is the bottom line. Other times, lead generation is what drives company revenue.
  • Keyword Rankings. If you sell shoes in Madison, Wisconsin, you’ll want to be on page 1 of Google results for “shoe stores Madison.” This is a trackable metric. There are a lot of related metrics within the realm of keyword rankings, but that’s a succinct example of how optimizing for keyword rankings can lead directly to business results.

That list doesn’t get into how you could improve each of those, but strategies exist for these, and other, important website metrics to improve them over time.

Focusing on these long-term can reap massive rewards for a company, especially when the majority of your sales or leads come from online sources.

Social Media Analytics

Whether you’re paying for ads or sponsored placements on social media, or are simply posting via one of your brand’s social channels, there are metrics that will allow you to track their success and find ways to improve.

  • Impressions. While some see this as an empty metric, this will show you how many people your ad or post is getting in front of. If your other engagement metrics are low but your impressions are high, it could be a case of poor targeting. Often, however, lower impressions are acceptable if other KPIs are higher.
  • Engagement Rate. This one can mean a few different things, depending on the platform. It can be Likes. Or Shares. Or number of comments. Not every platform has the same potential engagement types, but monitoring the number and comparing them within the channel can be valuable.

Some brands see the majority of their sales flow through social channels, so even marginal increases in these metrics can result in large jumps in sales or leads.

Email Analytics

Some people are surprised to learn that the average mass email send only has around a 2% click-through rate. This means that only 2% of recipients both open the email and click on some elements in the email itself, like an image, offer or button.

Email marketing is often tied to volume, though, so this isn’t a bad thing. If you send 100,000 emails out once per month, that’s 2,000 click-throughs, usually to something on your website.

So improving that from 2% to 3% is a big deal, because it’s a 50% increase, and in our example would be 1,000 more potential customers per month.

The other big metric here is the open rate, which depending on the industry you’re in, likely averages about 20%. But there are email marketers with 40%, 50% or higher open rates, and it’s because they know how to entice their audience and then engage them with content and offers. And you can bet they have higher than 2% click-throughs.

There are a lot of other metrics you can, and probably should, be looking at in your emails. Bounce rates, unsubscribe rates, share rates, and more. But the two above are both core metrics and also indicative of the types of data you’ll want to be tracking during campaigns.

Paid Digital Ads

It would be simple to tell you that you want to optimize for things like click rates and conversion rates on your paid ads, and this is true. But more so than even many other marketing channels mentioned, the need to iteratively test and improve your campaigns is a necessity here.

With a Google search ad campaign, for example, you’re not going to know all of the right keyword combinations at the start to target your intended customers. They will overlap with other searches that you aren’t expecting, or will be too broad and will include other queries that have nothing to do with your product or service.

So once you’ve run a campaign, the process of picking it apart with digital analytics begins. What ads were presented the most? Were those also clicked on? Did those clicks turn into sales? How many unrelated searches did your ads appear in?

These all have metrics tied to them, and you can begin to prune and adapt your paid ads to be more targeted.

The largest businesses spend millions in paid digital ads per year. Much like the scale of email marketing that we mentioned before, even making them 1-2% more efficient can yield millions in revenue for some companies. And because the opportunity to optimize these ads using data is so vast, you can often see double-digit percentage increases in return on investment for your ads compared to initial benchmarks.

Working With Leadflask, Making Data-Driven Decisions

This is what we do at Leadflask. We identify the data available to us, prioritize which metrics are most important, establish benchmarks, goals and KPIs, then test and iterate to improve our results.

The analytical tools may change, but the philosophy stays the same. The end result is a system of continuous improvement that allows us to provide consistent value to our clients.

It’s a process you can undertake as well, but let’s be clear: everything we discuss here is a lot of work! Some companies with larger marketing teams will have a dedicated position solely for digital analytics. You may not need someone whose entire job is in this realm, but you’ll need to have time, resources and budget to accommodate robust analytical efforts.

The types of data and their complexity can be confusing, but the potential rewards are just as clear. If you’re ready to see what a data-driven decision-making approach to analytics can do for your company, contact Leadflask today!

Additional Resources