Posted on 1/30/2018 in Business and Strategy

By wakefly

We get this question a lot from our clients, and it usually isn’t an easy one to answer.  There is so much data available to us these days.  As we increase the number of platforms and systems we are using, they each have their own way of measuring success.  So how do you choose what to track?

The primary KPI you need to track is whatever metric is tied to your main business goal.  If you are eCommerce, it is revenue.  If you are B2B, maybe it is the number of form fills.  Whatever this metric is, keep it at the forefront of your mind.

Digital Marketing Metrics by Channel, Funnel, or Both?

There are 2 schools of thought on how to bucket your KPIs – by channel or by funnel stage.  Which one you choose is largely dependent on how you run your business.  I prefer looking at them by channel, but that is just my preference.  For this example, these are the channels we will consider:

  • Organic
  • Direct
  • Social
  • Paid
  • Referral
  • Email

If you are looking at marketing funnel KPIs, you may have something like:

  • Top of funnel (Reach)
  • Middle of funnel (Act)
  • Bottom of funnel (Convert)
  • Customer Retention (Engagement)

Leading Indicators vs. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Within each of those buckets, identify at least 2 metrics to track.  One should be a leading indicator and the other should be a KPI.  You can have more KPIs within a channel if needed….but don’t have more than 2 or 3 at most.

What is a Leading Indicator?

A Leading Indicator is a measure that:

  • you can’t directly or easily impact
  • you can’t make a business decision when looking at the number in isolation (can you answer “So what?”)
  • is too removed from your main KPI

What is a Marketing KPI?

A KPI is a measure that:

  • helps you make a business decision about how to reach the primary KPI identified above
  • is action-oriented
  • informs you and helps you make decisions about the next steps to take

Create A Marketing KPI Dashboard

There are many tools and ways to create and display a dashboard.  I am just using a chart for ease of display.  So let’s say you are an eCommerce store.  Your primary KPI is likely revenue.

Primary KPIKPI- ActualKPI Target

If you monitor your business by acquisition channel, I would create the following chart.  Only include the channels that are impactful to your business.  If you don’t do much email marketing, there is no need to track it on a dashboard.  Make sure you are clear on the purpose of each channel as it relates to your business.

ChannelLeading IndicatorKPI- ActualKPI Target






When I think of all of the channels, I consider the following as the main purpose of each:

  • Organic – reach new users
  • Direct – brand awareness
  • Social – engage with prospects and customers
  • Paid – reach new users, expand into competitive markets
  • Referral – reach new users
  • Email – engage with existing users

If a channel takes on a new role in your sales strategy, be sure to go through this process again and update your KPIs.

How to choose the right digital marketing metrics

Let’s use Organic as an example.  As indicated above, the goal of this channel is to reach new users and generate sales.  A good option for the leading indicator, in this case, is # New Users.  It isn’t a metric that I can have a direct/easy impact on.  It also isn’t actionable.  If someone says I have 50,000 new users, so what?  If I look at the number in isolation, can I make any business decision on it?  Likely not.

ChannelLeading IndicatorKPI
Organic# New Users

As I mentioned before, a KPI should be actionable.  What other measures related to my leading indicator that is closer to my primary KPI can have an impact on?  In the case of Organic, I like to look at the bounce rate.  I can impact the bounce rate by doing AB testing, content optimization, etc.  While the bounce rate doesn’t directly affect revenue, you can’t sell anything to people that don’t stick around the site!  You could certainly make an argument for making conversion rate a 2[sup]nd[/sup] KPI for Organic traffic if you choose.

ChannelLeading IndicatorKPI
Organic# New UsersBounce Rate

So continue to do this for all of the channels that are relevant for your business.

Based on that, I selected the following leading indicators for a typical eCommerce site.

ChannelLeading IndicatorKPI
Organic# New UsersBounce Rate
DirectSessionsConversion Rate
ReferralSessionsConversion Rate

The key here is to make sure that your Marketing KPIs are measuring actions that your users are taking, can help you decide what to do next, and you can quickly understand the state of your business with a quick view of the dashboard.

Not sure what metrics you should be tracking?

If you need help identifying KPIs or creating custom dashboards that meet your business needs, Contact Us today.

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