“The main reason to measure objectives is not so much to reward or punish individual communications manager for success or failure as it is to learn from the research whether a program should be continued as is, revised, or dropped in favor of another approach”

—James E. Grunig, Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland

Stole that quote from a recent web analytics seminar I attended because I think it is absolutely right on. With a changing media and online landscape, marketers are in the challenging position of continually learning from their programs and campaigns; trying to determine what’s really working.

First, let’s agree that you can’t measure a campaign if you haven’t put in the time to truly determine your goals. So often, clients will have a vague objective like increased traffic. Increase traffic during the week? On weekends? After work? With repeat or new customers? You get where I’m going. You can get pretty granular and while that may not always be appropriate, the more clearly you define where you’re headed, the more likely you are to get there.

There are so many things to track now, particularly if your campaign lives online. In addition to revenue, leads and loyalty you can track increased customer satisfaction, brand value, friend invites, bounces, website engagement, job applications, ads clicked, task completion rate and so on.

In the old days, which of course were last year, we measured ad success by our CPMs and increased sales. We measured PR success by the number of “hits” we got, which means how many placements did we get and what did that translate to in terms of number of eyeballs. Now HITS means How Idiots Track Success. It still matters, but it’s only one part of measurement.

Return-on investment (ROI) has changed because the investment (placing a video on YouTube for example) can be relatively low, but the exposure can be very high. And ultimately if reaches the right audience you’re golden, but if it doesn’t, then it means squat. Conversely, enhancing reputation or your customer relationships may take a long time and the investment is high, yet there is no direct dollar or number measurement to determine success. But if you are successful, the value is priceless. The paradigm has shifted from quantity to quality.

Here are some of the ways we now measure success (particularly for social media programs):


Number of unique users

Returning vs. new viewers

Referring source statistics

Links from other sites


Google PageRank

Conversation Index n ratio of blog comments to posts (not doing so well on that one this morning!)

Total time spent on site

Popularity of content

Site traffic


This is an area of marketing that is getting a lot of attention right now, as every marketer tries to figure out the right combination of tools. The landscape is so fresh and changeable that the tools and methods are changing and growing daily.


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