Digital marketing analytics tracks and uses data generated by your digital marketing campaigns, and on your digital properties. Digital analytics data is typically captured and organized in near real-time. You would use digital marketing analytics for three main reasons:
- To measure your marketing performance accurately
- To identify new opportunities
- To enable both humans and algorithms to make better decisions.
The primary sources of this data are user interactions on either:
- Digital marketing campaigns - For example, data from Search Engine Marketing, Video on Demand (VoD), Social Media or email marketing campaigns.
- Your owned properties - Actions that users take once they have reached either your website or app.
This data is complemented by other analytics. For example, the voice customer analysis, competitor analysis, and feedback from optimization activities.
Digital marketing analytics means that you must set up tracking which monitors relevant user activity. In the case of eCommerce websites, this might mean measuring what pages your users' visit, the purchases they make and the revenue you get from these sales. You can learn more about this in our template and guide to setting up conversion tracking.
Here, we’ll provide a basic overview of digital marketing analytics that every marketer needs to know:
- Why marketing analytics is so important
- How tracking works
- How cookies fit in with tracking
- The core metrics to track
- Changes you might have heard about within tracking
- Some of the most important marketing analytics tools.
Why digital marketing analytics is important
Setting up strong analytics for your digital marketing is vital for many reasons:
- It measures the impact of your campaigns and investment. This enables you to test different approaches, and maximise the impact of your campaigns.
- Provides accurate data to improve your decision-making. Decisions made by both humans (e.g. strategy) and machines (e.g. bidding algorithms) are only as effective as the data they’re drawn from.
- Allows you to identify opportunities within your marketing activity. Digital marketing analytics turns millions of interactions into clear and actionable insights.
Strong analytics adds value to all your channels. It helps you to find everything from granular improvements to wholesale strategy changes.
The basic journey of digital marketing analytics
Here's a very simple overview of how a user is tracked.
The tools and setup will differ for every website. But, to track a single user, the below steps will take place.
- When users take actions on your site - either view pages or in-page clicks - little bits of code record these events and push them into the ‘data layer’. The data layer does exactly what it says on the tin: It’s a behind-the-scenes section of the website where valuable data is gathered and categorised.
- We configure ‘Tracking tags’ to record certain actions. The action that a tracking tag is trying to record is also known as the ‘trigger’. This trigger causes the tag to ‘fire’. These tracking tags grab relevant data from the data layer, and push it to an analytics platform.
- Additionally, when a user arrives on the website, you give them a ‘cookie’. The cookie is an identifier that lets you recognise that single user on this visit, and beyond. It helps you stitch all their actions together
For example, the journey for a customer purchasing a product might look as follows.
The tracking tag might be triggered by the user loading a ‘thank you for buying’ page.
Within the data layer of the page will be information of what items they bought, how much they bought it for, and other details.
This information is all sent by the tracking tag to your analytics platform, where it is made readable to you, the analyst.
Cookies and digital marketing analytics
So how do cookies fit into digital marketing analytics?
Cookies are little pieces of code, which your browser saves to your computer. These enable websites to identify you again in the future.
Some cookies might be set to record only basic information needed to make the website usable. For example, an ecommerce website needs cookies to know that you have added items to your shopping cart. Without cookies, for every new page, you load, the website would forget everything and see you as a completely new user.
Other cookies, called ‘third-party cookies', follow you around many websites to understand your wider purposes. The Facebook Pixel is an example of this. This is what lets Facebook know that you have visited a website, and then bombard you with ads from that website.
Below you can see Amazon distinguishing between ‘Operational Cookies’ (circled in Blue) Marketing Cookies (in Green).
Cookies are also used to track where your conversions came from. You’re given a cookie when you click on an ad. This cookie then links that ad-click to you making the final conversion (for example, buying a product).
How is digital marketing analytics changing?
Web analytics is constantly changing alongside the internet in general. There are a few major ongoing changes that you need to know as marketers.
Third-party cookies, the ones that follow you around different websites, are the most at risk. The iOS14 update was the first major browser to start blocking third-party cookies. It, therefore, had a major impact on digital marketing analytics. Blocking third-party cookies will only become more widespread: For example, Google is also ending the use of third party cookies through Chrome in 2023.
Ad Blocking will also have a greater impact on your analytics. 42% of users worldwide use some form of ad blocking. This number is growing. Some ad blockers even block tracking cookies, which are what hold the conversion journey together. Depending on the uptake of these tools, these could have an impact on your marketing analytics in the future.
The challenges of digital marketing analytics are ever-changing. The analytics community will always respond to these changes to find new ways to measure what visitors are doing on their websites.
Best marketing metrics to track
The best marketing metrics to track depend on your business and goals. You should always look to pick the metrics most suitable to your ultimate goal with advertising.
However, we can split these metrics into broad categories based on these goals:
- Site engagement- Useful to publishers, news websites and affiliates.
- Page visits
- Pages per Session- average number of pages visited within each session
- Bounce Rate- the percentage of users dropping off the site without visiting another page.
- Lead Generation- Where the ultimate goal is a ‘sign-up’ of some kind.
- Form completions- number of users providing their details
- Sign-ups- number of people signing up to something, for example a newsletter, account, or subscription
- Marketing qualified leads- users who have consented to be marketed to
- Sales qualified leads- users expressing an interest in buying your product. For example, having contacted you with that intention.
- Conversions - number of people taking the final action that you want them to take
- Cost per Acquisition - the cost per each of these conversions.
- Ecommerce- Where you have a way to pay online for your products.
- Purchases - number of transactions made
- Average order value - the average value of each transaction
- Items purchased- number of individual items purchased
- Return on ad spend - the total revenue generated by advertising, divided by the total amount spent on that advertising.
This is not an exhaustive list for digital marketing analytics. Every company is different, and we’ve created many bespoke metrics that are more appropriate for a unique business.
Digital marketing analytics tools
There is a wide range of tools available out there for digital marketing analytics. Some core tools include:
- Tag management systems - For example Google Tag Manager or Adobe Experience Platform. These let you easily set up tracking tags on your site. You set rules and conditions in here, and they inject tracking tags onto your website.
- Analytics Platforms - For example Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics. These ingest data from your website, link it up, and enable quick analysis. There are also platform specific analytics solutions within advertising platforms. Google Ads and Facebook Ads Manager both have simple analytics capabilities.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms - For example, Hubspot, and Salesforce. These are typically used when your ultimate goals are lead generation and tracking sign ups, etc.
- Data Management Platforms (DMPs) - These are typically populated by and used to connect all of the data a business owns. This might be a combination of online and offline data. Examples include Funnel.io, Tableau, SQL databases and AWS’s services. These often also have visualisation capabilities.
- Data visualisation tools- These take data from your analytics platform, or DMP, and allow you to present that information in a clear and usable manner. Commonly used examples range from the intuitive (and free) Google Datastudio, all the way to Power Bi and Tableau. We also use some of our in-house marketing technology, Ayima Query, to provide powerful visualisations.
- SEO software - This tracks performance of your marketing on the search results page. Google Search Console is the most commonly used for this. But, there are also more specific tools such as SEO Clarity, Moz and the Ayima Reporting Tool. These track your keyword rankings in far greater detail.
Interested in learning more? Ayima has a dedicated marketing analytics team to make sure campaigns are tracked properly and our clients have the tools they need to make the right decisions. Our experts are on hand if you’d like a more in-depth personal analysis or a bespoke strategy. You can get in touch with the team here, we'd love to hear from you.