Marketers are great at talking up the limitless potential of digital, but when it comes to proving it, they come up short.

It seems strange that we’d need to improve in this way: marketers spend lots of money on paid media to acquire visitors to their websites, yet once the users arrive they often lose track of them. Sure, we use metrics like bounce rate and new vs. returning visits to get a broad picture, however these metrics are far too basic to properly inform marketing decisions.

2017 presents marketers with new challenges. Economic uncertainty is on the rise, and marketing is often the first thing in the budget to be cut when times are tough. In 2017, marketers need to be able to prove not just the worth of their website, but the ROI of their job.

Traditional analytics: your days are numbered

Popular analytics providers, such as Google Analytics, are great for measuring simple things, such as overall visitor numbers, bounce rates and channel attribution. These are traditional metrics, and marketers are right to have them on the radar. However, marketers fall short when they begin to rely on these solutions, believing they’ve got all the information they need. That’s simply not the case.

If marketers are to become more effective at communicating the value of their efforts upwards, they need to look beyond the tried and tested metrics like bounce rate and click rate and think deeply about what metrics will deliver real insight into how customers are behaving in certain ways. Certain people in an organisation may not care that much about how many visitors particular pages had, however they will deeply care about why that is happening, and how the individual elements on the page are performing.

2017 is shaping up to be an especially vibrant year for new marketing solutions which offer different perspectives on this age-old issue. Techniques like mouse movement tracking, user movement replays, heat maps and revenue zoning can, when paired with traditional analytics metrics, be far more instructive in actually informing you of how and why people are behaving online in the way that they are.

Behavioural data can be married with ecommerce analytics to develop a more nuanced view around which pieces of content are delivering ROI, and which are underperforming. It might be the case that visitors are moving right past that expensive banner image announcing the sale, and are clicking in their droves on a small, forgotten link in the corner of the home page. By directly measuring user behaviour in this way, marketers will be able to identify zones of their websites that deserve more attention, and those that aren’t worth the investment they’re currently getting, far more easily.

Data access – the crucial issue

It’s a lesson that many marketers have had to learn the hard way – having great insight into website performance isn’t actually that helpful if you’re not able to communicate the underlying message effectively to the people that matter. And unfortunately, the people that matter are unlikely to be familiar with the latest digital marketing and data science principles.

Digital marketing, like many other disciplines, faces a major skills gap. Last year, BCG and Google surveyed marketers from a range of companies and sectors. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they didn’t rate themselves very highly on their digital marketing skills, with the average score was 57 out of 100.

The way out of this problem, in the short term at least, is for marketers to use tools which display data in a visual way, giving less technical staff members an opportunity to understand the information they’re being presented with. This will reduce the bottleneck that often forms around in-house data scientists, and generally help the wider team feel more accountable for website performance.

Website analytics should form a cornerstone of any strategic discussion of an online business. While marketers may find their budgets stretched, their deeper understanding of the products and methodologies in this growing space will help them bring additional value to their seniors. Website analytics, is taking centre stage in the discussion around measuring business value. Marketers are the experienced experts here – now is their time to shine.

Duncan Keene

Duncan Keene


Duncan Keene, UK managing director of ContentSquare.