As a business owner, you know your brand and customers better than anyone. You make valid assumptions about what they like, why they click, and what makes them buy.

As a marketer, though, you know that your best efforts don’t always lead to high conversions and successful campaigns. Your assumptions are only that — assumptions. Only cold, hard data from marketing tracking can tell you what’s working and what isn’t in your marketing strategy, and the results may surprise you.

We reached out to tracking experts and several businesses to find out what surprised them the most after they analyzed their marketing data. Here’s what they said:

Which keywords and copy are converting

“My business partner and I recently acquired an interest in a 14-year-old residential moving company. While it was consistent in sales, we saw room for improvement. The business was spending over $100,000 per year on AdWords and we had no information on which AdWords, copy and lead sources were causing individual sales. We had no problem getting leads, we just needed to know exactly which leads were converting to sales so we could start confidently spending on keywords and ads that converted to sales.

Using Ontraport, we kept a record of which leads and sales came from which keywords and ads. We then exported that information back into AdWords to optimize our campaigns for both offline and online sales conversions.

Without implementing this, we wouldn’t know which keywords to confidently bid up and at what time of day, and we wouldn’t know how to adjust campaigns for maximum profit margins. So far, tracking has allowed us to double our leads and lower our costs by about 30%.”

Josh Ovett, Mobile Pocket Office

Which marketing strategies are actually converting leads

“One year, we gave up 24 weekends to do speaking engagements all over the state of California. At the end of that year, I pulled data from our CRM to see where leads were tracking from. Indeed, they were coming from our speaking engagements.

However, I also pulled conversion data. Where were leads coming from that actually converted? Well, long story short, we stopped working most weekends the following year with no drop in sales. Come to find out, referrals and the internet were driving the majority of our most valuable leads. Speaking engagements drove leads; they just did not convert.

I dropped what didn’t work and started focusing more on what did. Now, we bifurcated traffic so we’re diving deeper into SEO vs SEM leads. It’s access to the data that makes all the difference. And, I got my weekends back.”

– Aaron Norris, Vice President, The Norris Group

How people navigate through websites

“When we started to track the way that users moved through our site, I was surprised to see how often people were retracing their steps and how jumbled their journey through the site was. We often assume that people move seamlessly from one page to another but, since tracking the movement, I’ve realized that it’s far from being this straightforward.

Consequently, we’ve had to adjust our content to cater to this movement and ensure that visitors stay engaged.”

– Max Robinson, Scotland Shop

How significant color choices are

“After conducting A/B testing on our website we noticed that color scheme plays a huge role in website and business performance. We noticed that certain colors and even placement of call-to-action buttons increased our click-through rate by 80%. We went a step further and used certain colors that appeal to our target audience which we researched in my scientific studies. By targeting our audience with specific colors, our CTR increased another 30%. It’s a truly powerful and easy-to-use tool.”

– Lewis Thomas, Director, Vlogger Gear

The devices users view content on

“For some time now, we’ve been told that this is the ‘mobile era’ — the era where people use their mobile phones for internet usage over the more traditional PCs, laptops and tablets. It wasn’t until I started paying attention to our visitor device usage that I realized just how true this was: 75% of our visitors are on mobile phones. Rewind just two years and that percentage was less than 50. That’s a staggering increase in mobile internet usage, and it’s only going to increase further in the coming months and years.”

– Jason Scott, Digital Marketing Specialist, Archway Cards Ltd

Who the target demographic really is

“I work with a sports apparel company (think Under Armour, 2XU, etc.). We were contracted to help them expand their marketing efforts. During our discovery meeting, we talked about persona targets, typical consumers of the product, etc. Through this conversation, we aligned on some general starting points like athletes, ages 18-35, male, etc., and then we launched our paid efforts. It didn’t take long to see these assumptions were off-base. Our Facebook remarketing demographics showed a higher percentage of sales coming from much older users — ages 45-65 — and the demos included a 60%-40% split female to male. Additionally, our Google display campaigns showed similar demographic profiles.

We immediately began working on a customer survey and quickly learned that many of the products were being purchased for surgical rehab for this older demographic: knee replacements, hip replacements, etc. What we learned? By following the data, we found a completely new product target and, even more importantly, confirmed that sometimes a client can be too close to their product. Always test and allow the data to inform future strategies.”

– Jon Clark, Founder & CEO, Fuze SEO, Inc.

Which marketing channels work

“For a number of months, our marketing efforts were spread thinly across a number of platforms: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google AdWords, Bing; you name it, we’ve tried it. It was only when we started tracking that we were able to identify what was working and what wasn’t.

We kept our strategy as simple as possible: Make an offer, send traffic to a landing page, and capture the visitor’s information. Being in a B2B industry, you’d imagine that LinkedIn and Twitter would be excellent platforms for generating B2B leads; but the results that we were shown were quite the opposite.

We found that visitors to our website from search-related channels were about 80% more likely to convert; this includes visitors from both Bing and Google. But oddly enough, the landing page’s design and copy had little effect on conversions. Increasing the number of fields on the lead capture form did not show a decrease in sign-ups either.

The number one thing that we learned from this experience is that the selection of our marketing channel was arguably the most vital; now everything else comes secondary.”

– Aaron Lin, Managing Director, Ignitive

The value of word of mouth

“When we started tracking our traffic sources for the website for Northwest School of Music, we were surprised to discover that most of our traffic that converted was direct traffic — people who went straight to our site after Googling our business name. These were people who had already heard about our business (presumably through word of mouth) and were now seeking us out. The reason this was surprising is because we spend a fair amount of money on Google ads and Facebook ads and had assumed that most of our traffic was coming from those sources.

When I started tracking my marketing and traffic sources to my blog, I was surprised to discover that most of my traffic (and eventual customers) came from referrals from other blogs — not from big search engines. This proves how valuable exposure in your industry is!”

– Gillian Perkins, CEO, Aptus Creative Marketing & Owner Northwest School of Music

Regardless of all the different variables, there’s one central theme among them all: Different businesses yield different results. What might be working for one business might not be working for the other, even if they’re in the same industry.

Dig into your data and see what you find. It might surprise you.

About Camille Smith
Originally from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, Content Marketing Strategist, Camille Smith came out to California to attend UCSB and fell in love with Santa Barbara’s perfect mountain to ocean ratio. During her time in college, Camille also worked on the growth marketing teams for several technology companies. When she’s not putting her Communication degree to use at work, she’s using her minor in French to remind everyone the correct pronunciation of her name à la française (pronounced cah-mee, not kah-meal).