Vanity metrics: What are they and how you can avoid them?

2nd January 2020

Every marketer has fallen prey to vanity metrics before. I know I have. And it’s no surprise. We marketers love numbers, particularly when they are going up. But there are some metrics that simply do not move the needle in terms of business goals. This post is going to take a quick look at some of these vanity metrics and offer a few practical alternatives.

What are vanity metrics?

Vanity metrics are measures such as blog post pageviews that may seem important, but actually do not really contribute to the success of your business. They do not help you make short-term data-driven marketing decisions and often they are much better alternative metrics you can use.

Why can they be damaging?

Vanity metrics have the potential to be damaging because an overreliance on these numbers will cause you to focus on the wrong goals. Boosting pageviews of social followers is no good if there are no clear business goals behind this strategy

This post is going to examine five classic vanity metrics and provide more business-centric alternatives that you should be measuring.

Vanity metric #1: Pageviews

First up, pageviews of websites and blog posts. Usually, you use Google Analytics to get this number.  However, this number does not really tell you much about your content’s performance. How many of these users are actually enjoying your content? 

Better metrics: social shares, CTA clickthrough rate

Two metrics that are much more objective are social shares and CTA clicks. Social shares are like the ultimate social proof that your users enjoy your content; so much so they want to share it with their network. Social media tools like Metigy make it easy to track when and where your content is shared. 

The second metric is CTA clicks. Almost all web pages and blog posts have a form of CTA. Measuring the number of clicks is a great way to see how your users are progressing down the funnel. By comparing CTA CTRs across different blog posts and webpages, you can see which are the most effective at getting users to take action.

Vanity metric #2: Email open rate

Email marketers will be familiar with this one. And while some may argue that an email with a higher open rate is better than one with a lower one, this may not be the case. Why? Because this metric has not said anything about the success of the email campaign. What was the goal of the email: to encourage downloads, purchases or other actions.

Better metric: Email CTA clickthrough rate

Again the CTA clickthrough rate comes to the rescue. Ultimately the success of the email depends on how many people it convinced to take action, whatever that action is. Usually, this action can be measured by a CTA in the email. CTA clickthrough rates is a great metric for performing A/B testing with different email designs. 

Vanity metric #3: Facebook fans

Better metrics: Engagement rate

How many of your fans interact with the content you share? Average engagement rate is an excellent metric as it can tell you at a glance whether your followers are becoming more engaged over time. It’s often a good idea to outline a specific target (KPI) such as boost average engagement by 1% in the first half of 2020. Tools like Metigy allow you to see detailed metrics such as average engagement rate, or engagement rate per post, at a glance.

Vanity metric #4: Twitter followers

Similar to the number of Facebook fans, the total number of Twitter followers doesn’t tell you much. Again, keep an eye on this number over time, but there are metrics that are much more useful for short-term strategic planning.

Better metrics: Engagement rate

As with Facebook, tracking your average engagement rate on Twitter is a great way of seeing how your followers are responding to your content.

Twitter counts any of the following actions as engagement:

  • retweets
  • replies
  • follows
  • favorites
  • links
  • cards
  • hashtags
  • embedded media
  • username
  • profile photo
  • tweet expansion

The great thing about this metric is that if you need more detail you can drill down into the numbers and look at the average number of retweets for example. This allows for much greater insights and enables you to hone your Twitter social strategy.

Number of Subscribers/Users

This vanity metric was immortalized in the hit TV show Silicon Valley. Relying on this number is perilous because it doesn’t account for people who subscribe only to bounce.

Better metrics: Active users, repeat purchase, path to conversion

Depending on your business you may want to track daily active users (DAUs) or monthly active users (MAUs). The reason this metric is better is that it provides a picture of how engaged users are with your brand. If your subscriber number is high but your DAUs are low, then clearly something is going wrong.

Other metrics to track include repeat purchases

Particularly for e-commerce brands, it’s important to track how many customers make repeat purchases. Once you have identified 

Path to conversion

What pages do users visit before converting? Each path can be analyzed and optimized. For example, if one path is more popular than another, try and optimize the experience across all paths.

Focus on meaningful metrics

This post explored some of the most common vanity metrics and offered alternatives that can help you be more effective as a marketer. Metigy can also help you make better short-term marketing decisions and start achieving your actual business goals. Our social analytics reports get you to the heart of your data simply, then our insights and recommendations drive your marketing objectives. Learn more about how Metigy can make the most effective choices in your marketing.

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