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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Anatomy of Online Marketing KPIs

Online advertising and marketing have been through a number of changes in the past decade. The rise of the Web can be tracked through the anatomy of the KPIs used to measure it's success.

Once advertising and marketing were in awe of banner ads that could be placed in front of massive amounts of people based on a sites pageviews. Then, you could target your banners based on the expected demographics of a particular site. If someone was browsing a particular site, they were probably in the target market for your product. Aware, but not necessarily interested in your product.

Awareness -- KPI: Eyeballs.

Then came search engines with their promise of showing your ads at the time that someone was interested in them. Demographics were irrelevant because you were capturing intent. Someone was actively searching for something that related to your product.  Unless they weren't. Intent is both the great promise of SEM and it's greatest stumbling block. The human experience slimmed down to 1 word left huge ambiguities in meaning. But fingers kept clicking the ads, and clicks counted.

Search -- KPI: Fingers.

But, marketers got smart. Or rather they got nudged in a new direction, down the long-tail side of their search curve. Suddenly, you could be more sure about intent when dealing with only a handful of searches on an 8-keyword string. These searches were not going to bring in the masses but you would be more likely to close a deal. Someone searching so granularly has a topic weighing heavily on their mind.

Long-tail Search -- KPI: Brains.

With the rise of Web 2.0 and the mainstreaming of community-oriented sites, marketers had to shift gears. Are still in the process of shifting gears really. One of the mantras for Web 2.0 business is "Build the community and the business model will follow." The pressure isn't so much on making a community applicable to everyone as attracting as many of the target audience as possible to participate in your community vs. others. Because the Internet allows such easy mobility, I will equate it to the BarCamp ethos of 'vote with your feet.' The community that is worth being a part of is the one that retains the most people.

Community -- KPI: Feet.

So, where do we go from here? What's the next piece of our bodies that online businesses and marketers will go after?