What does no. 1 in digital marketing mean?

Written on 12 September, 2019 by Julia Hammond
Categories Marketing Tags actionable metrics content digital marketing measurables online marketing pay per click ppc search engine optimisation seo vanity metrics

A lot of us want our digital marketing efforts to ensure we reach the first spot on Google, or to help us build the most followers on Instagram. But what does no. 1 in digital marketing really mean? Is the first result on Google search really that different to the first page? Do hundreds of followers equal more sales? And will more clicks on your Google Ad bring greater ROI?

When setting goals for your marketing campaign it’s important to understand the difference between metrics that will help you measure success and ones that will look good on paper but do little to increase conversions.

Vanity metrics vs. actionable metrics

Vanity metrics are a type of measurable outcome which show increased popularity but typically have little effect on your user engagement and hence, your conversion rate. Actionable metrics, however, can be tied to increased engagement and therefore should bring in more conversions.

Let’s use influencer marketing as an example. Influencer marketing is a global multi-billion dollar industry where brands collaborate with popular social media users and bloggers to reach a new audience. Instagram is the most popular platform with 78% of influencers worldwide using this for their brand collaborations. The types of influencers range from micro-influencers with between 5,000 and 25,000 followers all the way up to macro-influencers who have between 1 and 7 million followers.

While many of us assume the more followers you have, the more influential you are, the number of followers does not directly relate to the amount of engagement. It’s estimated that an Instagram post will reach 25-35% of your followers, but only around 16.7% of that audience is truly valuable to brands. Once you eliminate users in countries other than your target locale and those who follow you but rarely engage with your content, you’re looking at only a small segment of users being engaged by posts. Therefore, looking at an influencers follower count alone is not enough to prove their accounts true reach.

In this scenario, the total number of followers would be a vanity metric as it is impressive to look at but isn’t equal to engagement. An actionable metric would be how many of your followers engaged with the post by liking, commenting or sharing. The actionable metric would be closer to 16.7% of your audience but this doesn’t mean it’s not useful. It means that measuring success should be less about the big, impressive numbers or reaching peak popularity and more about realistic engagement expectations.


What do vanity metrics look like for different channels?

Vanity metrics exist in all kinds of digital marketing campaigns, like SEO, PPC and even content. Here’s what vanity metrics might look like for these channels:


For an SEO campaign, an example of vanity metrics is total page views. By securing the number 1 spot on Google search you’re likely to receive the most page views. But, lots of views doesn’t automatically equal customer engagement. Bounce rate is a much more actionable metric as it shows you how many of those views turned into users visiting another page on your site. It tells you whether they were inspired to learn more or whether they left without the information required. You may be proud of your number 1 ranking in Google search, but it won’t help you convert customers if users leave the page without engaging further with your business.


Similar to SEO, content is regularly measured on how many views an article receives. Views are important but they’re only part of the story. Time spent on page and bounce rate are both more actionable metrics for content. How long a user spends on the page will give you more insight into whether they read your article, while bounce rate will tell you if the article incentivised them to click through to another page of your website.


When it comes to PPC you want every click to be worth the money spent on it. Even if you achieve a low cost per click and a high number of clicks; you need conversions to achieve a good ROI. So, instead of reporting on how many clicks an ad receives, track how many conversions. And instead of checking endlessly your cost per click, look into your cost per conversion. If you have a high number of conversions and a low cost per conversion, then you know that your ad is successfully pulling in users ready to purchase.

Why are vanity metrics used so often?

Despite the fact they can be misleading, vanity metrics are readily available on many analytics platforms. So, why are they so prominent and highly reported? The simple answer is, they’re the easiest metrics to track and explain. People with little marketing knowledge are able to find and understand vanity metrics quickly in their analytics platforms and often won’t think too much about whether they’re valuable measures of success. The problem is vanity metrics fluctuate easily and when you use them as your main measure of success, any fluctuations can be seen as failures. If your campaign is continuing to generate leads, even with lower vanity metrics, then it is working.

When are vanity metrics useful?

There are some instances where vanity metrics are a valuable measure of success. For example, if your marketing strategy is largely focused on increasing brand awareness then how many views you receive, how many followers you have or where you rank on Google can be valuable measurements. But they need to be taken with context. Do these measurements show growth on your previous performance? If you are growing month on month you can reasonably expect that brand awareness is growing and more users are finding your business.

It’s also important to remember that the buyer journey is long. It will take multiple interactions with your brand before a user is ready to purchase. Once you’ve noticed your brand awareness improving, you should begin tracking actionable metrics to measure engagement. With both vanity and actionable metrics in your reporting, you can properly assess whether your marketing strategy is increasing your audience reach and conversions.


Assess your marketing goals with Netregistry

Tracking the success of your marketing campaign is one of the most time-consuming and confusing parts, which is why vanity metrics are so popular. If you’re finding it hard to understand what counts as digital marketing success; let us explain it to you. Our team are experts in their field and can help you achieve your business goals with actionable metrics to back them up. Talk to our consultants about your business goals on 1300 638 734.

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