There's a saying that your vanity metrics should be "all things to all people." This is true, but only up to a point. Sure, it's great to have analytics that everyone can use and are "user-friendly," but you also need to ensure they're metrics that can impact the business.
Suppose you can't figure out which KPIs are most likely vanity metrics. In that case, it's time to stop doing them and start focusing on things like revenues and net new clients. These two will get your business more sales leads and clients better than any other existing metric.
What Are Vanity Metrics?
Vanity metrics are a type of metric that are not directly related to the core business. For instance, some companies track the number of likes on their Facebook page or the number of followers on Twitter. These metrics may be important to the company, but they don't really help them grow their business.
The term "vanity metric" was coined by marketing expert Seth Godin in his book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? The term is used because it sounds like something that's important only to you and not your customers.
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The Problem of Reporting Vanity Metrics
Most businesses are guilty of it. They all have metrics that they track and obsess over. The truth is, vanity metrics are not the way to go.
They Are Easy To Get but Hard To Keep.
You can post a new picture on your Instagram and get a few thousand likes in an hour, but what do you do with that data? Is it even meaningful? Maybe in the grand scheme of things, but if you're just looking at a bunch of followers who aren't engaged in your content, it probably isn't worth it.
They Don't Reflect Your Work or the Value of What You Produce
Vanity metrics only measure engagement with your content. But they don't tell you anything about how valuable your content was or how much impact it had on people who viewed it.
They Are Not Sustainable Over Time
If something is going well today, then maybe you should keep doing more of it tomorrow. But if something isn't going well today, you probably should stop trying to improve it tomorrow! Vanity metrics don't help determine when or why something isn't working anymore. They only tell what's working now.
Which KPIs Are Most Likely To Be a Vanity Metric?
Be careful what you measure because some things aren't helpful when looking at the health of your business. Examples of KPIs that are likely to be vanity metrics include:
Social Media Followers
Metrics that focus on your number of followers on social media platforms are often vanity metrics. The more followers you have, the more likely you are to be seen as an influencer, thus attracting the attention of other people who want to work with you. This can lead to more sales, which is great for your business but not necessarily something worth tracking in isolation.
The same principle applies here. If someone subscribes to your newsletter but doesn't buy anything from you, it won't work out well for them. If someone wants to work with you but doesn't follow your blog or read your newsletter, they're probably not going to care about what they get from it. So, while having subscribers may be useful at some point in time, keeping track of how many people sign up for your newsletter not be a good indicator of whether or not they'll actually buy anything from you.
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Social sharing is another popular metric that people use as a vanity metric. The idea is that if your content gets shared on social media, then it must be really good and worth sharing (or else why would anyone share it?). But there's no reason to base your SEO strategy on social shares alone, especially since a lot of other factors determine whether or not something will appear in search results.
For example, if you're trying to rank for a term like "best SEO tips," then having lots of social shares won't help you because there aren't many people using that term who would be interested in reading about your content.
Number of Downloads
Number of downloads is another common vanity metric that businesses use to measure their success on their website. This particular metric is often used by marketers who have built their own e-commerce sites or portals for other businesses and need ways to gauge their traffic numbers. This can be good for businesses that want to track their progress, but it can also be misleading if you don't know what your competitors are doing.
Unique visitors are another popular vanity metric because they're easy to calculate and don't require much time or effort from the person counting them. Unfortunately, this metric doesn't tell you anything about your audience and how they interact with your product or service, just how many people visit your site.
This makes it hard to measure the impact of changes in your marketing strategy, such as a new ad campaign or a change in copywriting tone.
Running Total of Customers
The running total of customers is a vanity metric because it's based on the assumption that you can count your customers. You might be able to, but there are many other things you need to do to keep your business going. You'll need to answer customer phone calls, process their orders, and ship out their products. The more time you spend doing these things rather than counting the number of customers, the less likely your business will succeed long-term.
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Website views are a vanity metric because it only measures the number of times people visit your website. This is a very low-value metric to track as it doesn't tell you anything about how engaged those visitors are with your brand or what they do once they arrive on your site.
Your audience may only be interested in seeing one piece of content. But if you make multiple pieces of content and share them across different channels, you would have an opportunity to reach more people with each piece.
Vanity metrics aren't useless, especially when you use them to measure your marketing goals. Regarding your business goals, consider the mission-critical metrics that drive revenue and results. Then focus on those and ignore the rest.