For many business owners and marketing executives, digital marketing has become the new Yellow Pages.

Before the internet and search engines took over the way consumers search for information, having an attention-grabbing ad listed under several product and service listings in the phone directory was one of the top marketing investments a business would make annually.

Yellow Page advertising was considered a necessary evil. A lot of consumers used the book to find either a specific business or any company that might help them fulfill whatever need they had when they decided to do some research. So your business HAD to be in the book just in case someone was trying to get a hold of you or might be looking for the products or services you provided.

Some businesses spent hundreds of thousands of dollars every year in printed directory advertising just because they didn’t want to miss out on potential calls. Of course when it came time to renew their campaigns, the internal conversation was , “Did I get any business out of this investment last year? I don’t know. Oh well, I don’t really have a choice. I have to advertise in the Yellow Pages because that’s where everybody goes and that’s where all of my competitors are advertising.”

The thought process for advertising online is often the same. You know you need a good looking website whose listing shows up on the first page of Google, as well as some sort of social media presence like a Facebook or LinkedIn page, but what you’re really not sure what, if any, return on investment you should expect.

Now you’re advertising on search engines because that’s where everyone goes for information, but, again, you don’t know if you’re really getting any quality leads from your online presence.

Sure you’re seeing increased impressions for, and clicks to, your website, but is that really leading to new business?

So what kind of results should you be looking for and reasonably expect?

The objective should be to have digital marketing achieve your business goals, not just show up on the first page of Google or drive insane amounts of traffic to your website. You need a digital marketing strategy that is designed to help you achieve key performance indicators (KPIs) for sales and operations as well as marketing.

If your greatest challenge is attracting quality leads to your website, you probably need to update your SEO strategy and evaluate what you’re doing to increase awareness about your company.

If your website is already optimized, but you’re struggling to hit the KPIs for your business, it’s time to focus on what you can do to improve the conversion rate coming from online leads.

The great promise of digital marketing is that we have access to analytics that allow us to quantify our ROI. Unlike the Yellow Pages of old, there is a plethora of data available to show us what is working and what is not. And adjustments can be made in short order rather than waiting a year for the next book to come out.

The challenge is making sure your digital marketing strategy is aligned with your business objectives and having the ability and time to identify, gather, and assess data that will lead to increased sales.