Can Formulas Work in Digital Marketing?

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My answer is yes!

If you use actual formulas and data. People have a tendency to discredit formulas when it comes to digital marketing, and the reason is simple: Gurus and self-proclaimed “experts” shove superficial formulas down everyone’s throats. Formulas that aren’t actually formulas, like “If you’re a small business, you should be on Facebook and Twitter,” and repeat this nonsense to every single company out there, regardless of who they are, who they’re targeting, and what data drives results for them.

That’s the reason why people don’t like formulas in digital marketing.

But, what if you use actual formulas, derived from math, economics, finance, and statistics equations? Would that work?

The answer is yes, it will. By using varying data points, and putting them in equations, you’ll have the ability to make complex calculations with significant data that can help you make decisions.

Do you have to be a math whiz to understand this? Not really, but it definitely helps.

The Art and Science of Digital Marketing

There’s currently a huge knowledge gap in the marketing industry – too many people focus on the creative and engagement side of marketing, and not enough people are equipped with the skills to understand and use data efficiently.

An effective digital marketing strategy can’t just run on creative. But, it can’t just run on data either. There needs to be a healthy balance in both for it to succeed.

But a lot of people get confused with what type of data to use, and how to make sense of it. The beauty about digital marketing is that there are so many variables, it makes it possible to start creating formulas that can help with narrowing down and making decisions.

Have you ever sifted through a spreadsheet of 1,000 keywords just to figure out which one’s the best for your editorial content? And when you look at the keywords, are you determining success with only one variable, or applying different formulas to find out which ones you should be focussing on?

Or perhaps you’re having a hard time getting adoption of your new product, and you need to spread awareness to a wider audience?

The “science” part of marketing can really help influence what the “art” part of digital marketing is doing, making results that much more achievable.

Here are 3 examples of different formulas and equations that you can use in your own marketing to help explore new opportunities and inform decisions:

Viral Growth Formula

When an app, product, or service goes viral, most of the time it doesn’t happen by chance. There’s an applied formula to virality that you can use, calculating your virality coefficient:


  • Where i= the amount of referrals generated by each user, and conv% is equal to the conversion rate of people referred by these users.
  • When K > 1, then you’ve achieved viral growth (for a certain period). When K<1, your reach is declining.

For example, let’s say you have 50 users of a new app. Each user invites 10 friends (i). These invites convert at 15% (conv%). So i*conv% = 10%*0.15 = 1.5. So in this instance, your coefficient is greater than 1, so you’ll be achieving viral growth. Every new user will be referring more users, etc., which will bring in exponential amounts of new users, for a certain period of time.

The second step for viral growth is making sure that you cycle through new users fast enough. You can learn more about building viral growth into your product in this wonderful infographic.

Predictive SEO and ROI formula

Here’s a simple formula to look at to estimate the amount of traffic and ROI you will get from new keywords. You will need the following data in order to determine this:

  • Average click-through rate for first page ranking
  • Organic click-through rate of search engines. (Brent Carnduff points out that 48% of search queries result in organic clicks)
  • A list of keywords you want to rank for, and estimated clicks/mth in your region for said keywords
  • The competition/chance of first page ranking for said keywords (can be found using Moz)
  • Your conversion percentage from search engines
  • The monetary value of each conversion

We’ll need to do a quick calculation for the industry average click through rate for first page placement. Let’s look at the data from this article, from a June 2013 study. Here’s a table for the percentage click through rates of top 10 placements (first page):


It doesn’t make sense to calculate SEO traffic potential by only looking at the first placement. So a better metric is to average out click through rates for first page ranking. Sure, if you get first place your click-throughs might be higher than what was expected in this equation, but it’s much more realistic, as it considers variance in search ranking.

So now, let’s look at the formula with an example:

SEOtraffic = competition % * organic click through rate * KeywordTraffic * average % for first page rankings.

Let’s say you want to target Keyword A, which has a 20% chance of first page ranking, and has 5,000 potential clicks in your region per month.

You want to compare this to Keyword B, which has an 80% chance of ranking, but only brings in 2,000 potential traffic per month.

SEOtraffic(A) = 20%* 5000  * 48%  * 9.17% = 44.016

SEOtraffic(B) = 80% * 2000 * 48% * 9.17% = 70.42

Note: the 48% and 9.17% come from the data presented above.

See how even though one keyword supposedly gets more search queries each month (keyword A), in reality, the one with lower search queries (keyword B) has a better chance of getting you more traffic. Who woulda thunk!:)

You can take the equation one step further to determine which keyword is more profitable by adding your conversion rate and revenue.

Let’s say your average conversion rate from organic search is 10%, and you generate $100 of revenue per conversion. Let’s apply this to the previous example:

SEOtraffic(A) = 44.016 * 10% * $100 = $440.16

SEOtraffic(B) = 70.42 * 10% * $100 = $704.20

If it costs you $500 to create content targeting a specific keyword and get it to rank, then you know that Keyword A isn’t profitable, while keyword B is.

You could set this equation up in a spreadsheet to calculate multiple keywords, and total your estimated ROI for new targeted keywords.

This is a great formula to use to present to upper level management that might be a bit wary about SEO or investing in content marketing.

The formula is just the first part, you still need to create the content and optimize it for SEO afterwards though.

Applying the right formula for success

Remember, formulas can be used to determine success in digital marketing. But make sure the formulas you use include the variables that matter the most to your marketing goals. There are no cookie cutter solutions to digital marketing, but that doesn’t mean that simple math and statistical formulas can’t help you make informed decisions about your future.

A basic formula or equation can be applied to any company or project. The key thing to remember is that the input and output varies depending on specific data for that company or project. And this will influence strategy and creative in different ways, depending on the output. But the basic formulas stay the same.

If a guru tries to you a formula for your digital marketing that isn’t based on your internal data, and that doesn’t actually give you insight on what kind of strategy you should be doing or where you should be improving, then call them out for bullshit! A formula shouldn’t look like this: “You’re a mom-and-pop shop, so you should be on Facebook and Pinterest, and share photos of your products.” That’s not a formula, nor a strategy. Don’t waste your money on that.

There’s an art and science to marketing. Profit from both.

0 thoughts on “Can Formulas Work in Digital Marketing?

  1. hessiejones says:

    MirandaSman thanks Miranda !

  2. hessiejones says:

    MoreInMedia thanks for the share Dorian!

  3. hessiejones says:

    dbvickery DanielGHebert Brian, I had to read Daniel’s post a few times. I learned something new on this one!

  4. DanielGHebert says:

    RippleffectTV VVIdeas Thanks for sharing!

  5. DanielGHebert says:

    HaveItAllQueen VVIdeas Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  6. DanielGHebert says:

    CDowdHiggins VVIdeas Appreciate the share Caroline! 🙂

  7. AmyMccTobin says:

    danielnewmanUV Hey there Daniel – I know I owe you but swamped. Will catch up this week.

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