As the saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun, or spending money, and it’s always a good idea to have some checkpoints to keep from losing track of where you are going. The same holds true for online marketing and managing your budget to ensure you are getting the most out of your efforts. So what’s the best way to ensure you’re on track to meet your goals and adjust your efforts along the way?
There’s a lot of ways to look at data, from trends to year over year, month over month, search trends, and more. The key is knowing what to do with that data and how to gain the most insight into your efforts to ensure you are on track to reach your goals for the year. In addition to reviewing where you are against your goals, it’s also important to always be looking ahead to ensure that you’re looking at the day to day and mapping that out to meet the big picture. To help keep you on track, here’s a list of 4 things you can do to keep your program on pace and reach or exceed your marketing goals.
Know your monthly pace.
And by this I mean not just month over month, but mid-month, your pace for where you will end the month, and any adjustments that need to be made to ensure you will reach your targets. Nothing is worse than starting off a great month only to realize you’ve spend 2/3 of your budget in the first week and then needing to pull back. Or receiving a list of SEO recommendations to find out that you forgot to add the implementations to the development schedule and they won’t be put into place for another few months. Know where you are for the month, and know where you are going so that you can manage the monthly goals and growth rates by monitoring and understanding your monthly pace.
Compare your results to the past.
How does your monthly performance stack up to last month? How about to the same month last year? Were there key changes in your online efforts that may have impacted performance? Did you relaunch the site, redesign the checkout process, or update lead forms to be shorter and more concise? Keep in mind the changes you have made, make sure to note those changes, and then correlate that to the data trends from the prior month and prior year to ensure you are understanding where you are coming from and where you are going, from month to month trends, and year over year seasonality.
Compare your results to the past some more.
Yes, I know I just said this, but this time look at a bigger data set. The prior points all talked about monthly pace, trends and history. Now it’s time to look at a larger piece of the pie. Quarterly data can be just as useful (if not more so) than looking at months individually. In a quarter you have more data to look at and small blips get blended into the bigger picture trends. This is also a great way to view seasonality, as often seasonal trends don’t last for just a few weeks or one month alone, but happen across several months. By comparing quarter to quarter for prior quarter and prior year, you can get an accurate picture of how you are performing against larger search and seasonality trends. Keep in mind as more searches shift towards mobile, reviewing performance in a larger data set can be very beneficial in learning where and how to shift your focus.
This may be one of the most important things to remember. All the data review for all the items listed above will do you no good whatsoever if you don’t decide to act on them. Even if that means throwing away your plan and starting over. It’s hard to predict where things will grow, and news and trends are always changing in the fast paced online world. If you make a plan and stick to it, you’re likely to be left in the dust as your competitors shift and change with the market. If your mobile traffic starts to grow at a fast rate, shift some budget into creating mobile landing pages, or ensuring that your site is mobile-friendly. If all of a sudden your images are on Pinterest, make a Pinterest account and join in on the posting – even if you swore there was no value there. If your customers see value there, the worst thing you can do is not to participate, as that will only isolate them. The web is changing, and the way people get their information on a brand or company is changing as well. It’s important that you can be nimble and change with the times.
In the long run, it’s important to take everything you’ve learned and start to plan for the year ahead as well. While plans change, having a plan to start with is always important. Develop a plan, but know you will likely need to adjust it as the year goes on. Set goals, but be willing to change them based on changing trends. And always, always make sure that your changes are supported by the data you’ve collected.