Tracking Online ROI, the Right Way

Please tell me you’re tracking your campaign metrics. Ok, whew! You’d be surprised how many people are running campaigns and either incorrectly tracking their conversions or not tracking key metrics at all.

Calculating ROI online is by far one of my most enjoyable activities. It’s the payoff for a well-thought-out campaign, and it’s the baseline for all future marketing activities. But, understanding your true ROI is more than checking a yes/no question on whether the activity led to a sale or lead. In the case of leads, you must consider what happens both before and after that lead comes through.

You’ll find that every company manages their sales funnel a bit differently, but we like to bucket key performance indicators into the following three areas: Awareness, Consideration, & Purchase. Let’s say that you’re looking to build an online community. Your KPIs would be broken down as:


Average number of visitors
Average engagement time
Frequency of visits
Sharing and referrals


Subscription Rate
Average number of contributions per member
Ratio of members who have made it into the conversion funnel


Ratio of community members who scheduled a meeting with sales, received a proposal, or turned into a customer

Most people focus on the purchase bucket, as they should. But remember, not all conversions are created equal. We’ve seen campaigns that generate hundreds of leads and end with few closed deals. It’s vital that you circle back with your sales team to ensure that the leads have the potential to continue moving through your sales funnel. From the marketing perspective, you can increase both the quantity and quality of your conversions by focusing on your awareness and consideration buckets.

So, what are companies using to track their conversions? Let’s take a peek at the top 100,000 sites.

That’s right, our good friend Google Analytics is by far the most popular analytic software, so it should be no surprise that the majority of life science businesses are using Google Analytics to track their audiences. It’s easy, it’s free1, and it’s grown up a lot over the last few years. In fact, we’re using Google Analytics to track you.

When you strip Google Analytics from the universe, the rest of the life sciences world use CoreMetrics, WebTrends or Omniture: three awesome solutions that require a little more (okay, a lot more) front-end work but have unique features and benefits that Google Analytics can’t provide.

One of the big benefits is the built-in ability2 to determine what campaigns led to a conversion. In the analytic world, we call this multi-touch, but campaigns can sometimes be incorrectly credited with producing a conversion. Options include:

First touch: the original campaign
Last touch: the most recent campaign; what most analytic software identifies
Multi-touch: all campaign touches listed in the order they occur

As an example, take the following table into consideration. This is a much more complete picture showing how your campaigns are working in harmony as opposed to what many companies track, which is last touch revenue (the red column).

You can take this type of conversion tracking a few steps further if you’re company has marketing automation or feedback software. Some examples that we work with or have helped companies setup include Eloqua, Silverpop, Marketo, and Kampyle. This type of software lives as a layer above your analytic software, but can provide you with extremely valuable visitor data that you wouldn’t otherwise get.

Most large companies understand the value that this type of software can provide, but for whatever reason, some don’t have the time or energy to do anything with that data once it is setup. It’s maddening! Software that costs thousands of dollars can end up as a glorified email system or serve as an alternative to Google Analytics. I could talk about this for days, but I will spare you the rant. What I will say is if this is happening at your company, reach out to your agency or hire someone as the net cost will be less in the long run.

So to recap, make sure your company is tracking something. Once you are, you will probably have more specific questions that will fuel the need for additional software. That’s perfect. Embrace your curiosity, and upgrade when you’re ready. Just make sure that you don’t have so much tracking code in place that it is at the expense of your site’s load time. Tomorrow, I’ll be touching on a few tips to improve your Search Engine Optimization in 2012 based on recent algorithm changes from Google.

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1 And by free, I mean that I don’t have to ask for an annual budget to simplify my job, but yes, we are absolutely paying for it by giving Google our data. It just doesn’t happen to show up in the accounts payable column.

2 The brave can hack multi-touch support into Google Analytics by setting up a customer variable.