Marketers can focus on specific metrics and focus on the data points that make you look good when reporting, but don't help you understand your performance.

In this week's episode of Whiteboard Friday, Dr. Pete on the vanity we add to the metrics we collect and how you can better and more realistically look at your results.

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Video transcription

Hello everybody. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I'm dr Pete, the marketing scholar for Moz, and I want to talk to you about vanity metrics today.

I think we all have some idea of ​​what that means, but what I want to discuss today is that we are dealing with this topic through certain metrics. For me, the problem is not the metrics themselves. The problem is vanity. I want to talk about us and what we put into metrics and how we can do it better, regardless of what metric it is.

SEO metric funnel

So I want to start with this kind of simplified SEO funnel of metrics, starting with ranking.


The ranking based on the click rate delivers traffic. The traffic on the conversion rate delivers leads, or sales, or conversions, or whatever you want to call them, the money. In addition, we may have some advanced metrics such as: B. Lifetime value, which over time affects sales or profit over time. Of course, over time, we've moved that funnel down and turned our attention more to the bottom, bottom line, and dollars.

That makes sense. I think it's good that we have said goodbye to indicators such as hits. In the early days, when a page counted more because it had 200 images and 73 JavaScript files, that isn't great, is it? We now know that in some cases, that's probably bad. But it is possible to hold that mirror by any of these metrics and get caught up in vanity.

I know we are used to it with rankings and traffic. We've all had clients who wanted to go for certain very specific head or vanity terms as we call them that really didn't produce results, or maybe cost a lot, or were very competitive.


Traffic, okay, traffic is good. But if you've ever had some viral content that was really big but didn't convert because it had nothing to do with your website, you know it's not that great.

In fact, the traffic itself could be bad. You may be overloading your server. You could prevent legitimate customers from buying. So it's not great getting people to your site for no reason, or the wrong people.

Sale and lifetime value

So I know it's easy to look at this and say, "Okay, but come on, sale. The bottom line is the bottom line." Well, I'll give you an example.

Let's say you have a big sale and you're putting everything on 50% off. They bring in a ton of new sales and a ton of revenue. Suppose I tell you that your profit margins were 20%. Is that a good thing? They just cost a lot of money. Maybe you had a different agenda and hope to bring it back, or there is a branding aspect to it. But, in and of itself, we don't necessarily know if that's a great thing.

Just making more sales isn't that great. Even profit or something like a lifetime worth, this is a real life example, but I'm going to change it a little to protect the innocent. Let's say you were a small business and owned some kind of asset. They owned intellectual property or a piece of physical property and sold it for a year at a substantial profit and with large profit margins.

Then you look and say, "Wow, this year we made 50% profit, and next year we will try to make 70% based on that number." That would be a really terrible idea because it was a one-time deal and you don't take that into account. It's a little tedious. But it's even possible to take profit or something like lifetime value or EBITDA out of context, and while it's a more complex metric or lower down the funnel, you might be missing something important about what that number really is means.

The three Rs

So this is the first. Is that a real result? On its own, does that number necessarily rise well? You can't know without the context. The second where I think we really need to look at the whole funnel and not focus too far down is repairs that fix what is broken.

So let's say you are tracking sales. Sales are great. All goes well. Everyone is happy. The dollar bills come in. Then it stops or it begins to fall significantly. If you don't know what happened about it, there is nothing you can do to fix it.

So if you don't know your traffic has gone down, if you don't know your CTR has gone down, and if you say your traffic has gone down, you don't know why it went down, which pages, which keywords, which Rankings were affected, did you have lower rankings or did you have rankings with fewer keywords? You can't go back and fix this and find out what happened. So it is not enough to just follow this bottom line.

At this point, this has become a vanity metric. This has become something you celebrate, but you don't really understand how you got there. I think we are all aware of this to some point. Maybe we don't, but we know we should. But the other thing I miss, I think sometimes, and what we miss, I'll call replication.

Yeah, I tried a little too hard to get three Rs in here. However, this repeats the success. If something works and you get a lot of sales, even if the margin is high, you make profitable sales, but you don't know what you did, you don't know what really drove it, where the traffic came from, what was it Source for it, was it certain content, was it certain keywords, which campaign was it connected to? You cannot repeat this success.

So it's not just about fixing something when it's broken and when the dollars dry up, but when things are going well, not just partying but going back and trying to upgrade the funnel and figure out what gets you right because if you don't know what you did right, you can't do it all over again.

So three Rs. Results, consider the context of the metric. Repairs, being able to work the funnel and know what's broken. If things are going well, replication. Be able to repeat your successes and hopefully do it again.

So again, vanity, it's not in the metric. It is in us. You can have vanity with all of these things. So don't get involved in anything. Look at the entire funnel.

I hope you can avoid the mistakes and I hope you can repeat your successes. Thank you and see you next time. Bye.

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