Can You Accurately Forecast Results for Digital Marketing?



Forecasting results for digital marketing is a complicated topic that frequently comes up for debate among businesses and marketers. It’s common for folks to claim that they can accurately forecast digital marketing results. However, the truth is no; they cannot. Though it’s still best practice to spend time understanding how the data is set up and look for trends, forecasting digital marketing cannot be done accurately. And it’s a good idea to be extremely cautious when making promises or expecting specific outcomes related to digital marketing results.

The fact is, it can be possible to forecast some results based on known data. When it comes to digital marketing, however, the forecast is not going to be entirely accurate. Even knowing it won’t be accurate, still do it! To forecast digital marketing results, the following are needed: time, data, math, and an agile environment with the awareness that there is no one ‘right’ answer.

Consider these questions:

  • What data is needed to forecast digital marketing results and is it set up correctly?
  • How would you attempt to forecast digital marketing results?
  • What are the roadblocks when forecasting digital marketing results?
  • How accurate can it be expected for digital marketing results to be?
  • What are some helpful tips and tools to understand digital marketing results?

Digital marketing results should be evaluated often and forecasting is a continuous agile process.

The data and tracking are not set up right for most ads and websites. Having accurately set up data and tracking methods in the right places is important because you need baseline data. There’s a lot to know about how any particular website is set up to track digital marketing efforts. For example, pixel code needs to be installed for all major platforms (Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) and the correct filters need to be set. Marketers need to know what the desired user actions are. They also need to know what the average sale is worth and how many leads it takes in order to close. Without knowing what the B2B, B2C, and eCommerce numbers look like all broken down, it will be hard to forecast what any results will be.

For marketing professionals starting on a fresh project, it’s okay to not have all the data right away. More helpful data will be revealed over time. And to understand individual baseline metrics for a website it can take several months to a year or more of tracking to have accurate data that shows trends based on marketing efforts.

Don’t forecast based on industry standards.

Digital Marketing Results

Some industry standards that exist that are calculated nationwide. While these can be helpful, it’s not a great idea to base forecasts on these because inevitably, different areas will have different types of metrics. There’s a lot more to consider than an industry-standard can account for in any area including the amount of traffic available in an area, cost per click in an area, and the number of competitors in an area. Websites also vary greatly when compared with competitors and all of this can play into individual metrics and how marketers can forecast results.

Once baselines are established, consider Google search vs. social ads and focus timeframes.

Look at different types of channels and don’t try to go after everything at once because that would require a huge budget and large team. There’s a difference in data between users who are searching for a product or service and then social ads that convince users to engage. Data should be focused on a timeframe that makes sense. Focus quarter-by-quarter or every 6 months. Or focus on the highs and lows of the season(s) or on the profitability of services. Introduce a focused timeframe to define the market.

Google Search Data

Know if people are searching for the products and services being offered. It is useful to have various resources to mine for relevant keywords. However, individual keywords can be very hard to rank for and platforms have moved away from exact match. They’re now doing close variants or topics. Keyword research has developed into search volumes which tell how much of the market is available. This all deals with SEO and how the percentages of individual searches every day fluctuate. For example, did you know that if there are less than 10 searches for, google doesn’t register it?! So, a really precise phrase could be successful that’s not showing results through the data. And keep in mind that there are many other search engines besides Google that folks use which all register and report data differently. Overall, keyword research is complicated, knowing the market is complicated, and it is not clear cut.

Social Ads Data

The goal of running social ads is to convince an audience to engage and become part of the funnel. So, it is very important to know details about the audience(s) being targeted. To know the market of what is available, having data tools set up with demographics info in the desired platform is key. Do not go too broad when setting up data tools because then, when trying to forecast, results will be off. Note also that Facebook can be more finicky than Google and what works versus what doesn’t work doesn’t always make sense. Once data has been collected, some more complicated layering techniques come into play. Do the research to know what is available, know your audience, and set up tracking accurately within social platforms.

Roadblocks when Forecasting Digital Marketing Results

If businesses ask for results to be forecast prior to a price quote, make sure time is allocated for it because there is not a simple answer. Below are the main challenges and roadblocks.

  • Lack of initial data to begin with
  • Data tracking is not set up correctly
  • Platform limitations
  • Lack of time data has been tracked

How accurate can you expect a forecasting digital marketing results to be?

Not accurate—unless dealing with an experienced marketer who as done it a LOT. Give at least 12 months of focused marketing efforts and accurate data. It’s common for sales to tell you what you want to hear and set the bar low to close the deal. Do not be impressed with someone who hasn’t looked at the numbers and is guaranteeing certain results. Even when familiar with an industry, exact data tells the story of each individual business.

Being able to accurately forecast digital marketing results means doing the research, tracking data over time, developing a strategy, and setting realistic goals.

It is a scientific process but makes sure that goals for metrics are set on results that lead to sales. It’s got to be an agile process. Go through it often because as results come in, the process changes. Side with caution and don’t set the bar too low.

Lastly, check out these valuable resources. Happy forecasting!

Ad benchmarks from Wordstream:
https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2017/02/28/facebook-advertising-benchmarks

Think with Google diagnostic benchmarks tools:
https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/tools/diagnostics-benchmarks