3 vanity KPIs tech marketers must stop obsessing over

In this age of “big data,” marketing metrics can be both a blessing and a curse.

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In a 2015 survey, 73 percent of marketers said they hoped to use data to better identify and target specific customers, with 71 percent saying they were doing just that. Meanwhile, of the 75 percent of marketers saying they wanted to use data to grow revenue, only one-third had reported success.

Translation: the abundance of data at our fingertips is helping us achieve short-term goals, but, more often than not, fails to move the needles that really matter.

In order to avoid the tail wagging the dog, you need to choose key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with your business objectives and truly measure your progress. Here are three overrated site metrics that blind many tech marketers and the KPIs you should be focusing on instead.

1. Keyword rankings

Keyword rankings may have been an accurate public scoreboard for your website five years ago, but it’s a bit more complicated now, thanks to continuous algorithm improvements and search engine results page (SERP) format overhauls. With direct answer boxes, new ad formats and local listings, it can be hard to even define what the #1 result is anymore. Page rankings can vary drastically based on a number of factors such as the device you're using, where you're located, and your recent searches – making it difficult to pin down how your page will rank for the full spectrum of website visitors.

That's not to say that rankings aren't important – because they are. You just don't need to worry about ranking #1 on Google for every last keyword that pertains to your business. Nowadays, it’s more important that your website presents relevant content and maintains a high domain authority, so it can attract qualified leads despite these variables. How do you know if your site is successful in doing this? The easiest way is to track the number of leads being generated by your website’s “Contact us” form. Even better: automatically transmit this data to your CRM and implement a lead scoring program to ensure you’re appealing to the right people.

2. Impressions and clicks

Click through rate (CTR) is a common metric for email newsletters, social media posts and paid ad campaigns. And while CTR can be a signal that your content is resonating with your audience, it is less than half the story. With the inundation of information thrown at us every day, a click can be a relatively passive – sometimes, even accidental – action. The context is lost to us, which is why we need to focus on what happens after the click. After entering the site, are visitors taking the time to explore different pages and conduct their own research? (Google Analytics and heat mapping tools like Crazy Egg can help you investigate.) If you are serving up a piece of content in your link, are readers actually filling out the form to download the file? If the answers to these questions is "no," then chances are you haven’t made much of an impression after all.

3. Quantity of blog posts

There are a lot of marketers drinking the blogging Kool-Aid these days, thinking they need to push out a blog every week, or even every day. I’m not going to say that’s wrong for every business, but it’s certainly not a requirement for all. There are many ways a blog can support your SEO efforts, but simply fulfilling an arbitrary number of posts in a given timeframe isn’t one of them.

It’s going to take a bit of experimentation to determine the type – and frequency – of content your target audience will respond to. An initial metric to track is obviously views, but as with CTR, this is to be taken with a grain of salt. An increase in views is an indication that your content is gaining traction with readers, which certainly helps them move through the marketing funnel. However, conversion rate is really the only clear-cut measure of success. Think interaction with website CTAs and new subscribers to your newsletter. This is clear evidence that the reader sees value in what you have to say and wants to learn more about your product or service.

Conclusion

With tools like Google Analytics making it easier than ever to pull back the curtain on website activity, analysis paralysis is running rampant. Before you drown in a sea of real-time statistics, take a step back to focus on strategy. If your company is in growth mode, then you need to be focused on ramping up the number of customers, the number of transactions per customer, the average transaction size – or increase your price. If you search for your company’s bread-and-butter service on Google and it’s shot up from number 7 to number 2 in your personal search results, is this an indicator that your company is growing? Of course not.

Focus on the data that matter. Before honing in on a given KPI, ask yourself if the information helps to answer the question, “Are we meeting our goals?” Conversion rates, lead volume, customer lifetime value – these are metrics that should be on your radar. Consider everything else to be breadcrumbs that, rather than serving as feigned measures of success, can be used to get to know your customers and tell the full story of your marketing efforts.

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