Vanity Metrics: Stop Wasting Time On Metrics Which Don’t Achieve Anything

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One of the great benefits of content marketing is the amount of data you can gain about your audience and their engagement for each of your actions. 

The demand for digital marketing has led to great advancements in the number of analytics tools available on the market. 

Lots of these are free, such as Google Analytics and the various social media platforms own analytics. These insight features can display hundreds of metrics with just the click of a button. 

As a marketer, these insights are invaluable. They can help you to see what is and isn’t working in your campaigns. And they can show you what actions you need to take in order to better optimise your content. 

The trouble is, with all these analytics readily available, it’s hard to know which metrics are important to track. Though you may think you need to monitor thousands of pieces of data, only a handful of metrics will provide real value. 

Knowing what metrics are simply ‘vanity’ – that is, only showing the surface of your work – and which provide actionable substance is key to a successful marketing strategy, and to saving you a lot of time. 

What Are Vanity Metrics?

Vanity metric

When running any type of content marketing campaign on your social media, website or emails, you want to know how your work is performing against your long-term business goals. 

Are they driving more traffic to your website? Is your conversion rate increasing because of it? Have your new followers become valuable leads?

The measurements we use to evaluate the success of our campaigns are called metrics. They can include things like ‘open rates,’ ‘time on site,’ ‘link clicks’ and more. 

By analysing these metrics, you can try to get an understanding of how your campaigns are doing. From there, you can make the necessary tweaks to best optimise them for success.

Remember, more doesn’t necessarily mean better.

Where metrics become ‘vanity metrics’ is when, as the name suggests, they only touch the surface of your campaign’s success. This means they have little impact on understanding how your content is performing.

There are hundreds of vanity metrics which you can have instant access to. And on paper, this looks great. 

Hundreds of metrics

But, unless you have an understanding of which ones will help you to have a good understanding of your return on investment (ROI) or customer lifetime value (CLTV) it’s rather pointless. They will simply act as hollow digits that contribute little substance to understanding your marketing efforts. 

Just because they’re easily available doesn’t mean they’re relevant. On the surface, many of them can appear overly simplistic to measure. These metrics don’t take context into account, which means they risk being misleading. Or worse, they don’t offer any meaningful insights.

For example, let’s look at page views. It’s great to see how many people are clicking onto your webpage. 

But without any understanding of what drove them there, or how they then interacted with your site, a page view offers very little understanding of how successful your marketing is.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with appreciating these simpler metrics. In fact, they can be a great reminder of how your brand has grown over time. 

But you need to have a grasp on which metrics can provide real value to your marketing efforts if you ever want to grow your business and reach your long-term goals.

We’re going to take a look at some of the most popular vanity metrics out there, we’ll explore:

  •  Popular ‘vanity metrics’
  •  How they can sometimes be misjudged for providing value
  •  How to use them in a way that adds real value

Examples of Vanity Metrics

Below, you’ll find some of the most common examples of vanity metrics, spanning multiple marketing channels. We’ll also look into how they can be used to analyse the success of your marketing efforts.

Just remember, any metric can be a vanity metric – something which shows how, on the surface, your marketing campaigns are working. But it’s the analysis part which is vital to how effective they are as an actionable measure of your success.

Pageviews (on your website)

people clicking on your page

Pageviews are one of the most popular metrics on the market, as they can show site owners how many visitors are coming to their webpages. 

On the surface, it can be great to see how much traffic is coming to a particular page. However, without context, it’s nothing more than a metric which shows you how popular you are. 

You want to know why people are coming to this page, and whether or not they’re converting to sales. So, you can try using pageviews in conjunction with some other metrics to see how it’s affecting your goals:

    •  Bounce rate – Shows you how many people exit your website after engaging with that one page. If you have a high number of page views and a high bounce rate, then you can interpret that your content a) may have answered the users search query and they have left satisfied, or b) the content wasn’t very engaging, and the user decided not to stick around on your website to see your other content
    •  Time on page – Measures the average time users spend on your page. As a general rule of thumb, the longer a visitor is on your page, the more likely it is that they’re enjoying and engaging with it. If you have high page views and lots of time spent on your page, you can guarantee your content is exciting or relevant
    •  Unique users – Tracks how many users coming to your site are new visitors. If one of your online goals is to build your online presence, a large amount of unique users with high numbers of pageviews is a good indicator that you’re taking the right steps to achieving it
    •  Pages per session – Is average number of pages users visit when on your website. More pages per session means more engaged users who are keen to explore your website

As you can see, by combining your pageviews with other metrics, you can understand the value of your traffic, including who they are and what interactions they’re having on your site.

Followers (on social media)

Social media followers

Your social media following is another deceiving metric. It doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality or actual impact of your social media presence. 

Sure, you may have 15,000 Instagram followers. But that doesn’t mean that they’re engaging with your brand or care about what you’re saying. Engagement is more important than number of followers.

For all you know, they may have accidentally followed you one day. And, because they don’t interact with you, may not even see your content (dependent on which algorithm the platform uses).

So, you want to consider looking at your followers in line with the following metrics:

  •  Link clicks – When you include links in your social media posts, track if your followers are clicking on them. Use this metric as a basis as to whether your content is enticing enough to make them click on the link. Or if the link itself leads to something they’re interested in looking at 
  •  Engagement rate – As we’ve established, there’s no benefit of having lots of followers if they’re not engaging with your content. Therefore, it’s good to keep track of your engagement rate and alter your social media posts accordingly. As a general rule of thumb, anything between 1 and 3.5% is considered an average – good engagement rate
  •  Share of Voice (SOV) – SOV is a measure of the online market your brand owns compared to your competitors. It gauges how much your conversation dominates the industry. The more market share you have, the greater popularity and authority you likely have on social media. So, if you have a high following and SOV, you’re definitely on the way to becoming a leading voice within your industry 

If you know what insights are valuable to your strategy, you can better optimise your social media posts to increase your brand’s presence, authority and engagement.

Subscribers (for email campaigns and newsletter sign ups)

Email and newsletter subs

Subscriber growth is often misused as a way to measure your brand’s success. However, it’s used without paying attention to the number of leads or revenue that comes from this increase in subscribers.

It’s good to see how much your brand is growing in terms of the number of contacts you’re building. However, you want to track their long-term results combine them with other metrics:

  •  Click-through rate – When you see an increase in subscribers, you want to track whether they’re still interested in your brand a few months down the line. Subscribing is very easy to do, and many people sign up to emails without any intention of purchasing from a brand. Tracking your click-through rate as your subscribers grows is a great way to see if these new subscribers are actually engaging with your brand
  •  New leads – Even better, tracking the number of new leads coming from your email subscribers is a great metric. If your subscribers and leads are increasing, then you can be comfortable knowing that your efforts are paying off. If not, you need to tweak the content of your emails and newsletters to better suit their interests 
  •  Forwarding rate – Refers to the percentage of recipients who shared your post with someone else or on their social media. This can give you a great insight into how good your content is. If lots of your subscribers are sharing your content, it’s clearly got something worth reading about in it  

Email marketing has more active users than all other social media channels combined. Ensuring you have a robust analytics plan is key to understanding what your subscribers are interested in. It also reveals what content clicks with them so that you can produce content they want to see. 

Identifying Which Vanity Metrics to Use

identifying vanity metrics

With vanity metrics, there’s never a one method that fits all. You will need to decide yourself which ones are best suited to measure your goals.

If you’re not sure which metrics may be best suited to you, there’s 3 questions you can ask yourself. These will help you decide which ones are worth tracking.

1. Is the data a real reflection of the truth?

Often, data can be manipulated with additional spending. If so, it will not be an accurate reflection of how your work is performing.

For example, with your social media ads, you may be getting high volumes of viewers. But this may be a reflection of your spend, as opposed to your organic marketing choices. Organic choices are things such as, the use of hashtags or tags. 

data reflection

So, although post views may appear great, this is purely a vanity metric. And you would be better off looking at the click-through rate of the ad. Click-through rate will show you whether your spend is driving the traffic you want. 

As long as the metric accurately reflects your hard work, consider it as a way to measure your content’s success.

2. What decisions can we make based on the metric?

It can be hard to sift through hundreds of pieces of data and work out what actually helps your business goals. 

When you’re unsure if a metric is purely for vanity, ask yourself; ‘can this metric lead to a decision or inform an action?’ 

If the answer is no, then you should probably re-evaluate using it.  

Smart, actionable metrics can help you to make great business choices. They provide helpful insights into what is and isn’t working. So you can adjust your marketing strategies to best suit your audiences wants and needs. 

Always remember, any data you track should have the end result of helping to make better marketing and business decisions.

3. Does the metric show direct correlations?

Metrics are only useful if you can understand how and why certain results were produced. 

Having lots of pageviews from a viral social media post is great. However, it doesn’t help to show you how it went viral. Which isn’t particularly helpful as you won’t know what you can do again to expand on your success. 

Ask yourself if you can control the variables and repeat the process to produce a similar result. If you can’t, then you can’t improve that particular process. And, if you can’t improve the process, you’ll never be able to directly improve the metric – which means it’s unusable to you.

For example, imagine you were a small online cosmetics company that blogged regularly. One day, you decided to publish a blog post about the benefits of using hyaluronic acid. 

online cosmetics blogger

Let’s say a lifestyle magazine picked up on this blog and featured snippets of it in one of their articles. You’d have high page views from the backlink which is fantastic. But because it was an external company that sent your content viral, your blog can’t reliably reproduce the result on its own. 

Pageviews can help you understand your content is relevant and popular in the beauty industry. However, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to regularly duplicate this amount of traffic back to your website.

Summary

With the advancement of online analytics tools, there are now thousands of metrics available. These will show you how successful your business and marketing campaigns are. 

These metrics are often referred to as ‘vanity metrics’ because they only show you the surface of how your content is actually performing. 

For your metrics to provide real value and help you adapt your strategy for better growth, they need to:

  •  Be actionable
  •  Be relatively stable
  •  And, reflect change in the user experience

There isn’t a ‘one metric fits all’ strategy. So you’ll need to spend some time deciding which ones will provide the most value to your business. 

But, once you’ve got a few which you can regularly track and measure, you’ll start to become a responsive brand. One who adapts their content strategy for optimum growth and success. 

Working With a Marketing Consultant to Measure Brand Success

Deciding which metrics will be the most beneficial to your brand takes a lot of time to get right. You’ll need to sift through hundreds of pieces of data to see which ones can show you the real impact of your strategy. 

Even after finding out which metrics are valuable to your brand, you may struggle to find time for analysis. That is, to regularly analyse your data to work out what is and isn’t working. Then, adapt your content accordingly. 

Lots of new and small businesses find themselves in this position and will often turn to a marketing consultant such as myself. Marketing consultants help to implement a content marketing strategy which focuses on tracking and delivering measurable results.  

My team and I would be happy to assist with any aspect of your content marketing strategy. Whether it be advising on the best metrics to track for your brand. Or creating and implementing an entire strategy to grow your online business. We’ll create a bespoke partnership that works for you.

If you’d like to find out more about the types of services we offer, feel free to arrange a call. We’d love to hear more about your brand, as well as show you some of our previous work. 


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