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August 2022

Mirror mirror on the wall: let’s rid your marketing of vanity metrics once and for all

We’ve all heard the quotes about “such and such is vanity, the other thing is sanity, and this last doo-da is reality”, right? The whole vanity/sanity/reality paradigm has been applied time and time again in many different ways.

If it’s so well known though, why do so many businesses and their marketers still stick with the vain, the insane and the detached from reality when it comes to measuring and understanding how their marketing is performing?

Without context (or knowing what questions they should really be asking) some CEOs, managers and leadership teams may be wowed by your 260% increase in website visitors month on month, for example. It sounds a great one for bragging rights, and for the aspiring Ron Burgundy’s of the marketing world you’ll look like kind of a big deal. But, if 100% of those new site visitors immediately bounce back off the website because it’s irrelevant to them, then not such a big deal, right?

So, in this blog, we’ll give you the low down on what a vanity metric is, why they could actually be harming your future marketing performance, and a quick skim over some of the metrics you should actually care about. Here goes…


The shortest explanation of a vanity metric is a stat that makes your marketing look good, but that doesn’t add any real value to your business.

For example, the number of likes on a social post. It’s a common vanity metric too often focused on as a KPI by marketing teams. We shared an interesting report from HBR recently, which talked about the minefield of social media engagement and the real value of ‘likes’. Ultimately, the conclusion was that likes in themselves provide NO tangible value to a business, and don’t indicate any greater likelihood of customer conversion.


Here’s a few more example of vanity metrics. I bet a few of these have slipped into your monthly marketing reports at some point:

  • Social Media – Follower numbers, Likes on posts, Comments on posts, Shares on posts
  • Website – Total Site Visitors, Page Views
  • Newsletter – Number of Subscribers

Now, if all of these new followers are potential brand advocates, prospects or customers, then bravo. Give yourself a pat on the back and treat yourself to a scotch and a new leather-bound book.

But I’ll bet if you did some digging they’re not…



Not only are vanity metrics useless, they could be harming your future marketing efforts.

Now, we’re not trying to take away from the serotonin buzz you get when loads of people like your latest LinkedIn post. We’re just trying to make you air on the side of caution if likes and follows are measures you’re using to inform your future campaigns.

Let us explain with an example…

You’ve invested energy / budget / hours of time into your latest social media campaigns. It’s nice to be able to share some positive results. You proudly tell your CEO that you’ve gained 400 followers from the last campaign and likes have soared 200% compared to last quarter.

Now, obviously something has worked here, but has it resulted in any actual ROI for your business?

Have you generated any tangible engagement, and by tangible we mean anything you can act on… like comments from potential prospects or interactions with existing customers and have these activities led to any MQLs (either now or in the future)?

SIDE NOTE: This is all a case of ensuring you’ve got proper attribution tools and models in place. Check out our blog about that here.

If you build future campaigns as carbon copies of those that performed well (from a vanity metrics-only POV) you could end up in a cycle of marketing that on the surface looks good, but in the end delivers no revenue generating value to your business.

You’ll eventually get caught out and have to answer some difficult questions about why you’ve been repeating the same sorts of activities that aren’t delivering results.

(Remember, the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different outcome.)



So you’re now convinced that vanity metrics aren’t doing you any favours and you want to work a bit smarter. Good to have you here.



If you’re choosing this path (the right one) then here’s a small example of some stats you should be tracking to give you real, useful insights on your campaigns’ performance over time…

  • Social Media – Relevant comments on Posts, Relevant Shares, Direct InMails / Connections as a result of said post(s), Traffic driven to site or conversion from posts
  • Website – Use Google Analytics Goal Tracking to assess how many people are moving through your site in the way you wish them too. Keep an eye out for a falling Bounce Rate, increased number of Pages per Session, increased Contacts / Enquiries through the website, a bump up in Blog shares from the website…
  • Newsletter – Clicks through to website, % of unsubscribes, % of opens, click to open rate (all A/B tested by subject line), email forwards and new suibscribers from forwards…

There are so many important stats that you should and could be using to improve your marketing performance which will also  help you learn valuable lessons from every campaign. But you’ll only improve and learn anything worthwhile if you actually look at the stats that matter.

If you want some help with getting your head around metrics, refreshing your approach to marketing to drive some real results, or want to get a bit more creative, then we’re here for you.