- Analytics and Data Insight -

How ignoring these 5 vanity metrics can help you focus on what matters for your business

Derek Brown | | June 20, 2017

It’s never been as easy as it is today to measure the success of your shop or factory’s web marketing and online presence. But some would argue that we’re swiftly approaching “peak marketing data.” With so many metrics available for analysis, manufacturing businesses run the risk of spreading their efforts too far and wide. For example, when you log into Google Analytics you’re bombarded with a smorgasbord of statistics, graphs and data sets. How do you sort out what you need and what you don’t?

One of the first things you can start looking out for are “vanity metrics,” or data points that don’t necessarily tell you anything valuable about your website or how it’s performing.

Worse than that, they rarely translate into actionable data. So why are the five metrics on this list cited in so many marketing reports? Sometimes, it’s because vanity metrics are great at massaging egos. There’s nothing wrong with bragging about them, and in the right light they can prove useful, but be careful relying on them to grow revenue.

Disclaimer: vanity is occasionally a good idea

Before we start, there are a handful of times when you should absolutely consider these metrics. For instance, “vain data” is often a wonderful indicator that your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts are taking hold. However, improving your SEO and improving your conversion rates aren't the same process.

The metrics that follow look nice, but aren’t tied directly to increased revenue, which means if you’re not careful you could fall into the trap of prioritizing the wrong performance variables. Take a look at these five data points and the ones you can replace them with to gain more actionable insight.

Metric #1: Social Media Followers

The experts keep telling us that social media is the key to effective online marketing but why is the number of followers on any given social media platform atop our list of vanity metrics?

Put simply, it’s just a measure of how many people have engaged with your brand at one point or another -- it does not indicate that they still are still engaged. For instance, someone may have liked the Facebook page of an electrical cable manufacturer because they were in the market for some wiring for an equipment upgrade, but if the project has been completed it’s unlikely they’re still interested. However, until they got out of their way to unfollow the account, they will still show up as a follower and contribute to this metric.

It’s not difficult to see how this measure becomes increasingly irrelevant as time goes on.

Instead, analyze the number of likes and comments your shop is getting on individual posts and whether there is a trend. If you’re regularly posting on Facebook about your products, developments in the industry and links to relevant articles, you could compare the visible engagement for each post type. Engagement is far better at measuring social media success than subscribers.

Metric #2: Page views

Let’s say you work for a large, well-known industrial adhesive company. You look at page views for your homepage and see that yesterday had 1,378 hits. Not bad, you might think. You’re doing better than this time last month, therefore things must be going well.

But what if 889 of those visitors came to your site looking for a certain type of adhesive, such as metal to metal bonding sealant. Perhaps you manufacture it, but visitors couldn’t find it due to poor site layout. And another 211 landed on your web page hoping to buy ordinary consumer-grade adhesive and immediately hit Back once they realized you’re a B2B manufacturer. Suddenly, your 1,378 pageviews don’t look so impressive!

Even if all those visitors did have a great experience, do you know what drove them to your site? Do you know what you can do to further improve the numbers? The point is, it’s impossible to tell just from page views what kind of interaction people had with your website, which means this is a vanity metric.

Metric #3: Visitors

Imagine you look at a graph of visits for the past month and notice that it’s fairly steady except for a large peak in the middle. What have you learned? Was it a marketing campaign that gave you a bump, or maybe a blog post that went viral around the same time? Or could it be that there was a regional or industry event that created temporary demand for your product? You’ll probably never know, and that’s a problem.

Instead of analyzing visitors, take a closer look at customer leads generated through the website or conversion rates. An increase in leads or conversions always come from well-defined sources (e.g. landing pages, web forms, etc.) and give you better visibility on what’s working and when it’s getting better.

Metric #4: Time on Site

Time on site is a vanity metric in a similar way to pageviews. Just because someone spent a long time on your site, doesn’t mean the experience was a good one. He or she may have spent 15 minutes looking for something, and left frustrated when they couldn’t find it. Is this a success? Of course not, so bear in mind that time doesn’t equal satisfaction.

Unless you’re measuring time on site for pages with multimedia like educational videos, use revenue generated from your website instead. When you see this number improving, you’ll know beyond any doubt that your site is earning its keep. If your site is primarily for leads rather than direct sales, substitute conversion rates for revenue. Visitors that take the next step in your sales funnel after reading your content are a sure sign your website is on track.

Metric #5: Pages Per Visit

On its face, this measurement seems undeniably useful. If people are looking at lots of pages when they visit, they must be engaging with your product...right? Maybe, maybe not. Visitors could just as easily be leisurely looking around, only to decide your products aren’t for them and never return.

A better analysis would be compare page visits for new visitors and page visits for returning visitors. This will give you a far better insight as to how engaged your visitors really are.

How to spot actionable stats and trends

Getting caught up in vanity metrics is entirely understandable. The numbers just feel good, and businesses can point to them as proof that their marketing efforts are paying off or that their products are causing a stir in the marketplace.

But don’t be fooled, if you can’t discern what is driving a metric upwards, or what course of action would improve its trajectory -- it’s worthless. Concentrate on analyzing metrics that equal tangible value, such as revenue, conversion rates, A/B test results, etc.

In addition to advice and support from the Pronto Marketing team, all our clients get full access to the proprietary Pronto Insights tool. Giving clients better access to their site’s traffic data, leads, competitor information, and keyword rankings has greatly improved the way we create and manage their marketing campaigns. Schedule a call with one of our consultants today!

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Derek Brown

Derek is Co-Founder of Pronto Marketing and Editor-in-Chief of Industrial Marketing Works. He worked as a Microsoft Director for over 13 years, specializing in the small business segment. Derek is an active speaker and community leader in entrepreneurship, start-ups, digital marketing, and more.