A poet once said, “it’s all about the benjamins, baby.”
I’m certain he was talking about content analytics.
In a previous life, I was concerned about the number of shares a blog post accrued, the number of comments it collected, and the general traffic it received. Yup, I was focused on vanity metrics. But as it turns out, vanity metrics don’t necessarily contribute to sales, and if my goal as a marketer is to be all about the benjamins, I had to find new metrics.
Vanity metrics vs. Actionable metrics
The metrics you track are determined by your goals. If your objective is to build a community around your blog and not necessarily to drive sales, then blog comments could be your most coveted metric. But if you’re selling a product or service, comments probably shouldn’t be your metric.
Our main goal is revenue, so we care about the leads (emails) collected and the accounts created after someone views our content. A Twitter follow is nice, but it doesn’t mean the person is on track to becoming a paying customer. That’s why we focus on emails. Once someone offers us their email address, we know they’re serious about our offerings.
Vanity metrics. You know, the metrics that allow you to give yourself a nice big pat on the back but if carefully examined, are exposed as misguided information.
- Shares – Did you know that most people don’t even read the content they share on social media? They see a catchy headline and share the crap out of it. Now, this metric could be a great measurement of your headline’s effectiveness, but it may not have any affect on your conversions.
- Time on page – I’ll admit to being a victim of this metric. My thought process was, “this page has a higher time than the other, so it must be more effective at driving sales because people are more engaged”– false. Time on page is only calculated (without customization) when someone visits your page and then visits another page on your site. If they bounce, their time is not added to your metric. Not to mention content length. Some of your shortest posts could be your best performers.
- Pageviews – It makes you feel good when you see your post getting a ton of traffic, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean your super popular post is converting anyone. We have a few high traffic posts on our site that are some of our lowest converting pieces. They have great SEO and they’ve been around for a while, but I would be surprised if they ever converted more than a handful of people over the years. They’re good for developing our brand as a ‘marketing authority’, but they don’t represent our best goal driven content. We have pieces with much lower traffic driving higher conversions.
Actionable metrics. How is this piece of content affecting your goals? The metrics you use should help you make actionable decisions about the direction of your content. If you base your decisions on shares, you’re entering into a guessing game of who’s a qualified lead. But if you use legit metrics, you’ll focus on what’s actually moving the needle.
- Leads – It’s been discussed a thousand times, but I’ll say it again. Emails. That’s how you shepard prospects down your buyer’s journey. How many people exchanged their email for your content piece? How many newsletter signups did you collect from that blog post? The number of leads you gather represents your potential conversions.
- Account creation – After reading your ebook did someone turn around and create an account on your platform? Success. Just be sure you don’t turn this into a vanity metric. People can create accounts all day, but if they quickly become dormant something’s not right.
- Pages per session – This is one of my go-to metrics for a quick check-in. If a content piece gains enough interest from the reader to cause them to continue poking around our site to view our other offerings, I consider that a success. Now, if we start following a visitor’s path and realize they’re clicking around because they’re lost, we have some work to do.
Actionable metrics should always be tied to your goals. If we can’t make the connection through leads or account creation, it’s probably not a metric we should trust.
Other pieces to track
Referral sources. Find the sites that are sending traffic your way. This will help you identify the audiences that like you, which can help fine tune your messaging to drive leads and account creation.
Is all of your traffic coming from social? You may want to beef up your strategy to recruit more organic traffic, too.
Maybe comments. As mentioned above, comments are a great indicator of a community. If that’s your goal, measure comments. For more ‘revenue based’ goals they may not be a great metric. A post with one comment could have the highest number of conversions.
Keywords. Stay on top of your keywords. Use Google Analytics to see which search terms people used to land on your site and then try to rank for them. I thought we had every combination of giveaway related search terms covered until I did some digging and found a few new gems to target.
Vanity metrics give us the warm fuzzies and make us think we’re geniuses. Unfortunately, it’s usually not the case. Redefine your metrics to focus on your business’s core goal – which more often than not, is all about the benjamins.