5 Essential Digital Marketing KPIs that Count

Almost every business has invested in digital marketing with a website, social media marketing, and e-mail campaigns. Many of them fail to set clear marketing goals and objectives, and never really know whether their marketing efforts are successful. No wonder that marketing budgets remain small and are often cut during hard times.

Digital marketing metrics and KPIs are measurable values that define success and progress in a transparent and accountable manner. KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) represents progress to important business goals, while additional metrics provide detail and insights for corrective action. KPIs are closely monitored, often in a dashboard, with set targets that define success or raise a red flag. Let’s look at five essential KPIs for measuring website traffic, conversion, and ROI.


Driving traffic to a website is a primary objective in digital marketing, since it is visible proof that someone takes an interest in a business and the products and services that it offers. Success in driving website traffic can be measured with the following KPIs.

1.     Total Visits

The total number of visits to a website or a specific landing page is easy to comprehend and measure. It’s a big-picture metric that demonstrates the effectiveness of your marketing efforts through a steady increase in visits. Seasonal and short-term variations by day or week can be expected, but a drop from month to month indicates that your marketing efforts need fixing.

Total visits can be broken down into new visits and return visits. New visits indicate that your marketing efforts are reaching new customers, who are interested enough to visit your website. Return visits (or the lack thereof) are a good indicator of quality and freshness of content, since it shows that customers are coming back for more.

2.     Traffic by Channel

Traffic by channels breaks down traffic to your website by marketing channel. It identifies the channels that are performing well and the ones needing a boost for a total marketing effort. Traffic by channel is a prerequisite for tracking conversion and ROI by channel at a later stage.

Channels can be merged and split, but start by monitoring these ones:

  1. Direct – visits that originate from typing a URL in a browser.
  2. Email – visits that originate from clicking on a link in an email.
  3. Referrals – visits that originate from following a link on another website or blog.
  4. Social – visits that arrive at your website through a social media channel (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn).
  5. Organic Search – visits that originate from being ranked on a search engine page as the result of a phrase search (e.g. Google Search).
  6. Paid Search – visits that originate from paid advertisement on search engines (e.g. AdWords), social media channels (promoted posts) and websites (e.g. banner ads).

The performance of the different channels is a good indicator for the strength of your SEO, content, social media and traditional marketing. For example, high social traffic indicates that your social media marketing is working, while good SEO marketing is expected to increase traffic from referrals and organic search.

Mobile is not a channel in the strict sense, but it’s important to know what percentage of traffic is originating from mobile devices. The amount of mobile traffic could impact the content and the design of your website.


As a digital marketer, your objective is to convert website visitors into qualified leads or buying customers. A conversion occurs when a visitor stays long enough on the website to take a desired action like downloading an eBook or signing up for a trial. Use the following KPIs to measure this.

3.     Bounce Rate

A visitor to your website bounces if they leave the page they landed on, without clicking any links or visiting any other pages. A high bounce rate is considered bad, since you want visitors to spend time on your site and take a desired action.

Plausible causes of high bounce rates are lack of a keyword strategy, outbound links on landing pages, and poor content and design. Bouncing visitor don’t usually give a reason for leaving your website, but you could check on any of these potential causes to lower the bounce rate.

4.     Total Conversions

A conversion happens when the recipient of a marketing message takes a desired action. This may include opening an email, downloading a document, filling out a form or buying a product online. Conversions qualify website visitors into sales leads or even customers when they buy online. It is a critical marketing metric, since it presents a quantifiable measure of revenue.


The desired actions taken by a prospect might ultimately result in the purchase of a product or service. Such a purchase will generate revenue, and earn a profit if revenue is higher than cost. A KPI that determines whether earnings from marketing outweigh the associate costs is vital to any commercial business.

5.     Return on Investment (ROI)

Return on Investment (ROI) is the single most important metric for any marketing campaign, since it demonstrates its profitability. ROI is calculated as a percentage of net profit (revenue minus cost) over cost. For example, if a marketing campaign costs $10,000 and generates a net profit of $20,000 than the ROI is 2:1.

Marketing ROI can also be calculated as the ratio between Cost of Acquisition (the money you need to spend before someone first buys) and Customer Lifetime Value (net profit derived from the customer relationship). The computations are difficult to perform, but a positive ROI remains the ultimate justification for a marketing budget.


There are other KPIs and many supporting metrics that we could have discussed. However, the usefulness of the ones listed above is largely undisputed and provides a good starting point. Particularly for businesses that are new to digital marketing or the use of KPIs.

A lot more could have been said on each KPI that was mentioned, but that wasn’t the gist of this article. This could be a topic for upcoming articles, but you’ll find plenty written about them on the web. Joining the big debate around marketing ROI will be an interesting starting point.

One should develop a sound measurement system with visual dashboards before starting to use digital marketing KPIs in decision-making. The Marketing Metrics and KPIs and Dashboard Gallery on the Klipfolio website could provide the needed inspiration.

In any case you are welcome to contact me for further help or any questions that you might have. You could also return a favor and share your own experiences by leaving a comment below.

About Author:

Willy Simons came to Kenya from The Netherlands in 1994. He is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Oakar Services, Esri Eastern Africa and Spatiality. He blogs about business, geospatial technology and cloud computing.