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The Top 10 Most Underappreciated Metrics To Track in 2008 – Part II

This post is the continuation of a topic I started yesterday all about the right metrics to focus on and how many marketing teams may be using the wrong ones without realizing it.  In Part I, I shared 10 meaningless metrics that brands should consider moving away from.  Most of those metrics are either based on precedent (what brands have always measured) or ignorance (a lack of knowledge about other metrics to track).  As a whole, the single word that defines the old view of metrics is to focus on impressions.  A more sophisticated model measures engagement or interaction (ie – a more active consumption of content).  Eyeballs are not enough.  So, to help you start thinking outside your typical metrics, here are some of the underappreciated metrics that I believe more brands should focus on in 2008:

  1. Inbound Links (from influential sources) – Most marketers right now are already paying attention to inbound links, but the problem with most is that there is no qualitative assessment.  What this means, for example, is that getting included on the blogroll of a spam blog is the equivalent of getting mentioned in a post on a high influence blog.  They are not equal, which is why the Technorati Authority rating made it onto my list of most meaningless metrics yesterday.  Getting smarter about measuring inbound links, however, will be crucial – and this means paying more attention to where that link comes from.
  2. Direct URL Access – Do you record how many people get to your site by directly typing in the URL?  This may be the most important ignored metric of all.  The reason is that it tells you volumes about your brand and your marketing if you can find a way to get better at measuring it.  When someone directly types your URL into their browser, it indicates familiarity with your brand, recall of a particular message that made your URL stick in their heads, qualified traffic and a likeliness that they are seeking some piece of information specifically.
  3. RSS Subscribers – Most bloggers have already started to pay more attention to how many RSS subscribers they have and even use it as a badge of honor when describing the traffic to their blog.  Aside from being more accurate than inbound links as a measure of influence simply because it is much tougher to accidentally count spam as traffic, this allows you to measure a level of engagement as well.  If someone has chosen to subscribe to your content, that indicates a depth of engagement that a simple page view does not. 
  4. Email Link Referrals – We all know that people cut and paste links and forward content to one another, but few marketers pay enough attention to tracking this.  The reason is fairly obvious … when you get a link coming through from a forwarded email, it is typically impossible to follow.  As a result, it is rarely counted in referring links and ignored as a source of traffic.  Yet, once again, if someone sends a link to your content to someone else, it is likely to indicate a level of engagement that is far higher.
  5. Time Spent (engagement) – In my post yesterday, I noted that time spent can be a misleading metric because it can also unintentionally give you credit for having a confusing user interface that takes a long time for a user to navigate (thus inflating your time spent).  This doesn’t, however, mean that I think you should ignore the time spent metric altogether.  It still provides a valuable data point, assuming you are confident that you are measuring actual engagement rather than time wasted.
  6. Organic Keyword Referrals – Most large brands are getting far more sophisticated with search terms, targeting the popular ones and measuring their response.  Alongside all this paid search marketing, however, users are typing in their own search queries, and arriving at your site organically.  What many brands surprisingly forget to do is fully track and index all the keywords that people are using through organic search to reach their site.  This gives you clues not only to help you focus a search campaign, but also to improve your content.
  7. Email Longevity and Multiple Opens – As I shared yesterday, email opens are a useless metric because many emails are opened by accident.  An interesting measure that is underappreciated by many email marketers is how long people keep an email in their inbox and how many times they open it.  If you think about it, the most useful emails that you have gotten are ones that you are likely to keep on file and open at least a few times.  Aside from forwarding an email, which pretty much everyone already measures, keeping track of multiple opens (and particularly the time between opens) can lend interesting insight into how evergreen your emails are.
  8. Abandonment – One of the most useful areas to focus on gathering as many metrics as you can is around the idea of abandonment, or the moment when a user leaves your site for any reason.  The types of metrics that could be useful here are time spent before leaving (which may indicate that they arrived at your site by accident if it is only a few seconds), last page viewed (which tells you whether there is a "dead spot" that tends to lose users), or shopping cart behaviour (obviously key to know why people don’t complete purchases).
  9. Clickstream – The clickstream can mean many things to people depending on how they term their metrics.  what I mean by it are the sites visited directly before and after someone visits your site.  This can tell you volumes if you learn how to read between the lines to what the data is actually telling you.  For example, if people go straight to Google after your site, chances are they are still seeking something they didn’t find on your site.  Visiting a competitor site also gives you clues of what other products or services your customers consider.  Finally, when someone is visiting an unrelated site, this may give you a clue about what they thought they might find on your site and perhaps why they left.
  10. Microsharing – Of course, regular readers of this blog probably know that I couldn’t get through a post like this without making up a new term … so let’s talk about "microsharing."  This is the idea that people are sharing bits of knowledge in lots of ways that don’t show up on traditional marketing metrics.  They post a link on Twitter, they bookmark something on, or they add something to Digg.  Each is a social method of sharing information, but brands typically don’t track any of these effectively because few feel they have the means to do it.  Unfortunately, there is no magic solution to help brands measure this today. There are conversation tracking tools, and manual analysis is always an option … but in 2008, this will be something that most smart marketers will be paying a lot more attention to – and more vendors will likely be coming up with easier solutions to help track.

Any other favourite metrics that you would add to this list that you feel marketers have been ignoring and need to focus on in the new year?

12 thoughts on “The Top 10 Most Underappreciated Metrics To Track in 2008 – Part II”

  1. Excellent list. I especially think the metrics that capture engagement (3,4,7,8, and maybe 5)are the critical ones to watch as the paradigms surrounding digital communication evolve.

    Additionally, I find that when it comes to site traffic, bounce rate as a measure of abandonment is especially critical. Your site is either sticky or a bouncing rubber ball of meh.

    Thanks again for the great compilation,

    Paul M. Banas

  2. This was very interesting indeed and helps me to reconsider how I view website analytics. As I come from the PR side, I also look at referring sites, especially if a recent story was published. This helps me to understand which sites may have more influence in driving traffic to the website and where to put some of the PR effort. In certain cases, I can give an unique URL, but this is typically if it’s for a registration.

    Still helpful nonetheless.


  3. I’d also add on-site search behavior, which includes broad query analysis, quality of results, and resulting user behavior. Marketers should also be experimenting with tracking brand/product mentions on sites like Twitter by utilizing the ‘track …’ feature. Related services like will try to provide value where Twitter is missing an opportunity – tracking by tags and providing additional ways to follow users, i.e. by profile ‘interests’.

  4. Rohit-

    Thanks for the post, I was curious to hear what the flip side of overused would be. #6: Organize keywords-Capturing what the consumer is really thinking about when searching. Great tool..Thanks!

  5. Great post Rohit. I also believe that this next generation of metrics will center around interactions and will be far more useful, yet complement, the eyeballs, impressions and transaction metrics of the past. Microsharing is a great term, and my company, Networked Insights, is one of the vendors you talk about that is making it easy for companies to mine this data. Beyond just tracking mentions, we also tap customer conversations for other insights that can inform a company’s marketing and other aspects of their business — it’s putting the customer at the center of the market research process and letting them decide what’s important. We think this yields far more insightful information that traditional forms of research.

  6. Your lists, both overused and underappreciated metrics, are criteria we all should consider. But, it also illustrates the sophisticated thinking that is probably going on at Google and other search engines. Can you imagine the database that must go into determining the relevance of sites for various keyword phrases? It’s a good thing that disk storage is cheap and CPUs are fast.

  7. Hi,

    I’m just reading this now – but it is very timely as I’m putting together my 2008 metrics. I was interested in your mention of Direct URL access – we get a huge percentage of our traffic that way. Although I’m still struggling with what the right natural search terms are for our niche. We are an open innovation/crowdsourcing web site – but the vast majority of people I’m trying to attract (engineers, scientists, biz people who can solve problems posted on our site) don’t even know what those terms mean, and wouldn’t be searching on them.

    Thanks – this was very helpful.



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Rohit is the author of 9 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.


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