Thoughts + News
Why You Shouldn’t Track Online Marketing Metrics Weekly (And What You Should Do Instead)
Most company’s fail online because they don’t track or measure enough things.
They’re flying blind. And they have no clue (a) what’s working, (b) what’s not working, and (c) how to improve the former and curb the latter.
Almost everything we do is data-driven. The Codeless branding, positioning, and services all focus on the technical side of marketing, and tracking metrics is a fundamental building block of our DNA.
Recently I saw a post on the HubSpot blog about 7 metrics to watch weekly. It had good content. Nearly all of HubSpot’s stuff does.
But I take exception with the premise. (Even though it is a catchy headline.) Sure, there are certain numbers you need to know daily or weekly. Maybe 3 tops. You gotta hit payroll and keep on eye on the horizon for new business.
However for the majority of metrics, you should probably only track them on a monthly basis (or campaign-to-campaign depending on what you’re trying to compare against).
The Problem with Daily & Weekly Online Marketing Metrics
Years ago, every single time I hit Publish on a new blog post I would obsess over watching traffic and pageview numbers. Hourly fluctuations mirrored my mood.
The big problem with this irrational number-crunching leads to overemphasizing vanity metrics. You focus on inane things like Facebook Fans or pageviews that are meaningless in the big picture, while wasting time, energy, and money in the process.
And you create a self-reinforcing pattern. You start repeating specific strategies and tactics to make certain numbers go up… even though they have little to no bearing on your actual business results.
There are two big reasons why you shouldn’t obsess over frequent tracking and reporting. A practical reason, and a philosophical one.
The Practical Reason
Over the past few months, our SEO retainer clients have started receiving detailed monthly reports.
Each report details key performance indicators (KPI’s) we’ve established (like quality traffic, leads, and conversions), what larger projects or deliverables were accomplished during the past month, what’s on deck for the next month, and then an Appendix full of detailed data and examples so client’s can dive into the minutia if they’d like.
All of this stuff is pretty basic, and is probably in most monthly reports you’d find at any agency or sophisticated marketing department.
But here’s the most important part…
Our monthly reports always start with an Executive Summary (written personally by me) to explain what the raw data is telling us and to provide insight into what decisions we’re making, why we’re making them, and how we’re course-correcting.
INSIGHT & context are more important than raw data.
The real value or benefit of tracking metrics at all is being able to compare the trends over time. You begin picking up patterns, and you’re able to discern what’s going well and worth the relevant resources (time & money) vs. what’s not and should be re-allocated immediately.
When you’re only viewing data in the context of 24 hours or even a week, you’re not able to see enough happen or unfold. And you become susceptible to random fluctuations. Either way, your metrics and the story they’re telling you, is usually incomplete.
So by only tracking metrics monthly and taking a longer view, you’re increasing your odds at deciphering where or how to improve.
The Philosophical Reason
Prioritizing daily or weekly numbers leads to bad habits and makes you overly focused on the short-term.
You start wasting more time on social media to squeeze out a few extra pageviews. Or you start cutting campaigns before they’ve had time to blossom to maximize your short term profit.
Either way, you’re screwing yourself.
The most successful businesses are the ones built for the long-term. And when you’re running a business on hitting short-term deadlines and Hail Mary’s, then two things happen:
- You make mistakes
- You make bad decisions
And that’s typically the reason companies fail. It’s not competition, or market conditions.
But companies generally fail because they make bad decisions and grave mistakes, and then run out of operating capital.
You get caught in a trap of maximizing short-term operating performance while neglecting long-term profitability. And that sets you on a path where you’re always playing catch-up.
We recently made around ~$16,500 from one blog post. That blog post probably cost us around ~$1,000 to create (not even counting promotional efforts and expenses). That sounds like a good ROI…
But in reality, that blog post was about 7 or 8 years in the making. That new project didn’t come along because of that one blog post, but from all the blog posts strung together over the last few years without seeing any benefit at all.
That’s OK. We’re going to be digital consultants for the next 40 years, so we don’t need to see payoff tomorrow or even next year.
Because if you’re focusing more on the process, less on the outcome, then you’re usually able to make better decisions.
And even if they turn out wrong, they’re usually not fatal enough to kill you.