How to Avoid Reporting on Vanity Metrics

by B-New April 30, 2021
Actionable vs vanity metrics

Metrics and data are important components when it comes to creating a plan to move your business forward and reach your goals. Not using the right metrics can hold you back. Vanity metrics make it look like you are doing well but don’t give you any usable data. Understanding what vanity metrics are, how you can avoid them, and how to use actionable metrics instead will enable you to do so much more.

What are vanity metrics?

Vanity metrics show good numbers and make your business look good when shown to other people. However, they don’t give you any information that allows you to understand your business performance. They also really don’t help you make a plan to move forward. Vanity metrics will make it look like you are improving but they are not going to be useful in any kind of meaningful way.

Realistically, any metric can be turned into a vanity metric if it is presented a certain way. If you have a lot of registered accounts on your website that does seem good. However, using that number if you have a low number of active monthly users will be misleading. Not doing a proper analysis of numbers might lead to puffed up and meaningless data.

Luckily, there are many ways to identify vanity metrics in order to avoid them. If you are struggling to identify a vanity metric, you can ask if it will lead to an action you can take. If the answer is “no,” then it is probably a vanity metric.

Examples of vanity metrics

Let’s take the example of a landing page for a product that can be downloaded. Looking at page views won’t help you know how to move forward. Looking at the number of downloads will let you know if you need to change the structure or elements on the page.

Things like visitors to your site or page views can give you a vague idea of how many people see your website, but it doesn’t show you if they became a customer which is more helpful information. Likewise, it may seem like a good idea to know how long a user spent on your page, but in the end, it doesn’t matter how long they were there if they didn’t make a purchase.

Moving past vanity metrics

Always ask yourself if you can reproduce the results. A spike in page views is good in general. But if it was a random occurrence that you cannot reproduce, then it doesn’t do you any good. If you can not control the variables that produced the result, then you can not improve the process.

You should think about if the data you collected shows a truthful picture of overall trends. Digital analytics can sometimes be skewed to look like one thing, but be another thing instead. Honest reporting is the only way you are going to actually make progress in your business.

Usually, you can take a metric you are working with that is a vanity metric like page views or total customers and change it into something more refined. You can make it actionable by looking at direct traffic lift or spend per order to get a clearer view of your business.

Let’s have a look at more actionable metrics.

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What are actionable metrics?

In stark contrast to vanity metrics, actionable metrics help boost your business and give you a clear vision of where you are right now. They also show you how you can get to where you want to be in the future. Helpful metrics are going to lead to action in order to make the process of your business better. They are tasks and results that you can replicate and reproduce.

Examples of actionable metrics

Pageviews or a running number of customers isn’t going to help you much moving forward. There are some more actionable metrics you can track and analyze to help your business grow. Running an A/B test through Google Optimize for example will help you create a plan to convert new customers.

You can also calculate your ROI or return on investment to see if the money you are spending is helpful. You can see clearly the amount of money you spend and how much revenue is a direct result of that investment. This helps you tailor your plan to stop wasting money and put it where it can do the most good.

While it may seem like actionable metrics are harder to find and use, it doesn’t have to be that way. Looking at the engaged pageview for your website will let you know how users interact with your website. Video consumption metrics will also let you know if people watch the media you post on your website. The more engaged an audience is with your page, the more likely they will be to become a customer.

Form tracking is another good way of measuring customer engagement. It helps you analyze if there is a problem with any field and facilitate the user experience where needed.

You can measure engagement with a variety of tools like Contentsquare, Hotjar, Adobe’s activity map, or for form tracking Zuko Form analytics, to name a few.

Picking One Metric That Matters

Actionable metrics allow you to look at a business practice, analyze it, and then decide if you should move forward with it, change it, or let it go entirely. Reporting on vanity metrics muddies the water and makes it hard to see the path forward. Picking One Metric That Matters (OMTM) and not letting yourself get distracted is a great way to start. You may want to consider using the average order value, top-line revenue, or bottom-line revenue.

Lastly, while the cookie banner is likely to impact some metrics, it is mostly just the vanity metrics. A lot of users, especially the ones that are interested in your products or services, are going to ignore a cookie banner. This is good news because the important actionable metrics are not going to be as greatly impacted.


At B-New Digital we are dedicated to help you manage your metrics and analyze your business for success. We can help you with your technical marketing using our experience and expertise.

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