For digital publishers, there is no shortage of data you can glean from your website. Rather than waste efforts trying to drink from this fire hose of information, you should instead determine which metrics are worth paying close attention to—and when.

What Are You Trying to Measure?

Before you can begin looking at individual stats, you should first stop and separate out the key goals you have in pursuing this data—the areas of your business you need to track, optimize for, and pay attention to in order to offer advertisers a worthy value proposition.  

Generally speaking, this comes down the three things: 

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1) Outreach Metrics

Traffic-producing keywords, site visits, headline clicks, social media shares and engagements, etc.

These are metrics that help you understand how you’re succeeding or failing at getting eyes on your page. A failure at the outreach stage can result in low traffic (or high-volume, low-value traffic).

2) Sales Metrics

Conversion rates, ad impressions, ad clicks

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These metrics indicate your ability to make visitors transition to potential customersyour ability to sell your readers on a course of action. When your readers won’t take action, these metrics help indicate why. 

3) Value Metrics

Qualified lead rates, number of SQLs, pipeline generated, sales-per-lead, advertiser ROI

Here is where real ROI numbers begin to develop. Publishers should think like marketers by setting goals and tracking long-term progress using these metrics; developing outreach and sales efforts without considering the value of the effort is bad for business.

There is, of course, going to be overlap—some metrics matter a great deal to two or even all three areas. 

Finding Value in Publishing Industry Metrics

Digital publishing industry metrics associated with outreach and sales have been discussed at length, to the point where most every publisher understands them. What many articles skim over however, is that the worth behind these metrics alone has dropped markedly in recent years as content loses it’s independent allure. Instead, digital publishers should be paying increased attention to the third group: Value metricsthe metrics that advertisers really care about.

While outreach and sales numbers play a major role in illustrating site and content performance, value metrics inform to a great degree whether traffic and engagement is actually making an impact on revenue. More people clicking on an article or ad is a good thing, but proving that those visitors are transitioning into qualified leads and paying customers matters more.

First, it’s important to understand how traditional marketing lifecycle stages translate for a publisher:

  • Subscriber: People who regularly visit your site and read your content
  • Lead: Readers who have shown additional interest by filling out a form or converting on your site in some way
  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): Leads whose personal or professional information indicates that they’re particularly valuable to you or your advertisers
  • Sales Qualified Lead (SQL): Leads who your sales team or your advertisers consider worth direct follow-up
  • Opportunity: Leads who become real sales opportunities in your CRM
  • Customer: Subscribers or contacts who have made a purchase from one of your advertisers as a result of your sponsored content campaign
  • Evangelist: Satisfied customers who refer new business to you

With this in mind, your ability to generate MQLs and SQLs is extremely indicative of your site’s ability to monetize visitors for advertisers. If you’re generating a high value of qualified leads, but still unable to create worthwhile ROI from them, it may be one indication that you’re not creating the right content offers or need to improve your lead-handoff proccess with advertisers.

So where do the ‘opportunity’ and ‘customer’ lifecycle stages fit into the picture? Connecting the dots between the first time a visitor lands on your site and these two stages is one great strategy publishers can use to ultimately prove-out ROI for their advertisers. Having a closed-loop reporting system in place, with one unified database, is crucial for measuring this outcome. When you understand which leads are converting to customers and which are not, you can begin to edit and optimize your outreach and sales strategies. 

For example, if your visitor to contact or contact to opportunity rate for a particular workflow, like: 

SEO > landing page > newsletter > email nurturing > sponsored seminar

leads to more profit for your advertisers than one like:

social media clicks > landing page > subscribed reader > native advertisement

you gain insight into what’s hidden behind your other top of the funnel site metrics.

When final ROI becomes a tangible number rather than a theoretical goal, you can use your other metrics more efficiently to improve your publishing and profitability together. The actionable data that you find at the bottom of the funnel is what proves your site is a sound investment for advertisers.


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