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Are There Any Bad Marketing Metrics?

Are there any bad marketing metrics? You already know the answer is yes, absolutely. The real question is how to identify good marketing metrics from bad.

First, let’s be clear that we are talking about metrics, not data.

Bad data is an entirely different story — like the clients we’ve seen with analytics racking snippets installed on their staging sites, effectively double-counting visits and and engagement. The visits to your website from your coding team aren’t moving the marketing needle … We’ll revisit the idea of bad data in a later article, but let’s get back to the metrics and telling good metrics from bad for now. It’s helpful to remember that we frequently talk about two different kinds of metrics — process metrics and business metrics.

Digital Marketing Process Metrics

Process metrics are those metrics that are about the marketing activity itself — friends, fans, likes and followers, for example. Or page views and unique visitors. These can be important metrics to keep track of, but they should be viewed with some skepticism — not because they aren’t of value, but because lazy marketers often rely on the to exclusion of business metrics, which are often much more difficult to come by.

Digital Marketing Business Metrics

Business metrics are typically one step removed from the marketing activity. Business metrics are those metrics related to business outcomes — lead quality, volume, sales closed, revenue generated and profit realized.

These can be more difficult to attribute to your marketing, which is why marketers are all to happy to rely on the more easily tracked process metrics. Log in to just about any digital marketing platform and you will have at your fingertips a firehose of data.

So clearly, one of these kinds of metrics is of greater value, but that doesn’t mean that process metrics should be ignored. They can tell you a lot about the health and direction of your marketing efforts.

Digital Marketing Metrics That Matter

Where we find problems is when we start talking about what are sometimes referred to as vanity metrics. I’m not sure there’s any official definition of vanity metrics, but we define them as metrics that make you feel good but don’t get you any actionable intel. So why aren’t friends, fans, likes, and followers vanity metrics? Well, sometimes they are. What’s critical is separating the wheat from the chaff. Set up your dashboards so you can easily pay attention to the metrics that will provide you with insights into the health of your digital marketing and are not distracted by the data points the don’t help paint a picture of what is and is not working.

Second, be sure you’re able to explain succinctly how the metrics you choose to use inform your digital marketing decision making. Your C-suite executives will demand this, and you’ll find it much easier to motivate your team, vendors, and partners, if they all understand what they are working toward.

Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured? A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms find a more strategic and productive mix of tools that genuinely support online brand goals over time. With a passion for true collaboration and meaningful consensus, his work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components. He views is primary goal as encouraging engagement. Getting an audience involved in your story requires solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either. Andrew has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events, on content marketing and web-development topics. His technology writing appears on the Andigo blog, in a monthly column on, and for print and online publications like The New York Enterprise Report, Social Media Today, and GSG Worldwide’s publications LinkedIn & Business, Facebook & Business, and Tweeting & Business. Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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