Today's marketing landscape is more complicated and multifaceted than ever before: Marketers at multinational corporations and solopreneurs alike are left to balance the demands and differing metrics of web traffic, search, digital banner ads, email marketing, content, and every social media platform from Instagram and Pinterest, to Facebook and Snapchat.
To get a better sense of the ways in which we should be looking at our own, (and our competitors' data) to help inform our marketing decision-making, I spoke to Brian Honigman, a marketing consultant and author of Digital Current's SEO study. He shared a few key areas and stats we should be looking to benchmark our success and create a future-ready marketing strategy that measures up to, or even exceeds, our competitors' plans.
1. Engagement with newsletters
For many entrepreneurs and small businesses, email is a vital means of reaching your audience, sharing special offers and otherwise deepening engagement. But often times, we have little insight into how our email newsletters and strategy are performing in comparison to others', and whether we have room for improvement in our strategy and implementation.
For some insights on email performance and engagement, check out MailChimp's Email Marketing Benchmarks report -- last updated in February -- which includes plenty of statistics on average email open rates, click through rates, and more for email newsletters across industries.
2. Integration with voice search
It comes as no surprise that mobile devices now account for the majority of searches online, and voice searches will be the next frontier for consumers finding what they're looking for. It's important to understand how (and if) your competitors are adapting to capitalize on the growing voice search trends.
Mary Meeker predicts that by 2020, there will be 200 billion voice searches per month; brands that integrate with popular voice services now will be best positioned to cash in on this growth. And yet, most of the top 50 e-commerce brands aren't leveraging Google Home or Alexa yet: only 8% have developed an Alexa skill and 14% have developed Google Home action to date, according to research from Digital Current.
"This data highlights an opportunity for your company to get active in a purposeful way on the top voice assistant platforms before they become overcrowded by lots of marketers trying to reach their audience," Honigman says.
3. Average site speed
Analyzing your site load speed is an essential activity to ensure you're providing a seamless experience for your customers, and not losing out on traffic and business because of an easily fixable delay in site load.
To understand how you're measuring up compared to your competitors, review their site speed on a quarterly basis. According to Digital Current's analysis of the top 50 e-commerce leaders, the average mobile load time is 9.52 seconds and the average desktop load time is 2.94 seconds, faster than the industry average.
"Your organization should aim to get your website loading as fast as possible," Honigman says, though it's important to reference the load times of top brands to understand what realistic goals are. "If the big e-commerce brands with huge websites and thousands of pages can do it, your company can too," he says.
4. Prevalence of toxic links
"Toxic Links" include any spam or low quality links back to your site, and these links can hurt the digital reputation of your site and impact your search visibility, Honigman says. It's a problem every website faces, but not many actively work to resolve it. By checking these a few times a year, you can work to remove the bad links, increase reputable links, and increase your search visibility compared to competitors.
Digital Current's research showed that 74% of the top 50 U.S.-based e-commerce brands have link profiles that are less than 2% toxic. You can use this data to understand how your own link profile compares, whether you've got 50 or 50,000 links.
5. Marketing tactics
To understand whether new marketing tactics and channels are worth testing for your brand, you should look at the number of companies in your competitive set who are adopting that tactic or platform.
For example, a recent study by Digital Current found that 93.9% of the major e-commerce brands are not using Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages to improve the mobile search experience. You'd expect a widely publicized free offering from Google to be embraced by more first movers in the e-commerce space, Honigman says, but you can use the lack of adoption to your advantage by testing AMPs to see if they are worthwhile for your company.
"Whether your competitors' adoption illustrates that the channel is an untapped opportunity, not worth exploring, or widely adopted and therefore difficult to gain traction on, getting context about a medium's use before diving in is important," Honigman says.