Written by Kia Irving | UK
on May 27, 2021

What is a KPI?  Chances are, you know that KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator. And there are all kinds of KPIs you can use for any kind of project. It’s basically a way of measuring the success of what you’re doing.

But there are so many metrics to measure, especially when it comes to digital marketing. In fact, it can become an endless task of numbers, graphs, charts and buzzwords after a while. And let’s face it, they can be rather dry.

With so many areas to examine, it’s hard to know what’s meaningful and what’s a vanity metric.

Let’s look at the KPIs for web, PPC, social media and email marketing.

How often should I report?

Depending on what you’re looking at, you’ll want to consider if you’re reporting on a project basis or as a department. For smaller projects, you might want to look at weekly, but most others monthly will suffice.

While comparison is often the thief of joy, for projects it’s often the best way to measure success. If you’re just starting out, it’ll be good to compare future projects where you have more experience and know-how. Consider comparing month on month and year on year.

How to set realistic KPIs

Firstly, you’ll want to gauge what your current baseline is for your marketing channels and website. Familiarise yourself with the last 3 - 6 months of statistics for your website, email and social media. If you’ve not run any digital ads prior to this, have a look at benchmarks for both what channels you’re working on and then for your industry.

You can also analyse it by looking at your cost per acquisition (CPA). This means to consider the conversion rate for anything from clicks and downloads to sales.

The equation for this is:
CPA = total cost of campaign / total number of conversions

This can help you get an idea of things like:

  1. What is one customer worth
  2. How many leads do I need to speak to, to convert a paying customer
  3. What is my average conversion rate from lead to customer
What should I measure per channel, and what do all these terms mean?!



Reviewing visitors can tell you a lot about your websites effectiveness and if it’s attracting the right people. You can review new vs. returning visitors, their frequency and recency, as well as things like their location, language, most popular time of day and day of the week.

Session duration

Looking at the time spent on your website is a great indicator of whether it’s serving its purpose. If you have great content on social media, email or ads, but your visitors are leaving within 10 seconds, chances are something’s not meeting expectation.

Bounce rate

This stat reflects the number of visitors who leave quickly but can also impact how your website ranks in search going forward. It can be an indicator of poor UX (website usability), slow load times or low quality content.

Conversely, it can also be the opposite. For example, a contact us page might have a high bounce rate as the user finds what they need immediately (e.g. phone number or address).

Devices – mobile/desktop/tablet

Looking at how your website is consumed will give you a good basis for what to optimise design-wise. If you’re predominantly seeing mobile and tablet users, think about layouts that work best for smaller screens.

Most viewed pages

This will give you a good insight into what your visitors are most interested in. Of course, some of the results will fluctuate based on things like how you’re driving traffic (email, ads, social media) and how well they rank in search.



Starting simple, this equates to how many people saw your ad and clicked on it.

Click through rate (CTR)

Click through rate = total clicks in the reporting period selected / total impressions

It’s a good indicator of how your ad is performing, as it’s literally looking at what percentage of individuals clicking after seeing it. If you have lots of impressions but low clicks, chances are something’s not quite right. That could be your call to action isn’t strong enough, the offer isn’t compelling or simply it’s not what they’re looking for. In which case, it could be back to the drawing board. And of course, consulting your personas.

Quality score

This metric often confuses marketers are it’s not quite as cut and dry as the rest. Google essentially scores your ad content and how relevant it appears to be based on your CTR and landing page experience.

According to search engine journal:

Google improved how Quality Score is reported in Google Ads in 2017, but it still comes down to this simple fact:A good Quality Score (between 7 and 10) means you pay less money to advertise with Google Ads.A bad Quality Score (6 or lower) means you pay more money.

Cost per click (CPC)

While when you set up at PPC campaign you’ll assign a total budget, there’s also your maximum bid per click, otherwise known as CPC. Think of it a bit like eBay, you’re bidding against other competitors using the same criteria, and the highest bidder will win the auction.

Cost per conversion/acquisition (CPA)

In the simplest of terms, CPA is the average price paid for every new customer acquired.

Delving a little deeper, you can also look at Targeted CPA, which is a bidding technique that can be applied when setting up your campaign. It helps advertisers optimise bids to get as many conversions as possible, based on a predetermined CPA.

Conversion rate (CVR)

This is usually the percentage of your traffic that turns into paying customers. It can also refer to traffic to clicks or other actions, such as download or data acquisition.

Average position

When setting up a PPC ad for Google (or dare I say, Bing), there are a few possible positions for your ad to be placed. You can’t always be in first place, even if you are the highest bidder… so your position will be based on ad ranks.

Ad Rank = Quality Score x Max CPM

Keep in mind, the first ad isn’t always the most successful position. But that’s another rabbit hole for another time!

Social media


This is the total number of unique people to have seen your post. It can be increased by any engagement with the post (e.g. like/react, comment/reply, share/retweet) as well as if you choose to boost your post by sponsoring it.


Reviewing your likes/follows monthly is a good indication of brand awareness.

Engagement (likes/reactions, shares/retweets, comments)

Arguably, engagement is much more important than community size. As above in ‘reach’ engagement can help drive visibility. So if you have an account with a lot of followers, but your content isn’t resonating, what’s the point?

Website traffic and conversions from social media

Ultimately the goal of social media is to raise awareness and drive consideration for your followers to use your products or visit your website for your more in-depth content. So this metric is a good indication (if links are used sensibly in your content strategy) of the strength of your content.

Email marketing

Database hygiene

Keeping an eye on the growth and churn of your database makes good sense. There are a number of reasons why subscribers may opt-out of your marketing, from irrelevant content to no longer requiring your services. Depending on your sector and offering will influence this too. Your digital marketing agency will be able to explain this based on what you’re doing.

Click through rate

The most important metric to report in email is click throughs. It reflects the strength of your content and call to action.

Why not open rate?

Did you know what if you don’t have images switched on from a sender but you still read the email, you won’t count as an open? In the simplest terms, every HTML email sent will contain a pixel that tracks your activity but this will only work if images are showing. And yes, that counts even if you’re sending emails without images. So for this reason, open rates just aren’t so accurate.

Website traffic and conversions from email channels

The same as with social media, it’s always a good idea to look at cross-platform interactions. So checking to see the acquisitions tab in Google Analytics to see what can be attributed to your email marketing programs is a good way of gauging performance.


Hopefully this has helped explain the various KPIs that are most useful for your digital marketing. And while the answer is subjective, hopefully you have a better understanding of how to set a realistic KPI by looking at benchmarks, both for channels and your industry.

As always, if you need any help looking at your digital marketing projects, let us know by contacting us.

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