Everything you know about digital measurement is wrong, says Semphonic


By Chris Lee

Digitally-savvy marketers may think they have a handle on digital measurement but everything they know could well be wrong. This is the view of Gary Angel, president of Web analytics consultancy Semphonic. Marketers may have a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) laid out, listening tools in place, response policies and measurement, but their own approach may be based on flawed information because, Angel believes, virtually every digital dashboard they rely on is poorly constructed and misleading.

NMK caught up with Angel to hear about the four pillars which he believes form the core of digital measurement best practice.

Get your focus right

Angel said that best practice suggests that successful dashboarding and reporting is about finding a small set of site KPIs that are understandable and immediately actionable.

“Most measurement departments deliver exactly that – a small set of key metrics like site conversion rate, total visits Trend, overall site satisfaction etc., all laid out in big numbers with great fonts, pretty colours, big trend arrows and lots of Tufte-inspired whitespace,” he said. “Sadly, these reports deliver neither understanding nor actionability.

“The simple fact is that site-wide metrics, from conversion rate to total traffic, are nearly all worthless. To be meaningful, a metric needs to be placed in the context of who it’s about and what those customers were trying to accomplish,” he added. “Understanding what your customers are trying to accomplish on the web is vital to understanding whether you are successful or not. If your dashboards aren’t built around this simple two-tiered segmentation concept, they probably aren’t very useful.”

Be wary of site satisfaction surveys

Online survey research is based on a sample set of site visitors, Angel told NMK, yet every time marketers change their marketing campaign and improve or worsen their SEO, they effectively change the demographic of their website.

“This renders site-wide trends in satisfaction completely useless as, rather than tracking true changes to site satisfaction, you are actually tracking changes to the site population caused by your marketing programme,” he said. “Without careful controls on sub-populations, every online survey metric is devoid of meaning. NetPromoter scores suffer from the same ill and, unlike site satisfaction, tend to be a very poor intrinsic measure of site experience.”

Understand that social mentions aren’t consumer sentiment

Good marketing teams will already have a social media measurement programme in place along with a set of reports showing how well it’s performing, Angel said. Total mention counts – a simple measure of how often a brand is mentioned in the social realms – are at the centre of those reports and might be compared to other brands to demonstrate "brand share" or trended over time to demonstrate “social success”, he said.

“The problem is that social media chatter is nearly always interspersed by commentary driven by professional influencers,” Angel said. “Unless your team has worked hard to remove the counts of professional influencers, your figures will not correlate with actual consumer sentiment and represent nothing of value.”

Dispel the myths

The message for marketing executives interested in digital is really simple, according to Angel. The metrics used by measurement teams are often poorly thought out and “significantly misleading – a very poor guide to decision-making,” he argued.

“There’s nothing wrong with simple, clear numbers. But when they lack meaning, misrepresent reality, and hide the truth, simplicity is no virtue,” he concluded. “By dispelling these common, easy metric crutches from dashboards, organisations will be on the right path to getting the key digital measurement information they need.”

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