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How to Demonstrate ROI outside of the E-commerce Sector

Whether you’re working in an agency or for a brand, the fundamental measure of a successful marketing campaign is the return the business is getting on its investment into marketing. This should be simple to measure right?

Classic ROI

But what if the business does not sell direct online? This doesn’t mean that there is no place for digital marketing, however measuring ROI outside of the e-commerce sector can be more complex and challenging to quantify.

Making reporting causal

The most important part of any reporting and measuring on performance is that these elements need to be agreed in advance of starting any marketing campaign. Not only will this help for developing a strategy in a more targeted way, but it also allows you to demonstrate that the results are a deliberate result of your strategy, rather than sheer coincidence.

What should I be measuring?

Does my audience know who I am?

Does your audience know who you are

One of the main purposes of a site which is not directly selling is to act as an advertising platform for the brand. Whilst users might have to phone or go into store to purchase or interact with your organisation, the website is permanently available for the audience to browse and gain a better understanding of your business.

Brand awareness can be challenging to report upon as it’s difficult to find out if people really know about your brand’s existence. The surveying method for this would be costly in both time and resource, so instead a different indicator needs to be used. Through measuring the amount of traffic coming to your site through a brand query, or the total search volume for key terms involving your brand, you can build a picture of how many users are aware of your brand before they visit your site.

Organic Brand Vs Non-Brand Traffic

Whilst ‘not provided’ took away the ability to track a lot of the organic queries driving traffic to the website in Google Analytics, the release of Search Analytics to Search Console has helped to give back some of this data. Through exporting data from Search Analytics on the main traffic drivers to the site, alongside GA data for each URL you can develop a split of traffic coming via brand and non-brand terms.


To track the changes in brand and non-brand traffic to your site, SEOmonitor has a really useful reporting functionality to speed this process up. Unfortunately, as Search Console only uses Google Organic data some of the information will still be missing from this which has come from other search engines, if the majority of your site’s traffic is from Bing then tracking in this way will not give a clear picture of brand performance.


Search Volumes

The second measure of brand awareness is to look at the search volume across terms involving the brand name. Certain types of websites may not be concerned if users are clicking onto other sites instead of theirs, even on brand terms. For example, as a book publisher, if you’re not selling direct on your site then a brand search for [brand name] [book title] where the user ends up on Amazon and purchases the book is still a success.


By regularly tracking the search volumes for your key services combined with variations of your brand name you can determine the effect of your campaign on people looking for your brand, even if ultimately they click on a different result in the SERPs.


Brand awareness can take a while to impact conversions so if your campaign is driving high percentage increases in organic brand traffic and search volumes on branded terms then measuring over the same quarter from the previous year should enable you to see how this may have impacted sales.

So what’s the ROI…

Brand Awareness Roi


Does my audience want to talk to me?

Does your audience want to talk to you-

A call to action (CTA) doesn’t have to just be a purchase, different types of event tracking can be utilised to see how users are interacting with your site.

Email Tracking

The site can encourage contact through email, to do this a mailto: link on email addresses will make it easier to track who’s clicking on these and contacting the organisation.

GA Code:

<a onclick=”ga(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘Email’, ‘Email Label’);” href=mailto:email@address.com>

Or you can use Google Tag Manager to track all link clicks on the on page.

The downside to this form of measuring is that you cannot guarantee that a user has sent an email after clicking the link. Many people don’t use their default email program on a computer or may get distracted from sending an email and not complete their enquiry. This system isn’t perfect but if the site UX is good, then the CTA for clicking on the mailto link should be clear enough that user’s will know the purpose of the button and only be clicking it if they do want to contact you.

So what’s the ROI…

enquiry form ROI

Event tracking in Google Analytics allows you to track the completion of an enquiry form or a sign-up to an email list as a conversion. As a result, you can clearly see the way different channels have contributed towards these forms of data collection. From this, it is up to those in the sales team to convert the enquiry or sign up into a purchase.

If you use Universal Analytics then RavenTools has a great code generator for event tracking, here you can build code for each contact form or newsletter signup.

So what’s the ROI…

enquiry form ROI

Call Tracking

Most people know about using call tracking on PPC campaigns, yet few use the same technology on tracking organic search and referral traffic. Software, such as ResponseTap, can create a unique phone number for those visiting the site through other channels to determine where your site is best performing.

Using call tracking you can prove that your SEO campaign is not just gaining volume in traffic to the site, but it’s also the right audience who are visiting the site.

So what’s the ROI…

Phone ROI

Is my audience listening to me?

Is your audience listening to you

If you’re looking to quantify how much users are engaging with your site, without a direct CTA or data collection then this can be done through how much the user is absorbing the content on your site.

Whilst it would be great to be able to ask each user if they understood your website and then a few weeks later if they remember your brand’s main messages, it’s unrealistic that this could happen. Instead, measure by the likelihood that they’ll have taken your content on board.

To do this you can look at three metrics time on page, pages per session and scroll depth on longer content pages.


Time on page and pages per session

are simple metrics which are automatically tracked in Google Analytics, if your SEO strategy is attracting the right potential customers who are interested in the brand then they’ll spend more time browsing your site. As a result, you can combine these two metrics to get a clear picture of your user’s behaviour.
If you produce pages with large amounts of content and long scrolls, or lots of visuals to scroll through then you can utilise event tracking to trigger for how far down a page a user has scrolled combined with time on page tracking. An event can be triggered when a user is half way down the page or when a user has spent over 3 minutes, at which point you know they are likely to be engaged in your content.


Once again these metrics are not a perfect way of gauging engagement, a high bounce rate or low time on page doesn’t mean that your content isn’t completing its purpose. If you’ve managed to distill your message so concisely a user can get it in the first glance, then this can’t be considered a bad thing. When you’re measuring along the lines of time spent, you will need to combine this with some user testing to check how quickly people are absorbing your messaging and what a typical visit will look like for your site specifically.

So what’s the ROI…

This final measure of ROI is difficult to truly quantify; it will vary from business to business based on how much value you believe there is in your business being fully understood by consumers.

If you have a unique message or values that differentiate you from your competitors, then a user spending the time to absorb the information on your site is extremely important. Whilst if you compete mainly on price or an element that can be read quickly then the measures of time on page will be less significant to you. Each business needs to evaluate internally what value there is from a user really knowing their underlying principles or the details of their complex service, if this is likely to be the decision-making factor on an end purchase then you must be tracking the levels of engagement here.

Quantifying the ROI of your digital marketing efforts, in particular SEO, can be difficult to put a value on if there’s no direct conversion taking place. Whilst there is no perfect solution to measure the impact of your digital marketing, that isn’t a reason to not do it. The value of a successful SEO campaign can be huge, even on sites which are not e-commerce sites. A hybrid of some of the methods above combined with tracking traffic levels to the site should produce a clear enough picture to back up the work you’re doing to key decision makers and build a case for further digital marketing activities to be.



Hannah Thorpe is a Digital Specialist at White.net, with 2 years’ experience in content marketing and technical SEO so far. White.net is a digital marketing agency which works across SEO, PPC, Content Marketing and Digital PR.