A vanity metric looks good on paper and yields seemingly impressive results but doesn’t actually indicate anything related to revenue generation. The numbers vanity metrics capture tend to be high because they’re tracking things that happen in high quantities like page views and visits.
People like to equate high numbers with good results, but that’s not necessarily true. You have to look at vanity metrics on a scale. For example, 30,000 website visits might seem like a lot, but if the industry standard is 300,000, you’re not doing very well.
Marketers commonly place too much value on vanity metrics that don’t necessarily mean a lot in terms of revenue generation. Instead, these metrics are behavioral indicators. They could still be valuable to measure as KPIs toward other goals not related directly to revenue, but, for example, a Facebook “like” on its own can’t tell you whether or not you’ve generated a customer because it’s pretty far away from the closing of a deal.
Here are five vanity metrics that you shouldn’t be focusing on in isolation:
1. Bounce Rate
Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that immediately bounce, a term that simply means to leave a website. Bounces consist of people coming to your site, looking at one page and then leaving, which causes a session duration of zero since there are no subsequent page visits.
Bounce rate is an indicator that your website doesn’t contain the content the visitors are actually looking for. This could mean you’re ranking organically for a keyword irrelevant to the content actually on the page or you’re targeting people with an ad who aren’t a good fit.
Bounce rate isn’t going to make or break anything. It’s important to know how relevant your page is to the people who are being driven to it, but if you have a high bounce rate and your other metrics are fine — in other words, if you’re converting leads at a rate that meets your goal — then you don’t need to worry about it.
You could be unintentionally ranking for a keyword that isn’t relevant and getting unqualified visitors who’ll bounce. Even if you’re effectively reaching the right audiences, by indirectly reaching other people, you’re going to have a high bounce rate. However, you’re still doing what you need to do to convert qualified leads, so you don’t need to stress about bounce rate.
Conversely, if you have a really low bounce rate compared to your industry standard, but site visitors aren’t converting, then the low bounce rate doesn’t really contribute to your overall goal and isn’t that valuable.
For ads and social posts, impressions are the number of times someone could have seen your content.
In the context of social media, it means your content was in the news feed as someone was scrolling through Facebook, but it doesn’t tell you if they scrolled past it super fast or even looked at it at all. The same goes for ads. Impressions measure the number of people who were served the ad but doesn’t indicate how many people engaged with it.
If you want to figure out the engagement rate of your content, impressions can be used as the overall population, so you can divide the number of engagements by the number of impressions. That can help you understand how effective your content is, but is frequently pre-calculated for you.
Impressions by themselves can also gauge if your reach is changing as you tweak your ads, but that only impacts revenue if conversions and interactions also change.
3. Likes, Shares and Reactions
These social media interactions are valuable, but not for generating revenue. You can see the number of people who “liked” your content on social media, but that number doesn’t necessarily match up with the number of people who liked your content enough to convert and become a customer.
Paying too much attention to social media engagement can artificially skew your perception of how people interact with your content. You might be getting a lot of likes, but those people could like it without even consuming it. Likes don’t even tell you how many people truly engaged with your content.
Social media engagement metrics are useful for enabling organic reach. The more interactions a post gets on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin, the more organic reach it’s going to get because those platforms’ algorithms favor engagement.
4. Email Open Rate
Open rate is commonly looked at as a primary performance indicator of email efforts, but all open rates can really tell you is how effective your subject lines and preview text are.
The only two things people can see before opening your emails are the subject line and preview text, so looking at the open rate as a holistic measurement of email success isn’t accurate.
Low open rates can be used to tell if you’re targeting the wrong people or have weak subject lines, but don’t indicate anything about the body content of your email.
Examining click-through rates in relation to open rates is a much more effective metric of your email marketing success since it takes the body content into account too.
5. Scroll Rate
Scroll rate measures the amount a visitor scrolls on a page. It’s relevant for site design and architecture and can be useful for people trying to design an engaging website. However, in the context of marketing, scroll rate doesn’t tell you how effective the page content is or whether it’s helping you drive revenue.
Scroll rate should be examined in relation to the location of conversion points on a page. If your main call-to-action is at the bottom of your page and people aren’t scrolling that far, you need to move it so it can be seen. You can’t effectively measure how a piece of content is converting if people are never seeing that content to begin with.
If you’re looking at the effectiveness of your web design and whether the content is formatted in a way that’s encouraging people to scroll all the way through and consume all of it, then scroll rate is a good metric to look at, but it doesn’t indicate whether or not your site is generating customers.
All these vanity metrics are high-level behavioral metrics that help you understand what actions audiences are taking with your content, but they don’t gauge how effective your marketing is due to the distance between the actions they measure and revenue generation.
They’re still important to measure — you just need to put them in context when measuring them. You shouldn’t weigh a BOFU conversion equal to a Facebook like, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be tracking that Facebook like at all.
A Facebook like could lead to a website visit, which could lead to a conversion, which could lead to a conversation with sales, which could ultimately lead to a deal.