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5 Vanity Metrics to Stop Measuring (And Better Alternatives)

shovelThere is without a doubt no shortage of data for each action you take in your marketing campaigns, nor is there a lack of tools to help you measure them. The problem is, some metrics are more obvious than others. They stick out right in front of your face as soon as you log into your analytics tool, puking an “up-and-to-the-right” graph in your face.

Beware of vanity metrics. Instead of getting caught up in the low-hanging fruit, ask yourself: "What does this graph mean? Should I continue doing something, increase the time or money I spend on a certain channel, or even stop doing something altogether?" The obvious metrics won’t tell you this. You’ve got to dig deeper.

Here are 5 vanity metrics you should stop obsessing over and their much better alternatives.

1. Facebook Fans

Did you know that only 3% to 5% of your Facebook Page’s “fans” see the content you post? Regardless of how many people have clicked 'Like' once they're on your brand’s Page, the vast majority of them never return to the Page itself and never see the content in their newsfeeds.

What to Measure Instead: % Feedback and Impressions

Use Facebook Insights, Facebook’s free analytics tool, to check which posts generate the highest level of engagement. The higher the level of engagement, the higher your EdgeRank score. (EdgeRank is kind of like SEO for Facebook newsfeeds.) Think about the content and conversations that have the highest % feedback and impressions, and then come up with a plan for how you can replicate it.

2. Twitter Followers

On Twitter, it really shouldn't be about the number of followers you have. People engage in cheesy gimmicks like following random accounts all of the time because they are trying to game the system and get follow-backs. Here are a couple of things to consider about your Twitter followers:

  • Who is engaging? Add a "+" to the end of any bit.ly link or check our free tool, WhoTweetedMe.com to see who retweets your content and identify influential followers.
  • What do your followers talk about? Use Cadmus to check out their most shared links.

What to Measure Instead: Your Competitor's Followers Who Aren't Following You 

With FollowerWonk, you can compare your Twitter followers to those of your competitors. If there are people following them who aren’t following you, those are prospects you aren’t connecting with, and possibly even money left on the floor. Reach out to them and demonstrate the value of following you, too.

3. Blog Post Page Views

This indicates you’ve established yourself as a thought leader and have created great content -- both good first steps in an inbound marketing plan. But one or a few popular posts are not necessarily bringing your target audience back time and time again or having long-term SEO benefits.

What to Measure Instead: Bounce Rate, Social Shares, RSS & Email Subscribers, and Leads

Bounce Rate – This is the percentage of people who visit one page on your site and leave. Do you have a high number of page views plus a high bounce rate? That’s not a good thing. Keep readers' attention with a good call-to-action and links to other content and other parts of your site.

Social Shares – Search is social. Search engines like Bing and Google now consider tweets and Facebook shares in their algorithms. How many individual page viewers are also promoting your content to their social networks is a more accurate signal of long-term SEO benefits from a popular blog post.

RSS and Email Subscribers – If people opt-in to all your blog content, that’s a stronger indicator of your content’s overall performance than one individual post’s popularity via page views. In Feedburner, you can find both under “Analytics.”

4. Email Open Rate

Your open rate is:

Open Rate

Open rate is a reasonable metric to track to check the effectiveness of your email’s subject line and timing. However, there are technical limitations because many email clients have to load images to count as an open, and many users have images turned off by default. Track this, but don’t obsess.

What to Measure Instead: Click-Through Rate (CTR)

Focus on one CTA in your email that draws users to your site, and measure your click-throughs on those links.

5. Number of Customers/Users

It’s simple enough to track how many people have converted into a trial user or paying customer. But are people actually using your product?

What to Measure Instead: Active Users and Paths to Conversion

Active Users - Track how many users return to use your product each day. In Google Analytics, metrics like visitor loyalty and visitor recency are helpful, depending on your product. As for ecommerce, measure repeat customers and retention. Zappos, which will close in on $1 billion in revenue this year, gets 75% of its sales from repeat customers. Just a thought.

Paths to Conversion – Track which keywords and content drew in leads that converted as well as what actions those leads took on your website before they converted. Rinse, lather, repeat.

Of course, don’t take my word for it! Before you jump to conclusions to add or erase any of these metrics from your weekly or monthly marketing analytics reports, first make sure you and your team have defined your goals and the data points you’ll use to measure whether or not you’re achieving them. 

What vanity metrics do you avoid? Let us know in the comments!

Photo Credit: Roger H. Goun

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