What’s a Vanity Metric? (And Why You Should Care)

The other day I was reading through posts in a private Facebook group for entrepreneurs. 

A woman who had launched her website recently was asking, “What is a good number of page views your first month?” 

You may have asked the same question as you try to build your audience. After all, if you want to build your audience, doesn’t that mean you want more page views? 

Yes and no. 





Of course you want more eyeballs on your site pages. But why? 

Page views don’t tell you how those eyeballs got to your site. And that means you won’t know whether your marketing has actually made a difference. If that number goes up or down each day, page views won’t tell you why. Maybe a baby grabbed his mom’s phone (believe me, it happens) and hit Refresh a 1,000 times. Maybe 1,000 babies each did that once. Either way, 1,000 babies aren’t going to get you any closer to your goal.  

In other words, a larger audience is not an end; it’s a means to an end. The end is to reach people who can really benefit from your services or products. 

Your “means” is not simply a larger audience; it’s got to be a larger audience of potential customers

So how do you measure if you’re creating a larger audience that can help you reach your goal? 

It won’t be from page views, as you know by now. Not only do page views tell you nothing about how someone arrived at your site, they also can’t tell you anything about what that viewer did—or didn’t do—next. 

Because of all this, page views qualify as a “vanity metric.” This metric, AKA measurement, doesn’t help you make decisions about what to keep doing and what to do differently in order to reach your potential customers. It just tells you that some people have come across your site. 

Here are 3 essential posts about vanity metrics, with some resources thrown in the middle if you’d like to start using actionable metrics: 

1. Vanity Metrics vs. Actionable Metrics : Eric Reis, the originator of the term vanity metric, breaks it down: “The only metrics that entrepreneurs should invest energy in collecting are those that help them make decisions.” So, how do you figure out which metrics are actionable? … The next post can help with that. 

2. Metrics, Metrics On The Wall, Who’s The Vainest Of Them All? A lot of info here, but the bottom line: 

“When some people pick the key metrics they want to track (also known as key performance indicators or KPIs), the first thing they do is log into Google Analytics and figure out what’s easily accessible. …

“Start from the opposite direction. Don’t even look at Google Analytics or any other tool. Start with your business. Pick 1-5 metrics that tell you how healthy your business is. This will include things like revenue, number of leads, account signups, and lifetime value.

“Figure out how to force your analytics tools to get you as close as possible to these metrics. If you have to import and merge data into Excel, do it.”

3. Once you take the advice above, you’ll probably find that you need to set up Goals in Google Analytics, if that’s the tool you’re using. Google Analytics has a useful tutorial for how to set up goals. (If you’re not using GA, start. It’s free! Click for SquareSpace or WordPress instructions for connecting GA.)

4. Finally, if you have time, read this story to understand the far-reaching impact of the misuse of vanity metrics. This story of this YouTuber may not seem directly relevant, but it is all about how an entire economy has sprung up around vanity metrics (like video views and clicks) that don’t really mean much. Something to think about. 

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