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September 01, 2021

Don't be fooled by these six vanity metrics

Analytics and reporting are critical to marketing teams that want to prove an ROI for their clients. Finding the appropriate numbers, however, can mark the difference between success and failure for most businesses.
Vanity metrics can get in the way of a marketing team's success. They are easily manipulated and do not necessarily correlate to the numbers that really matter for an organization.

Marketing analytics

If your marketing team reports on these six numbers, they are simply reporting vanity metrics.

Vanity metrics to ignore

Traffic numbers: Reporting just on traffic is one of the biggest offenders. This data point is not helpful for marketers or for assessing the success of an organization. Unless paired with the conversion rate of the traffic from each source, the traffic number alone is pretty useless. Does it really matter that a lot of people come to your site if no one converts?

The number of page views: Certainly, tracking the number of page views is better than monitoring hits, but this data point is essentially a vanity metric. While content websites that sell advertising may use this metric to track impressions or possible revenue, it's a reasonably weak metric.

The number of downloads: Tracking the number of times a prospect downloaded a PDF or brochure is a relatively weak metric. Tracking downloads does not tell you who is downloading the content or how they found it. In a void, this metric can be largely unhelpful. However, using a tool like HubSpot to track who is downloading the content and what they are doing next is incredibly useful. This information can help the sales teams close deals more effectively.

Time on site or page: Many marketing reports focus on time on site or page as a behavioral metric. This metric is not helpful because maybe someone sat on the page but didn't do anything. If you tie this metric to something else, like conversions, then it's useful. You can then understand if a longer time on the site results in conversions (indicating strong copy) or not.

Followers: Counting the number of followers is a prime example of a vanity metric. Sure it looks good. But are your followers real people or bots? Some companies buy followers to pump up their metrics--as a result, their spam activity increases--inflating all metrics and making it harder to learn from analytic data. Buying followers can make it truly difficult to succeed with marketing campaigns because real followers are less likely to see your posts. 

Unique visitors: This metric is one of the most common vanity metrics around. Unique visitors show the popularity of a web page or website, but this metric is not actionable without a deeper dive and does measure success. Businesses need to know what a user did on a website, what they saw, what they clicked, and where they came from--along with a wealth of other meaningful behavioral components that tell a complete story.

What metrics matter

Marketers should focus on metrics that show how well a campaign performs. Qualified leads is a key metric - how many qualified people convert. Specifically, looking at how many marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs) to understand how leads move through the funnel. 

Conversions rate is another crucial metric. Take a deep dive into top-performing pages that converts a high amount of leads. Try to understand what makes this page so successful. Likely, this page has copy that resonates with buyers. Focusing on real metrics will give a much better understanding of a marketing campaign ROI.

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