As an agency or an SMB, you might think hefty numbers in your metrics are the ultimate goal. And to a point, they do make a difference. These metrics can make you look popular and desirable to people online. Unfortunately, these metrics don’t exactly tell you the whole story or offer anything valuable in regard to your business. The kind of metrics that we’re talking about is called vanity metrics. And you should pay less attention and stop obsessing over them immediately because you’ve got bigger fish to fry.
Let’s dive in.
What Are Vanity Metrics?
Vanity metrics are data that look great on paper because they make your marketing efforts appear effective. These provide positive reporting and give the impression that your business is doing well.
Unfortunately, these numbers by themselves don’t really add much value to your brand. They can’t help you understand your performance, offer real insights, or guide you in making strategic decisions. They are easily manipulated and don’t correlate with anything actionable, controllable, or repeatable.
Essentially, these numbers make you look good but don’t really mean much to the bottom line.
The Vanity Metrics That Don’t Really Mean Much
Just to be clear, we’re not saying vanity metrics are inherently pointless. However, focusing only on these metrics can’t help you significantly because they’re meaningless if they don’t convert.
Here are four vanity metrics you need to know about.
1. Number of Fans, Followers, and Page Likes
The hard, sad truth is that these can be bought (hello, bots!). And this can get you in serious trouble with the platforms, who certainly don’t approve of this kind of false, black hat growth.
If you have 10k followers on Facebook, 25k on Instagram, and another 50k on Twitter, even if it’s organic (meaning, not bought), you might think you’re in great shape. But these numbers won’t matter if none of them engage with you or buy from you.
Also, people might follow you or like your posts not because they’re interested in you, but because they’re hoping you’ll follow and like them back. If you don’t, they’ll easily unfollow or unlike you in just one click. Ahhh, yes. The old follow/unfollow trick. You’ll both be penalized for this.
Remember, too, that having a huge following but disproportionately small engagement is a huge red flag to the platforms. If Facebook sees that your business page has 200,000 “fans” but your posts are only getting two likes each, they’re going to know that something’s wrong. And they’re going to suppress your page as a result.
While having a large audience looks promising, it does not reflect your impact and relevance online. Remember, not all fans and followers are automatically paying customers. A smaller but more loyal, engaging audience beats out a big but quiet audience any day of the week.
This number reflects the number of times your content is displayed or delivered to someone’s feed. If you’re looking at impressions for your website or blog content, it’s the same concept: how many times someone has seen the link in Google search results.
However, impressions don’t automatically indicate that those people clicked on your post or engaged with it. It also doesn’t mean people actually took the time to read what your post or ad said. While it’s great if a lot of people saw your content, they also could’ve just scrolled right past it. In fact, they might not have even seen it, even though it appeared on their screen.
This is somewhat similar to having a ton of fans. It doesn’t mean that they’re interacting with you. The same can be said of having a ton of impressions. It also doesn’t mean that they’re interacting with you.
3. Page Views and Website Traffic
This one’s a little tricky because it can go both ways, so make sure to read our entire explanation.
At first, page views and traffic can make you go, “OMG! YES! People are checking us out!” However, you’ll soon realize that they don’t necessarily convert into customers, especially if you’re using ads to pay for that spike in traffic.
Who visited your page? What made them visit you? Did you provide the answer they were looking for? How long did they stay on that page (in other words, what’s your bounce rate)? Did they make any purchases or sign up for your email list?
You can probably see why — similar to your number of fans and impressions — high page views and good website traffic doesn’t automatically mean that you’re winning online.
Now, here’s the exception.
Getting website traffic can be really challenging. So, if you are getting good traffic — and these visitors are staying on your page for a while, clicking around, and interacting with your site — then you’re on the right track. This means that people are interested in you, and you’re probably doing well in Google search results for the keywords that you care about.
Metrics You Should Actually Care About
Remember, we didn’t go over those vanity metrics to tell you that they don’t matter at all. We also don’t want you to assume that having a lot of fans or page views is a bad thing! Rather, what we want you to know is that there are other metrics much more indicative of whether or not your digital marketing strategy is working.
1. New Leads
Your efforts should attract people who need or are interested in your products and services. If you’re consistently acquiring new leads — perhaps from people opting into your email automations — then you’re doing something right.
Especially when they’re people who take the time to reach out to you (instead of the other way around), you’ve got something amazing going. We call these “warm leads” because they’re already familiar with and interested in you. You’re one step closer to the sale.
Bear in mind that they need to be high-quality, relevant leads — your target audience. If you’ve got 5,000 subscribers on your email list but they’re not part of your target audience and your open rate stinks, what’s the point?
This is a big one! Engagement – comments and shares in particular – show that people not only like you, but they care enough to interact with you and help to spread your message. It can also mean that you’ve created something really interesting and share-worthy.
Tracking engagement can help you increase brand awareness, expand online reach, create more relevant content, and build relationships with your visitors and customers.
Also remember that what other people say about you is much more powerful than what you say about yourself. It’s the magic of “word of mouth.” (Side note: This is one reason why user-generated content and online reviews/testimonials are so important and powerful.)
Being “seen” and having likes are nice. But if people click on your posts or ad because they’re interested and want to know more about what they just saw, then you’ve got a win. Clicks are essential because they show that people are taking action and you’re sending high-quality, targeted traffic back to your website or social pages.
Do be careful when you’re looking at clicks from paid ads, though. You can run an ad with the wrong targeting and get tons of clicks, and it’ll mean that they’re not clicks from the people you want.
4. Source of Traffic
Not all channels are going to work for you. And you don’t have to be on every platform. So, once you’ve determined which ones really deliver — after testing, tracking, and measuring — you can focus your efforts there.
Alternatively, use the Users Flow report from Google Analytics to track your site visitors and to see which pages are generating leads and providing value.
5. Conversion Rate
This one is a biggie because it means that your audience member took the exact action that you wanted them to.
It doesn’t stop with gaining clicks and getting people on your site. It’s important to track your path to conversion – particularly what content has turned visitors to leads to contacts and then to customers. Or, similarly, what isn’t working the way you want it to. This way, you can double down on what works and put the rest on the back burner.
Once people are on your website, you’ll want them to check out different pages, subscribe to your newsletter, opt-in for freebies, or make a purchase. Using tracking links to your CTAs, you can monitor where users came from and what actions they take on your site before converting.
At the end of the day, conversions are king. Truthfully, nothing really matters if you’re not getting conversions. It doesn’t matter if you have 10,000 Facebook fans. 20,000 email subscribers. Amazing website traffic. Dozens of new leads every single day. Hundreds of clicks by the hour.
If it doesn’t CONVERT, then it’s not working. Period.
We see a lot of agencies and SMBs focus on vanity metrics, and we understand why. Honestly, it’s hard not to get caught up in vanity metrics.
However, vanity metrics won’t pay the bills and keep the lights on.
Additionally, we want to give you a gentle reminder that it never pays to try to cheat the system. Purchasing likes or followers will not work in your favor. We promise. That initial rush you get when you see that number jump will be followed by nothing but a social media disaster.
Slow and steady growth wins. Focus on providing high-quality, valuable content and connecting with the people who matter to you, and you’ll be rewarded. It might not be easy, but it’s still simple.
Keep a close eye on your insights and analytics, checking in on them daily or weekly. Compare this data to the number of conversions you’re getting. Are your efforts paying off?
Focusing on metrics that matter can give you valuable insight into your marketing strategies, help you succeed in your campaigns, and ultimately grow your business. When considering numbers, don’t forget to ask what value these can add to your overall business goals.
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