Kiss Those Vanity Metrics Goodbye!

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In preparation for our Google Analytics 101 Webinar this Wednesday at 3pm EDT with Tweaky (sign up here for free- space is limited!) we’re supplying a basic analytics-focused guest post to wet your whistle- courtesy of Ivan Lim, Tweaky’s head of marketing. 

There is a timeless saying in business circles that “Less is More”. De-cluttering your website, simplifying your messaging and getting focused in your marketing are all things we’re eager to applaud.

Unfortunately in the digital age we don’t quite remember the importance of Less is More especially when it comes to web analytics.

Wait, what?

Isn’t the point of working online that fact that we now have access to loads more data about everything from visitor numbers through to Facebook fans and impression counts?

Isn’t more data better than less?

Well, no. While some business owners get excited about having data, about almost anything, it usually doesn’t result in better decision making. Instead businesses with too much data usually end up distracted with vanity metrics that don’t help them improve.

Vanity Metrics vs. Actionable Metrics

Vanity metrics are any numbers that are heavy on the feel good factor but light on actionable insight.

These may look good, but it doesn’t add value to your business. The rule of web analytics is simple: Don’t measure everything, but instead… Measure What Matters Most.

Great examples of vanity metrics are number of website visits, bounce rates etc.

Actionable metrics, on the other hand, are stats that help you improve specific business goals. If a metric isn’t actionable and you can’t do anything to improve it, why are you still tracking it?

Some examples:

Let me just put it out there: The number of fans / followers you have on places like Facebook and Twitter mean little, if anything, unless they convert into engaged fans or actual customers.

While lots of business love to brag about their Facebook fan count what does it actually mean? Does that number indicate how engaged fans are with your brand? Does it tell you how many of these fans have since become customers?

The same applies to Google Analytics and focusing entirely on traffic numbers. Lots of businesses love to talk about how many people are hitting their website every month. Again, it’s a nice number but what does it mean?

Does the number tell you how many of those visitors converted into paying customers? Does it tell you where that traffic is coming from or what your most valuable marketing channel is?

Asking yourself the right questions and getting better insight.

1. Where are my visitors coming from?

Like we mentioned above, it’s great having lots of traffic but you need to know who is sending you that traffic. Are most of your visitors coming through Google or from Facebook? Is a popular blog or website sending you lots of traffic or is that Adwords campaign you just launched doing really well?

Knowing where your highest sources of traffic are coming from will help you to priories your marketing. If Google is sending lots of traffic consider investing into SEO. On the flipside if you’re spending lots of time posting regularly to your Facebook page but getting very few visitors then consider changing your social strategy.

To start identifying your best traffic sources, jump into Google Analytics and click on traffic sources > sources > all traffic. That will give you a good high level of overview to start identifying your best and worst marketing channels.

All Traffic Report - Google Analytics (1)

2. Is my website converting?

Another great question to ask yourself is how well your website is converting. A conversion could be anything from a purchase (for Ecommerce stores) through to a newsletter sign up or contact form submission if you’re running a blog or brochure website. For example, an online store may have 10,000 visitors a month but only convert 0.5% into purchases. Now that they know how poorly they are converting they can make improvements like simplifying the checkout process or adding more information on delivery times to boost conversions. If conversions increased from 0.5% to 2% they would make more money without increasing traffic.

Start setting up goals in your Google Analytics account to measure any key event on your site. Here is an overview of the different Google Analytics goals you can create.

Goal Creation - Google Analytics (2)-1

3. Which content is the most popular?

If you’ve got a blog on your site and are regularly producing new content you’ll want to know what is attracting the most visitors. When you know what appeals to your audience the most, you can produce more of it!

For example, an accounting firm may be blogging regularly and find that their posts on end of financial year preparations get lots of visitors and their budgeting posts hardly get any. They can then do more content on what’s popular and less on what’s not.

Action: Jump into Google Analytics and go to content > site content > landing pages That will show you what page most visitors land on when they first hit your site. If you want to filter only your content featured on www.yourdomain/blog then type blog into the filter field.

Top Landing Pages Report - Google Analytics (3)-1

4. Am I hitting my target audience?

If your website is targeted at a specific geographic audience then you need to know how many of your actual visitors come from your target area. For example, if you only operate in America or the UK you want to make sure you know what percentage of visitors come from these areas. You’ll also want to keep producing content that is popular for your audience in these locations.

Go to your locations report in Google analytics by visiting audience > demographics > location. Also try producing more content using keywords that are relevant to your target customers and trends on their location. You may use Google Keyword Tool (soon to be Adwords Keyword Planner ) or Google Trends.

Top Locations Report - Google Analytics (4)-1

5.What parts of my website do people detest?

Improving the weak spots in your website is what I like to call low hanging fruit. If you know what pages usually cause your visitors to leave you can then either improve that page or remove it altogether and direct visitors through another path.

There will always be some pages like your home page that people see and leave which is normal. What you should be looking for is pages that are critical to your conversion path that have high exit rates.

For example an Ecommerce site will not want their shopping cart page to have a high exit rate. Things they can do to improve it could be having badges showing their 100% happiness guarantee or maybe even look at adding more payment security badges.

Action: Jump into content > site content > exit pages to learn what pages on your site have the highest exit percentage. Look especially for pages that are critical to conversions on your site and should have minimal exits e.g shopping cart, contact form, email subscription form etc.

Top Exit Pages Report - Google Analytics (5)-1

So ask yourself: are you guilty of being a little vain when it comes to your web analytics? We all struggle with it at some level. The important thing is to now switch your focus to actionable metrics that give insights to improve your website’s performance.

If you’d like to learn more about Google Analytics we’re running a free Google Analytics 101 webinar this Wednesday at 3pm EDT. Come join us.

What are other vanity metrics you’ve had to overcome in your web analytics experience? Share with us in the comments! 

Author Bio: Ivan Lim is the head of marketing at Tweaky.com, the #1 Website Developer marketplace for small customizations. He is passionate about digital marketing, startups and peanut butter.

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