Vanity Metrics Verses Actionable Numbers


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Here’s a scary question not many companies will fess up to: Will gut feelings or hard and fast numbers drive next year’s marketing budget? Today a company’s marketing machine is more complicated than dumping 5,000 presorted postcards off at the post office. John Wanamaker, a local shop owner and mid 18th century entrepreneur, is attributed as saying, “half his advertising was wasted he just didn’t know which half.” The challenge for companies nowadays is that Mr. Wanamaker’s advertising budget may have been in the hundreds of dollars while now businesses spend thousands or millions.

In this offering let’s look at the basic metrics (vanity metrics) and those numbers (actionable numbers) that matter most when looking at the visitor traffic to websites. Some folks out there are touting website numbers that matter little and do less to increase the company’s bottom line. Does it really matter that the number of website visitors is increasing each month if the business’ conversion rate remains flat month after month?

Vanity Metrics

To use a fishing analogy, think of a fisherman standing lakeside as the sun begins its decline for the evening. Seeing fish breaking the water’s surface, the fisherman thinks: How many fish are in this pond? How big are they? Where’s the best place to cast a line? And what type of bait will work best? All variations of questions company marketers ask themselves each time they launch a new campaign to generate opportunities and leads.

We all need to know the basic website numbers before moving onto the ones that tell the real story. Having a good grasp of the numbers quoted most often when talking about Google Analytics helps build the foundation necessary in order to drill down into the data and really understand how prospects and customers view, interact and engage the company website.

The illustration shown here is a partial clip of the Google Analytic dashboard. It gives the ten thousand foot view of what’s happening in regards to visitor actions.


To lessen any confusion, Google’s exact wording was used in describing the following definitions.

  • Visits – The number of visits to your site.
  • Unique Visits – The number of unduplicated (counted only once) visitors to your website over the course of a specified time period.
  • Pageviews – The total number of pages viewed. Repeated views of a single page are counted.
  • Pages / Visit – The average number of pages viewed during a visit to your site. Repeated views of a single page are counted.
  • Avg. Visit Duration – The average time duration of a session.
  • Bounce Rate – The percentage of single-page visits (i.e. visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page).
  • % New Visits – An estimate of the percentage of first time visits.

By the numbers above, we can see that 25,332 people stopped by the website for the first time. The average duration a person stayed on the site was almost 4 minutes. Good numbers at first glance. It’s good that the average visitor stayed on the site for 4 minutes. But what were they looking at? Were they making a purchasing decision on their own? Now let’s look at some tougher questions.

Are traffic sources being leveraged, keywords being exploited, value being delivered, education taking place, campaigns doing their job, prospects moving down the sales funnel? The answers to these questions are undoubtedly more valuable to the company’s bottom line than statements like: Gee-whiz, we just had our one-millionth visitor to the website.

Let’s shine some light on numbers that will tell us more about whether opportunities and leads are being generated.

Actionable Numbers

  • Traffic Sources – Every referral to a web site has an origin, or source. Possible sources include: “Google” (the name of a search engine), “” (the name of a referring site), “spring newsletter” (the name of one of your newsletters), and “direct” (visits from people who typed your URL directly into their browser, or who had bookmarked your site).
  • Keywords – The keywords that visitors searched are usually captured in the case of search engine referrals. This is true for both organic and paid search.
  • Referrals – The information in this report lets you see which domains (and pages in those domains) are referring traffic to your site, how much traffic they’re referring, which landing pages are the most popular referral destinations, and the extent to which those referred visitors interact with your site.
  • Campaigns – When you’re paying for campaigns (AdWords and other types), you want to know how well they’re working: how many visitors they’re bringing in, how much money those visitors are spending.
  • Site Content – The Site Content > Pages report shows how frequently each page on your site was viewed. Look for high bounce rates on the Landing Pages report to identify landing pages that need to be rewritten or redesigned to be more effective. Remember the content has to be compelling, timely, relevant and useful.
  • Events – Events are user interactions with content that can be tracked independently from a web page or a screen load. Downloads, mobile ad clicks, gadgets, Flash elements, AJAX embedded elements, and video plays are all examples of actions you might want to track as Events.

As we can see the basic metrics for a website begin to build a foundation of what’s taking place, but the actionable numbers are where the real investigation needs to take place.

Make sure to match the website goals with actionable numbers that will propel the site to a lead generation monster.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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