Vanity Metrics: What Are They and How to Address Them

KPIs are everything when it comes to measuring business growth and campaign performance, but not all metrics live up to the hype. Here’s what you need to know about vanity metrics and how to address them.

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It goes without saying: In digital marketing, metrics matter. They’re how you track, measure, and assess the ongoing success of your marketing strategies. They’re also what you refer to when brainstorming future campaigns.

But some metrics merely make you feel like you’re winning from a marketing standpoint without actually meaning much in practice. They’re called vanity metrics, and knowing how to tell them from true KPIs is crucial.

    What Are Vanity Metrics?

    Vanity metrics are metrics that appear to signify performance but don’t truly correlate to the actual function of a brand. Social media, in particular, comes attached to many key examples, including likes, comments, and follower count.

    Most businesses are at least somewhat prone to over-prioritizing vanity metrics. They’re easy to get and can grow quickly. And they naturally boost your confidence in your brand’s trajectory. However, it’s key to remember they aren’t really reflective of the quality of your work.

    Examples of Vanity Metrics

    Not sure which metrics count as vanity metrics or why? And which KPI is most likely to be a vanity metric, anyway? Here are some common examples to keep in mind.

    1. Unique Visitors: While it may seem crucial because it represents the number of people visiting your site, it can be misleading. Unique visitors don’t reveal much about the quality of their engagement or whether they’re genuinely interested in your products or services. It’s more about quantity than quality.
    2. Social Media Followers: A growing follower count can make you feel like your brand is gaining popularity. However, many of these followers may be passive or unengaged, and their presence doesn’t guarantee conversions or sales. It’s about the appearance of influence rather than real impact.
    3. Social Media Shares: The assumption that widely shared content is inherently good can be misleading. Shares might indicate that people found the content interesting, but they don’t necessarily translate into tangible results like increased sales or improved brand image. It’s often about virality without substantial value.
    4. Email/Newsletter Subscribers: Building a substantial subscriber list is essential, but the true worth lies in the engagement and conversion rates of these subscribers. Mere numbers don’t reveal whether your email campaigns effectively convert subscribers into paying customers. Vanity metrics here focus on quantity over the quality of leads and conversions.

    How To Recognize and Avoid Falling for Vanity Metrics

    Vanity metrics KPIs do have their uses in digital marketing. But on their own, they lack crucial context. That said, it’s important to be able to identify them and avoid assigning too much importance to yours. Here are some actionable tips to keep in mind.

    Define key objectives

    Each new marketing campaign or strategy should start with clearly identifying what you want to accomplish. Do you want to drive sales, improve lead quality, boost brand recognition, or something else? Choose metrics that speak directly to your goal.

    Separate actionable metrics from vanity metrics

    When determining whether a particular metric is a vanity metric, ask yourself a question. Does it directly show how your marketing strategy is affecting your bottom line?

    For example, let’s say your goal is to boost sales numbers. A metric like acquisition cost would be actionable and directly related, while an alternative like social media shares would not.

    Keep track of your competitors

    One highly effective way to ensure you’re watching the right marketing metrics is to keep an eye on recognized industry benchmarks and what your competition is up to.

    What are other successful brands in your industry doing to track progress and measure results? How do your numbers stack up to theirs? Use comparisons like these to set realistic goals and identify new and emerging marketing opportunities.

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    Keep experimenting

    Selecting the right set of metrics to track isn’t something you do only once. Track your results and keep doing what’s working for sure, but don’t be afraid to experiment, as well.

    And know when social media metrics commonly classified as vanity metrics — like follower count or shares — might be relevant within a context, as with an influencer marketing or brand recognition campaign.

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    Identifying True Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

    So, what’s the difference between a metric and a KPI?

    In essence, a metric is a quantitative measure of various business processes and brand activities. On the other hand, a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a specific metric that directly assesses performance in relation to a company’s overarching goals and objectives.

    So, while all KPIs are metrics, not all metrics are necessarily KPIs. KPIs are a subset of metrics chosen for their significance in evaluating and guiding the achievement of broader business objectives. The distinction lies in the strategic importance of KPIs in driving organizational success.

    You can better align your KPIs with your ongoing goals by:

    • Selecting KPIs that align with your larger strategy
    • Ensuring your ongoing marketing efforts are trackable and measurable
    • Defining KPIs correctly and ensuring they’re fully quantifiable
    • Attaching KPIs to clear strategy objectives
    • Setting SMART goals to make avoiding vanity metrics easier

    By learning to identify and leverage real KPIs, you’ll join some of today’s most important global brands in business. Examples include (but are not limited to) Apple, HubSpot, Adobe, and Amazon.

    Content-Driven Strategies To Avoid Vanity Metrics

    Content is more than just an important part of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. It plays a valuable role in driving and assessing landing page metrics, brand loyalty, and so much more.

    High-quality, relevant content helps facilitate genuine marketing performance by creating genuine, lasting connections with consumers. It inspires brand loyalty and repeat business by building trust, adequately addressing pain points, and helping people solve real-world problems — choices that will inspire your customers to follow you anywhere.

    Leverage your content strategy to create meaningful engagement with customers by:

    • Setting a content creation schedule and sticking to it
    • Offering a variety of content types, including video, images, and infographics
    • Building a team of experienced writers via a trusted platform like WriterAccess to help you scale content production efficiently
    • Creating content for consumers at every point along their personal buyer’s journey


    Creating a stellar marketing strategy is only partly about great ideas and innovation. You need to accurately measure progress, and that’s all about focusing on real KPIs over vanity metrics.

    Start creating dynamic, unforgettable content that drives your chosen KPIs when you sign up for your free 14-day WriterAccess trial today! Your bottom line will show its appreciation.


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