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Five Signs You’re Too Focused on Meaningless Vanity Metrics

Meaningless Vanity MetricsThere’s nothing cuter than a puppy (or kitten!) chasing its own tail. Around and around, the silliness of it all is delightfully young and pointless.

But it isn’t so funny if you’re chasing your own tail in a business setting, and nothing exemplifies this more than pursuing vanity metrics.

So what are vanity metrics? Ones that feed the ego or build audience but are missing an actionable return on your investment.

They aren’t always meaningless, but they don’t tell the whole story about what’s actually working to drive business growth. Think of them as step one.

As we all continue to grow in sophistication and learning related to digital PR and marketing, the ability to tell the difference between a vanity metric and one that is truly valuable is growing in importance.

A great example of a vanity metric is measuring social media success only by engagement. As one component included in a larger strategy, this is fine, but on its own, it just isn’t specific enough – especially if your client is measuring success (and retention of you as their agency or employee) by something entirely different. It’s important to be able to connect that engagement to the END RESULT of that engagement.

  • Are they clicking through to your website?
  • What happens once they are on your website?
  • Are they subscribing? Making a purchase?
  • Bouncing off to a competitor?
  • Are only certain types of content driving that click-through traffic?
  • Are they converting in some way?
  • What happens once they subscribe or buy?

Focusing past the initial metric on the end goal helps you remain strategic and actionable.

So what do you do if you’re boxed in, with no way to track deeper, more meaningful metrics due to internal limitations? Use it to kickstart conversations about what really matters to the business, and how to measure it.


Five signs you might be focused on the wrong things:

1.  You have no idea how you actually get your customers. If you don’t understand where they are coming from, how can you duplicate it or improve conversion?

2. Customer acquisition cost? What’s that? It’s expensive to bring in customers and you don’t want to waste budget on things that aren’t working. If you don’t know what it costs you to bring them in the door, it’s difficult to set acquisition goals and marketing budgets.

3. When  unexpected successes happen, you can’t track them back to the source. That’s a problem. How do you know you aren’t spinning your wheels, wasting time and losing revenue?

4. You aren’t constantly making little changes to your efforts and dropping what doesn’t work. One of the biggest benefits of moving past vanity metrics is the gift of focus. Once you know what is and isn’t working, you can do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. You can also spend less on wasted efforts.

Seeing a theme in all of these signs? They are all tied to improving end results. Sophisticated marketers excel in this area and constantly help their clients or employers focus on what really matters. #jobsecurity

5. You don’t have a strategy or goals measured against that strategy. Robust, effective online strategies are a bit scary to some. What if you don’t achieve your metrics? What if you invest time and budget in something that doesn’t work? Can it cost you your job? It’s time to move past the fear and have ROI-based conversations. Some things do fail, and sometimes numbers are disappointing – but as long as you measure along the way and realize when it isn’t working, then you can create necessary changes to make improvements. It matters.

If you haven’t created your 2015 strategy yet -it’s time. (I recommend using the SMART method: specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-sensitive.)

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