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Tips & Tricks

Friend or Foe: Vanity Metrics

Vanity and actionable metrics work well as a team, but on their own, they can cloud strategical judgement. 

Every marketer knows how exhilarating it can be to see statistics moving in a rapid upward trend. Page views, registered users, Twitter followers, white paper downloads, and all the rest are solid indicators of success when numbers are on the rise.
These figures are fun to publish and enticing to investors. But while big numbers are tempting, they’re also easily subject to manipulation, and may not necessarily give the whole picture when it comes to the health and profitability of an online presence.

What do vanity metrics offer?

Statistics, like the number of shares on Facebook, are indicative of a post’s popularity. As people are more likely to reshare something that they know will resonate within their network, it increases the likelihood that these shares will move beyond the social realm to include blog links, which can bolster a website’s searchability.
More than this, stats such as the number of comments attributed to a certain discussion are perceived as indicative of how thought-provoking they are. This, in turn, draws the attention of more prospects and contributes to greater opportunities for conversion through increased traffic.

What else should you keep an eye on?

The other side of the equation, of course, is actionable metrics. These are gleaned from the more scientific and comparative approach of A/B testing (often referred to as the gold standard for acquiring such numbers), and provide insight as to what steps can be taken to move forward.
For example, simply viewing a side-by-side comparison of your content—with variations in wording and structure—viewed by different people at different times will serve to reveal some of the variations that can be acted upon.

  • Which version resulted in more people clicking through to your website?
  • How many of these visitors became customers as a result of your content?
  • Which of your benefits create the most draw?

This information is beneficial because visible trends—especially in response to strategies you have already implemented—shed light on the path leading forward. In other words, with this information in hand, your current strategy can be expanded and altered in real time in response to and in anticipation of shifts in your target market.

Looking at the bigger picture.

Both vanity and actionable metrics have merit when it comes to tracking growth and strategizing for expansion, but focusing too much on one or the other can limit the scope of your understanding. Your number of subscribers, followers and likes may offer you an overarching view of where you stand right now, but you don’t want to lose track of other important variables. Your actionable metrics, like where your traffic is coming from and the behavior of your users, or even a sudden drop in activity, is invaluable as far as next-step decisions, but may not be the ultimate key to all of your problems.
Neither side holds all of the answers. But when taken as two parts of a larger equation, a greater comprehension of your target audience’s behaviors and desires can be gained, allowing you to connect the customers you want with the products and services you’re passionate about.

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