digital marketing relevance

An excerpt from Ann Mills’ presentation on digital marketing at Swap The Biz, Short Hills, NJ.

Imagine –

You’ve just been invited to a party, and you have the perfect outfit but need a matching pair of shoes. You head to the local shopping mall and come across a store advertising DRESS SHOES for any occasion. You wander in, and to your dismay, you see rows and rows of sneakers in every style and size. After looking around, you see there are a few dress shoes over in one corner, but certainly not many, and so you leave.

Your experience in the shoe store is a problem digital marketers see played out over and over again in the digital advertising space. People search for a product or service on the Internet and land on a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ad, an ad the advertiser only pays for when the person clicks. Potential customers click on the ad, and they land on a website which does not offer what they are looking for and if it does, it’s pretty hard to find.

In an attempt to prevent this scenario from happening, search platforms and social networks rigorously evaluate advertising campaigns using many different metrics, the most important of which is RELEVANCE.

What is RELEVANCE and why does it matter?

In digital marketing, relevance is exactly what you might imagine–it’s a score that serves as a barometer of whether your messaging truly appeals to the audience you are targeting. It is measured using a combination of variables as a person moves from search query to ad to website. So, for example, if a person types in a search query using certain keywords and sees your business’ Google ad, she will decide whether to click on the ad. If she doesn’t, chances are she did not find the ad relevant to the original query, and over time, that ad will be shown less and cost more for your business to run.

There’s no doubt that marketing your business in the digital space is challenging to execute and when it’s off track, tough to recalibrate. Marketing can be expensive too, so understanding its relevance and your Return on Investment (ROI) are essential. The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends that businesses with under 5 million in sales spend approximately 7 to 8% of gross revenue on marketing. For start-ups in a competitive industry, the percentage can be more like 20% which means advertising can get costly as a business gears up.

Facebook Relevance Score

In Facebook, relevance has historically been defined by an ad’s Relevance Score. Measured on a scale of 1 to 10, highly relevant ads are awarded a higher number. Just one example, if there are positive reactions to a boosted post, it will help the relevance score and not surprisingly, negative reactions will do the opposite. In Facebook, an ad must have 500+ impressions for the Relevance Score to show in the metrics, but marketers have found that a high Facebook Relevance Score does not always correlate to whether the ad works for the business.

In a recent development, Facebook announced that as of April 30, 2019, Relevance Score will be replaced by three more granular relevancy metrics which will measure ad quality, engagement rate, and conversion rate. More importantly, the scores will be relative to similar ads that are competing for the same target audience. Therefore, if these relevancy metrics are not strong for one of your ads, your competitors are doing a better job with similar ads.

Google Quality Score

Similarly, Google defines relevance as, “How closely the elements of your ad campaign match what a person seems to be looking for.” Therefore, optimized ad campaigns have keywords that trigger ads which take the visitor to a user-friendly website page. Ads can also direct people to stand-alone landing pages–single web pages designed to encourage a specific action. A relevant landing page will prompt high click-through rates and Google will reward the business for this positive user experience by prompting more ad impressions at a lower cost. If the ad is truly relevant to the audience it is targeting, it has a measurable marketing advantage over comparable ads in the same space.

Similar to the relevancy metrics recently announced by Facebook, Google has multiple data points which combine to determine an ad’s overall Quality Score. These data points include a Quality Score for the keywords, an assessment of the landing page experience, ad relevance, and the expected click-through rate.

How your website design impacts relevance

It’s important to remember that ad views are impressions, but behind every click is a person. When people who have viewed your ad decide to click the ad to learn more, that click-through takes them to your website or landing page. The construction and organization of your website are critically important to delivering and optimizing the visitor experience once they click.

Look at college and university websites. Often, they divide their navigation into Students, Faculty and Staff, and Alumni when they organize the information for their audience groups. What is relevant to a student or even a prospective student is completely different than what is relevant to an alumnus. Similarly, hotels often organize information by Rooms, Dining, and Events. This type of logical organization structure is essential to relevance. A digital marketer that maps an ad back to a general website page with broadly written content will never be able to impact the business revenue in the same way as if he can direct an ad back to specific, well-written content. Relevant content directly speaks to the audience it is meant to target, and it answers their queries. In the context of the dress shoe example, a store that advertises DRESS SHOES should have rows and rows of dress shoes, not sneakers. If the shoes are organized into sections for men, women, and teens, even better because consumers can easily find what they need.

The DoubleTree by Hilton cookie–a lesson in relevance

If you ever check in at a DoubleTree by Hilton hotel, you are given a warm chocolate chip cookie, a tradition since the 1980s. Aligned with that practice, when you are searching for family-friendly hotels and come across DoubleTree in your search results, you see the following ad:

There’s also a page on the DoubleTree by Hilton website that tells website visitors all about the history of the cookie and that to DoubleTree, “…the cookie means so much more. It represents our constant dedication to our guests and thoughtful touches that ensure you feel special and cared for throughout your stay.”

DoubleTree by Hilton keeps their advertising relevant to customers by associating warm cookies with a welcoming atmosphere and pulls this theme through in their ads and website. Digital marketers have analyzed DoubleTree tweets, and at times, more than 60% of the tweets they are tagged in are about the cookie.  

Two takeaways on relevance

Like the DoubleTree by Hilton marketing campaigns, keywords, ads and websites have to work together seamlessly to create powerful, relevant messaging. As you think about your businesses, here are two takeaways on relevance for you to consider:

  1. Figure out your DoubleTree cookie. What makes you different, and by different, I don’t mean just identifying a particular product or service. What really makes your business different from your competitors, and why should someone call you? The answer to these questions is the foundation for an impactful, relevant digital marketing campaign.
  2. Look at your website. On average, when people land on your website homepage, they take 3 seconds to determine if they can find what they need. If they can’t figure out where to go quickly to answer their query, they will leave–it’s the dress shoe example.

Relevance is by far the most important metric in digital marketing, and by the same token, it can be one of the most difficult to pin down. Each brand has a digital footprint which includes all of its assets in the digital space–website, logos, marketing campaigns, social media platforms. If you think your marketing strategy is not engaging potential customers, the culprit could be low relevance. Contact Resourceful Business to learn more.


  1. Relevancy is and always will be the key point of successful digital marketing. If it is not relevant, then it is spam.

    1. Thank you! We are always trying to keep an eye on relevance as the digital marketing landscape is so fluid!

  2. Thanks Ann for the nice article. Digital marketing articles can get dry in a hurry, you have nice written techniques to keep it interesting. Relevance importance cannot be stressed enough especially in the use of keywords and content. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for your comment. You are so right about the careful use of keywords and the challenge of ensuring content is relevant. I think relevance is an easy concept to understand, but quite hard to execute.

  3. I have practically experienced what relevancy can do to your digital marketing campaign! Thankfully most of my digital marketing campaigns are most relevant barring my initial year in digital marketing as a beginner.

    Thank you, Ann! for writing such a well-written post on the importance of relevancy in digital marketing.

  4. Thanks, Praveen. I am glad you enjoyed the article. The learning curve in digital marketing is steep, and it’s amazing what one learns from year to year!

  5. Appreciate your efforts to writing such a detailed post on Successful Digital Marketing Strategy. Being a Digital Marketer is very helpful to me to create a strategy. I hope you will share some more about this. Thank you keep sharing!

    1. Thanks, Haseeb. Many clients struggle with the concept of relevance, so we do hope to write on the topic more. Thanks for your feedback.

  6. What a great blog post! Love this, “What makes you different, and by different, I don’t mean just identifying a particular product or service. What really makes your business different from your competitors, and why should someone call you?” Super important to always keep this in mind when creating your website. When someone lands on your site, you have a short amount of time to make an impression. So, this is very important to constantly think about. Thank you for your insights.

    1. So glad you enjoyed it. I recently listened to a podcast that challenged business owners to name–in only one word–the actual problem their business solved. It’s a similar mindset to figuring out what your business does and what makes it different.

  7. Awesome post! Relevancy is absolutely true. Too often many of us focus on the wrong things with our content and we miss out on opportunities.

  8. Relevancy is very important in the digital world so in digital marketing also. The digital world totally depends on logic and it connects two things with its relevancy, without it digital marketing is not possible. Thanks for the blog.

  9. Thanx for sharing such an informative article. Many people go for the wrong content. Relevancy is very important in the digital sector. Nice content and wonderful post.

  10. I would say this post has everything about digital marketing and the relevance metrics. Because one cannot rely on everything that people speak about. Therefore, I must say Ann Mills has made a very deep study on this topic. Thanks for writing such a great article for the SEO beginners. I feel the overall post is superb and love to read future updates on this topic. After going through this article, one need not have to go anywhere else. I feel these tips will be very useful in 2020.

  11. Thanks Ann, this was very insightful! It’s so easy in digital marketing world to get caught up in data and trends, and forget about what matters most! Your Double Tree example brought some great perspective to me. It reminded me that at the end of the day we are serving humans not algorithms. We’ve got to focus on the emotional and be aware of getting too caught up in the logical. Thank you!

    1. Thanks, Brock. The DoubleTree cookie story really is a great example for marketers and brands. During the public health crisis from COVID-19, DoubleTree released the cookie recipe for the first time ever, too.

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