Have you ever said a word so many times that it starts to sound weird? It happens to me a lot. I’ll say something and after a bit, it doesn’t even sound like anything at all – just a collection of random letters and sounds that are meaningless after a while. (Try saying the word “expertise” 10 times in a row – by the end, it won’t even sound like a real word.) After some research, I learned there is a scientific name for this phenomenon – “semantic satiation.”
Running a busy digital agency, semantic satiation is something I deal with frequently, as I hear buzzwords thrown around daily. One of the worst offenders also happens to be an essential phrase in marketing and business: ROI (Return on Investment).
So, in the notoriously opaque industry of digital marketing how do you prove ROI of branded advertising? I’ll get into that, but first – a quick rundown of what ROI and other marketing terms mean.
ROI, PPC & Digital Marketing – A Love Triangle
Here’s that definition I promised: ROI is the quantifiable value earned at the intersection of marketing and business. The proverbial “pudding” where the proof should be. Every business wants to “prove ROI” whether they are doing display ads, TV, radio, SEO, social media, or video. Somehow, some way, we know that these types of branded advertising offer value to the business. But how do you prove it?
We find ourselves faced with a bit of a love triangle between ROI, PPC (pay-per-click advertising, like Google AdWords), and digital marketing (advertising across any digital platform or channel). Separately, each unveils valuable insights into audience activity and each pushes clients towards achieving their goals. Together, they should be able to connect the dots between what people want, what people do, and how they get from point A to point B… in other words, they should provide a concrete measurement of the value offered in contrast to the dollars invested, or, return on investment.
Proving ROI for Branding Campaigns
Back in the day, YellowPages was THE place to go to procure the product or service you needed. Today, Google has taken the reigns. We all know that branding is an integral part of any digital marketing campaign. But, how can we prove that TV, radio, pre-roll video, display ads, over the top (OTT) video, and other forms of digital marketing are helping the client achieve their goals? There are three steps to connect the dots: improvements to organic & direct traffic, organic CTR & impressions, and goal tracking and audience engagement.
1. Organic and direct traffic – If you are running display, TV, radio, or any marketing, you should have Google Analytics or a similar web analytics tool on your website. When people see your ads, they are compelled to search you out, type in your web address, or search for your service. We often see that businesses who run advertising campaigns see a boost in their direct and organic traffic, without doing anything but “branding.” Here’s an example of a company that ran a weather page sponsorship on WRAL.com (which is a pure brand play) in January 2018, and saw their organic and direct traffic improve impressively over the previous year’s stats:
This is a way to correlate more web traffic to their branding efforts. Organic traffic is when a user searches Google (or another search engine) and clicks a link to the website in question. It can’t be directly attributed to any marketing – but the marketing effort did push more traffic to the site.
Not enough proof? We agree.
2. Google Search Console – Where Google Analytics tells you what visitors are up to once they are on your website, Google Search Console (or GSC) is a behind-the-scenes view of how your site performs within Google before users get to your web property. The tool is free to set up and is genuinely incredible regarding the information you can find out. GSC shows you how many times your website returned in the top 100 results of a Google search. It tells you what position you are in (1-100) for the search results, how many times a user clicked your result out of the others (organic CTR), and it even shows you what query and term you showed up for.
So think about that for a second. Google will tell you how many times your site showed up organically. They will tell you how many times someone clicked your website after searching a specific query. And they will even tell you what terms led to those impressions and clicks… that’s incredible! With the example client above, we were able to show the client that after they started the advertising efforts they had a major increase in the number of clicks they got (increased CTR) and that there was a major increase in the amount of “branded searches” and clicks, meaning more people searched Google for their brand name and went to their website. This can be attributed to the branding they did, and while it isn’t directly attributed, it is clear that branding affected the traffic to their site.
But we’re not off to the ROI races just yet. You may be familiar with this client feedback: “OK that’s all great, but more traffic to my site doesn’t equate to more business and more money in my pocket. I need phone calls, form submissions, and people coming to my location.”
Again, we agree. But, there’s one more step that connects point A and point B to prove actual visitor growth and improved engagement. The cherry on top.
3. Google Analytics goals & Google My Business – Google Analytics allows you to set up “goals” in their system, meaning they can track every time a user takes a specific action or visits a particular page. So if you have a contact form, you can follow how many people fill it out and where the traffic came from. If you’re a local restaurant, you can track every time someone downloads your PDF menu. The tool allows you tie it back to traffic sources, so if the increase in conversions comes from direct and organic traffic, it can be easily inferred that branding efforts led to that. Here is a guide on how to set up goals.
Another transparent tracking tool at your disposal is Google My Business. It is free, and it can show precisely how many times people take these actions on Google Knowledge Graph (the company information that shows up to the right of the search results):
- How many searches you appear in
- Clicks to your website
- Clicks to call on mobile
- Clicks to request directions
- Interactions with your images
These are all actions that are directly correlated to more business, and can all be positively affected by branding and awareness campaigns.
Prove ROI for Branding with Multi-Channel Data
Digital marketing is not a magic bean that allows us 100% insight into how people find your business. That whole sentence is semantically satiated for me, I’ve heard it so many times. However, digital marketing does give us tools to look at new data and show that the customer journey can be positively impacted by TV, display, radio, OTT, and other branding efforts. When we look at it outside of the silo of a single channel, we start to see the whole picture. Instead of getting a headache from hearing “ROI” over and over, go out and prove it works by using the tools at your disposal.