Vanity Metrics Vs Actionable Metrics

Vanity Metrics are the metrics that look good on paper, but don’t necessarily mean traction. Vanity metrics are those that you speak about in the boardroom if all else fails. VM’s include raw pageviews, likes and followers on Social Media, registered users and those on your mailing list. These numbers can easily be manipulated (you can buy traffic, followers and mailing lists – although I HIGHLY discourage this).

These metrics can indicate that your business is getting traction, however, there is so solid evidence that any of these people will become customers and ultimately, bring money into your business. If you only track your vanity metrics, you will give yourself a false sense of success when it’s Actionable Metrics that you should be worrying about.

“Vanity metrics are dangerous.”

~ Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup

Vanity Metrics do not allow you to make informed decisions about your business. You may have gotten 10,000 page hits in February, but do you know what caused them to come to your website or whether they took any actions? No, you don’t. It doesn’t show you what you did that caused this traffic increase, and chances are there were no increases in sales yet you still get a little excited about it. No, you mustn’t be blinded by these vanity metrics and you should pay attention to the actionable metrics.

Okay, but tell me about Actionable Metrics

Actionable metrics are the metrics that can be used in decisions to structure your strategy, something that is useful. They allow you to make decisions in your marketing (or in your web design) and actually grow your business. You cannot make a decision from getting 10,000 visitors in a month, but you can make an informed decision by using actionable metrics.

Vanity Metrics on Social Media include reach/impressions, follower count (or subscribers) yet you can’t actually do anything with these metrics. The amount of people who have signed up (converted) to your mailing this on the other hand, these are actionable as you can do something about it. You can reach out the these people on a more personal level compared to Social Media, and they have willingly given up data for you which shows a genuine interest in your product or service.

Using your website traffic as an example for instance. If you are testing out two different designs for your website and want to see which one converts the best, then you would send half of the traffic to one design and half to the other. This is called A/B testing. If you see an increase in conversions on one of the designs, then that would be an actionable metric that pretty much tells you what to do, use the highest performing design. A/B testing is a great way to get actionable metrics not only on your website, but also in email marketing too.

Per-customer metrics are also extremely useful as you can see how many pages the average visitor, new or returning, is viewing. This is usually a pretty consistent number, however, this can change if you have a new type of customer or perhaps you’re attracting the wrong kind of traffic if there are minimal views.

Some metrics you can track include sales numbers, conversion rates, bounce rates, customer satisfaction, customer retention and the amount of time spent on a site but the ones specific for your business can be different from these. Work out what goals you have for your business and where you want to go, then find the actionable metrics that will help you make decisions to reach this goal.

We all have the desire to look at vanity metrics and  feel like we’re doing well simply due to pageviews, however, these are not providing valuable insights into your business.