Everyone talks about inbound marketing Key Performance Indicators (or KPIs), but are we actually monitoring these metrics and if so, are we monitoring the right ones? A single metric on its own won’t tell you much. However, combine the right metrics and they paint a picture of the health of your inbound marketing strategy.
These are the 5 inbound marketing KPIs small teams should be monitoring. And, they just so happen to map back to each stage of the inbound marketing process (attract, convert, close, delight).
1. Web Traffic
Website traffic is fundamental to the success of any inbound marketing strategy. You can write all the content that you want but, if no one reads it you won’t capture any leads or have the opportunity to convert those leads into customers.
Traffic can be measured in a number of ways, but the single best KPI for measuring visits to your website is organic traffic. Organic traffic is defined as visits generated by someone reaching your site via a search engine like Google or Bing (as opposed to clicking on a paid ad).
To increase organic traffic, the content on your website must be found in search engine results (and clicked as well, but more about that in a minute). Recent Google algorithm updates have made quality the number one factor used in ranking, so when it comes to writing a piece of content like a blog post, your number one goal is to write for the person reading it and secondly for search engines.
Also consider measuring the average time on site and bounce rate as a way to tell a better story of your traffic. For instance, if your traffic isn’t increasing, but the average time on site has increased by 1-2 minutes, that’s significant. Or if your bounce rate has dropped down under 50%, that’s huge! Both of these mean you’re driving better traffic, not just more traffic.
Write Content for People First
The content you create should be helpful to your buyer and move them further down the path to purchase. Think about the search terms someone would use to find your product. The terms that they use to search will change as they identify their problem, research and find solutions, and compare products or providers. You should create content to address each of these stages in their buyer journey.
Optimize Content for Search Engines Second
When it comes to optimizing content for search engines, there are a number of things you can do such as including the keyword(s) that you want to rank for in your:
- page title
- meta description
- body copy
- image alt-tags.
Small marketing teams should regularly monitor organic website traffic. The seasonality of your product and the length of your sales cycle will impact how often you should monitor, but pick a time frame and stick with it. Over time, organic traffic will show you how effective your content is in driving new visits to your website. And, the traffic on individual pages will show which content is performing the best. You can use that information to shape your content strategy.
2. Conversions or Traffic-to-Lead Ratio
Traffic growth on its own is not a reliable indicator of inbound marketing performance. It’s no use having tons of traffic if those visitors never become leads. You need the right kind of traffic. The right website visitors will become leads that you can eventually pass on to sales.
The best KPI for measuring leads is landing page conversion rate. This tells you the percentage of visitors that eventually submit a form on your website to become a lead. According to Wordstream, the average landing page conversion rate is 2.35%.
How to measure: Conversion rates can be measured using tools like Google Analytics or HubSpot.
One tried and true technique for improving landing page conversion rates is A/B testing. Using this technique, you change one thing on your website at a time and test how well it performs.
For example, say you create two versions of a webpage; one with a red call to action (CTA) button (option A) and one with a blue CTA (option B). 50% of your traffic will see option A, while the other 50% sees option B. After completing the test and reviewing the results, update all your CTAs to the version with higher submission rates.
There are tons of resources online filled with examples of landing pages that convert. Some highlights include:
- making your page visually compelling (including the use of high-quality images, videos, or GIFs)
- using action-oriented copy
- carefully considering the size and placement of your CTAs.
Ask Your Visitors
Another way to improve conversion rates is to survey your visitors or people like your visitors (your buyer persona).
Lead optimization is all about constant improvement. You should monitor landing page conversions at least weekly to ensure that your conversion rate is 2.35% or higher. Smaller teams should focus on pages with the lowest conversion rates first (provided of course that those pages align with your business and content marketing goals), and work your way up through to higher-performing pages.
How to Measure: To find out why people leave your website without converting you can use tools like Crazy Egg or HotJar that give you user session recordings, scrolling maps, and heatmaps to show you where people are hanging out on your site and clicking. You can also use survey tools like SurveyMonkey to ask simple questions right before someone exits like, “What was the purpose of your visit today?” or “Why are you leaving?”. For a more comprehensive list of conversion rate tools, check out this article by HubSpot.
3. Lead-to-Customer Ratio
Of the people that fill out a form on your website, how many of those go on to purchase from you? This KPI is known as your lead-to-customer ratio. While the lead-to-customer ratio seems more like a sales KPI than a marketing one, marketing has a role to play here and it’s all about lead quality. It doesn’t matter if you’re generating thousands of leads per month if none of those leads are actually buying anything from you.
Track the quality of leads by attaching lead scores so you’ll know you're passing only the most qualified leads to your sales team.
To do this, assign ‘points’ to leads based on that lead’s information and the actions they’ve taken on your website. The scores help your sales team prioritize leads in the pipeline.
To develop lead scoring criteria, do the following:
- Look at your past customer data to see if you can identify any consistencies in the path of those who purchased from you vs. the path of those who did not.
- Talk to your sales team and see if they can add any insight.
- Assign a weight to each of the characteristics you identify based on how likely you think that behavior impacted their decision to buy
For example, if you determine leads who download a particular case study are 10x more likely to purchase than those who don't, you would assign 10 points to every lead who downloads it in the future. The higher the total lead score, the more likely that person is to purchase. Your sales team should focus on leads with higher lead scores first.
Improve your lead-to-customer ratio with lead nurturing campaigns. Not everyone who visits your site will be ready to purchase. Some may be at the beginning of their information-gathering stage. Using lead nurturing, or drip campaigns as they’re sometimes called, you send targeted content designed to build trust and relationships so your brand stays top-of-mind. Emails are the most-used nurturing vehicle, but other channels like social media can also be effective.
To implement lead nurturing:
- Segment your audience into lists based on where they are in the buying process.
- Create valuable content for leads in each segment. At the end of each email, include a CTA enticing the lead to click through to your offer. At the end of the offer, include another relative CTA designed to move that buyer further down the funnel.
- Decide the frequency of your communications. Tip: It’s always best to include a “break-up” email at the end of the sequence for leads who are unresponsive. This ensures you don’t “pester” them with unwanted emails.
Small teams should monitor the lead-to-customer ratio at least once a month and loop in the sales team for feedback on the quality of leads passed to them. This gives you more information as you refine your lead scoring and nurturing strategies.
How to Measure: Email marketing platforms typically have reporting functionality. Be sure to look at your open rates and click-through rates to check your audience engagement. Measure how many nurtured leads move on to complete a purchase. Track this over time to measure whether this ratio improves or whether adjustments should be made to your nurture campaigns.
4. Customer Value
Small businesses need to maximize existing customer revenue since we all know that it’s cheaper to maintain a current customer than it is to acquire a new one. The best KPI for measuring customer value is lifetime value (LTV). Take a typical customer. What’s their average sale cost? How many times do they purchase from you each year? How many years do they typically stay a customer (referred to as the lifetime of the customer)?
How to Measure: Customer LTV is calculated as follows:
(Average sale cost) x (Average # of sales per customer) x (Average lifetime of customer)
Increasing customer LTV is all about that final inbound marketing stage - delight. Successful businesses (even small ones) provide extraordinary customer service, encourage repeat purchases, upsell or cross-sell relevant products, and reduce churn in order to delight.
There are a number of things marketing can do to help delight customers like:
- use lead-nurturing emails to notify customers of new products, sales, or promotions
- poll customers for new product ideas
- include customer-generated content in your promotions (this is especially powerful on social media)
- implement easy-to-use loyalty or reward programs
- measure customer satisfaction with net promoter scores (NPS)
- add personal touches when something goes wrong.
The single most important inbound marketing KPI that should be measured is marketing Return on Investment (ROI). Without the ability to prove the marketing team’s worth to the business, your budget (and probably your job) is at risk. Maybe not today, but one day someone will wonder why they’re funneling money into a program that can’t prove its success.
You should also always track what’s working and what’s not so you can adjust your strategies to improve ROI over time. Marketing managers need to consistently measure and report on the success of their campaigns by producing monthly (or at least, quarterly) scorecards or dashboards that show campaign performance against targets.
How to Measure: A basic way to measure Marketing ROI is to:
- calculate the total cost of your marketing efforts (including marketing salaries, software, ad spend, etc.)
- subtract that number from the revenue you can attribute to marketing efforts
- divide that number by the total cost of your marketing efforts.
(Revenue attributed to inbound marketing - Total cost of inbound marketing) / Total cost of inbound marketing
The result is a percentage return on your inbound marketing investment.
Note: Attribution can be tricky when your customers experience more than one touch with your company, however this will provide you with a pretty good overview of the effectiveness of your inbound marketing campaigns.
Other Metrics Matter
These five inbound marketing KPIs are by no means the only ones that matter and they don’t exist in a vacuum. However, there are seemingly endless ways to slice and dice your data, it’s easy to get consumed by it. There are other metrics like social media followers/engagement and mobile effectiveness, as an example.
Just remember that just because something is easy to measure doesn’t mean it’s worth measuring. The number of Twitter followers aren’t always relevant to your bottom line (unless, for instance, you found a strong correlation in Twitter followers and closed deals). The most important thing to remember is that you determine the few, important KPIs to focus on and track regularly, then work to improve those metrics over time.