Marketers have unprecedented access to marketing measurables. They’re inundated with data. So, which marketing metrics matter the most?
Today, we’re talking to Andy Crestodina, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Orbit Media Studios. Also, he’s the author of Content Chemistry. Andy believes that the most visible marketing metrics are usually the least useful. He identifies and ranks metrics that matter.
Eric: Question. Which marketing metrics matter the most. Do you realize how fun that is to say? There's so much alliteration there. Say that really fast 10 times, “Which marketing metrics matter the most?” I can barely do it once. I digress. But that's the question we're all wrestling with as marketers. We have unprecedented access to working measurables. We're inundated with data. So we're trying to figure out which of it matters and which of it doesn't.
Before I was a brand and buzz manager here at CoSchedule. I have a deep dark past in digital direct marking. I used to love just combing through data and information and figuring out what was working and what wasn't working. I’d always joke and laugh and say, "Oh, how nice it must be to be on the brand team of Coca Cola." especially at this time of year. It's been a couple of years but remember those commercials in December with the polar bears, they were sliding down those snow drifts in the North Pole and playing in the ice and they were cuddly and fun. This made you feel warm inside, right?
Okay, now it's January, we're looking back in December data, “Wow, numbers are great. We crushed it.” I'm like, “Wait a second,” head scratch. Was that because of the cuddly polar bears or because your local grocery store had a sale on Coke products? It's so frustrating. Metrics are at our fingertips now, we're trying to figure out which of it makes sense, and so that's why I brought on our guest Andy Crestodina. I know you know who he is. He is the co-founder and CMO of Orbit Studios and he is the author of Content Chemistry.
We just flat out nerd on marketing metrics in this episode. We have so much fun and he brings a really interesting perspective. He says he makes the case for the most visible marketing metrics are often the least useful. That there's some kind of inverse correlation between visibility metric and its importance. It's like, wow, I love that. I want to dive into that more. We break down every single marketing metric—well, not every single—but a lot of them and figure, does it matter or does it doesn't matter and we rank them.
It's a fantastic episode, so much fun, I know you will love it. I can't wait to introduce you to Andy. Again my name is Eric, the brand and buzz manager at CoSchedule. I'm super excited, if you can't tell. Let's jump into this episode right now. Buckle up, it's time to get amped. Alright ladies and gentlemen, I'm so excited to have our guest on the show today. A lot of you probably know him. He is Andy Crestodina. Andy, welcome to the Actionable Marketing Podcast.
Andy: Thanks for having me, Eric. I am glad to be here.
Eric: Yeah, this is great. I know we have bumped into each other at a number of different conferences whether it's Content Marketing World and it's great just to finally get you on the show. I think we're in the third year, and I was just flabbergasted when I realize we hadn't had you on the show yet. Thanks so much for responding to my email and being so willing to come on to the show.
Andy: Of course. I'm a user, love CoSchedule, I recommend it all the time, and I love this show. I've been listening for a long time.
Eric: Well, good. Thank you. Great. I know our listeners excited to hear from you and we got a really I think in my opinion a really exciting topic. Now, I'm going to be really transparent. I thought about talking about your book which is fantastic, but when we were chatting before the show, you just recently shared a blog that really kind of dove into an interesting topic around marketing metrics. It's something that we really haven't covered much on the show yet, Andy.
I think one, boom, let's do that first and foremost, but you take a really interesting look at and viewpoint on metrics that I want to dive in today's show. But before I do so, I want everyone to get to know you a little bit. If you could just for those of you maybe who live under a rock, if you could let everyone know sort of your background Andy and what it is that you do at Orbit Media Studios.
Andy: Sure. So I quit the day job in 1999. So you know, I'm old. I tried building websites and doing digital in January of 2000. I started this company, Orbit Media Studios as basically, initially web design web development, has evolved a bit more into digital strategy, and so I just kept going. This is 18 years doing search optimization and analytics and it is 11 years in the world of kind of marketing and speaking and teaching and writing and making videos and all kinds of publishing and the topics that you and I love most, the content side.
Eric: Yeah, absolutely. We've been following you very closely as well. This is fun. I think I've always loved sort of your transparent blog posts. You're really open at sharing some of the metrics that you have over there and some of the areas that you’ve seen. I think it just makes it a lot more tangible for a lot of people. If you haven't yet, this is my plug go check out Andy's blog. It's great. It's orbitmedia.com/blog and there's tons of good stuff on there.
Like I said, as I brought up Andy in the show, I want to dive into one of those posts. And so it's all based around this hypothesis and your hypothesis is that there is an inverse correlation between the visibility of a metric and its importance. Could you elaborate on that a little bit?
Andy: Right. There are numbers everywhere, this data everywhere there are metrics that you can find in all different parts of the digital and we have lots and lots of numbers. Some of them are really easy to see and some of them are really hard to see and find that uncover and calculate. The things that we can, see we tend to value. It's a cognitive bias it's called the availability heuristic.
But the problem is that those super visible metrics, the most visible metrics are the ones that are the least correlated, the least closely connected with business success. The classic example I've got a gazillion Instagram followers. Actually, I don't have a gazillion Instagram followers, I'm barely on Instagram at all. But if I did, that would be very visible, everyone can kind of see everyone else's follower count. Shares, likes—these are very visible. But you can have a huge social followings or lots of social engagement and be very bad at translating that into business outcomes, or demand, or leads, or revenue, or profit.
The super visible stuff is the least correlated with success. The least visible stuff—leads and demand and conversion rates and net promoter scores, client satisfaction, net margins—these are the most correlated, most closely correlated with business success, net profit and those are very hard numbers to get, those take real analysis to get. They don't jump out at you, you have to understand how client satisfaction, and sometimes you’d have to call a bunch of people.
So ironically, we tend to over value the things that we can easily find and the easily findable metrics at the very top end of the spectrum are sometimes the least meaningful, least useful, least actionable, the theme here and it's the hardest to find stuff that really is where we should be focused more.
Eric: That’s a really interesting lens I think to look at that. I think you say a great in your post, your brain is telling you to place higher importance on and the least important data. Because it's just so accessible, it's out there, it's easy and I think maybe you use these words but I mean, it's easy to glob on to those vanity metrics to provide, "Hey, look at what I'm doing." It makes you feel good, you can puff out your chest but really, I think you got a good point, it's potentially the least important when you're looking at company success in revenue growth and the things that really propel an organization's success.
I love your example, you talked about it's not just the marketing, it's everywhere, you're talking about like you see in a newsfeed the headline is a man was eaten by a shark, you conclude that shark attacks are a bigger problem when they're not. You open Facebook, you see engagement rates are low, you conclude that you need to spend more time and money on Facebook, and maybe you don’t. What I love I think that now with that sort of lens as we look at this, maybe if you could then, maybe everyone's scratching their head and going, "Okay, I've been looking at these metrics."
You got a great visual and I know our listeners can't see this visual, but I'll definitely link to this blog post. But if you could, let's maybe walk through starting from the least important, the easiest to access and then going to the maybe the most important harder to get our hands on. We’ll kind of walk through, maybe kind of provide some insight as to why you don't think they're important and maybe ways that we should be focusing elsewhere.
Andy: You've got a visitor to your website, but prior to them even being a visitor, you've got a bunch of marketing actions and activities that you do and those tend to be in content—it's social, it's search and it's email marketing. The metrics and KPIs that you have related to social, search and email are not even website visitors. They are not even necessarily someone that's even convertible, someone that could take an action or is it an opportunity to create one.
So those are the above the top of the funnel, above traffic. I would put social at the very top because those metrics are super visible, super prominent they're almost gamified. Social networks happily gamify themselves and make those numbers so visible that you're like incentivized to try to play this game and get more followers or likes or whatever. Social I’d put at the top below that is search. Search rankings are visible of course, everyone can see everyone else's search rankings simply by searching Google using a competitive analysis tool, you can see anybody's search rankings for everything they rank for.
SEMrush is a good way to do that. So even though I call it very high up on this scale, the one exception probably is the links to your website and your authority. That's actually a really important metric in search-driven PR and companies that do lots of like guest blogging and blogger outreach and influencer marketing. Those things that lead to a higher authority website actually I'd argue that that's our very important metrics.
Not visible, actually without a tool. Only the paid tools I think will give you those numbers really. Then email, I call it email, you and I both love List Growth and have you put huge value on subscribers, very important, less visible, you can't see the size of everyone's email list, nobody sees that but also very important. And then now you finally have a visitor. So social search, email, and now you've got visitors.
On the website traffic is the most visible, easy to find, top of all the reports. Behavior metrics is a little bit more difficult to calculate. There's more factors involved there; time on page, bounce rate, these requires a bit more analysis to understand what these numbers mean, you're more likely go down to the URL level to understand, aggregate numbers are less meaningful. Then you get down to like the conversion metrics.
So the percentage of visitors per traffic source that take action. Percentage of visitors who take which action. The conversion rate stuff is again, slightly more difficult to track accurately, sometimes you have to even create events in Google analytics. So actionable tip, make sure that your conversion rates are as accurate as possible by creating goals for everyone of those desirable outcomes on your website.
Eric: Our CEO Garrett actually presented at Content Marketing World and I love this idea because we kind of pulled back the curtain and we talk about a lot of our content, CoSchedule is known for great and thorough blog content. It's easy for us to look at our own blogs and which ones are driving the most traffic and we really did some digging. You have to have a marketing technology stack usually in order to find those conversion. But we found like our most popular post hands down was the Best Time to Post on Social Media.
We can drive so much traffic about updating that in keeping a research really good but when we looked at how much of that actual traffic turned into trials of CoSchedule, it was one of our worst performing post we've ever done. So there's a miscorrelation between yes traffic looks great and yes we can introduce people to CoSchedule's brand and some of our thought leadership but when it comes to really value of a blog post, it really wasn’t moving the needle at all.
We looked at what we thought was one of our worst performing for traffic, around marketing strategy, end up our best performing for trials and conversion. It totally changes your perception of what is success. I love that example. I would echo that here as well to really dive a little deeper.
Andy: Yeah, awesome example. It's like you've got posts that are great cheese and posts that are great mouse traps and they're often different posts—and that’s a Barry Feldman quote. But that idea, it's easy to see which post gets the most traffic, it's under just behavior, site content, all pages, there they are. They're prioritized, they're automatically sorted by number of sessions. To calculate the conversion rate from visitor into downloader, or subscriber, or registrant per article, takes analysis.
You've got to go to the reverse call path report, and then find the total number of conversions who read each article prior to converting, and then go to your all pages report again and look at the total number of sessions per article, and then divide the total conversions by the number of sessions it's like a calculator metric. It's not a single report. So it's a critical information, hard to find.
Eric: Well I hope you're having just as much fun as I am nerding out with Andy Crestodina of Orbit Studios on marketing metrics and all the measurables. I want to take a quick break just to ask a nice favor of you. If you love the show, we would love a review on iTunes. If you could create a rating and review and before you hit submit, take a nice little screenshot of it, send that screenshot to me, email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will have a looksy at it and as a thank you, I will send you a CoSchedule swag pack full of fun CoSchedule information and content that you're going to love. It's going to be good. Thanks so much for listening. Let's jump back to our interview with Andy.
And then I know when you're in your visual here, your infographic, you kind of label it as critical value. Can you talk about some of those potential pieces to measure?
Andy: Sure. Businesses die when they run out of money. At the very bottom, we've got the revenue margin profit. These are things that are not easily–you're going to need to make a call maybe to your accountant like, "How are you doing?" it's not necessarily a single report or like a service company, utilization, capacity, these are difficult things to measure but they're critical to business success. Your business will die if you do not pay attention at the bottom.
But even below that, they're the most difficult because they're not in any report or not even in QuickBooks but the customer satisfaction and happiness, I just put a smiley face down there at the very bottom for the happiness or like a client satisfaction. Your net promoter score, how you're doing on word-of-mouth, reviews, what are people saying about you. Down there is an actionable tip and I got this question someone asked me yesterday, it's like, "We're bad at reviews. How do we get reviews?"
I don't think you should start by trying to get reviews, start by trying to listen to your customers. make it a habit and literally like a habit, like a repeatable like you automatically do it kind of habit to call a customer a day, or call a customer a week and ask them how you're doing, what can you do better, how do you like that part of the process, what do they like the least. If you want testimonials, and if you want reviews.
If you want to do all that very bottom, those calls are going to give you feedback on your own tool, your own product, your own service that will drive innovation improvement. It's also going to help you uncover those few super fans who are going to say, "You are the best. You're the best company I worked with all year. I wish everybody did the job the way you do it. How can I help refer people to you." they offer almost. "Yeah, great. I'm so glad you felt that way. Would you mind putting that on email that I could use as a testimonial?" "Sure, I'd be thrilled." Or write that as a review on this platform or that.
Listening is like, I mean what we do as marketers is empathy and digital marketers have data-driven empathy. But actually breaking every barrier between you and your audience by dialing a telephone is going to give you some of the best outcomes, there's going to be no barrier. Talk to them directly, find out what you're good and bad at, and that's how you're going to also get reviews.
Eric: It has come up on a couple of past episodes and so I'm actually delighted that you brought up again the never underestimating the value of having conversations with your customer, to hear what they like, to use their words, understand what's important to them and listen. I think it's really important and we, again, at CoSchedule is giving some examples. We absolutely pay attention to net promoter score, we're always asking, we're always monitoring, or we're doing case studies, we're listening to calls with sales.
The sales team, what are our prospects talking about, what are their pain points, what do our customers love about the product. I think there's so much to glean there as marketers that just kind of feels intangible, but it's really easy to get to if you take the time to develop those conversations. What else are you seeing, what are some other good tips I think if you get to some of those more difficult metrics. What are some other things that you think organizations should be focusing some of their time on?
Andy: Well, down there at the bottom, these are things that you have to deliberately seek out. They're not going to accidentally jump at you. If you're just managing your business in terms of like cash, you got a lot of risk of not seeing around corners well enough. You have to pay, I mean, at the very bottom and this is like business management more than just marketing. You're paying attention to sales at the top and then revenue, invoicing is next and then revenue and your expenses and profit of course.
For me, I just delegate that. We have a full-time CEO and that person makes my life more possible and allows me to do all this marketing stuff. If you take your eye off that ball, I put them at the very bottom, these are critical. If you're just focused on the marketing, then you should be paying attention to those more difficult but also more important to measure metrics such as: marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads, sales closing rate.
How many marketers do you think in a B2B space have a sense for which types of leads close into deals at what rate? Very hard to calculate, critically important. So just like you said, like you have articles that do and don't convert there's categories of leads that do and don't convert. What are the things that correlate with the leads that are better or worse? What are the conversations sales people are having with prospects that make those conversations more likely to convert to close? I call that a closing rate.
The farther down you are, the more difficult, the more worthwhile the report and to measure. The other thing I guess the general takeaway is that, we ought to look for our own biases as marketers and that bias of over valuing the very visible stuff and paying too much attention, or investing too much time in social media, or to just look at aggregate data and look at total traffic and the top of the funnel. The deeper down you go on your funnel, the more impact each action has.
Anything that you do right now for visitors who are already on your contact page improve that conversion rate, it's a much better impact than every page prior in the funnel. I encourage people to get low, stay down there toward the bottom of their funnel which is where smaller actions get to better results.
Eric: Yeah. That's a fantastic advice. I think sometimes it's a struggle for marketers. One, either they're having a hard time getting access to that. Do they have the right tools in place to measure that, do they know where to find it. And secondly, maybe they're getting because the other metrics are so assessable and they're almost over emphasized, they're maybe getting pressure. I can't tell you how many times I was in the agency world before I came to CoSchedule and it was all about how many followers do we have, how much engagement do we have, and it's so easy to put, they're getting pressure from potential leadership who aren't well-educated enough on the marketing operation side to understand it.
Those things are okay, they might give us a little bit of a pulse, but they're for the not really the heartbeat of what we're trying to accomplish here. Maybe one thing to comment on, Andy, would be, what are the best tools to get at the heart of some of the most difficult metrics? What are some of the tools that you use to be able to track some of that? I know you do tons of Google analytics. It should be a staple of everyone's. Maybe you can elaborate a bit on that, are there any other tools that use to kind of track some of these more deeper and more meaningful metrics?
Andy: Well, I've got an example of not a tool but a feature I would use and then I'll give you one of the features that I try not to use to avoid that bias. If you're doing anything in social or email where you have specific campaigns designed to drive traffic, and you're looking at things like the click through rate from social posts or the opening click through rate from email, great. But a more important metric is the one farther down in the funnel, the more difficult to find, but more important metric the behavior these people after they click.
Simple UTM campaign tracking codes, put those campaigns, put every link from every email you sent into a campaign, CoSchedule of course is super helpful at this for social. But the UTM tracking code is going to let you know what the visitor did after they clicked. What are behavior metrics, time on page, pages per visit conversion rate. Without that, you're looking up too high in the funnel and you don't know whether these people who clicked stayed or did anything. It's really important to make sure that you're connecting these dots between your reporting tools that you can get the data and analytics for the post click behavior and conversion.
But I try to avoid looking at it and influence in marketing now such a big thing. I think that people are trying too hard to connect with influencers with large followings, over valuing the size of an influencer's following, sometimes paying influencers who have large followings because they assume that that will translate into demand or even translate into brand awareness. People are so often disappointed. I mean, if you did a paid influencer campaign with two different influencers with the same size of following and one gave you 10 times the traffic, you wouldn’t even be surprised, you just kind of assume it often doesn't work. I'd be very cautious for anybody doing any kind of influence or marketing especially paid influence or marketing. They over value the follower counts, very likely to be disappointed.
Eric: It's funny you bring that up because my last guest on the show with Shane Barker and he was actually just talking about influencer marketing and the plight of fake followers and not to over emphasize that. Again, I love it when our listeners can hear those messages from multiple sources and just the importance of that. It's a great pitfall to avoid, I absolutely think. Because it is, it is the hot thing right now, and trying to measure that and tap into that, and being very pragmatic I think about how you approach that I think is extremely important. And same thing, what are your metrics going to be with influencers. What are you hoping to get. There's a whole can of worms we can get into if we jumped into that topic as well.
Andy: Big topic.
Eric: Yeah. But I'll try to keep us focused. Well, Andy, thanks so much for coming on the show. For those listeners, if you have not picked up a copy of Andy's Content Chemistry, it is a must have in your marketing library. I picked up the most—I think you just had a new edition roll out just a couple of months ago. I picked it up at Content Marketing World, I've got it on my shelf. Please do so, it's the easiest to read I think of all books. You're so pragmatic with the way the examples you've given. Maybe we'll have you on the show another time where we can break down some of the great stuff you covered in there. But I love to diving into the metrics. Some really good actionable takeaways for our audience in terms of what they're focusing on and what metrics they should be really paying attention to and others not to maybe lose any sleep over.
Andy: This was awesome. Thanks for having me. I love the topic. We could go on and on about it. I think we kind of nailed it though. I think we got right to the point there. I think we made this actionable and kind of counterintuitive. I hope that people take something away from this.