One of the most common questions we receive from our digital marketing clients is “How do I know whether I’m getting a return on investment for my digital marketing efforts?” The answer is benchmarking.
Benchmarking is a research tactic that helps you evaluate your business’ current capabilities against competitors, and in turn, identify new opportunities or areas for improvement. It essentially helps you find the gaps between where your business is now and where you want it to be several years from now.
When applied to your company’s digital marketing efforts, benchmarking is critical for accurately tracking and measuring the success of your SEO and CRO strategies and even your email and social media campaigns. Let’s walk through how to get started with benchmarking your digital marketing strategy.
1. Establish your digital marketing goals
Before you begin researching your competitors and benchmarking yourself against them, you must first define your own company’s goals. To ensure you’re drawing data-driven conclusions from the benchmarking process, it’s critical for these goals to be as specific and quantifiable as possible.
There are several things you can focus your benchmarking on, including:
- Your baseline digital marketing capabilities
- Organic search rankings
- Paid search rankings
- Email marketing engagement
- Social media engagement
2. Compile a list of competitor brands
Once you’ve set your goals, it’s now time to gather up a list of brands to compare yourself against. In most cases, these will be direct competitors in your industry, but you can also choose brands in adjacent industries that only indirectly compete with you. Depending on your industry, it may be difficult to narrow down the most important ones to focus on, so here are three questions you should ask yourself when creating this list:
- Are we leveraging the same marketing channels?
- Are we targeting the same audiences and keywords?
- Are we working within similar budget scopes?
The point about budget scope, in particular, helps you weed out companies that are working with significantly more resources. While the marketing strategies of big brands like Apple, Google, or Coca Cola can certainly be aspirational, companies with billion-dollar marketing budgets should not be considered “competitors” in your benchmarking analysis (unless you also have a billion-dollar marketing budget!).
3. Conduct a competitor analysis
The next step is to put together a competitor analysis that identifies the various strengths and weaknesses of both your business and your competitors.
If improving your organic search rankings is one of your goals, you’ll want to compare how your brand and your competitors perform for specific high-priority keywords. You can also compare your paid search traffic to determine how effective your advertising budget.
4. Develop actionable strategies for improvement
Remember the goals that you set at the beginning of the process? It’s now time to forge the path to meeting those goals using the data you’ve uncovered from your competitor analyses. If one of your goals was to rank higher for a select few high-priority keywords, your competitor analysis can reveal which of those keywords may be more immediately attainable and which will require more extensive legwork.
5. Set up tracking to monitor your ROI
Benchmarking is not a “one and done” strategy — it’s a process that must be continually revisited and evaluated. The easiest way to monitor the results of your benchmarking efforts is to implement tracking for the goals you’ve set. Tracking your ROI can be accomplished easily with Google Tag Manager, but there are also other tools that let you dig even deeper with mouse tracking and heat mapping.
Are you making data-driven decisions?
Leveraging the power of benchmarking allows you to identify new opportunities, understand the needs of your customers, and accurately monitor the efficacy of your strategy. As a result, you can feel confident making data-driven decisions about the direction of your digital marketing efforts.