When you see that your latest social media post received a few likes (or loves, thumbs up, etc.), you get excited. Seeing this “success” actually triggers a dopamine high that makes you feel rewarded. However, the reality of feeling rewarded for achieving more likes, shares, impressions, and pageviews can be very misleading.
What are Vanity Metrics?
“Vanity” metrics, as they’re commonly called, can be nice to look at and can make you feel good about your marketing efforts. However, they often aren’t the best indicators of ultimate goals your business is trying to achieve, such as lead generation or increased revenue.
Assuming you’re not collecting advertising revenue, how much does your company make when someone likes your social media post? Or when someone views a page on your website? Unfortunately, that answer is zero.
Vanity Metrics vs Actionable Metrics
It’s time to have a real heart-to-heart about how you’re evaluating the success of your website and digital marketing campaigns. If you’re driving relevant traffic, then it might not matter as much if you rank well for a specific keyword. If you’re not generating qualified leads, then having thousands of Facebook followers isn’t necessarily helping you achieve your goals.
Actionable metrics, according to Litmus, “tell the story of what action needs to be taken to meet your goals.” These are the metrics that translate into insights that will help you understand how to continue or improve your strategy moving forward. Think of conversion points like filling out a form, purchasing a product, calling your business, etc.
Here are some examples of how you can turn vanity metrics into actionable metrics.
Social Media Likes
This vanity metric can include likes (Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn), loves or one of the many other reactions (Facebook), and many others on different social networks. They allow people to indicate how they feel about a specific post, image, or piece of content.
Likes are an incredibly simple and quick interaction. All it takes is one click, and you can keep scrolling. Likes don’t drive traffic to your website or sell products. They aren’t even a great indicator of interest in your product, service, or brand; they simply show an individual’s interest in one piece of content.
Likes show engagement. They let you see which content you’re publishing is resonating more with your audience. They may also let you connect and follow-up with individuals to find out why they “liked” something you published. They often expand your audience by posting your content in the user that “liked” your content’s network.
How to Track Better
Go one step further and track things like which social media channels are driving the most traffic to your site. Leverage “likes” to identify top-performing content and focus on those topics and formats. Or even better, track how many visitors from each social network are converting on your site.
Paid Advertising Impressions
If you’re doing any kind of paid digital advertising, you’ll be provided with all kinds of metrics from your digital advertising platform. Impressions are one vanity metric in this space. After all, it’s easy to become mesmerized by high numbers of impressions—“look how many people we reached!” The problem is these people weren’t necessarily “reached.” Your ad may have just appeared in their view while they’re swiftly scrolling through their feed to find the next hilarious cat video.
You shouldn’t mistake impressions for how many people actually saw your ad. There’s a very real phenomena called banner blindness, where users become so accustomed to ads that they don’t even see them. Don’t let this discourage you from pursuing paid advertising, but just be cautious about assuming everyone is seeing your ads.
Impressions generally show you the potential reach of your ad. The better you’ve design your ad, including image, ad copy, and call-to-action, the higher the percentage of those impressions will turn into people clicking on your ad.
How to Track Better
Unless you’re posting online ads for pure branding or awareness purposes, focus on action-oriented metrics like ad clicks, ad conversions, and conversion value. Pursue ads that have higher conversion rates, rather than the most impressions.
Pageviews indicate the amount of traffic a page on your website receives. While it’s great to see the number of people visiting your site increase, how is it affecting your business goals? Are people staying on your site, or does the site have a high bounce rate?
Pageviews show the total number of pages viewed on your site within a specific time frame. But what if they’re all the wrong pages? We’ve had clients that have huge increases in pageviews month-over-month, but it’s all traffic to blog pages for example – people were just looking for information, not looking to purchase.
Seeing increases in pageviews can be indicators that your site content is growing in depth, but also that your pages are receiving more traffic. If assessed correctly, pageviews can be an indicator of healthy website growth.
How to Track Better
First, find out what pages are driving growth and if these pages are generating leads or customers. You should find plenty of opportunities to report on a subset of high-value pages (like product or service pages) and how to optimize these pages based on your findings.
Focus on Digital Marketing Metrics That Matter
Every organization will have a different view on which digital marketing metrics matter most to their business, as they should. Here are some best practices to identifying which digital marketing metrics your business should focus on.
Identify business goals
This is where it all starts. What are you trying to do with your website and digital marketing efforts? Identify your goals or key performance indicators (KPI), such as lead generation, e-commerce sales, branding/awareness, etc.
Determine the metrics tied to those goals
If your goal is lead generation, you should be tracking how many visitors fill out contact forms or call your business from the number on your website. If your goal is e-commerce sales, make sure you’re tracking which channels and activities are providing the best return-on-investment.
Complete the picture with other metrics
Is it wrong to include vanity metrics in your reporting? Absolutely not. But just remember that these are often simply leading indicators to success, not direct indicators. If a metric gives your business insight and helps you evaluate your efforts, then certainly include it. But for every metric, you should be able to answer the questions: “What does this metric tell me?” and “What insight do I gain?”