The DataHero Blog

Vanity Metrics To Avoid And the Essentials To Focus on Instead

November 6th, 2014


You’ve likely heard a lot about vanity metrics, and how you need to avoid them. What you might not know though, is what to move toward if you’re moving away from the vanity metrics. This is a quick, definitive guide to show you the common culprits in vanity metrics, and the more useful substitutes to wean you off your vanity metric addiction.

Social Vanity Metrics

The culprit: Likes/follows

The substitute: Engagements

Depending on your social strategy, you may want to drive engagements on social media, or you may want to drive people back to your site, get them to download a white paper, etc. Of course your overall social strategy will affect the right “substitute” for your vanity metric, but engagements is a great place to start.

Likes and follows can provide a good gauge on what your potential audience reach is, but they won’t tell you if your content on social channels is actually resonating with your audience. It’s very easy on most social media platforms to switch from a Likes or Follows view to an engagement view, then you can either visualize it there or export it to a CSV file and visualize it in DataHero. Better yet, pull in a few different metrics, like follows, engagements and site visits into a dashboard to monitor. Pulling this data into DataHero allows you to see the complete picture, make sure that picture is up to date, and compare across various sources, like social platforms but also revenue or sales services.

Site Vanity Metrics

The culprit: Visits/Sessions

The substitute: Conversions

Similar to likes and follows on a social media channel, site visits are great for inflating your ego. However, you also need to consider the quality of these site visits. Again, relate your metric tracking back to your overall goal. For example, DataHero has two different blog goals; drive brand awareness (traffic) and drive conversions. If we see a lot of traffic from a source that doesn’t drive many conversions, that’s okay if the blog was meant to simply drive brand awareness. However, if a blog is published that was meant to convert, and doesn’t, something in the strategy needs to be tweaked.

Often times, we can’t make any real decisions based off site visits alone. More information needs to be added to the equation. Are these visitors performing other actions we want them to? Or are they perhaps returning later to perform an action. The set up to answering these traffic questions doesn’t have to involve expensive retargeting analytics tools. You can pull this information out of Google Analytics with goals and visualize it.

User Vanity Metrics

The culprit: New registered users

The substitute: Active users

Finally, one of the most common and tempting vanity metrics; registered users. We see this frequently in publications that cover startups. TechCrunch even admitted to publishing vanity metrics on many acquisitions or up and coming companies. Number of registered users is a great metric to see if a company is gaining traction or momentum, so don’t discredit it entirely. However, be careful basing too many business decisions off it without more information. Think of it as a nice to have, but not a need to have.

What’s the “need to have” metric then? Active users is a great metric to see if users actually find the product useful and if it will fit into their everyday lives. Customer lifetime value and churn are also great for measuring how involved customers are with a product. Every company will have unique definitions for “active users” and a different baseline for churn. The idea is to find your unique formula and figure out how to tweak it to maximize active users and minimize churn. How do you do this? It’s actually really simple in DataHero with cohort analysis.

Ready to get to work cleaning out your dashboards of vanity metrics and get some real data substance in them? Give DataHero a try. For a lot of connections (such as MailChimp, Salesforce, Stripe, etc.) we’ll even suggest the best charts for you, free of vanity metrics.

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By Kelli Simpson

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