The 5 Steps of Online Marketing Analytics

Over the years we have stressed the importance of analytics. In this age of the digital buyer, it is critical to be aligned with informational needs and user experience expectations when prospects go online. To make sure this happens, you must gather and analyze data, and be aware of how prospects are reacting to your online tactics – what’s working and not working. Without this insight, you are likely missing out on opportunities. And spending time and money needlessly.

The good news is that the tools to gather and analyze this data, virtually in real-time, are readily available regardless of the size of your business. There is absolutely no reason, or excuse, to be flying blind.

The bad news is that there is so much data you can end up drowning in it. This is why you must take a thoughtful and strategic approach to analytics and concentrate on the metrics and underlying data that are most important.

The 5 Step Online Marketing Analytical Process

1. Start with Objectives and Key Performance Indicators

The iconic business strategist Peter Drucker was quoted as saying “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” With online marketing analytics, understanding what to manage and measure is the crucial first step.

Investments in online marketing should drive tangible business results: increased revenue, increased market share, optimizing revenue mix, generating sales from new products, etc. We refer to these as “macro-level” objectives because they are results.

“Micro-level” metrics, or KPI’s, are the levers that directly impact the achievement of macro objectives: web site traffic, form submissions, qualified leads, close rates, webinar attendance, etc.

So, step one in the analytics process is to clearly define high-level objectives and their associated KPI’s. At Core, we identify objectives and KPIs during the strategic planning phase.

2. Data Gathering and Reporting 

Once objectives and key performance indicators are clearly defined, you must identify the data that will be required to assess performance, and from where this data will be secured.

As an example, increasing sales requires increasing qualified leads, which may be driven by increased website traffic. Gathering insights about website traffic can be obtained through Google Analytics, a free Google tool. If tracking phone calls generated from online activities is necessary, you can use call tracking tools for a nominal monthly fee.

As previously mentioned, data is typically readily available. The key is to bring all the data into one place and organize it in such a way so it can be easily analyzed. Automated reports and dashboards, populated with data from various sources, help to organize and make sense of the data so those responsible for analysis don’t have to spend the bulk of their time performing lower value tasks.

3. Analysis 

Once the data is made available in appropriate reports and dashboards, it must be analyzed from the perspective of “good and bad”. Which online activities are performing well, and which are not performing as planned? Are things trending in the right direction or the wrong direction?

This insight is required for making informed decisions about how to improve the results of online marketing tactics. Analysis should also include how competitors are performing so specific steps can be taken to get and stay ahead of them.

4. Refine and Improve 

Based on insights gleaned from analysis, you must make the necessary refinements to online activities to optimize the experience for both prospects and existing customers, with the goal of improving overall performance.

Analysis will highlight opportunities for improvement or areas that can be further exploited. The resulting actions must be further analyzed.

Testing can effectively be used during the “refine and improve” phase to determine if tactics will produce desired results. As an example, if the goal is to increase email open rates, testing subject lines can determine which ones (if any) result in an improvement. When testing, ensure you use a testing methodology so you don’t make incorrect assumptions or come to faulty conclusions.

5. Repeat 

Over time, the data that is collected and how it is reported will change. Early in the analytics process, the focus should be on baseline metrics such as website traffic. Eventually analysis will become more targeted and refined; for example, measuring the performance of a specific landing page.

The important point is that analytics is an ongoing activity. You can’t just do it for one cycle and then stop. You must constantly gauge performance versus target metrics, access various types of data from different sources, make informed decisions about what must be done to improve performance, implement the appropriate changes, analyze and then repeat.

The Bottom Line 

Organizations that commit to a rigorous, continual approach to analytics will get better online marketing results and return on investment. If you make decisions with your eyes wide open, positive results are inevitable.


Core Online Marketing provides the experience and skill sets small and mid-sized business need to be successful online. We do so through a strategic approach that drives results.

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