Digital Marketing KPIs: Sorting Vanity Metrics From Tangible Results

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When you think about things like page views, number of links, and domain ratings, then surely, it’s a case of the more the better, right? Well, yes and no.

Such metrics might appear shiny and impressive, but all that glitters isn’t always gold. Look a little deeper into these figures, and you’ll see that they can soon lose their lustre.

That’s because these metrics are vanity metrics. And while they might make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, they don’t provide a business with any real value.

To get to the bottom of what digital marketing KPIs you should and shouldn’t be focusing on, we’ll look at vanity metrics in more detail, including those which Banc tends to ignore in our clients’ digital marketing strategies.

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What is a KPI?

Before we go any further, let’s walk you through a brief primer on KPIs first. KPIs, or key performance indicators, are a quantifiable measure of performance over time for a specific objective.

Creating targets for your team to aim at? Providing milestones so you can gauge progress? Teasing out insights to make better business decisions? KPIs can help with all of these, supporting (and defining) your strategy so you and your team can focus on the juiciest parts of your digital performance.

KPIs are important for all sorts of different reasons. Not only can they measure project success or employee performance, keeping everyone aligned, but they also provide a peek into business health – whether that’s risk factors or financial indicators.

This means it’s easy to see what is and isn’t working, so you can tinker with things as much as you need to. And on an individual level, KPIs help employees track their progress and give them something to work towards.

team brainstorming

What are vanity metrics?

Vanity metrics are surface-level metrics. They might look good at first glance, but often have little in the way of real substance. While they aren’t entirely meaningless, they can’t help you understand your own performance in a way that informs future strategies.

By placing too much importance on vanity metrics, you can miss out on prioritising the things which, ultimately, will have a positive effect on both the business and its bottom line.

Let’s say you have a million Twitter followers. Anyone would say that’s a good look. But if those followers aren’t equating to sales of your products, then that same number starts to ring a little hollow.

A business wouldn’t be able to use such a metric to explain things like ROI or customer lifetime value. Ultimately, it’s a misleading figure that doesn’t prove your digital marketing is contributing anything worthwhile.

Vanity metrics vs actionable metrics

If vanity metrics represent a brief snapshot that’s free of context, then actionable metrics are chockful of context and information that you can use to make data-driven decisions about the business.

So, an example of an actionable metric would be revenue. In fact, since it’s measurable, actionable, and scalable, it’s one of the best metrics to track in general.

Let’s say you were testing two campaigns using the same amount of budget. By measuring the revenue generated by these two campaigns, you can see – without question – which one has been the most successful and why. 

From there, this would then give you an insight into how you can scale your marketing.

manager talking through plans in meeting

Which metrics do we measure?

Across our organic campaigns, there are certain metrics and KPIs that we value more than others, including:

Organic traffic growth: Generally, this tends to be most effective as a KPI if a top of the funnel strategy is the intent, i.e., you’re marketing to a wide audience to capture as many leads as possible. Where a bottom of the funnel strategy is concerned, growth is likely to be a little slower.
And while we do measure month-on-month changes in organic traffic, we find that year-on-year is a better indicator of success due to seasonality and changes in audience interest. We’ll opt for month-on-month at the beginning of a campaign when year-on-year isn’t possible.

User intent: What does a user intend or want to find when they Google something? Do they want to learn something? Are they looking for a specific product or service? Or are they searching for a specific website? When we create blog posts and articles, we determine what the user intent is and tailor the content to that intent.

Search visibility: Essentially, search visibility is the share of traffic that a website receives from its rankings in organic search results. To work this out, we take the rankings for our clients’ keywords, and then apply an estimated click-through-rate (CTR) based on each ranking position. We then add all these CTRs and divide them by the number of keywords being track in a specific campaign.
This gives us a single metric of 0% – 100% calculated to two decimal points. We want to avoid a search visibility score of 0%, since this means no pages rank in the top 50 of search engine results pages. A score of 100%, meanwhile, means that business owns all the ranking positions for its keywords. With that said, it’s typically very rare for a site to score above the mid-40s for non-branded keywords.

internet search bar
  • Keyword rankings: Keywords don’t live in a vacuum; it’s common for a keyword to move position on a weekly or monthly basis.  
    So, rather than identifying a ranking once and leaving it at that, we group our client’s keywords into topic clusters and then track the average performance, share of voice (the amount of a market’s total organic search traffic is going to your website), and potential volume across the cluster of topics.

Which metrics do we not measure?

On the vanity side of things, here are the metrics that we don’t measure across our clients’ campaign performance:

  • Domain authority/rating: A quick Google of “is Domain Authority important?” will throw up plenty of results that suggest it is, but it’s not something we place too much importance on. For one thing, a site’s DA differs from tool to tool. This means that it doesn’t provide a true reflection of actual organic performance.
  • Bounce rate: If there was ever an indication of bounce rate’s ineffectiveness, we can point to the fact that it’s about to become redundant in the next version of Google Analytics. A lot of our clients ask that we measure it, but it’s practically meaningless.

If a user goes to your site, enters a page, and finds what they’re looking for, it still technically counts as a bounce, even though strictly speaking they haven’t exited your site for any sort of negative reason. Not every visitor will convert first time, so it’s important to view these quick “hit and runs” as a touchpoint on the customer journey.

  • Average rank: Ranking on the first page for every one of your keywords might seem like a strong tactic, but really the average rank is meaningless. As you rank for more keywords, this figure may go down since you’re increasing your keyword share. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be on page one for everything.
business colleagues having a conversation
  • Yoast SEO bullet points: When it comes to creating a blog post or page, it’s easy to obsess over the Yoast SEO plugin’s green bullet points. These green lights suggest that these pages are perfectly optimised. However, it’s important to remember that it’s perfectly fine to get red bullet points in Yoast and still rank in Google.

By trying to get as many green bullets as possible, it’s possible to cheat your own SEO processes in doing so, which of course, is the opposite of what you want to achieve.

Looking for digital marketing that creates leads, increases site visits, and generates that all-important revenue? Head to our organic search page or give us a call on 0345 459 0558 and see what we’re all about.  

Avatar for Oliver Urwin
Oliver Urwin
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