Apr 5, 2018

5 Vanity Metrics You Should Ignore in Your Next Digital Marketing Campaign

by Digital Marketing Institute

Vanity metrics are great for making your marketing results look awesome. Unfortunately, they don’t have any real value. Why? Because they can be easily manipulated and don’t tell you anything “real” about your business.

Read on to learn five of the most commonly used vanity metrics you should ignore during your next digital market campaign-and what type of metrics you should focus on instead.

What’s Wrong with Vanity Metrics?

As mentioned, vanity metrics don’t have any value for your business. In fact, they can be quite dangerous because they lead your marketing team to believe it’s getting results, even when they don’t provide any real information about your business growth or current health. Two heavily-used examples are social shares and website traffic. When you make decisions based on such vanity metrics, you could steer your marketing in the completely wrong way. Fortunately, for every vanity metric, there’s a corresponding actionable metric that can provide value.

Vanity metric vs. actionable metric.

Before you make the decision to use a metric, stop and ask yourself if it will help you make a decision and how it will help you understand and get closer to your business goals. If the answer to both of these questions is “no,” you’re focusing on a vanity metric.

5 Types of Vanity Metrics to Avoid

1. A Huge Spike in Website Traffic

More website visits imply your marketing team did something amazing, right? Not always. More visits to your website is usually a good thing, but it’s hard to determine what actually made the spike happen-and to replicate it. A lot of times, you’re guessing without the right metrics in place. Was it something you did? Something someone else did? A share by an influencer? A piece of content or story from years ago that resurfaced? You see how a vanity metric like this can lead you astray. Plus, it doesn’t really matter how many visitors come to your website; it matters how many convert into customers. Visitors don’t necessarily make your business any money.

2. Social Media Impressions & Audience Size

Social media followers can be purchased by any individual or brand with a little extra cash. They don’t mean much. And while it’s true that having a large audience can suggest that your brand is posting valuable, entertaining, and helpful content on its social profiles, your followers’ intentions can also be very diverse. Are your followers made up mostly of employees or current customers? Are your competitors taking a look, or are some followers looking for jobs? Not everyone who’s a “follower” is a prospective customer.

Even less valuable to your business is your number of impressions on social media (the number of times people saw your content, whether they engaged or not). It’s great if a lot of people see your content, but it really doesn’t mean anything. Instead, measure content shares (which show confidence in your brand and value in your content) and the number of customer conversions generated by social media (using UTM parameters to track the source).

Campaign metrics to track. Image Source: Hootsuite

3. Number of New Leads

Like sharp increases in website traffic, lead volume can look far better than it is due to an increase in advertising spending. In general, your marketing team should be focused on finding customers, not leads. If you stuff low-quality leads into your funnel, your sales team will eventually take notice. Instead, focus on the number of qualified leads you’re delivering. You want your marketing efforts to attract prospects who actually have a need for your products and services. If you have a ton of leads but not a lot of sales, it’s time to reevaluate how you’re advertising your products or solutions.

4. Number of Newsletter Subscribers

Subscriber growth has often been misused as a measure of company growth, without any attention paid to the resulting leads or revenue that comes from these new subscribers. Many newsletters are launched without a comprehensive coherent strategy for the long-term. You can’t just ask for sales in your newsletters; they’re more about education and nurturing your audience with content they care about. Over time, this leads to sales, yes, but it can take awhile.

Instead of focusing on your number of newsletter subscribers, measure the number of new leads you generate each month as a result of them. To drive engagement and put readers on the path to conversion within your newsletters, make sure there are purchase CTAs within the newsletter and any landing pages to which they link, and try to send them more frequently than the typical monthly or quarterly cadence if you are getting plenty of quality leads.

5. Share of Voice

Share of voice is a metric that measures how frequently your brand is mentioned in comparison to its competitors. Typically, this metric is used to understand brand awareness, trustworthiness and audience preference. However, there are a few issues with this metric. First, you’ll probably need to use advanced tools to accurately track share of voice. These are often expensive and still not completely accurate. This lack of accuracy leaves you with no real insight. It’s also easy to manipulate share of voice figures. As an example, a company may get completely different share of voice figures from its tools, PR team(s), and internal calculations; it’s just difficult to track accurately across the board.

Moving Forward: Focusing on Actionable Metrics

Now that you know what not to focus on, now let’s look atmore actionable metrics. Take these two metrics as an example:

  • Where Your Customers are Coming From: You can track this metric in Google Analytics with the Users Flow report. This will allow you to build a model of your funnel and track all of your site visitors. That way, you can see which pages are generating the most leads and providing the most value.

Funnel Analysis to identify leaks. Image Source: Story.me

  • Conversion Rates for Specific Pages: What types of traffic convert best and worst on each page? For example, is traffic from PPC converting poorly, while traffic from organic has much higher conversion rates? You can also see conversion rates for specific pages in Google Analytics. This information can help you with A/B testing ideas for different channels.

Google Analytics Traffic. ​Image Source: Optimize Smart.


It’s important that your marketing strategy focuses on metrics that matter-not vanity metrics. Make sure that the metrics you focus on give you real insight on how your marketing efforts move the business forward and help you measure campaign success. Don’t focus on trendy metrics just because they’re popular; always question how much your metrics add value and help your marketing team ensure overall business success.

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