Using statistics to prove return on investment

Using statistics to track return on investmentMarketing is an expensive game, so just how do you make sure you’re getting the most for your money and are able to track your return on investment (RoI)?

The key lies with statistics.

The definition of statistics is described as a mathematical body of science that pertains to the collection, analysis, interpretation or explanation, and presentation of data. When it comes to trying to measure RoI for advertising you hear the word a lot, applied to circulation statistics, online traffic, click-through rates and more. All of these statistics are important to marketing teams trying hard to calculate whether they are getting value for money.

But just what do you need to include in your formula to get the results you need? Hits, visitors, unique visitors, bounce rates, clicks or what? And just where do you get these statistics?

The most obvious source would appear to be the publisher’s own data. This is based on the principle that publishers must be familiar with their own circulation. However, this may not always be the most accurate of source, as publishers are often focused on making themselves look as good as possible. There are various techniques that can be employed in the analysis, explanation and presentation of the data to make the numbers look stronger than they actually are. So unless their source is independent and verifiable there is a good chance that these will not be 100% reliable.

Google Analytics

Independent sources such as Google Analytics and Alexa.com do not have this problem and give sound comparisons, but have they do bring their own issues. Google algorithms are constantly changing and remain a mystery, but one thing that has become apparent in recent months is the tendency for Google to seem to give greater credence to data from Google owned sources and to downplay non-Google sources.
Alexa.com is widely recognised as a reliable source, but it also gives more credence to companies that use its paid service and has its toolbars loaded on every company computer. With such bias, how can either of them be regarded as  truly independent?

AlexaThe only area where visitors’ data truly cannot be altered or misrepresented is where the website is hosted. Web hosting companies have to track the content on their servers, know where traffic is coming from, identify what is human and what is automated and, as they have no commercial agenda, they display these statistics to their customers completely accurately and without bias.
A publisher who gives access to their server stats is a rare beast, as there is no way to ‘spin’ the figures.

So that’s the where taken care of, but just what are hits, visitors, unique visitors, bounce rates and click through rates?

  • hit is a request to a web server for a file, like a web page
  • Visitor / Unique Visitor / Unique User – A uniquely identified client is usually a combination of a machine and a browser that generates page views or hits.
  • page view is defined as a request made to the web server for a page, as opposed to a graphic.
  • The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who enter the site and “bounce” (leave the site) rather than continue viewing other pages within the same site.
  • The click through rate is when a URL link has been clicked, from an advert for example, to view the webpage it directs to.

Now you know what you’re looking for, what should you, as a customer be asking of companies you advertise with?

First, be sure you are being shown the real traffic to a site, not the company’s interpretation or analysis of the figures. It is possible for companies to purchase clicks or social media likes for minimal cost, but this becomes obvious when you see where the genuine traffic comes from. Only then can you do a true comparison to see if you are getting a real return on your investment and know for sure that companies claiming something that is not accurate are committing click fraud!

As an example, let’s examine the server statistics from SecurityNewsDesk.com for the month of March:

IFSEC SPECIAL STATS PIC

These clearly show just over 20,000 unique visitors, at least twice in a month, visiting almost 7 pages per visit and generating 20 hits per visit. This traffic level is high for any publication and has not been subjected to any interpretation by the publisher.  It is genuine, real and completely without bias.

For further information regarding statistics, marketing and what to look out for, contact philip@securitymediapublishing.com, call +44(0)1543-250456 or tweet @SecMediaPub.

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