Do KPIs depend on your campaign objective? 1

Do KPIs depend on your campaign objective?

kpi depend on campaign objectiveDo KPIs depend on your campaign objective? Is the click-through, the cost per acquisition or other metric a relevant KPI (key performance indicator) regardless of your campaign objective?

Updated 17 September 2019

What do you mean ” campaign objective “?

Ad campaigns and marketing campaigns come in a variety of favors. That is, they can meet a large variety of specific objectives. Their goals are not always to drive sales.

Campaign objectives, in the digital world, come in three broad families and can be expressed in many different ways.

  • Awareness: the goal here is anything to do with getting your brand name out there, creating or increasing awareness, association a brand with a company or product to a brand, remaining top of mind, etc.
  • Engagement: the goal here is the middle ground between awareness and direct response. We target people who already know your brand and can move on to convince consumers that yours is indeed the right brand for them, convince or inform them about specific brand attributes or change people’s minds about some aspect or other. Here we need for the consumer to spend time with our message (ad) for them to get what it is we want them to get. We want to move them along their path to purchase.
  • Direct response: The goal here is to get people to act. We want them to visit your site, to buy now, to subscribe to your newsletter, download your app, visit your store, etc.

Ok, but what about KPIs?

So what about KPIs right? Isn’t the CPA the ultimate metric?

Sure, some metrics are nice to track across all campaigns; however, depending on your campaign objective, that metric will look very different. It’ll be different because of how your campaign is executed. If you execute an awareness campaign, your CPA will be very expensive – because you’re not really asking people to buy now. It’s similar for engagement campaign, but here the CPA will be a little lower. It will be at its ideal low for a Direct Response campaign.

Below you will find various KPIs that are actually relevant to each campaign objective type.

kpi along the purchase funnel

It is important to assign a relevant KPI to your campaign based on your objective for several reasons.

  • That KPI will encourage you to make better, more strategic choices in your media planning. That includes selecting pricing models that align with your KPI. The ad formats you will use should be influenced by your KPI. The editorial environments and platforms your ads will run on both need to consider your KPI. Even the ad targeting options you’ll use to best reach your target audience will depend on your chosen KPI.
  • It encourages media suppliers and trading desk operators to optimize your campaign on your defined KPI, increasing performance on what matters for this campaign’s success.
    • Too often we see campaigns with KPI that is not aligned to its objective. This causes everyone to optimize against a KPI which ultimately will not achieve your initial goal.

This is a little complex and confusing, there are too many options

Yes, there are a great many variables to consider when creating and optimizing an ad campaign. However, determining the right KPI for each individual campaign should not become a headache.

When deciding to invest your marketing dollars in an ad campaign, you need to keep in mind this is an investment and not an expense. For it to really be an investment, you need to know what you expect, or hope, to get out of it as a return on your investment.

Are you willing to spend money for people to come and buy quicker or more often? Do you want more people to know you even exist? Do you need people to understand that your service is also great in other cases?

Whatever your objective, which 1 metric can spell the success of your campaign? Which one would indicate your investment has yielded a positive return? This is what your higher-ups will be looking for.

Direct Response

If your objective was to generate sales faster (direct response), you’d want to compare weekly or daily sales before, during and after the campaign to ensure you actually drove more sales than would otherwise have occurred.

If your objective is to get people to buy more often (direct response), then you might want to look at the level of repeat visitors to your site and expect it to rise. You’d also expect sales to slowly grow over time, beyond your campaign.


If your objective is to get people to understand something specific (engagement), then you’d look for increased traffic in that particular content section or page on your site. You’d want to see increased search traffic for those keywords. You’d want to hear from your customer service team on whether that specific top is less asked about. That would indicate your audience is getting the message. Inversely, you might also look for more requests about it, as people want to confirm or know more.

Whatever your objective, there is at least 1 KPI, if not 2 or 3, what would indicate you are achieving your objective.

What about tracking the campaign objective?

I wouldn’t go so far as say this is the most important aspect of this post. It is equally as important as determining the right objective, and the right KPI. Neither will matter if you cannot track their performance.

There are a great many bits of data that you can track. Your data comes from an ad server, analytics, eCommerce, CRM as well as other platforms. Other elements you’ll want to manually track over time, such as questions to customer service about specific brand aspects.

Whichever KPI you plan to use, ensure you have a historical data set to compare it with. The only way to know if your efforts had an impact is to compare your performance before, during and after your campaign. Keep on tracking that metric beyond the campaign to see the long-lasting effects of your ad investment.

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