Finding the Gold in Digital Measurement

Daily Microcosms 1
Originally uploaded by David Bez

Remember when the daily digital microcosm revolved around "hits". There was much talk and bravado about the hits, the "eyeballs" and (in those advanced shops) the "visitors". We puffed out our chests, talked up the "power" of the Internet, and tried to convince businesses to trust our expertise as we surreptitiously added their domain names to our vault of registrations.

Then, as the conversation dulled and we all got used to the basic metrics, we reached for some other measurement. We shifted to "up time", "click throughs", and when pushed "unique visitors". But again, all these measures seemed loose, too interpretive and indistinguishable. They didn’t apply to "brands", just websites … they didn’t work for the business consultants, the CFO or the board … and our own reluctance to commit to concrete measurables saw "digital" initiatives pushed to the side as "non-core" capabilities.

But then a strange thing happened. The web became "accepted". Business models emerged. Amazon blew the covers off the technology and showed that there was money to be made … and Google … well, Google just is.

Yet despite these well-known successes, for the vast majority of digital agencies (and marketing departments) out there, the web is still green fields. Businesses continue to think that they can contract an agency to build a site for $30-$50k while spending multiples of this amount on non-descript, untargeted TV advertising. The old ways die hard.

Some time ago, Katie and I were working on a web project and we needed to find a new way of measuring activity. Not for our clients, mind … but to help us understand what was working and what needed to be improved. We were thinking engagement, brand and conversation. We were thinking aggregation as well as targeting, we were aiming for word of mouth, conversion and funnelling.

When we started doing this about three years ago, it was speculative, but over time it allowed us to map and understand online consumer behaviour. It demonstrated to us that page views were as important as click throughs and that content strategies, multi-format integration and "directed play" all helped to build your brand, excite your audience and encourage loyalty. We called it, loosely, "time with brand".

Herb points to a study that confirms this approach. The report explains that both implicit and explicit memory are important in building brand recognition — and this, in turn, means that it is important to measure impressions as well as the more performative metrics. Sounds obvious now … but it makes you think — what is next for metrics and measurement. And who will seize that ground. There is a goldmine waiting.