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Julia Hammond
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Why Vanity Metrics aren’t what your business should focus on

Vanity Metrics are the flashy data that big companies love to rave about. While impressive on paper, metrics like social media followers, pageviews, subscribers and other glitzy figures don’t really affect your bottom line. So, why do businesses and agencies focus on them so much? The same reason hipsters wear fake vintage clothing. They think it makes them look good.

What businesses should be looking at are Actionable Metrics; stats that tie into the goals of your business, and the specific and repeatable tasks you can improve on.

Google Ads

Too often Search Engine Marketing (SEM) specialists talk about metrics, such as impressions and clicks. Volume is great but King Leonidas and the 300 Spartans taught us that sometimes, it’s quality over quantity. An ambiguous Ad, combined with broad keywords, can lead to a large volume of clicks and a low cost per clicks (CPC), but who cares? Business don’t spend their money creating websites and Google Ads campaigns to get clicks. They do it for leads and sales.

Focusing on the volume of impressions or clicks that an Ad and its associated keywords deliver is futile. What you should focus on are Actionable Metrics, such as conversion rate, conversion value and cost per conversion. These metrics can help highlight valuable insights from non-converting users. Did that user fill out the contact form or make a purchase? If yes, fantastic. If not, why?

A high cost per conversion may point towards irrelevant search terms. These can be weeded out by analysing the search terms report and identifying negative keywords. For eCommerce websites, high click-through rates paired with low conversion rates can indicate a poor conversion pathway. In other words, users love your product but your purchase process is confusing or clunky. Identifying factors that reduce cart and checkout abandonment can open the door to lost revenue not illustrated in the Vanity Metrics.


Did you know engagement rates for branded Facebook Pages have declined by more than 20% since last year? Businesses continue to create more and more content, leading to increased competition for space on their followers’ newsfeeds. This has resulted in users consuming less content from any one company.

Figure 1.1 (https://buzzsumo.com/blog/facebook-engagement-brands-publishers-falls-20-2017/)


It no longer matters how many likes or followers your page has. The truth is that once users have ‘liked’ a business’ page, most of their content will be absent from their newsfeeds. As with Google Ads, so too with Social Media; it is not the volume of your audience that matters. It’s the percentage of that audience who engage with your content by liking, sharing and, most importantly, commenting.

Comments, especially long comments and comments that spark conversations, are key positive signals to the algorithms used to power Social Media platforms that your content is of high quality. And, as the proverb says; success begets success. The more users engage with your content, the more newsfeed algorithms perceive it as relevant to your followers.


Vanity metrics are not limited to the ostentatious worlds of Social Media and Paid Search. Many businesses get caught up in tracking their average keyword ranking. Even though you should work to lower this number over time, this metric can be extremely misleading for a handful of reasons.

First and foremost, your average keyword ranking doesn’t exclude branded keywords. This inflates the number of total organic keywords you’re ranking for, so by including these keywords, your results will be skewed. While you can give yourself a pat on the back for that figure, your average keyword rank won’t be telling the whole story.

The next common mistake involves keyword search volume. It’s fantastic to report that your average keyword rank for your 50 non-branded keywords has jumped from position 70 to 30. But to report that the total search volume for those keywords is only 40 searches a month? Not so much. Why put in the time and effort to increase rankings for keywords your audience isn’t searching for?

Pageviews are another SEO Vanity Metric that businesses often hitch their wagon to. Although millions of page views might look fantastic on paper, like many Vanity Metrics, this number doesn’t provide any information regarding visitor engagement. What good are hundreds of thousands of page views if each user departs after only a few seconds? Total pageviews need to be measured against engagement metrics, such as time spent on page, unique visitors, bounce rate, pages per visit and conversion rates. These additional factors provide the context required to draw insights:

  • A high number of pages per visit combined with a low time on site may point towards information being difficult to find onsite.
  • High pageviews and few unique users may indicate bot or spam traffic, essentially “empty calories.”
  • A high bounce rate can help you find out if your keywords are delivering relevant traffic.

If you’re reading this and it’s seeming all too familiar, it may be time to go back to your digital strategy and reassess how you can best measure your online success. Distinguishing the Actionable Metrics from the Vanity Metrics can be difficult. If you’re not sure where to start, our experienced digital marketing strategists can help you get the ball rolling. Give us a call!

By Matthew StyringJulia Hammond

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