When it comes to online marketing, some factors are concrete. There’s no questioning how many conversions you’ve gotten. There’s no questioning how much traffic you’ve earned through search engines. These are objective figures that aren’t up for debate, and because of that, marketers like me love them. They can prove our efforts are worthwhile, and objectively record whether there are any improvements that need to be made.
Other factors are more slippery—they’re subjective, open to interpretation, and difficult to measure in any tangible way. What’s worse is that these factors are just as important to your bottom line as trackable metrics like traffic or conversions. Take brand awareness, for example; the number of people who can recognize and identify your brand is important. Those aware of your brand have a higher likelihood of buying from you, whether it’s out of the blue or in response to one of your advertisements.
It’s one of the less trackable benefits of content marketing. You can measure how many people come to your site after reading your content, or how much your search rankings have improved, but how do you go about measuring the general awareness of your key demographics? Unfortunately, there’s no one easy, reliable way to measure this (other than massive-scale surveys), and no matter what you do, there’s bound to be degrees of uncertainty and subjectivity.
Still, if you focus in on the following five factors, you can get a better read on where your brand awareness stands:
If you’ve read some of my other content on social media marketing, you might be surprised to see this here. I’m a staunch proponent of the idea that social media followers is a “fluff metric” that can distract you from more important measures. I stand by this; focusing only on social media followers, instead of things like interactions, shares, and comments, can leave you with a big audience who doesn’t care about your brand. However, brand awareness specifically doesn’t necessitate a value of quality—it’s more a measure of how many people are aware of your brand, and how many new people are attracted to it. For these purposes, follower counts can work well—every new follower you attract is a little bit further your brand awareness reaches (unless you’re buying followers, in which case nothing can help you).
Organic traffic measures visitors who found you through search. Social traffic measures traffic from social followers. Referral traffic measures those who followed links. In all of these cases, it’s possible for new users to stumble across your work (and why inbound strategies are so effective at generating new audiences). But for brand awareness, it’s better to measure direct traffic—the number of people going to your site directly, either through a bookmark or a direct URL entry. In each of these cases, the visitor in question has heard of your brand previously. Accordingly, you can use it as an indirect measure of general brand awareness.
This is difficult to measure comprehensively, but you can get an overall understanding for where you stand in the market by analyzing your offsite mentions. Use social listening software, backlink searches, or just Google your own brand name to see what others are saying about you—without your interference. Look for mentions of your brand, links to your site, and other indicators from both consumers and publishers unrelated to any of your marketing strategies. How many are there? How high-profile are they? Are they positive or negative?
Engagement is an indirect measure of brand awareness, since technically followers and readers who engage with you could be learning about you for the first time. However, interaction is an indication that you’ve truly connected with an audience member. If that member hasn’t heard of you before, he/she will remember you now. Members who have already heard of you will be more likely to comment on or share the articles you publish. These indicators are fuzzy, imprecise, and open to interpretation for how they relate to brand awareness, but engagement is a good factor to know for your marketing campaign anyway. Your goal should be to increase the number of people interacting with your brand—it can only do good things for your engagement.
Measuring and tracking the number of reviews your business receives provides two benefits in understanding your brand awareness. First, it shows that the reviewer in question is intimately familiar with your brand. Second, it shows how existing audience members are spreading the awareness of your brand to others—referrals are some of the most powerful ways to attract new customers. Do your best to encourage more reviews and testimonials from your readers and customers, and do what you can to address and ameliorate negative reviews.
Working together, the above metrics can give you a somewhat accurate picture of your brand awareness level—or at least a glimpse into your impact among your key demographics. Track these over an extended period of time, comparing month to month figures, to see if your awareness strategies are having a substantial impact. If you’re looking for a more concrete or objective measure of brand awareness, a survey is your best bet, but in order to be effective, you’ll have to work on a large scale with a true random sample.