Getting Rid of Vanity Metrics

Getting Rid of Vanity Metrics
Not “all is vanity”, at least when it comes to metrics. Vanity metrics can be appealing yet misleading. Maybe you’ve heard about them, maybe you haven’t. So, what exactly are they and should you care?

What are Vanity Metrics?

Vanity metrics are just what their name suggests. They lead to inconsequential feelings of attractiveness. We aren’t talking physical beauty here, we’re talking about the measure of how well your website or business is performing. In short, vanity metrics are not actionable metrics. Those are defined as data that tie specific and repeatable actions to observed results. 

Okay, cool. Now, what are metrics? Metrics are a method of measuring something or the results that you get from them. Now that that’s clear, let’s get back to vanity metrics. They include impressions like views, shares, likes, comments, followers, traffic, time on site, and many more. They can also be classified as engagement metrics and they’re the metrics that are used the most for social media and content marketing to measure performance and success of digital marketing efforts. I’m not saying that they’re bad, but they don’t translate to return on investment (ROI). They make you feel good, but do they help you make business decisions? That’s the important thing. 

Vanity Metrics on the Periodic Table of B@B Digital Marketing Metrics
Source: MDirector

How About Some Examples?

Let’s say for example, you get tons of ‘likes’ on a social media post. Does that tell you how much of your product or service you sold? The short answer is no. The problem is that many people consider vanity metrics as evidence of success. But why?! First of all, let’s make it clear that they’re not all bad. If your goals are to measure brand awareness, then those are the ones to use. So what’s the problem?! While marketing expenditure will have an impact on profit or loss, the metrics that tell the true success of your marketing strategy are sales, profits, and ROI. 

One last example. Say you’re selling an ebook. If you measure how many people view the landing page, it won’t help you make a business decision. What will help is measuring how many people actually buy and download it. It’ll help you figure out how to get new customers and make more revenue. 

Decluttering and Optimization 

It’s all about what your goals are. If your goal is to raise brand awareness, then traffic and site views are a valuable, possibly actionable, metric. They can tell you whether your content is engaging or if you need to make adjustments to it. But, if your goal is to earn, then traffic and site views tell you nothing.

The metric that matters is conversion rate. If it’s rising, then good for you and keep up the good work. If your conversion rates are falling then you need to take immediate action! Find out if there’s an issue with the product, if people can’t convert, or if the report is not working properly. Check things out and if you can’t see any issues then this is usually when you inform your developer and they’ll check it out for you and fix it if necessary. If you can do it yourself, kudos. 

So maybe it’s time to lean down and focus on what matters. Set the goals that are important to you and focus only on the metrics that can help you make decisions to get closer to achieving them.

Digital Marketing Metrics Pyramid created by Justin Talerico. Source: Marketing Land

The Metrics That Matter

Once again, to be completely clear, any metric can be a vanity metric. It all depends on how it’s analyzed, or on the goals that you’re setting. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Pageviews and Likes

I mean who doesn’t like that feeling of knowing that people are viewing your content and liking it?! But, picture this. Focus on knowing who exactly is visiting your page, liking it, and whether or not they convert into sales. 

Social media likes can be even more deceiving. You should focus on what percentage of those following and liking you are actually interacting with your brand. How many are becoming customers? 

Total Customers or Purchases

This number isn’t bad in and of itself, but again it needs context. A better metric would be to find out how much each customer is spending per order. Or, find out if they are repeat customers or just there for a one-time spree. A good example is in the world of software as a service (SaaS). A few things they focus on are customer subscriptions, upgrades, and renewals. These are valuable and actionable metrics, and they still make you look good!

It’s the same with total sales or purchases. The number isn’t going to go down, it will just increase. But, it doesn’t tell the whole story does it? Instead of measuring a running total, try collecting and analyzing it on a year to year or month to month basis. I mean, you could go day to day, but that might be a little much.

The Lowdown

There isn’t enough time in the day for you to track every little metric. Don’t get pulled into the trap of vanity metrics. Focus on what matters and what moves you closer to your goals. One of the best ways to do this is through surveys and market research. Find out what the market needs. Find out what your customers are looking for. Ask them why they bought from you. Ask them how they heard about you. The questions depend on the answers that you’re looking for. If you’d like to know more about vanity vs actionable metrics, don’t hesitate to contact us and consult with our team of Enablers