Whether it’s selling bicycles virtually, cookies and app tracking crumbling, and the continued cratering of traditional pay-TV, we have witnessed a decade’s worth of marketing disruption compressed into a span of months.

Businesses are slowly beginning to ramp up their operations as the pandemic eases, which means every dollar spent on marketing is under extra scrutiny. After massive changes to every aspect of how we conduct business, how can we know which aspects of our marketing are the most effective in this new normal?

The only way to answer these vital questions is through setting goals and measuring. This is something you can do yourself (or you can engage a digital marketing agency). Either way, you need to understand how the measurement techniques work across your different marketing channels.

Key Performance Indicators

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are values used to measure and track the performance of a marketing campaign. KPIs, which you should set for your marketing campaign and for your overall business, make it more straightforward to determine targets and goals, and then in turn measure performance based on those set values. Think of KPIs as your most important metrics (though the KPI might combine the results of several different metrics).

Digital KPIs are typically connected with a conversion event (where someone takes the final step in a marketing campaign, like a purchase or a sign-up). As a general rule, they should be easy to define and measure, but they also must make sense as a business goal. In paid ads there are common metrics like Total Impressions. That impression count might be useful in diagnosing an issue with your paid ads, but impressions alone are not an important KPI.

For much of the history of digital advertising, ad clicks have been measured and reported as a vital KPI, mainly because it was one of the only things we could actually measure. Times have changed, and we can now generate really detailed reports on the customer journey before and after that click. Are you in the business of selling clicks? No? Then don’t include those in your list of KPIs. If your digital marketing vendor is championing the growth of your ad clicks each month, rather than return on ad spend (ROAS), it’s time to find a new vendor.

Marketing Channels

The typical channels used in digital marketing can generally have most of the same shared KPIs, though there are obvious differences. Here are some common marketing channels and suggested KPIs:

  • Existing Customers/Direct Customers: Fortunately, you will not have to concern yourself with your costs of leads or costs of customer acquisition. In fact, closing existing customers may only involve a single email campaign or content marketing piece. Suggested KPIs: repeat sales; lifetime revenue.
  • Paid Search: Driving targeted traffic to your landing page through digital advertisements is critical to getting your product off the ground. Remember: search is a lower funnel activity (these are people who are ready to convert) making some low-hanging fruit. Suggested KPIs: conversions; ROAS.
  • Email Marketing: This is a digital strategy that can be split up by market segment, customer segment, or buyer persona. Suggested KPIs: CTR; bounce rates; conversions.
  • Content Marketing: If your content is properly structured, engaging and interesting, then your call-to-action (CTA) should lead to an easy conversion. Suggested KPIs: conversions; bounce rates.
  • Social Media: You can easily determine how many inquiries resulted from social media and how many leads came from gated content on social media. Suggested KPIs: conversions; bounce rates; new followers; organic reach.
  • Paid advertising: Can include video, display, native, or audio formats. Where possible, track your metrics and KPIs across audiences (demographics, interests, locations.) Suggested KPIs: conversions; ROAS; frequency (if running a brand awareness campaign).


Having a well-defined strategy and corresponding KPIs is essential to marketing success. Most marketing platforms have built-in tools to help you understand at least their portion of the customer journey, while tried-and-true tools like Google Analytics can give you a full picture of what’s actually occurring on your site (referrals, bounce rates, etc.)

Looking at all of the available metrics can be a bit overwhelming; don’t get lost in the weeds. Focus your reporting on only the most important metrics and KPIs. If you (or decision-makers above you) have too much data at your fingertips, it can lead to confusion and indecision (and sometimes focusing on the wrong thing, like vanity metrics.) Just because you have the data doesn’t mean you should look at all of it.

With a well-informed marketing strategy and correct measurements, you’ll be prepared to make justify your marketing expenses and steer your campaigns toward success.