Vanity metrics look good but provide very little to your marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, if you're blindsided by them, you can end up wasting time on improving aspects that offer very little value in terms of your business or marketing strategy.
Here are four vanity metrics that you need to stop using:
1. Social media followers
Although having thousands or even millions of Twitter, Facebook or Instagram followers may look impressive, this metric does nothing to show you how much people are interacting with the content you're sharing.
Social media followers can be purchased if an individual or brand is willing to splash the cash so it's more important to look at engagement metrics that measure how people are reacting to what you're posting. You also need to bear in mind that your followers may be made up of a handful of different personas. Just focusing on the basic figure won't tell you this.
Doing research into whether your followers are returning customers, or new visitors will tell you much more about your social channels and how they work for your brand than follower count.
Measure instead: social shares
Unlike follower numbers, social sharing gives you a valuable insight into levels of engagement with particular pieces of content. If your latest post on Instagram, for example, is being shared much more widely than previous pieces, you know you've done something right.
Sharing is also viewed as a key indicator of content quality, with Facebook now rewarding posts that "encourage meaningful interactions". Furthermore, research has suggested there’s a correlation between social signals such as likes and shares and search engine rankings.
2. Website traffic spikes
Huge spikes in traffic heading to your website can feel like a victory but it's normally a red herring. In the majority of cases, it's almost impossible to understand why this sudden surge came from. With so many factors that may have provoked the change - social media shares, an advert, seasonal changes etc. - it's tough to guess what may have happened. This makes it virtually impossible to replicate and fairly useless to your marketing campaign.
Traffic also acts as a distraction from more important metrics. People simply landing on your website means very little if you don't know what they're doing or thinking while they're there. You need to understand user behavior, what brought them to your site, and what they're hoping to find.
Measure instead: conversions
Attracting people to your website is only the first step to success; you need to have a reliable, effective strategy to convert these visitors into customers and generate revenue for the business. A high conversion rate is a key priority and a vital indicator of success for many companies.
There are many things you can do to understand and improve your conversion rates, such as auditing landing and sales pages to get an idea of what is and isn't working, A/B testing, and doing everything you can to remove friction from the checkout process.
This is often misleading because pageviews can show that you're creating great content that people want to read, but on its own, it's not enough information to make a proper judgement. It doesn't tell you whether readers enjoyed the content, got the answers they needed or have improved their opinion of your brand.
Instead, look at metrics that help you find this out. Whether you look at heat maps, social shares or time on page, these will all provide more guidance about how readers reacted to your content than simply focusing on pageviews.
Measure instead: bounce rate
Bounce rate - the percentage of web visitors who navigate away from your site after viewing only one page - is an important metric because it indicates whether individual pages and pieces of content are engaging people enough to encourage further exploration of your site.
If you're seeing a particularly high bounce rate on certain pages, it could be a sign that the content on those pages doesn’t correlate well with the marketing methods you use to attract visitors.
4. Newsletter subscribers
Measuring the number of newsletter subscribers is an outdated way of gauging the success of your marketing efforts. This is because, like page views, it's often viewed in isolation without considering the other aspects that matter when it comes to how people are interacting with the content you're pushing out.
Instead of looking at the pure number of subscribers you have, focus on the number of new leads they generate for you each month. Marketing should ensure that the newsletter content is optimized, with clear CTAs and strategy to each issue. If you're getting a high number of new leads via the newsletter, experiment with sending it out more frequently.
Measure instead: new leads
High-quality sales leads are the fuel you need to drive revenue generation and growth for the business. Measuring not only the number of leads you gain from your newsletter but the quality of those leads will help you make an informed judgment on whether this component of your marketing mix is delivering acceptable ROI.
If the leads you gain from your newsletter aren't turning into conversions, think about how the content you're sending out or the audience segments you're targeting could be adjusted for better results.