What Are Vanity Metrics — and Why Do They Suck?

Colleagues discussing vanity metrics

Are you wasting time with useless KPIs?

Vanity metrics are the ego-boosters of the analytics world. The conventional wisdom is that you must be important if you have 25 bajillion followers. Everyone must be seeing your ad if it hits 50 million impressions. But, are these metrics actually moving the needle for your business?

“Vanity metrics” are indicators that may look great but don’t impact your organization in any meaningful way.

More data is not more meaningful

Vanity metrics are ingrained in every industry – not just digital marketing. Your clients might be happy if your labeler can finish 500 pieces each minute. But how happy will they be when 25% of the labels are misaligned?

Or, what if your non-profit is bringing in more individual donations? That seems great – but not if the average donation has significantly decreased. You’re making less money than before.

It requires some extra thought to determine which metrics are boosting your bottom line. As a business leader, you understand your industry, but perhaps you’re not as fluent in digital marketing metrics. Before you pick a digital marketing consultant or agency, make sure they’re going to deliver you real value by focusing on the data that matters.

How do I avoid useless metrics?

Here are just a few examples of switching the focus of your marketing campaigns to analytics that matter. They don’t work for every campaign, but they can help you pivot to tracking the right KPIs for your business' marketing efforts.

Impressions to Clicks
Instead of impressions, track clicks to your landing page to ensure the right people are seeing your campaign.

Followers to Engagements
If you deliver groceries within New York City, 100k new followers from California aren’t helping you grow.

Page Views to Purchases
Customers are lining up to view every page of your site, but are they making any meaningful purchases?

Purchases to Customer Lifetime Value
Something to think about: Are fifty $2 purchases as important as the five customers who will each spend $200?

Clicks to Email sign-ups
Rather than focusing on clicks, track sign-ups to your e-newsletter.

Clicks to Time On Site / Bounce Rate
Or focus your efforts on increasing the amount of time viewers spend on your site by decreasing bounce rates.

A note of caution, some metrics can be considered “vanity” for some businesses or campaigns and not for others. You might have noticed this above when replacing clicks with more important data points. For example, a branding campaign might need to track impressions, but a lead nurturing campaign could find that impressions are too top-of-the-funnel. Common sense – and a class or two on data science – should still inform your efforts.

Want to learn more? AMEC, or the International Association of Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (what a mouthful!), has a great guide here. Happy Marketing!

Found this useful? Hated it? Let me know on Twitter at @TomBasgil.