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My favorite private Facebook group is full of experts in marketing, PR, and new media. Our expertise overlaps so when someone poses a question, you get a cross section of answers.

One of the questions recently posed there was this (I’m mostly paraphrasing):

What are the most beneficial KPI’s/metrics that any small business can use to gauge their own success online?

A few years ago I would have had a much different answer than today.

Back then I would have said that since search tends to give us the best research on how big a potential market is, look at search volume to determine what the available market is approximately.

Then you can base your success rate off the percentage of that market that you have the resources to attain.

Now that Google has hidden our keyword data, it’s that much harder to nail down whether or not we’ve achieved success.

But as recently as 3 years ago, online success no longer just means search.

So now, my answer is, it depends on what goals they’re attempting to reach.

Depending on the strategy and goals, different metrics are important, as well as the platform.

Lets say you’re expanding into digital marketing to improve the impression of your company (reputation management rather than customer development or demand generation).

You’ll want to look at conversations about your brand, or how fast and how well customer service responds when requests from visible points of ingress such as social media.

If your goal was to increase overall sales from digital, you need to look at whether sales went up or not.

However, the bottom line for each type of success we’re looking at ties into one common factor- conversion rates.

In other words, how many people took the action you wanted them to take when they finally got to your site?

That covers:

  • how well search is working
  • how much effort you should put into social
  • whether your link strategy works
  • how much content marketing matters.

Of course, conversion means something different in each situation.

Sometimes your goal is to get people to sign up for your newsletter after reading a whitepaper or sample PDF. Most people don’t buy on impulse – this is especially true of B2B clients.

They’ll research before they buy – which is where reputation management factors in. Those people need to be able to justify the expense they’re making, even if they’re the owner of the company.

So how do you know if you have a healthy conversion rate?

Success will differ depending on your goals, again. If you want to double sales, you’ll want to double your conversion rate.

Of course you also need to make sure you know whether enough customers even exist in the market you’re in. If you’re in San Diego real estate, only so many homes are on the market, and only a certain percentage of people who are looking for a home there exist.

Once you know those basic metrics, you want to know how well you’re converting now.

Of visitors to your site, how many people are becoming customers or clients?

What are they doing before they buy? A great many will be making some kind of email contact first, whether through signing up for your newsletter or sending a pre-sales question to support.

So first determine your conversion rate, truly nail it so that each traffic source converts within a predictable range. Test to make sure everything is working.

Then you’ll be ready to raise the conversion rate to your desired goal, and use that as a success benchmark.


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