Is more really better? The problem with big data in digital marketing | Varn


10 February 2020

Is more really better? The problem with big data in digital marketing

In digital marketing, we have always been told that the more you have the better. We are told that the more content you have on your site, the better. Or the longer your blog posts, the better. And finally, the more data you collect, the better.

We can collect so much data, from how long someone spent on a website to how many people opened our newsletters… And that is just the tip of a massive iceberg.

Just because we can measure something, does that mean we should measure it? Well, when it comes to digital marketing and “big data”, we’ve realised that sometimes less really is more.

The pros and cons of big data

Essentially, “big data” refers to large data sets that have been collected in various ways through various channels. It is the idea that everything we do leaves behind data which can then be used and analysed to inform future decisions.

In digital marketing, we gather this information using information from a range of sources such as phone calls, email analytics, social analytics, website data received from Google Analytics.

Data and the analysis of metrics can be a wonderful thing for marketers, allowing us to make more informed decisions, better understand users, and better understand the current marketing environment.

Plus, the gathering of data can help to demonstrate how important marketing is to a business, particularly when stakeholders are wary of digital marketing. By gathering data and measuring the value of products, brand awareness, and customers it is possible to justify marketing spend and show how digital marketing may be contributing to the overall success to the business.

However, there are some limitations when dealing with big data. Such as:

  • Too much data to handle
  • No one to sift through the data
  • Lack of understanding of the data
  • Lack of knowledge of how the data can be used
  • Human error when processing or collecting data
  • Is the data accurate?

A core issue with big data and the growth of metrics analysis is the sheer volume of data that us marketers must sift through in order to harvest valuable information. Ultimately, limited resources can mean that there is a limit to the data that is created and what is done with it, particularly in smaller businesses.

According to Forrester Research “between 60 percent and 73 percent of all data” collected isn’t used for a strategic purpose. There comes a point when data collection peaks, and when a business cannot process any more data or make use of more data than it already has available.

Streamlining data with SMART

Businesses must start to consider why data is being collected, and ensure it is being used in an effective way to help make decisions or at the very least inform marketing and business decisions.

Firstly, the metrics and the amount of data being analysed needs to be trimmed so that only the data that will have a meaningful impact is being collected and analysed.

How can you expect to make informed and coherent decisions when you’re overloaded with random bits of data that possibly conflict each other?

You may have heard of SMART goals, being an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. This version of SMART is relevant to the collection of data, as the information you are collecting should be relevant to your marketing strategy and goals, and should be easily attainable and measurable for good results.

However, Bernard Marr outlined another version of the SMART model in his book Big Data. His SMART model looks like this:

  • Start with strategy
  • Measure metrics and data
  • Analyse your data
  • Report your results
  • Transform your business and decision making

This idea ultimately outlines the need for strategy first and foremost, as this will give you a better idea of the data that is both needed and available to measure which will significantly reduce the amount you try to collect and analyse.

Before rushing in with collecting and analysing data, you should sit down to outline your business goals and the metrics that you need to measure in order to review your progress in achieving those goals. This will help you to make more informed marketing decisions and will free up valuable time and resources for other important tasks within your business.


For more guidance on streamlining your digital marketing, or to gain a better idea of your current website performance, get in touch with our friendly team today.

Article by: David, SEO Account Manager More articles by David

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