Analytics

5 Vanity Metrics You Should Ignore in Your Next Marketing Campaign

Obsessing over vanity metrics is a waste of time and resources. See which metrics don’t contribute to accomplishing your marketing goals

Masooma Memon Masooma Memon on August 31, 2021 (last modified on August 24, 2021) • 9 minute read

Worried if the marketing metrics you’ve been striving to grow have been vanity metrics all along?

Admittedly, focusing too much on vanity numbers is a waste of your time and resources. The reason? These metrics rarely contribute much to accomplishing your marketing goals – even if they look good to read.

So it’s about time you reevaluate the marketing metrics you’ve been pursuing and pay attention to the ones that matter the most.

The question then is: what are some vanity metrics you should be aware of? We’ve put together this post to answer that for you. You’ll learn:

Let’s get on with it.

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What Are Vanity Metrics?

Vanity metrics are metrics that look good on the outside. But, they do little to help inform your strategy or encourage conversion.

Think of vanity metrics as shining stars in your portfolio – they shine bright so they look good to you as well as others observing your business. In reality, though, those shining stars don’t contribute much to your business growth.

Related: 34 Marketing Metrics to Include in Every Marketing Report

What Are Vanity Metrics in Marketing?

Vanity metrics in marketing are those metrics that you don’t lead to conversions or sales – a marketer’s end goal.

Think social media likes, followers, blog traffic, email open rates, and more. These numbers are good to chase after. But, once you achieve them, you realize they aren’t contributing significantly to your product/service’s growth.

Since they do little to help you hit your ultimate goals, don’t obsess with them. But, it helps to keep an eye on them as the majority, 70.4%, of our contributors agree.

22.2%, however, think you should completely ignore vanity metrics in your analysis with 7.4% unsure of what to do.

Should you ignore vanity metrics in your analysis?

5 Vanity Metrics You Should Avoid in Your Next Marketing Campaign

The question now is: which metrics should you be not worried about? We asked our pool of contributors and found that 60% think social media followers is a big vanity metric.

Some 49% think pageviews are also a vanity metric with 35% saying the number of visitors is another big vanity metric.

Other vanity metrics include a huge traffic spike (25%), time on site (20%), pages/visit (20%), and share of voice (15%).

Most common vanity metrics according to experts

With that, let’s look at five of these vanity metrics in detail to understand what makes them fluff: 

  1. Social media followers
  2. Traffic or impressions
  3. Email open rate
  4. Likes
  5. Blog post views

1. Social media followers

“As marketers, we are proud of the high number of followers. However, it isn’t such a significant piece of information,” writes Leszek Dudkiewicz from Passport Photo Online.

Acadian Windows’ Craig Ricks agrees. “The number of social media followers is one of the first metrics many look at, and while engagement is encouraging, these numbers do not give insight on a customer’s opinion of the page, nor if they found the product they were looking for.”

On top of that, “It’s also possible for companies to buy followers on social media sites to create the illusion of a popular brand, so this metric is not reliable,” Ricks points out.

More importantly, it’s critical to keep in mind: a high number of followers doesn’t necessarily translate into engagement and conversions on social media. In Ricks’ words: “follower count does not necessarily equal the number of successful transactions, which is the true number that indicates a business success.”

Janice Wald from Mostly Blogging talks about Instagram followers in particular – advising you ignore them. “People frequently follow on Instagram,” Wald notes. “For instance, if your content ends up in the Explore Section, you can expect a great many new followers.”

“However, a marketer’s goal is to make money. Just because someone follows you, that doesn’t mean they will buy from you. On Instagram, they normally don’t. The majority of people go to scroll, not purchase.”

Related: Instagram Mistakes: 7 Things to Avoid Posting on Instagram As a Business in 2021

In this context, Dudkiewicz shares pageviews as the “better method of determining brand awareness” in their words. “At the same time, the number of followers doesn’t reveal how many people you reached out to. Due to the sheer number of social media accounts, many people just follow some of them without really reading what they post.”

2. Traffic or impressions

“I wouldn’t say to completely ignore this metric but traffic or impressions can be a vanity metric,” John Frigo from Best Price Nutrition comments.

Frigo shares their experience: “Currently two of my biggest trafficked pages get tens of thousands of visitors per month but have never made a sale.

The first was a blog post for Bang Energy Drinks, these drinks are popular and posts about them get traffic but due to people being able to easily buy them at gas stations as well as the fact our shipping is somewhat cost-prohibitive due to the weight nobody ever buys.”

“More recently I did a blog post on the top pre-workouts for pregnant women,” Frigo continues. “This is my number one trafficked page but has never made a sale. I’m working on trying to get a specific pre-workout for pregnant women, currently, I’m just recommending standard pre0workouts that have a low enough caffeine content to be suitable.

I say this is a vanity metric because sure it sounds good to say my blog post gets 80k views per month but unless that page is converting into sales or at the very least getting me some email/SMS or push signups it’s pretty pointless.”

High traffic and impressions that don’t convert also bring another important question to the table: is your content reaching the right people – ones who are your target audience.

Related: Website Conversion Rate Optimization Tips: How to Optimize Conversion Rates with Low Traffic?

3. Email open rate

Another popular vanity metric is the email open rate that PeopleFinderFree’s Eden Cheng brings to the table.

Email open rate is that vanity metric, which you should stop measuring while assessing the success of your marketing campaign,” highlights Cheng.

“It is calculated as the number of emails opened divided by emails sent subtracted to the email bounce rate.”

Related: How to Reduce Your Email Bounce Rate: 9 Proven Tactics

“Open rate is a probable metric to identify your email’s subject line and timing effectiveness. However, various technical constraints are there as many email clients need to load pictures to count as open,” explains Cheng.

“On the contrary, various users have pictures turned off by default. Your average email open rate must be between 15-25%. As per this, your average click-through rate must be approx 2.5%. Improving email open rates can be done by writing insanely good content. Don’t get used to it; only tracking is necessary.”

4. Likes

“For the most part, Page Likes are just a sign of whether your brand is popular or not,” outlines Maciej Biegajewski from LiveWebinar.

Come to think of it, Likes are pretty much like social media follower count – more a window into how popular a brand is with no impact on conversion rate. To add, Likes can also be easily manipulated by buying them.

As Biegajewski puts it, “there’s no real advantage to having more than X because it doesn’t correspond with anything like the number of conversions, conversion rates, cost-per-conversion, etc.”

“In any case you want your page and advertising to be seen by as many people as possible so you’re better off spending on purchasing ads rather than increasing your likes per day – even prior to Facebook’s 2016 algorithm change that suppresses pages with too many likes automatically in favor of exposing users to new content from their networks.”

5. Blog post views

Finally, blog post views is another vanity metric to be aware of.

“Tracking blog post views is just measuring vanity,” Cocodoc’s Alina Clark observes. “Granted it shows the number of people who visited your post, but it shows nothing more.”

“Even with the numbers, blog post views are not actionable,” explains Clark, “They can help show the state of your reputation, but they can’t show you anything to improve on.”

The takeaway? Even if you’ve high blog post views, they don’t mean anything if they aren’t encouraging people to follow your call to action.

Related: Which Blog Posts Drive The Most CTA Clicks?

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Vanity metrics are everywhere – be it your business social accounts, email, or blog marketing channels. But that doesn’t mean you ignore them altogether. Look at them from time to time in your analysis. However, focus on improving marketing metrics that contribute to the bottom line. Or, at the very least, move the needle in its favor.

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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