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The Paid Media Marketing KPIs You Need to Track (and the Ones You Can Ignore)

a female marketer updating paid media campaigns at her desk

Whoa. There are a lot of metrics in paid platforms. And I mean A LOT. Impressions, clicks, reach, likes, views, conversions, impression share, ad rank, landing page views, quality score, etc. etc. etc. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and get lost in the never-ending sea of metrics when trying to evaluate and optimize your paid media campaigns.


I feel ya, Michael. I’ll try to help.

The metrics you should care about are completely dependent on your goals, channels, and audiences, and also on what piece of your campaign you’re trying to optimize. You shouldn’t be interrogating the same metrics for a connected TV awareness campaign as you would for a brand search campaign. By the end of this I hope you welcome the plethora of metrics in each paid media platform because you’ll understand the ones you should focus on and the ones you can ignore based on the types of campaigns you’re running.

Funnel Stage: Awareness

First things first, awareness campaigns are the tippity top of the advertising funnel. As the name suggests, awareness campaigns are used to increase the awareness of your brand, product, or service. These campaigns should be focused on getting as many eyeballs from your target market on your ads as possible as efficiently as possible.

Depending on the platform you’re using you should be focusing on impressions, reach, views, and any other metric available to understand the amount of people that are being exposed to your advertising. When evaluating these campaigns, you should be reviewing the efficiency and volume of the exposure of your ads and you should be less concerned about the actions taken on your ads.

It can be difficult to evaluate the impact of awareness campaigns, but they are very important for advertisers. My favorite way to understand if the investment in your awareness campaigns is working is to evaluate the search volume of your brand terms over time. If you’re reviewing the performance of an awareness campaign and wondering why you’re not receiving conversions from the campaign, your expectations are wrong.

Funnel Stage: Consideration

Consideration campaigns are the next step of the funnel. These are used to (drumroll please) increase a user’s consideration of your brand—meaning they’re already aware of you, and your job now is to get them wanting to learn more. An example of a consideration campaign would be a non-branded search campaign.

The main goal of these campaigns is to drive traffic to your site. Depending on the channel, the KPIs for these campaigns are clicks, landing page views, sessions, page engagement, page likes, and traffic. The focus of these campaigns should be driving as much traffic from your target market to your website as possible at the most efficient cost.

Funnel Stage: Decision

Last (step in the funnel) but certainly not least, decision campaigns! Decision campaigns drive conversion actions. Depending on your business this could be leads, form fills, or purchases. These campaigns are used for consumers ready to make a decision to buy based on all the advertisers they’ve considered.

After setting up the conversions in your platforms, these are the easiest campaigns to evaluate success. It’s really as simple as reviewing the efficiency and volume of conversion actions attributed to your ads.

Evaluating Performance KPIs vs. Optimization KPIs

If you’re still reading this you might be thinking “makes sense, but what if my campaigns aren’t performing well based on the KPIs I should be caring about? What metrics should I be reviewing to optimize my campaigns?” Great question. Let’s dig deeper and highlight some important metrics based on a few popular channels and tactics.

Facebook Retargeting

Frequency. Ad frequency is so darn important when you’re running a campaign with a retargeting tactic or any audience with a defined size. It’s important to keep an eye on this number so it doesn’t get too high. If you see this number increasing to a number you’re not comfortable with, you’ll want to adjust your budget number down or increase your audience size.

There is no perfect frequency number, it’s all dependent on the date range you’re reviewing. I like to just use good ol’ common sense when evaluating whether my frequency is getting too high. If as a consumer you think seeing an ad 14 times in one week seems excessive, your audience does too.

Paid Search

This one is a doozy. There are so many layers when optimizing a search campaign. To optimize a campaign you need to figure out what is slowing down the momentum of your campaign. Is it that you’re driving a lot of clicks that aren’t converting on the landing page? Are your ads not showing up in the auction? Do you have a low CTR? To have successful search campaigns you need to focus on 5 things:

  1. Targeting the correct keywords
  2. Setting up negative keywords
  3. Bidding appropriately based on keyword importance to your brand and competition for the keyword
  4. Driving traffic to landing pages that fulfill the need of search inquiries
  5. Writing ad copy that marries the search terms to the landing page experience you’re giving the user

Numbers 1 and 2, defining keywords and negative keywords, are totally unique to your business. But we can diagnose problems in the other three by reviewing the appropriate metrics.

  • Bidding appropriately based on keyword importance to your brand and competition for the keyword: Using the keyword planner available in Google and Bing, you can project a max CPC to start with for your ad groups—from there you can adjust higher if you’re not showing up in the auction at a high enough percentage to spend your budget.
  • Driving traffic to landing pages that fulfill the need of the search inquiries: Is your quality score low? Or maybe your ad rank? Search engines often penalize advertisers—which therefore makes your ads not show up as often as possible—if they deem the landing page experience to be poor based on the user’s search terms. Another indicator that your landing page needs to be evaluated is a high CTR on your ad but low conversion rate on the landing page.
  • Writing ad copy that marries the search terms to the landing page experience you’re giving the user: Again, is your ad rank low? Or your CTR? These are both indicators that your ad copy needs to be updated to better align to the user’s expectations based on their search terms.

Programmatic Campaigns

If you’re buying media programmatically through a DSP (at Element Three we use The Trade Desk), an important metric to review is win rate. If your campaign doesn’t seem to be spending enough budget or it’s increasing impressions at a slow rate, win rate is a good place to start. You’re most likely not bidding high enough.

In The Trade Desk, the way you can bid higher while keeping your cost per conversion down is by having a large audience size with multiple bid factors applied, so you bid higher on the most valuable segments of your audience and lower on less valuable segments.

If you’d like to learn more about buying programmatically, here is a blog post about how to get started the right way.

Your Move!

Hopefully this has helped you zero in on some key metrics that are important to the campaigns you’re running and allowed you to ignore some of the less relevant metrics. Remember, all the metrics are helpful, just not all the time. And if you’re looking for more paid media help, check out our blog post about why your paid media campaigns might be failing.


Katie Payne Team Photo at Element Three

Katie’s curiosity is key as Senior Paid Media Manager, helping her take the details and connect them into cohesive programmatic marketing campaigns.