Web U: What to Measure

Before starting a Web campaign, it's crucial to choose a direction

Direct-response advertising is a straightforward proposition. If a placement does not produce sales, cut it and move the money elsewhere. It is very black and white. Meanwhile, brand advertising is filled with shades of gray. The majority of brand advertisers don't directly sell products on Web sites. They cannot directly monetize their Web traffic. CPGs struggle with Web advertising exactly because it is so measurable. Without a specific goal, brand
managers thrash about for direction. They ask, What do you measure when there is nothing to measure?

Establish benchmarks. Prior to launching a Web effort, take the time to develop baseline metrics. Count number of uniques and page views per month. Measure the average time spent by these visitors, if possible. Determine if there is a natural seasonality to the ebb and flow of your traffic. Web advertising will push up all of these numbers, of course. Creating a baseline understanding will prove invaluable as the digital efforts grow. Then you can come compare the difference - the delta - between pre- and post-campaign activity.

Next, create your own goals. Examine the site architecture and decide which pages are the most important to the brand. Then narrow that down to just one. When push comes to shove, one page must be deemed the most important. Brand managers new to the Web will hesitate at making this crucial decision. CPG sites can offer a panoply of activity — TV commercials, games, newsletters, coupons, store locators. Pick one. This will be the page toward which all activity will be optimized. It is better to go in to the effort with a single page in mind rather than the vastly unhelpful "all of them." This does not mean the other pages are unimportant or will be ignored. Rather, this is a matter of priorities. Stewarding with a single page in mind will give your campaign focus.

Tell a story. Once you have settled on your site goals, turn your attention to measuring the ads themselves. Now the process of measurement becomes more complicated — even the simplest banner ads generate a lot of data, rich media even more so. Moreover, there are both active and passive results to analyze. For example, clicks are active responses to advertising, but unique reach is a passive result that the consumer can't influence. All of this is important and none of it is. Use the data to tell a story that will help make sense of the numbers. Root the narrative in the campaign goal. How do the ads' metrics support your intention? View the data through the prism of your objective. This will allow you to ignore the extraneous (though probably interesting) information. Telling a story makes sure the placements support your campaign and not the other way around.

Just as much as direct response, brand marketing demands a heavy reliance on ROI tags and third-party ad serving. However, they rely on vastly different externally measured criteria. A lot of first-time Web advertisers mistake click rate for success. Clicks are but one in an arsenal of tools; even then, their importance is a source of much debate. It is not just my friends at PointRoll who believe that rich-media interactions trump all other measures. Either way, make sure that all the stakeholders agree on the ends. Only then should you justify the means. In a data-rich medium, brand advertisers can go astray with the wrong learnings. What to measure depends on what you want to achieve. It is as simple as that.

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