Analytics

10 Digital Marketing Metrics Your Business Pays Too Much Attention To (And Which Ones Actually Matter)

19 experts share top digital marketing metrics that you shouldn’t obsess over along with explaining what you should track instead.

Masooma Memon Masooma Memon on February 21, 2022 (last modified on May 17, 2022) • 18 minute read

Here’s the thing: there is a bucket load of digital marketing metrics to track but not all of them are uber-useful to monitor.

In fact, they could be nothing more than a time suck. Not to forget, monitoring unimportant metrics can dilute your focus, confusing you and keeping you from achieving your marketing goals.

The solution? Monitoring only top digital marketing metrics.

So in this post, we’ve got you a list of digital marketing metrics you should be measuring alongside marketing metrics that you think are important but really aren’t.

Ready to learn? Buckle up.

Each of these metrics is one that experts think is overrated.

With each, they also share the metrics they look at instead, which is, essentially, a rundown of the top digital marketing metrics that you should be tracking.

Let’s go: 

  1. Pageviews
  2. Likes and follows
  3. Impressions
  4. Number of new customers
  5. Email open rate
  6. Traffic from branded keywords
  7. Keyword ranking
  8. Marketing qualified leads (MQLs)
  9. Bounce rate
  10. Average position
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1. Pageviews

Although pageviews can be great ego boosters, they can be misleading too.

While you’d be getting numerous pageviews, no one is to say that those views are from your target audience. Meaning: there’s no point in chasing views that aren’t coming from people you’re targeting.

Pixoul’s Devon Fata is of the same thoughts. “When I first began my company, I mistook a number of vanity metrics for KPIs – specifically pageviews.”

“On paper, they seem like a huge indicator of success. People are visiting your site! They’re looking at your product! They’re interested in what you’re doing! However, the trouble is that not everyone who visits your site is interested in purchasing from you,” Fata explains.

Timeshatter’s Brian Donovan is on the same page as Fata on this metric. “Pageviews turned out to be a metric that didn’t really provide us with many insights.”

“It is like learning how much a company earns in a year without knowing the size of the company and how much money they invested,” Donovan points out.

Most of our contributors agree too as the majority say pageviews are completely unimportant or not a very important metric for their business.

How do you rate the following metrics?

What should you be tracking instead?

Instead of focusing on pageviews,” writes Fata “look at the quality and behavior of those views. Bounce rate, time spent on page, and CTRs all provide valuable insight into the people viewing your website as well as how you can improve.”

At Giraffe Social Media, Amber Reed-Johnson shares they do the same. “When analyzing our website metrics we have learned to look past broader metrics such as pageviews, and delve deeper into the audience behavior on our site.”

“For us, we have an active blog that we hope provides a source of useful information, news, and guides to our intended audience,” Reed-Johnson elaborates.

“For this reason, we value average time on site and bounce rate higher than pageviews, as it tells us more about the quality of our content and what our audience wants to see.”

You’d also want to check the source of these pageviews to determine where they’re all coming from.

And, as Fata recommends, see how long these folks are spending on your site, their bounce rate, and what they’re looking at. Insights like these will tell you how interested the incoming traffic is.

Plus, only your target audience is likely to spend time on your site provided your content (and product) is designed to resonate with them.

Similarly, you can look at conversion rates as Donovan does. “This metric gave us much more insight by telling us the percentage of people who expressed interest or became customers after visiting our site, instead of just telling us how many people visited our site point blank.”

Takeaway: You can’t rely on pageviews alone as a measure of success. When analyzing pageviews, always consider their quality and behavior – meaning you also want to check your bounce rate, CTR, average time on page, and lastly, your conversion rate – to get the big picture.

2. Likes and Follows

Both likes and follower count are poor indicators of marketing success on social media. Again, these numbers are great for a marketer’s ego. In reality, they do little to show how well your social content is engaging your audience.

“When I first began marketing on social media, I assumed that ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ were great metrics for marketing,” Daivat Dholakia from Essenvia comments, sharing their experience discovering top digital marketing metrics.

“If people were pressing the like button on your content and going so far as to follow you, I figured that had to mean that they liked what they saw and were interested in my organization. I mean, they pressed the like button, for goodness sakes!”

Emma Tessler from Ninety Five Media makes the same point about followers. “Focus on your follower count truly isn’t as important as it seems is. This goes for every platform out there.”

“We often get fixated on the number of followers and associate this with our self-worth as business owners or brands,” Tessler admits. “However, at the end of the day, your follower count is only a Vanity Metric and doesn’t tell you anything about your conversation rates.”

“It took me some time to realize that just because you were gaining follows on social media doesn’t mean that those follows translate into conversions or purchases” Dholakia adds. In fact, a lot of followers can be bots and inactive social media accounts.

What should you be tracking instead?

If you’re looking to determine how well your social marketing engages your audience, the comments and reshares are a better measure. Also, look at the brand mentions you get.

Like Tessler, you can also look at your “Conversion Metrics, which are the numbers that truly matter. These include Website Clicks, Profile Visits, Comments, and Private Message Conversations. When you focus on true, human interaction, it will tell you a lot more than a follow list ever will.”

On the other hand, if your goal is sales like Dholakia’s is, look at sales. “How many people are moving from my advertisements to my website and making a purchase?” Dholakia explains. “That’s the number that matters to me.”

Takeaway: The number of followers and likes on social media doesn’t necessarily translate into conversions or purchases. Depending on your goal, make sure you track conversion metrics such as website clicks, profile visits, number of DMs, and similar.

3. Impressions

“One of the marketing metrics that we regularly tracked to gauge the success of our marketing campaigns was impressions,” Trellis’ Areeba Khan

“It was encouraging to witness a surge in ‘impressions’ through posting consistent and high-quality content. However, we realized that it wasn’t translating into leads for our sales team.”

In fact, CocoSign’s Stephen Curry goes on to say that “this marketing metric serves little to no use. It proves to be an unreliable indicator that takes no part in strategic decisions.”

When we first started to do marketing we were too focused on how to get impressions,” Curry recalls. “But they have proven to be an unaccountable part of marketing that doesn’t tell you anything unless some of them get converted.”

What should you be tracking instead?

As a solution, start looking at engagement. “Engagement helps us tweak our content strategies as well as gives us more insight into what should we have to do for securing more leads.”

Interestingly, Curry notes, “tracking engagement has proven more beneficial as we have changed our content strategy in such a way that we are converting 17% of our visitors.”

On the other hand, Khan’s team “eventually dug deeper into multiple nuances of our content, specifically, user intent, and realized that it would be more viable for us to closely track ‘reach’.”

“This shift in how we monitored our marketing metrics enabled us to prioritize producing content on more relevant topics, as we were now aware of the topics that were spurring interaction from current and prospective customers.”

Takeaway: Impressions won’t necessarily translate into leads for your sales team. To create more sales-driven content, ask customer-facing teams such as the sales and support team for the questions prospects and customers frequently ask. Once you have a list of frequently asked questions, create useful content by answering them.

Related: 16 Ways To Measure Social Media Engagement Using Only Google Analytics

4. Number of New Customers

“One metric that proved to not be as important as we initially thought was the number of new customers,” Sam Pelton from Mobile Text Alerts shares.

“Although the number of customers is an important data point to consider, what can be far more important is the quality of the accounts that come in.”

“It is far more valuable for our marketing efforts to focus on bringing in a few higher-paying, loyal customers rather than a larger number of lower-paying, higher churning accounts.”

What should you be tracking instead?

The answer here would be going a step back to track MQLs (marketing qualified leads) to ensure you are providing your sales team with the best possible leads.

Takeaway: As a business that’s starting out, you’ll want to focus on new customers you’re bringing in. Eventually, as you gain your footing or as an already established business, channel your focus on bringing in high-quality customers and work on retaining them.

5. Email Open Rate

“As email marketers, it took us a while to accept the fact that email open rate only tells you how good you are at writing subject lines,” notes Project Prospecta’s Henry Jones.

“If your leads only open your emails but don’t click the links, reply, or forward them, then the content/messaging you’re sending out isn’t resonating with your audience and therefore doesn’t equate to a successful marketing effort.”

Natalia Brzezinska of PhotoAiD learned a similar lesson. “Initially, I fell into a trap of numbers and put a strong emphasis on the open rate metrics in our outreach campaigns.”

“I expected that increase in open emails will result in an increase in conversions,” admits Brzezinska. “I felt frustrated when our open rates were lower than 25%.”

“After a while, I realized that perception bias – quantity won’t improve quality. Instead, we started to focus on click rates more. And that was it! Our conversion rates noticeably boosted.”

What should you be tracking instead?

What I have come to discover is that high email open rates do not necessarily correspond to an increase in sales conversion rates,” agrees Lisa Richards of The Candida Diet.

Consequently, Richards learned that “the click-through rate for email campaigns are quite low, even when email open rates are high. As such, my focus should be more on finding direct and impactful ways of improving my conversion rates, rather than maximizing my email open rates.”

“Placing more emphasis on the click rate and reply rate of an email means you’re prioritizing the quality of your communication and not the number of people who see it,” Jones explains.  

“And in the long run this will be more beneficial to your clients further down the sales funnel and as a result help the growth of your clients and your business.”

Takeaway: Put another way, looking at email open rate alone isn’t going to help you. Why? Because it does little to tell you whether subscribers are reading your emails. So a good solution is to pair monitoring it with other metrics like the click-through rate and reply rate.

6. Traffic from Branded Keywords

“Like any other novice SEO marketer, I also initially thought that branded key phrase traffic is a crucial SEO metric,” shares James Parsons from Content Powered.

“However, driving traffic from visitors who already know the brand doesn’t significantly increase business revenue.”

What should you be tracking instead?

As a result, Parsons writes, “I switched to focusing more on unbranded key phrase traffic that led to a 700% conversion rate. Hence, increasing traffic from undecided visitors or users not searching your brand can exceptionally increase business revenues.”

With monitoring traffic too, Milkwhale’s Andre Oentoro shares a heads-up by sharing their experience. “A lot of people can visit your website but only a few actually click on your CTAs and become actual leads.”

“Once we stopped looking at traffic and focused on reducing bounce rates and increasing average times on-site,” Oentoro writes “our leads and conversion rates changed drastically.”

Takeaway: Traffic from branded keywords is another metric that you can’t analyze on its own. To get the big picture, pair it with metrics like unbranded keyword traffic, bounce rate, and average time on site.

7. Keyword Ranking

“The voracious, brain-munching zombie of marketing KPIs is keyword rankings,” comments Abe Breuer of VIP To Go.

Personalization, geo-location, updates in the search algorithm, and other variables have rendered keyword rankings entirely worthless. Despite the fact that this trend has been occurring for years, some marketers continue to parade rankings for certain keywords during reporting time as if they genuinely represent something.

“In my experience, they don’t mean anything,” opines Breuer.

When SEO initially became popular, keywords reigned supreme. Google, on the other hand, has become a lot smarter, so we can forget about the concept of a single magic search phrase that generates the same rankings for every person,” Breuer explains.  

What should you be tracking instead?

Breuer suggests monitoring backlinks. “Backlinks are one of the most essential Google ranking factors, and I’ve discovered that referring websites and organic traffic have a definite positive correlation.”

“Increasing the number of referring domains over time increased my organic search traffic,” Breuer adds. “This increasing trend in referring domains was a sign that my link-building, public relations, and branding efforts were paying off.”

Related: 28 Techniques for Increasing the Number of Referring Domains to Your Website

Takeaway: While we wouldn’t agree that keyword rankings are an entirely worthless metric, it’s not your sole indicator of success. To measure the real effort of your SEO campaign, also monitor other metrics like backlinks, and number of referring domains.

8. Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)

“The #1 marketing metric that is significantly less important than marketers think is MQL or Marketing Qualified Lead,” thinks Shindig’s Adam Shaw.

“For years this has been the metric that many B2B marketers have leaned on to show success. However, this can be misleading for several reasons MQL volume may not have a strong effect on total revenue if the leads are poor or are not well informed enough to make a buying decision in a timely manner.”

Marketers are oftentimes pressured to hit inflated MQL goals, normalizing low lead quality,” Shaw outlines.

“Focusing on MQLs has a significant correlation with increased time to close and decreased customer lifetime value as the metric relies heavily on the volume of leads, not the quality.”

“It is key to allow buyers to properly educate themselves with the valuable content being created by your content marketing team. If these buyers are not sufficiently educated it will take more salespeople more time to educate them, increasing sales cycle and overhead.”

What should you be tracking instead?

As a solution, sit with the sales team and ask them about the quality of the leads the marketing folks send their way. As you do so, you’ll learn a lot about your target buyers too, which will help you create better, more audience-relevant marketing campaigns. 

As for the metrics to look at, take a page from Shaw: “In my work with clients and now on the brand side my #1 focus has shifted to metrics like pipeline, sales cycle length, and self-reported attribution from customers. These data points have allowed me to focus on what buyers think is important, not what marketers think will drive leads.”

Takeaway: In order to bring in high-quality MQLs, your marketing team has to work with your sales team. Working separately, being pressured by deadlines, or hitting your monthly targets will only lead to decreased customer lifetime value in the long run. Monitor MQLs in line with your sales pipeline and sales cycle length and analyze it along with self-reported attribution from customers

9. Bounce Rate

Like the email open rate metric, growth360’s Sasha Matviienko thinks bounce rate isn’t a metric that you should be reviewed in isolation.

“One metric that our clients often look at is Bounce Rate,” Matviienko starts. “However, we prove time and time again that bounce rate by itself doesn’t describe anything.”

Because it’s so dependent on implementation, bounce rate by itself reflects only how well the measurement was setup/thought-through for a website.”

“Bounce rate is a metric that many business owners and webmasters are looking at but from my experience, it’s a vanity metric.” Jonathan Aufray from Growth Hackers echoes the same.

“You could have a very high (90%) bounce rate and have a successful business/website and a low bounce rate with a failed site.”

What should you be tracking instead?

“We recommend looking at a number of other metrics along with the bounce rate, these include Pages per Visit, Return Rate, Scroll Depth, etc,” Matviienko writes.

What’s more, Aufray recommends you “focus on metrics such as conversion rate or visitor-to-lead rate.”

“For example, if you drive traffic to a landing page and people download your e-book from that page with a 30% conversion rate but then leave your site 100% of the time after downloading your e-book, you have a 100% bounce rate but a high conversion rate, which is a good thing,” Aufray elaborates.

Takeaway: There is no such thing as a good or bad bounce rate. Therefore, you can’t rely on this metric alone to measure the success of your marketing campaigns. To get a better understanding of your performance, pair bounce rate with pages per visit, return rate, scroll depth, and visitor-to-lead rate.

10. Average Position

Average Position seems to be a good indicator of how your SEO is performing but it’s more complex than that,” comments Chris Wilks of BrandExtract.

“Average position tracks the average position for ALL keywords you ranked for and many of them are not relevant or applicable targets for your content,” explains Wilks.

“There are ways to filter irrelevant queries out and make the metric more useful but on its surface, it shouldn’t carry too much weight.”

What should you be tracking instead?

Simply dive deeper. Wilks says: “we dove deeper into the metrics and filtered out irrelevant keywords and content to make the metric a bit more useful.”

Takeaway: To get more accurate data, always make sure you filter parts of it that are irrelevant. Apart from filtering your keywords, you can also filter your traffic to exclude, for example, bot traffic, which would only inflate your numbers.

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Monitor and Analyze Your Most Important Digital Marketing Metrics In One Place

With that, here’s hoping you know which are the top digital marketing metrics to look at.

But, instead of looking at various sources for tracking each, use Databox to create a centralized dashboard that features your most important marketing metrics – in one place.

If you prefer, you can also create individual dashboards for different campaigns using our marketing dashboard software. For example, an email marketing dashboard and a social media marketing dashboard.

Ideally, however, pick the most critical metrics from various marketing areas and put them in a grand dashboard. This way, you can see how your marketing is doing at one glance. You can also share the same dashboard with your team and stakeholders for a quick performance overview.

So sign up for Databox for free today and start monitoring your top digital marketing metrics the easy way.

About the author
Masooma Memon
Masooma Memon Masooma is a freelance writer for SaaS and a lover to-do lists. When she's not writing, she usually has her head buried in a business book or fantasy novel.
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