How effective is your online marketing investment?

Running a business is time consuming and it’s so easy for us to to get bogged down with the day to day ignoring even simple marketing activities that can help bring in more customers and increase your sales revenues.

I am as guilty as the next man in this so I’m making steps to improve that and here I’d like to share with you a simple process that I’ve gone through that I hope will help you to start to think about effectiveness and return on your investment.

If you’ve been in business for more than a few days then you’ve most likely got a website and you might already be present on some of the many social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Linked in or Google+ for example.

This is our online marketing investment and as with all investments it needs monitoring and maintaining so that it becomes and remains effective.

We’ve made an investment of time and money into a tool that needs to yield a return that’s higher than the initial and ongoing investment otherwise we may as well take our money and give it to a man in the street.

So how effective is your online marketing investment?

I’m going to show three very simple steps to establish a performance baseline for your current internet marketing activities.

For those playing buzz word bingo I’m going to be looking at a couple of Key Performance Indicators here. KPIs are nothing more than simple, effective measurements that when used in conjunction with other data can help you to establish, monitor and manage your performance.

Any type of measurement needs a known baseline or datum that becomes your starting point. And it’s vital to understand exactly where you are before you try to change things. You might want to improve things but what are you looking to improve and how will you know what you did had a real impact or not?

For that reason all systems and processes of improvement require you to establish a baseline.

Now I don’t know anything about you or your business so I’m going to make the following assumptions:

  • You have a website
  • It’s primary goal is to generate sales leads
  • You’re not selling product directly from the site
  • You’ve had it for a while
  • You don’t have a clear understanding of its effectiveness

So here we go.

We’re going to look at three simple measurements, that together will help us to establish a baseline:

  • Sales leads
  • Conversion
  • Bounce

Step one – Sales leads

How many sales enquiries you are receiving from your website?

Some will inevitably come in the form of emails directly from your sales enquiry form on your site but what about the telephone enquiries?

This is an area that’s so often overlooked and it’s the most fundamental and simplest of the three steps that we’re going to look at.

Do you ask every potential new customer who calls or emails how they found you?

“Hi thanks for your call, could you tell me how you found us today?”


“What was it that made you call today?”

Simple yet so often ignored.

If you know that’s great but if you don’t… then over the next month I want you to ask every single person who makes a sales enquiry who isn’t already a customer how they found your business.

Make it a standard practice in your organisation to ask these questions.

Step two – Conversion

Once you know how many enquiries you’re getting you can then work out the conversion rate.

For this you will need to review your site’s visitor behaviour statistics.

A word of caution

Most web hosting companies provide comprehensive website stats as part of your hosting package but these are not good marketing tools. They are a technical tool designed to establish the number of connections and volume of traffic for the purposes of bandwidth management.

We need to use a tool that analyses the behaviour of real visitors. So it’s better to use an analytics service like Google Analytics for example. Other tools exist but for simplicity I’m going to show you in Google Analytics. for one it’s free and secondly it’s very comprehensive yet fairly straight forward to get to grips with.

If you’ve never used Google Analytics then it’s relatively simple to get started:

  • You will need a Google account so if you have a GMail account use that be signed in (if you don’t have a GMail account you will first need to set one up.
  • Visit the service start page:
  • Sign up for Google Analyitics service.
  • Complete the form and you will be given a block of code to copy and paste into every page that you want to track. Dependant upon how your site is built this may just be a field in a form in a content management system or it may be that you have to paste it into every page on your site.

It’s important to know that you can’t access your new GA account reports for 24 hours following set up of the account.

Incidentally if you do use Google Analytics for collecting behaviour stats and you are in the UK then the much debated EU cookie law applies.

Once you’ve set up your account and started tracking behavior then you can start to get to the numbers that you need.

What you want to establish is the number of unique visits there are repeat visits but a lot of these could be you so we’ll look at unique visits.

You can see here in this example from my site for the month of March 2013 that the unique visits was 81.

 81 visits in March 2013


You’d be right to deduce that I need to do something to improve this which is exactly why I went through this process.

Now you can divide the number of web sourced sales enquiries by the number of unique visitors to get a crude measure of the effectiveness of your site:

conversion calculation example

There are many ways that you can refine this figure for example by filtering on geographic visitors, or narrow it down to specific pages to get a finer granularity. But for now a high-level view of how your site is converting visitors into sales leads is a great starting point.

So now you have your conversion rate.

A low conversion rate indicates that your site isn’t compelling your visitors to take the desired action so you should be asking why that is and then planning a series of activities aimed at improving it.

Step three – Bounce

The third primary figure that will help you to understand the performance of your site is bounce rate. Now bounce is simply the number of visits that come into a given page in the site and leave from the same page without going elsewhere.

Once you have hooked up your site to Google analytics then obtaining your bounce is really simple.

Scroll down in the same audience overview page and it’s on the left hand side:

Bounce 67.68 percent

A high bounce rate like this coupled with a low conversion indicates one or both of two things:

  • You are not reaching your true target
  • Your site is failing to compel your visitors to stay or take the desired action

Your performance baseline

Now we know how many sales leads we’re getting per month and how many visitors we have to our site so we know how well it’s converting.

We also have a feel for how people are behaving on our site because we know how many are landing and leaving from the same page.

Clearly we can dig deeper and I would advocate doing that but for the purposes of illustration I’ve focused at a high-level to give you a flavour of where we’re going.

From these figures you can very quickly establish how your site is performing – you probably already knew in your heart but now you have a set of figures, something quantitative that you can work with.

Establishing a baseline is more to do with creating a concrete datum so that in a months time when you go through the exercise a second time you can tell instantly whether the the improvements that you tried were effective or not. And this will help you to gain a clearer understanding of what works for you and your business.

With a poorly performing online marketing investment you may need to take more of a strategic look at your site and associated online marketing activities, not ignoring any activity that you are doing offline as well.

You may need to re-establish some goals for your site and perhaps think carefully about who your ideal client or customer is and make sure that your content clearly demonstrates that your products and services can satisfy his needs.


Following three simple steps to obtain the number of sales leads, conversion and bounce rates you can see how easy it is to very quickly establish a baseline for the performance of your website. Within a glance you can tell if your site is performing well or not.

If you have low conversion and or high bounce then you seriously need to consider some improvements. We’ll discover more about how to improve the effectiveness of your site and conversion rates in another session.

I hope this has been helpful for you. Please let me know in the comments and let’s open up the discussion.

Alex Adams

Alex has been designing, developing and managing software projects since 1998. He is a multidisciplinary developer and has worked with a number of languages, technologies and frameworks. When he's not developing, he's a busy husband and dad who finds a bit of time to train for triathlon events.

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