What is a Vanity Metric?
Metrics, in the context of website analytics, are measurements that can help highlight how your business is performing online and whether it's achieving it's goals. Many people however, focus too heavily on metrics that look good, rather than on the ones that highlight whether business really is good. These so-called 'vanity metrics' can look impressive, but by themselves they are often not a clear indication of success. For example, your brand may have thousands of followers and likes on social media, or your website might receive a significant amount of traffic, but those metrics don't necessarily mean your online goals (e.g. a sale, an enquiry, a download) are being achieved.
As alluring as vanity metrics are, they can easily lead you down the wrong path if you focus on them too much. Another example might be that when reviewing your website traffic, you notice a spike in visitors for a couple of days, which coincided with a change you made to the website and leads you believe whatever you did is working. So, you do more of the same, but this time it doesn't appear to work. By focusing too heavily on a vanity metric like your overall site traffic, you may have missed the actual cause of the initial spike in visitors, which could have been something out of your control, such as someone sharing a link on social media or an influencer giving you a mention.
For each vanity metric, there is usually an actionable metric that coincides with it, meaning you can translate those nice numbers into something trackable, that you can analyse and work on to dig deeper into how your website is performing. An example of this could be that you notice a certain page of your website receiving a lot of views - the page views are the vanity metric in this context; the actionable metric you could compliment this with would be to then measure the number of visitors actually fulfilling a speific goal on that page (e.g. clicking an 'Add to basket' button or signing up to a newsletter). Vanity metrics are still valuable and worth monitoring to get a general overview of how things are going, but actionable metrics are more important when it comes to obtaining a better assessment of website performance.
Taking the time to research different metrics and how they affect your business can take some work, but once you find out which ones are key for your business, it will be easier to keep track of what users are doing, what they're not doing, and how to increase your conversion rates.