February 09, 2015

Don't be fooled by these 6 vanity metrics

Analytics and numbers are critical to most marketing teams focused on generating an ROI for their organizations. Finding the right numbers, however, can mark the difference between success and failure for most businesses.

Marketing analytics

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.

6 vanity metrics to watch out for:

  1. Number of hits. This is one of the biggest offenders. This data point is not really useful for marketers or for assessing the success of an organization. You should count people and not the hits to objects in your web page.
  2. Number of page views. Certainly tracking the number of page views is better than tracking hits, but this data point is largely a vanity metric for most organizations. Sure, content websites that sell advertising may use this metric to track impressions or possible revenue, but it's a fairly weak metric.
  3. Number of downloads. Tracking the number of times a PDF or brochure was downloaded is a fairly weak metric unto itself. 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.
  4. Time on site or page. Many marketing reports focus on time on site or page as a form of behavioral metric. This metric is not helpful unless you tie it to another data point and build a comparison. Like the count of downloads, you need more data to make this useful. For example, if you have a page to show your patents, you will need to know more about the visitors to form an opinion--are the visitors potential investors or are they competitors looking for an open door?
  5. Number of followers. Counting the number of followers is a prime example of a vanity metric. Sure it looks good. But, are your followers real people who are interested in what your organization has to say? Do they share your content? Are they advocates, job candidates or potential customers? Or, are the followers other social accounts that "friendly follow" just to sport their own vanity metrics. Worse yet, many organizations buy followers just to pump up their metrics--as a result their spam activity increases--inflating all metrics and making it harder to learn from analytic data. This can actually make it harder to succeed with marketing--a challenge in hearing the signal from the noise.
  6. Number of unique visitors. This metric is one of the most common vanity metrics around. In essence, it shows the popularity of a web page or website, but without a deeper dive, this metric is not actionable and does not hint at success. You 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 more complete story.

Examples of actionable metrics

  • How many qualified leads came from organic search (like Google)?
  • What is the cost of acquisition for sales qualified leads?
  • What is the conversion rate of a landing page for qualified leads?
  • The increase or decrease of social shares after a blog title was changed with controlled base of promotion--and then run the experiment again with other pages to build your hypothesis.
  • The number of leads originating from a referral website.
  • Conversion rate of qualified leads.

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