Photo: Carlos Muza

Photo: Carlos Muza

In the words of Whodini … friends, how many of us have them. Now, replace the word friends, with KPI’s. Doesn’t have the same ring to it but these are the references you get when I’m writing and listening to backspin. Back to the story. When it comes to online marketing, there are some indicators (The I in KPIs) that are really nothing more than vanity metrics. Sure, they can make the organization feel successful, but the data generated isn’t actionable. Since vanity metrics can be easily manipulated, you do not want to focus on vanity metrics.

Your Vanity Metrics Cheat Sheet

Identifying vanity metrics will be easier than deciphering some vanity license plates with this helpful list.

#1 Unique Site Visits

This very common metric indicates that a web page or website is popular. But does it tell you anything about what individuals are doing on the site? Without knowing what they see, click on, and act upon or where they came from, you’re not getting actionable insight into the site success.

#2 Number of Hits/Page Views

Tracking hits or views doesn’t actually tell you anything useful. Maybe a frustrated user is looking for something particular on your site and keeps clicking on things to find the right solution (at least you’d be lucky enough they are sticking with your site). Page views is better than number of hits, yes, but this information needs to be contextualized with information about time spent or actions taken. Ultimately, it’s not just about the number, but about the behavior that accompanies the number.


Without any accompanying data for this metric, all you know is that a user downloaded your gated content. There is so much more you could know:

  • Did they use it?
  • Did they share it?
  • Did they find it useful?
  • What did they do next?
  • Did they follow up with sales after reading it?
  • What brought them to the download in the first place?


It’s very rewarding to have thousands of followers. But think about a teenager on Facebook with 1,617 friends. Would you believe that individual actually interacts, let alone meaningfully engages, with even 117 of those “friends”? Not likely.

So, why would it be any different for an organization with 10,000 followers? If those followers aren’t real people who are interested in the business and its content then this is mere vanity.

#5 Time on Site or Page

If you have ever been on a website and then turned away to join a conversation about Power then you know why this one doesn’t matter much. You might be sucked into ten minutes of conversation about Ghost or Kanan before turning back to view the site again. An organization that is on the other end applauding itself on its keeping your interest for those five minutes is misled.

Again, time spent means little taken as a solo metric. This needs to be considered in conjunction with other details such as what actions the individual takes on the site or what they do next.

Focus on Metrics that Matter

These vanity metrics don’t necessarily correlate to what really matters for an organization. Organizations should focus instead on metrics that can guide action. What are some of the important ones? I’ll address that in the next article!