Metrics Q&A

Tea Silvestre, aka the Word ChefOur Play-at-Home members are also tasked with finding their best three questions about each week’s topic. And since there’s no way we’d ever get to all of them during a live episode, I’m answering ‘em here. Did I miss one of yours? Please leave it in the comments and below and either Nick or myself will get to it lickety-split.

The number of comments generated on a blog post is a commonly watched metric. But when you a have a new blog or few subscribers, zero comments is pretty typical. So my question is: should you leave comment totals visible on each of your blog posts (when you rarely have any comments) or should you wait until you consistently have more than one or two?

Social proof is always nice, but having zero comments on a blog post isn’t the end of the world. If you can change your WordPress theme (I’m assuming you’re using WordPress) to only show the number of comments when you have 0+1, then yes, that might be slightly helpful. But I don’t think it’s worth hiring someone just to do that one little weak. Better to work on creating blog posts that people want to comment on.

How do we select the most relevant metrics for our individual businesses? I have read that not one size fits all, and relevancy is key.

Yep, we’re all different. But one thing we all share is the need to create a particular amount of revenue each and every month. If you know what that number is, and you’ve laid out a path to get there, you will already have identified some of your most important Key Performance Indicators (KPI). Usually, we’re concerned with things like: How many leads did I get this month? How many of those leads did I follow up on? How many of those turned into clients? And so on. The particulars will depend on how and where you find your leads. If the bulk of your marketing activities are offline, then tracking those activities is priority #1. If you’re doing most of your marketing online, then you’ll need to be more concerned with how you find (and follow up on) digital leads.

What is the most organized method to use, track and fully leverage metrics?

Which ever method is the easiest for you to manage. If you’re not a big numbers person, it may be easier to use a simple spreadsheet that you save to your computer’s desktop (where you can’t help but see it every time you turn on your machine). The method of tracking isn’t as important as the doing and reviewing part. Find your top 3 to 5 things you want to track, track them, and then review them at a regular interval. Over time, you’ll start to see trends and stories emerge that will allow you to make better and more strategic decisions about how to market your business.

Why should we track bounce rate? My bounce rate is somewhat high because I rank for really weird keywords. There are A-list bloggers in the same situation.

Only track bounce rate if it’s meaningful to your business. As we discussed today, sometimes it’s important, sometimes it’s not. If your bounce rate is exceedingly high 65%+ do you know why? Do you care? Would you like people to spend more time on your site? Would you like them take a particular action (like sign up for your newsletter)? Those can be (but aren’t always) affected by bounce rate.

Do Twitter followers and Facebook likes really translate to dollars? I would think that email subscribers have a better conversion rate.

They can translate into revenue, yes. Both directly — if you make offers on social media, and IF a certain percentage of folks buys from those offers; and indirectly — when new people follow you, then become regular visitors of your website, then become a customer. You need to know how to track these things, if they are important to you. But you’re also correct about email — it usually has far greater reach than social media, which translates into more opportunity to generate revenue.

How do we define success in our work, in order to measure results effectively? I believe ‘success’ can be seen in many ways; depending on what your work is and your aim. It may not necessarily have a quantitative measure. I have found numbers to not be that helpful when gauging the overall success of my work.

There is always a quantitative (hard number) definition of success and a qualitative definition of success. You need to know both so that you don’t miss out on either. Define success based on what you envision for both your customers (impact on their lives) AND on revenue earned (impact on your life). It’s okay to make money. In fact, the IRS says that if you don’t, your business is just a hobby. So define what you need in terms of dollars, time and quality of life. And then know what you need to do to get there.

When your work is aiding personal growth, within a contemplative process over a long time, what structures are there that I could put in place to measure metrics?

For you? Or for your clients? You can measure your own personal growth via the business by anything you decide. If the business is a hobby, then you don’t need to worry so much about how much revenue you’re generating. But if you want to support yourself financially, then you need to know where the clients are coming from, how much they spend with you on average, and how to generate more of what’s working. The structures will depend on your goals. They can be written by hand on a piece of a paper, or tracked in a spreadsheet. See my answers above.

Are there any universally accepted measures of qualitative success that fit alongside the more commonly used quantitative measures?

There are, but they tend to be things that are driven by ego. When you see people boasting about how many Twitter followers they have, and how much those Tweeps love them, you’re seeing evidence of qualitative success. Testimonials are also usually qualitative. Especially if they are the warm and fuzzy kind (they don’t say anything about specific increases in business, revenue, etc.). Qualitative success is important — but it needs to be defined by YOU.

What’s the best way to measure the impact/success of branding activities?

The best way to measure any marketing activity at all is to ensure 1) there’s a call to action attached to it (so you can see if it works) and 2) the activity itself fits within a bigger strategic plan. In truth, everything we do with our business could be considered a branding activity. From the creation of your logo (obvious) to how you provide customer service. But you can’t measure it if you don’t have anything to measure. So make sure you each marketing activity (or at least as many as possible) have both a call to action and a pre-defined way to track whether or not anyone follows through. 

How can we identify the economic value of conversions such as signing up for a newsletter, downloading a free report etc?

You need to know a couple of numbers before you can calculate this: 1) The total number of your subscribers; and 2) The average sale you make via offers in your newsletter. Divide the average sale by the total number of subscribers to get your average value of a subscriber. If you have a free report that’s not attached to a subscription, then you would divide the average sale generated by a lead from that download, divided by the total downloads of that free report. There are other ways to calculate values, but that is the simplest way.

Is there a way to measure the correlation between the many forms of customer engagement on a site, and the conversions on that site?

Yes, by using Google Analytics and the Goal Conversions tracking. First start with the desired conversion activity. Then look at the pathway most people take through your site. Eventually, patterns and trends will begin to emerge that you can consciously work to improve upon.

I get very confused about goals and campaigns and wonder how relevant they are to my writing business. How can I use these effectively as part of my marketing funnel?

A goal and a campaign are two different things. One is an objective (what you want) and the other is the vehicle (hopefully) for how you get there. Your writing business has a revenue goal, yes? And you understand (for the most part) how you find new clients? Your marketing funnel is part of how you find new clients. (We’ll address these in more detail in a later episode.) If you’re asking about goals within Google Analytics, think about a goal as the activity you want your potential client/website visitor to take. Do you want them to ask about your rates? Send you an email? Call you on the phone? Start there. Then work your way backward, outlining the path that you “think” they’re taking to get there. That is your funnel. Monitor the funnel to see if you’re right. Monitor to see if people are dropping out before they get to that one desired activity. Then you can make adjustments and tweak things to correct and/or improve your conversions.

How do the (or should the) metrics shift depending on the type of biz you have, your projected/desired size, your subject-matter, etc.?

That’s a BIG question that can’t be answered in just one paragraph. The simple reply is, “It depends.” It depends on YOUR goals, YOUR resources, and YOUR strategy. You shift them depending on what you want to achieve. If you’re not sure where to start, there are sometimes industry standards or benchmarks that you can use as a leaping off point, but usually, you’ll have to decide these things based on your own best guess and past experiences.

How often should you revisit your metrics on the broad scale? (In other words, how often should you look at your metrics for evaluation, as opposed to the numbers those metrics are giving you?)

A good rule of thumb is that you want to set annual goals, look at the data at least monthly (if not more often), and revise or adjust on a quarterly basis. 

How often should you look at the numbers your metrics tell you and what weight should you give that information? (In other words, how do you tell when it’s time to cut line or if you need to just give it a bit more time.)

Great question! That will depend on a few different factors: the length of your sales cycle (how long is someone in your funnel before they buy? This usually derives from the price tag of what you’re selling, plus how often someone needs what you’re offering); the particular strategy and tactics you’re employing (email or social media or speaking engagements, etc.); and what your existing resources are (time, money, people, etc.). Most marketing efforts can take anywhere from 3 months to a year or more. If your price tag is small, you need to sell more items to more people a lot quicker than if you’re selling a service of $500 or more. Once you know how long your sales cycle is, you can plan ahead and create marketing campaigns that nurture that cycle. If, after a year, you’re not seeing ANY results from your efforts, it’s definitely time to take a different path. 

When tracking metrics, are the specific numbers or the trends more important? What should we pay more attention/give credence to?

Trends are always more helpful than specific numbers on their own. Trends give us context. When we look only at specific numbers it’s like trying to read an entire story by looking only at the individual words. Alone, they don’t mean much. When you string them together, then you can figure out what they’re telling you.

About Tea Silvestre

Executive Producer of Prosperity's Kitchen, author and marketing coach to solopreneurs.