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Reports are a great source of material for marketing decisions. When well done, they (and metrics) enable incremental growth and provide insights for improving a project, advising what you need to keep doing and what you should stop right away. Nonetheless, reports analysis requires readers to have a sharp eye and be attentive to what we designate as vanity metrics.
By definition, vanity metrics are metrics that give a professional and aesthetics look to your report, but are actually not entirely relevant for your business or for the goal you set. Hubspot says that they “don’t move the needle for your business goals”; and Crazy Egg describes them as metrics that make you ”feel good without telling anything about the business.”
Different approaches are explored in these two definitions. According to the first, metrics are not relevant if they are not aligned with your goals and do not contribute to your business. On the second approach, vanity metrics become vain due to their lack of a reason to explain why they increased or decreased.
Some companies are keen to judge metrics, such as page views, video views and the number of followers, as unimportant. Though I would not set them as the most valuable ones, I believe that they can still matter depending on the campaign goal. They definitely must not take a central place in a report or be used as success metrics, but it is good to keep an eye on them and see if they can convey you more insights.
In other words, if you see a traffic peak, don’t report the traffic peak itself. Search for the why instead, and see if it was beneficial. In the process, you’ll understand:
- 1) how to create another pinnacle if you need to do it again;
- 2) what can be done differently so that it contributes to one of your goals.
Which ones are vanity metrics, and which ones aren’t?
The answer depends on your campaign or goal. In doubt, always look for rates. Why do so? Because typically, these are the metrics that show you some sort of interaction – which means that users were interested enough to interact.
The rules apply to awareness campaigns. If you’re running a video campaign, check for the video view rates and make sure you look into the average time the user saw the video. If you’re into social media, the engagement rate is usually a good indicator. As for website and content managers, they should check bounce rates, and ads managers must pay attention to conversion rates – which ultimately is the most important metric of them all.
The metrics that should be disregard and are typically considered as vanity metrics are the ones that are easily obtained and don’t require a much relevant interaction. For a list of metrics to consider, check this Tableau article.
Comprehensive reports over data reports
If you work on a business-related area, you likely either do or receive a report, regardless of their regularity.
As a report reader, I often find myself looking at data without having access to the full picture and, in that context, numbers are just numbers. To avoid that, lately, I have noticed that comprehensive reports are typically more beneficial than data reports.
Unlike the latter, the first introduce insights on why things happen in such a way, filling the gap between actions taken and the results. These reports tend to be helpful from an operational standpoint and lead to continuous growth.
If you are interested in easy, comprehensive reports, I would recommend checking Narrative Science. I wouldn’t use it as a substitute for a marketing analyst, but sure it can be of substantial help.
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