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Addicted to Vanity Metrics? It’s Hurting Your Digital Marketing!

When it comes to digital marketing there is no lack of data to consider and no shortage of sophisticated tools available to help your business measure and analyse this information — all with the goal of achieving the maximum ROI in your marketing campaigns. But ironically, all of these data sets and tools have actually created an interesting paradox: even with a significant investment of time and money in your online marketing and even equipped with the best tools, the ROI just isn’t there.

Why is this happening?

Often, companies get stuck looking at so-called “vanity metrics,” data sets that make it seem that progress is being made when in fact the opposite can be happening. The truth is some metrics are not as important as they seem, while other really important metrics are practically ignored, and when this happens it will hold your business back, preventing it from growing and achieving its goals.

What are Vanity Metrics?

Vanity metrics include data such as social media followers, page views, subscriber counts, email open rates and other popular or “trendy” analytics. While these numbers may seem important, especially because they are highlighted by default on many analytics dashboards, a close look at such data reveals that it doesn’t really help you to achieve your business goals.

One of the first rules all successful digital marketers need to learn is that just because you can measure something doesn’t mean it’s telling you anything of substance. Vanity metrics don’t have any real value because they provide little to no context to guide your marketing decisions going forward.

And, herein lies the biggest danger: vanity metrics fool you into thinking that your digital marketing strategies are making a real impact with your target audience. You can thus mistakenly convince yourself that you are making progress even as you drift further away from your revenue goals.

Vanity metrics - frustration

Three Vanity Metrics to Avoid

Below are three of the most common types of vanity metrics you should start ignoring as you develop your next digital market campaigns:

1. Social media followers. Facebook fans and Twitter and Instagram follower counts mean little these days. Liking a page takes no commitment on the liker’s side. It can happen spontaneously and then be just as spontaneously forgotten. Plus, there are many reasons why people choose to follow someone on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Maybe they are competitors, or they are doing research in your industry, or perhaps they are following you because they want you to follow them in return.

There is also the reality that social media feeds have become increasingly cluttered over the past few years as more people join and more businesses and other groups try to take advantage of all the activity. In response, the major social media platforms, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest, have their own algorithms that organise and rank certain content over others. Realise that unless you are taking the paid advertising route, only a small fraction of your audience is actually seeing your posts in their feed, and many will never return to your posted content.

2. Page views and website traffic. Getting a lot of page views on a particular piece of content or an online tool should be a good thing, right? But, the problem is this number by itself is missing a lot of vital information, and could in fact be hiding real problems in your digital marketing strategies.

For example, what good is a lot of traffic if the majority of the people are not likely to purchase your products or services? Where is this traffic coming from? What do these people do once they arrive at your URL? How long are they staying there? Do they take any other action once they are on your website, like share your content on social media or sign up for your newsletter?

The bottom line is you want traffic, but not just any traffic, you want to attract the people in your target market and get them to engage in a valuable way with your content or website.

3. Your email subscriber count. Subscriber list growth is another one of those metrics that can make you feel good, since it is a potential indication of your audience size. Plus, the fact that these people have willingly given their email addresses to you in exchange for an enticing offer or for your newsletter shows more engagement than merely following your account on LinkedIn or liking your Facebook page.

But, subscriber counts by themselves won’t generate any revenue for your business. In fact, it often takes a significant amount of deliberate, well-planned nurturing, before a subscriber will become a paying customer. This means consistently offering the kinds of content subscribers are looking for and care about over the long term.

As a side note, many businesses may unknowingly have numerous fake subscribers on their lists, mostly from spambots. One of the biggest downsides to being targeted by these automated attacks is that it skews your metrics.

Good Metrics = Good Digital Marketing Strategy

Good Digital Marketing Strategy

Running an effective, insightful marketing campaign that generates real ROI for your business means looking at the right numbers, and looking at the right numbers means you have a solid digital marketing strategy powering the whole process. They always go together. So, don’t be fooled by vanity metrics, and if you’ve been considering them up until this point, then use that as a sign that your overall approach to digital marketing needs to be tweaked.

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