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Everything you need to know about the difference between data, metrics, KPIs, and reports, and how you can increase the value of data by transforming it into information.

There’s a lot of buzzwords in marketing so we won’t blame if you can’t keep track of them all. When it comes to marketing analytics, it gets even more complicated, as the worlds of tech jargon and marketing abbreviations collide in a messy linguistic heap.

When looking at the difference between data, metrics, KPIs, and reports, it helps to think of each of them as small building blocks from which the next is made. A metric is made up of data, KPIs are made up of metrics, and reports are made up of KPIs. Ultimately, reports are what get turned into analytical insights which bring value to the business and feedback to your data-driven marketing campaigns. But, let's start from the beginning.

Data is Just the First Step

Data is the corner-stone of information. From the number of website pageviews, through the number of followers liking your latest Facebook status, to total revenue in the previous year, data lays at the foundation of how you are measuring things. Want to know how much time your team has spent on a project? Your key data is the number showing how many minutes you and your colleagues have spent doing one or more tasks.

In digital marketing, data is most commonly a raw number that you are getting from various sources connected to your company and customers: your website, social media profiles, your sales… all of them providing loads of data at any given time. These data bits form the fundamental building block of the modern age business. They come in various shapes and sizes, files and formats but, on their own, they’re not actually that useful - to become information, data needs context.

How to Move from Data to Metrics

What you need to make data useful is to transform it into metrics (and ultimately information). While data is merely just a number, a metric is a quantitative measurement of data, in relation to what you are actually measuring. Your data point may be just a number, but your metric is the number of minutes or hours.

Metrics are the first step in making sense out of the raw data and applying it to actual, real-life situations. They can be made of just one type of data or indeed several types of data in a dataset. The important thing however is that, while you cannot pick your data, you can (and should) pick your metrics.

If your organization is advertising heavily on Google, you need to make sure that you’re monitoring the right metrics. Here are the 10 most important Google Ads metrics.

What Are KPIs Then?

KPIs, short for Key Performance Indicators, are predefined metric values that allow you to track the progress of a certain parameter. There’s a bit of crossover here, in a way that all KPIs are basically a metric, but not all metrics are KPIs. Make sense? Let us explain. There are a lot of metrics that measure various processes in and around your business, however only some of them are crucial in their contribution to the business. Other metrics might be interesting, but they are not a key indicator of success.

KPIs can be simple and encompass just a single metric. For example, if your team measures the success of your awareness campaigns just by tracking the number of new visitors on your website, this is a simple KPI, delivered directly from your website analytics tool.

Or KPIs can be highly sophisticated and consist of multiple metrics measured against each other. For example, if you want to understand the impact of your multi-channel awareness campaigns on the value of total sales in your webshop, you will need to create a complex, derived KPI, consisting of the number of website visits, the number of sold items, and their value. By setting this KPI properly and “feeding” it with the right data, you’ll be able to establish the return on investment on your ad campaigns.

Because they are used to track how well your business is performing, choosing the right KPIs is extremely important. Choose them poorly, and you may end up thinking you are doing well, while in fact your business is tanking.

For example, if you’re an online retailer, setting unique website visitors as a KPI isn’t measuring how many of them are actual paying customers. You could exceed all expectations with these results, but still not sell anything. Instead, you need to make sure that the set KPIs are closely tied to your business goals.

Want to learn more on how to properly select and connect KPIs? Here are the 5 key takeaways from our webinar on the subject.

All of This Just to Create a Single Report

A report is a collection of KPIs, usually laid out in a nice and simple visual way - line graphs, colorful pie charts, interactive bar charts, that sort of thing. They give you an effective way to gain high-level visibility over all your KPIs and see how well you’re doing.

You are likely to have multiple reports dedicated to different aspects of your business - a marketing report, a sales report, an inventory report. In fact, you’ll often want to build entire dashboards - a collection of reports from single or multiple areas, showing key managers the health of your business at any moment.

If you think that by creating reports you’re done, think again. This is just the first milestone on the road to marketing analytics. Once you have all your data feeding metrics and KPIs, and all of those KPIs formed in visual reports - that's where things get really interesting...

Read more about advanced marketing analytics on Adverity's blog

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adverity-author-tom-rennell

Written by Tom Rennell

Tom is Adverity's Head of Content and Communications. A communications professional and published author, Tom has an eclectic background in journalism, communications, marketing, publishing, technical writing, and UI/UX content, with experience across multiple sectors including technology, politics, energy, environment, charity, e-commerce, and insurance.

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