Marketing Blabs – Podcast

Blab #7: Vanity Metrics

Date of Blab

3 July 2023

Blab Host

Categories

Listen Time

00:41:52

In this episode, we'll define what vanity metrics are, examine why they can be misleading, and discuss the pitfalls of relying too heavily on them.

We'll also cover some of the most common vanity metrics within SEO, Google Ads, and website design and social media, and why they might not be as useful as they first appear.

On this Blab: Tom Haslam (host), Matt Janaway, Josie Quigley-Jay and Josh Stapleton

Blab Transcript
Tom Haslam - (host):

Hello listeners and welcome to Marketing Blabs. This podcast is brought to you by Marketing Labs, an expert digital marketing agency based in Nottinghamshire. If you are a business owner or a marketing professional, looking for straightforward non-sales and tips and advice to help you grow your business online, then this is the podcast for you. Strap in because we're about to reveal the things that other agencies would rather you didn't know.

Hello, wonderful listeners, and welcome back to another episode of Marketing Blabs. We hope you enjoyed the last blab where we talked about how you can start generating an ROI, return on investment, from Google Ads. And that one plus one I think, is six. My name is Tom and I'm the creative director here at Marketing Labs and the host of this podcast. Today we're going to dive into the world of vanity metrics. In the ever-evolving digital era, businesses often get entangled in the web of impressive numbers that unfortunately don't contribute to real business goals. These misleading figures are what we like to call vanity metrics.

So in this episode, we're going to define what they are, examine why they can be misleading, and discuss the pitfalls of relying too heavily on them. We'll also cover some of the most common vanity metrics within SEO, Google Ads, and also web design with some social media chucked in too. And why they might not be as useful as they first appear. So joining me today on this blab is Matt Janaway.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Hi, Tom.

Tom Haslam - (host):

You all right?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, looking forward to this one.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Looking forward to it. Lots in the industry about it.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah.

Tom Haslam - (host):

And we've also got Josie Quigley-Jay, our digital marketing executive.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Woo, been upgraded.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Upgraded, new title.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

No longer an apprentice.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Congratulations.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Congrats.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Thanks.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Do you feel good about it?

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Scary.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I mean, I'm scared that you're here.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Oh, thanks.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Still, but congrats anyway. And finally, did you add this? Code connoisseur, Josh Stapleton?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

That's actually not me for once.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Oh, either or, Josh is here. How you doing?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah, pretty good, man.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Good. So what are vanity metrics? Who wants to kick off on that?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

So a vanity metric is a metric that is maybe leading you to believe that you're doing well. So I guess social media is probably one of the best examples that I can give for this. When you look at, say your follower count, you could have like, I don't know, a thousand, 10,000 followers, but that's not really a very useful metric. I mean, you've got a lot of followers, but how many of those followers are actually engaging with your posts?

Tom Haslam - (host):

It's better to have engagement. You want people to be engaging with your brand, your services, and obviously if you're an e-commerce store, if you sell things you want them to be buying from.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, Josh has nailed it there really. They're metrics that you wouldn't necessarily, they look good, but they're superficial. That's the best way of describing them. I think they're superficial. They might seem on the outside like something is going well, like you are achieving something. But actually they have very little meaningful impact on important business metrics like revenue generation for example. And there's also barely a correlation. So using Josh's example of maybe some social media statistics. Some businesses have some incredible social statistics, but actually are really struggling as a business and there's no real correlation. It's all about engagement really. You've got to understand which signals and which metrics are meaningful.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

What you also tend to find is vanity metrics are usually a lot easier to get a hold of. So your follow account is just displayed on the top of your social media page. Whereas finding out engagement could be a little bit trickier, like there's stores available for stuff like that but generally speaking, you've got to go digging for that information.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Ultimately, it's all about performance. But can anyone give any sort of real world examples of where businesses might have been focusing too much on vanity metrics and maybe even negatively impacted the performance if they're not focusing on the right things?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

So what we see quite a lot is, this is across the board. It's not specifically something, it's not a conversation, let's say that we have often with our clients specifically, but a lot of conversations I have generally this does come up a lot, is newsletter subscribers. There's an obsession to keep growing a newsletter subscriber base, but in actual fact, the only time where growing your newsletter subscribers is actually beneficial is if they're performing and the ones that are there are engaging. There's no point having people in your subscriber list if they're not there for a particular reason. Actually, you would much rather have fewer subscribers, but really engaged subscribers that are actually wanting to receive your newsletter, that actively clicking on it every time it arrives. They're the ones you want. You don't just want to be filling it for the sake of filling it, just because it looks like it's a big number. So for me, that's probably a great example of a classic vanity metric is just over inflating a number that actually is quite meaningless.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

That we see quite a lot, don't we, people with huge subscriber list to something like MailChimp and you've got maybe, probably less than 50% actually opening even a single email from the whole time they've been sending.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yep. And people don't realise that's actually quite an important metric for deliverability. If your subscriber list is so huge, but the vast majority of them aren't actually opening them, actually you're damaging your performance, you're not helping your performance, you're damaging it because deliverability gets lower because people aren't actually interested. So in that case, if you've got 50% of the people in your subscriber list that's never opened the email, call them, and then you're left with a list that's half the size, but all of them are engaged and then your deliverability will improve.

Tom Haslam - (host):

It comes back to a, would you rather question, would you rather have 10,000 email subscribers with an open rate of less than 5%? Or would you rather have a really focused subscriber list of say 500, but an open rate of 50%?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Exactly.

Tom Haslam - (host):

You'd rather have the latter. Sure.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yep. And this same example applies across lots of different channels. You could use the same argument for social media. If your Instagram account has 10,000 followers, but very few of them see your content or engage with you because they're okay, they liked it, but they're not particularly that interested. How valuable is that to you as a business? Whereas instead of 10,000, if you had a thousand but all of them really wanted to follow you and they cared about what you had to say, that's much more valuable.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Just jumping on the back of that social media example, I found out recently that that can be quite badly impactful to your performance on social. So for example, I don't know, say you've got a couple of hundred followers on Instagram and you decide, oh, I kind of want to inflate this metric. Maybe I'll buy some followers or maybe I'll just follow all these accounts and hope that they'll follow back. Having all those extra followers that aren't actually engaged is a really good way to get yourself soft limited on Instagram. Your stuff just won't reach the majority of your audience because no one's actually paying that much attention to it.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

And it makes sense, doesn't it? Like if you were at any channel, it could be social, it could be email, it could be any channel. That's quite a useful statistic to look at, isn't it? To determine performance of account. If you have a huge amount of followers and they're not actually engaging in you, it's quite a useful signal to show low quality. It's the same in email, it's the same in any channel really. So actually that's a great example of where vanity metrics, not only are they pointless, but they actually can be damaging.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

I think at one point as well, the thing with Instagram followers, they are so easy to fake. I think at one point everyone knew that if you followed a load of people on Instagram, you'd get a load of followers back and you'd have a massive following just from sitting there for an hour just following loads of random people. It was so easy to fake. I think it's a bit easier now to, in my opinion, spot which people are sort of the dodgy accounts and things like that. And I mean, you still get messages all the time from odd little companies just being like, oh, we'd really like to collaborate with you and this, that and the other. But you can generally see if they've got a massive following, but then go on and there's like one comment or something like that.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

It looks out place, doesn't it?

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Yeah.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

When you see an account where it looks on the outside, again, superficial is a great word for vanity metrics. It looks like they've got a big following and then there's no engagement. It looks superficial.

Tom Haslam - (host):

A really good example of someone who has lots of followers but also has lots of engagement is BrewDog. Has anyone seen BrewDog's socials?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, little bit. I don't drink.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

So I don't really, but yeah, I've seen,

Tom Haslam - (host):

I love BrewDog, the brand in general.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

I love the beer.

Tom Haslam - (host):

The beer is good as well. That's a bonus. Drink responsibly everyone. But anyway, I think their social media is a good benchmark, if that makes sense. I know they're a massive brand, but what I'm trying to say is that they're doing things right and they're engaging, whereas you can see all the brands that don't do that. So I want to touch on examples of vanity metrics within let's say SEO. I'll come to you, Matt. Would you say that businesses going for quite broad keywords fall into it?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

It makes sense. You can understand how it happens, but very frequently, when a business understands just a little bit about keywords, what they'll likely do in their first instance is they'll look at search volume and there's an assumption instantly that a keyword that has a higher search volume is actually better for them. There's quite a few reasons why that isn't actually true. So the first reason is because it's too broad. So I'll give you an example. Let's just say somebody's searching for a new car. Chances are they wouldn't search in Google for cars.

Tom Haslam - (host):

No.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Or car, you wouldn't do it. Your search would be much narrower than that straight away. But let's just say you were searching for car. What actually are you looking for? What's the intent behind that search? Because you are not looking to buy a car, certainly, you're probably looking for maybe images, some information, news, specs potentially, those kind of things.

If you're looking to buy a car, which is quite important because intent is really important here. If you're looking to buy a car, chances it would be a narrower search to a more specific, slightly longer tail. So you might search for something like, new people carriers, or you might search for something like BMW X5 alternative, something like that. And then you'd narrow your search down as you followed that journey. So your next search then might be something along the lines of Audi Q7 because you've identified after you search for alternatives, that Q7's a good alternative. Then you might search specifically for diesel, Audi Q7, and then you might go into search terms like Audi Q7 diesel reviews. By the time you're ready to buy, you are on a search term that is probably something like 2020, white, three litre, Audi Q7, diesel, very specific.

Now the reason that's so important, I know it's quite a long answer, but the reason that's so important is, the keyword car is pure vanity. People would go after that because of the search volume, but the search volume has no intent. So here you're in a situation where actually, again, you are, you're potentially trying to target keywords that actually aren't going to be beneficial to your business. Superficial again, and the big point as well here is not only is it damaging because you're targeting the wrong keywords, but actually it's going to be impossible to rank for those keywords. There's no chance that you're going to rank for car in this example. Whereas there's actually a pretty good chance that you'll rank for Audi Q7, white diesel, 2023, 2022, whatever you want to search for. So there's a better chance of ranking, but also you're capturing people at the point where they're ready to buy or they're ready to use a service or whatever it might be. So that's a classic vanity metric is using search volume to determine whether a keyword is good for you or not.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah, controversial one, but is website traffic a vanity metric?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah, I'd say so. To a degree, yeah. If you look at, say page views on their own, it could definitely be considered one because if you're not taking conversion rate into consideration with something like that, it's not really got a meaning to it. You could have a page that's ranking really well for, let's say it's answering a question or something. Someone could go to your page, see the question or see the answer to the question and bounce quite quickly. But the page view itself could be considered quite good. But if you're not actually doing anything to create a source of revenue from that, maybe not so much.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

That's a great point. That's a really good point because intent matters so much here. We'll use the car analogy again, and I know this is specifically to Google or to search at least, but this can happen in social in any other form of traffic. If somebody clicks on a link to your website, regardless of where it's coming from, if they're clicking that for a purpose and the website matches the intent of that purpose. So as Josh said, they've answered a question, why do they need to look around so they will leave. So actually your bounce rate is going to be impacted by that. So sometimes high bounce rates can actually be a good thing.

Tom Haslam - (host):

See, I think bounce rates a really interesting one because that sort of plays into conversion rate as well, doesn't it? In a way?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

To a certain degree, it's a complex formula and almost a calculation that actually, it can't be perfect. There's so many things at place. So I mean the question originally was, is traffic a vanity metric? And there's an argument saying in certain situations it is, but there's also an argument to say actually, if you've got pretty consistent conversion rates, then you increase your traffic, you'll increase the amount of inquiries or orders you might get. But at the same point, it's very easy to increase traffic. Let's just say you want higher traffic, you can do it overnight just with a really cheap Google display campaign and Google Ads. You spend a couple of pounds a day and you could get lots of traffic. It'd be terrible traffic. It wouldn't be useful, but you can artificially inflate those numbers quite easily. So in that case, I would say it is a vanity metric. However, if it's relevant traffic, I think that's the key, isn't it? If it's relevant traffic, it's not vanity if it's-

Tom Haslam - (host):

And optimising the conversion rates around it.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, exactly. And thinking about the intent again, what are they there for?

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

If you can match what they're there for, then that's a good visitor.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Can anybody give me any examples of actionable metrics that businesses can take or compared to a vanity metric?

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Actionable metrics that people can look at would be along the lines of conversion rates, because that's something is actually happening. Someone is actually engaging with what you're selling. The same with on social media, it'd be the comments, it'd be the likes. It's something that's tangible that's actually showing a result.

Tom Haslam - (host):

So we're talking for an e-commerce site, a sale?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

A sale.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

A phone call.

Tom Haslam - (host):

A phone call, yeah, for, I don't know, a standard brochure website with no e-commerce platform. It would be a contact form submission. Yeah, or live chat.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, live chat.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Email marketing. It'd not only just be open rates, but also clicks. If you've got clicks right the way down, particularly to the bottom of your newsletter or email marketing campaign then.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Tells you, you are getting to them.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Taking that a step further though, specifically for email newsletters, if they click and open it, what's the next phase? Do you know what I mean?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Click and open the email?

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

So then you'd want a link click.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Yeah, you want engagement on the article itself.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

And then deeper again, you'd then want a conversion of some sort. Either a soft conversion.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah, you've almost got three steps within that first conversion, haven't you?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah. And each time the numbers will dwindle more and more. So this is why having a really engaged audience who really wants to receive that email is so much better than just having numbers. Because if you have systems where you're looking at engagement for email for example, it's very easy to see when there's low engagement at the emails of low quality. And that'll then impact its performance a lot. But coming back to e-commerce businesses, so you've quite a few metrics that are actually really important that should be focused on. Got things like repeat custom, average order values. Average order values are vital. If you're struggling to increase your traffic or your conversion rates, the next obvious place to look is increasing average order values or lifetime value. Again, another really important one, if you can increase the lifetime value of a customer.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Acquisition cost.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Acquisition cost.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah, that's a good one.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

All of these things are really important signals and they're so much more important than obviously the ones we were talking about to start with.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I guess the big one in terms of actionable would be revenue, return on that investment is an actionable metric. Ultimately that's what businesses want to see, isn't it?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah, that's probably one of the distinguishing factors as well, when you look at vanity versus when you look at vanity metric versus an actionable metric. So generally speaking, something that's actually going to create that ROI is what you really want to be focusing on. And anything else could probably be considered vanity.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

It's difficult as well, because when you are, I'm probably picking on social a little bit here, and I don't mean to, and I'm only doing this because it's easier for a vanity metric in social media to be used, but when you have some of your content on social media that performs well, it releases endorphins and you are pleased about that and it makes you feel like there's an element of success. All it actually is that you've had some likes. So coming back to something that's tangible and coming back to something that actually means something, you've got to try and remove yourself from that concept of, did it just make you feel good or is it real important signals for your business? And quite often that will come back to revenue or at least inquiries, softer conversions potentially, but conversions nonetheless. And if you can remove yourself from that feeling and forget about emotion and actually think about logic and statistics, that's often the best way to split them out.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

I'm sorry Matt, but I will always be excited when one of our social pages [inaudible 00:19:45]. Thank very much.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

It's good.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

And I'll always claim the credit for it.

Tom Haslam - (host):

It's endorphins.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

It is good though, and it's nice and it shows that people are engaging with it and it's useful and people like it. But at the same point, you've got to understand what part that plays in the funnel of converting somebody from say a follower to a customer. That's really at the top of the funnel, you're at the point here where it's mostly about awareness. That's an awareness stage instead of a conversion stage. And actually of course that plays a part, but really you want to be making sure that you're in charge of every step of your funnel.

Tom Haslam - (host):

A hundred percent. There's lots of steps that fall into ultimately the conversion at the end, whether that's email, social or organic strategy, whatever it might be. But ultimately people will want to see return or revenue increases. So we've talked a little bit about actionable metrics there. I wanted to touch on a little bit with you, Josh, in terms of vanity metrics from a website design and development perspective. Have you got any good examples for vanity metrics in that area?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

So I guess for actual design and development, I'm struggling to think of anything too important there. Maybe something like, I don't know, page load speed important, but I mean arguably potentially not to a degree. I think the main one that I can think of though is time on page. So you could have people that are visiting your page and spending a huge amount of time on there and I mean that could be a good signal or it could be quite a bad signal. It may be that they're looking around and confused, not sure where to go. Not sure what's the next step in the funnel.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I just thought with you, the amount of tabs you have open at one time. You're going to be inflating so much.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

If someone was looking at time on page just from my interaction, they're probably talking weeks at a time.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Now the thing is generally if the tabs not active, they don't count it. But the problem is Josh also has lots of windows open when the tab is active,.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I've never seen before.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

So they'll just see me going on and offline for hours at a time.

Tom Haslam - (host):

This guy, he loves us.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

But seriously though, yeah, time on page could be good, could be bad. You need to take some other things into consideration with that. If you're able to track something like scroll distance, that could be quite useful. If it's a blog post especially, you can see if there's a certain point on the post where they've got disengaged, not too bothered anymore, maybe they've had a question answered. And if so, maybe that could be a page on its own or a blog post on its own. Also, well interaction with buttons and stuff like that. Like I said, going further down the funnel if possible or if there's something that's stopping them from going further down the funnel.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Following the heat map essentially of where they're going on the page.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

If you can get something like Hotjar, yeah, that's ideal for tracking that kind of stuff, you can see exactly what's going on.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

And also Microsoft have improved Microsoft Clarity a lot, which is a Hotjar alternative, both very good systems, but Microsoft have introduced lots of open AI ChatGPT into Clarity. So they use a lot of AI insights now that makes your viewing, if you have to view and literally watch hundreds of people browsing around your websites, its time-consuming. So using AI can help streamline that. So that's also a useful platform. It's free as well.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Similarly, I guess to what you were saying with website of scroll time and things like that is with video content as well, whether that's on social media of YouTube reels or if someone produced a podcast as well, it's not just about how many subscribers you have, it's about the watch or the listen time. It's about where they've dropped off. I mean, we've found that you can see quite easily in podcasts where people have dropped off and picked back up in sort of peak areas.

Tom Haslam - (host):

When Matt goes on a rant.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Yeah, you can see all that information. So then it's knowing what's happened at this point, that's made them drop off.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Well, when you start talking about socials.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Thanks.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Or when I start talking about passwords.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Oh yeah, that is a big one. I fell asleep in the pod when you talked about that. So sorry. Anyway, let's say we onboard a new client and we are discussing KPIs with them. I'd say 85 plus percent of the time they focus on vanity metrics. Surely it's important to not.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, so there's certainly an element of education, the education's ongoing, where any good digital marketing agency is there to support their clients and help them understand actually what matters and educate them. But actually focusing on vanity metrics, it just leads to a false sense of success or failure. But then the problem with that is it can then lead to really poor decision making if you're analysing the wrong things. And that all of a sudden is where it then becomes impactful.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

If you're attributing your success to the wrong things or to a vanity metric.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, so it's quite important. You have to go through that phase of actually understanding what's good for you.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

There is still a balance, I think where some vanity metrics come into play. Obviously we've said likes on social media, if someone's got all the likes, but no engagement, it's a bit of a red flag. But also I think there are still a lot of people that go out there and they'll find a business, they'll find them through Google on a website, and then they'll go to their social media to verify that it's legitimate to see what's going on. And if that page has a lot of likes, then it can attract the business. But again, my next step from seeing those likes would be okay, check the engagement. So the likes are sort of, like we said earlier, there's a first point of call and then it filters down to what's the important engagement.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

That's a really important point actually, because I have no statistics whatsoever to back this up. This is just a feeling. But it wouldn't surprise me if sometimes that does impact decision making. If there are people, for example, who are looking into needing a plumber and they find a couple of local plumbers and one of them is really active on Instagram, they've got more followers and the other one isn't particularly active. I think that is the kind of thing that could influence people.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Which is quite a good trust signal, I guess.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Yeah, it shows the business is still up and running and active rather than one that's been dormant for ages. Yeah, I mean, I had one, not long ago, me and my friends were trying to go to Laser Quest and this one, middle of Sheffield, but their social media hadn't been active in ages. Their website's still up and live. You can still book, but their social media was dead. So drop them a message and they are short, you can't get to them. But the only indication of that is from their social media not being posted on.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, interesting.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Their website's still up and running.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

I think this is likely a fringe issue. I think it's probably very small quantities that this might impact, but there probably is something in that.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah, but it comes back to the awareness and perception, which is everything, what social media is really good for, so there's that. But let's talk a little bit about GA4 and analytics. I know with that, how does that play a part in distinguishing between vanity metrics and actionable? Is there any way that?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Well, in terms of insights, it doesn't, because that's about understanding. There's no platform can explain what is or isn't a useful metric for you as a business because every business is going to be different. So that's about you understanding really what matters and taking on board, if you have experts that are advising you, taking on board what they're saying is really quite important. However, having said that, there are various signals in GA4 that aren't available as easily in universal analytics that are quite handy. For example, one of the ones, Josh was saying, scroll points on pages. That is much easier in GA4. Also, so GA4 has some pretty cool event based triggers, whereas Universal Analytics is all about page views. GA4, you can create events for various things. So in e-commerce for example, you might have add to basket as an obvious one.

You might have visitor checkout page, whatever it might be. But you can also even have some maybe more subtle event types. Let's just say you give samples away, you could create an event type for how many people are clicking this sample button. If your product can be customised instead of just buying, you could have an event triggered by, well, how many people are clicking the customised button? I mean, I'm talking e-commerce here, but you could do the same for service businesses. So GA4 does allow that quite a lot easier than Universal Analytics would.

Tom Haslam - (host):

So for service-based businesses, I know you've given a couple of e-commerce examples. I want to use a online fitness coach as an example. So let's say they want new clients to sign up to an online fitness programme. They don't sell anything online, but they want people to fill in a form for example, one event could be them landing on the coach page or the coach's page, for example, how far they get in that process, whether they fill the form in, whether they half fill the form in and then leave. That would be a good event.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

So you might have stages of that form. Yeah, you might have section 1, 2, 3, and then a completion page for example. Each one of those pages could be an event. So you're tracking how far people get through that form. Obviously the bigger the form, people will drop off. And this is something actually, I'd probably urge any business that has a website to analyse actually what information those forms are asking for. Because some of it genuinely might be vital, but actually if you're asking for things that are maybe a bit useful, they're nice to know, but not essential actually. You're just lowering your conversion rates of that form. People won't jump through too many hoops.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Just simplify it right down.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Simplify it right down.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Do you really need three different points of contact? The home address.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah. Exactly, and if you do, take that form, speak to them and ask them. You don't need to capture everything. Often the best is just to capture their contact details and if you've got any more questions, just speak to them.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Also, simplifying it if you can tick box, because as soon as I have to write information, I'll lose interest. I just want to tick a box if it's really.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah, drop-downs.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Drop-downs, tick boxes. Make it as easy as possible. I know that's not quite related to this podcast, but it's quite important.

Tom Haslam - (host):

We've digressed. One more on that, autofill. If you can't, autofill. Yeah, so we've gone off piece a little bit there as we always do, but that's because we love it. So we've talked about how not to use vanity metrics within your KPIs when just starting out or any sort of campaign. Vanity metrics can obviously mislead, which is the big one. I want to talk about, and it's a bit of a controversial one, but vanity metrics within reporting from service providers, ourself included, I'm going to say it, other agencies inflate those metrics to make themselves look better. Have we got any examples or anything that we want to discuss around that?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

This is a big problem for social media agencies to be honest. It is. If we're quite agnostic with channels, we purposely will highlight to any potential client what we think would be the best avenue to success. If you are a specialist in just say social media marketing, it's quite common that you will report on things that actually don't have a business impact. Josie had a conversation actually as recent as last week from a potential client that came to us wanting some advice, and I'll let Josie explain how that went.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

So they were interested in social media as in terms of advertising and rolling ads out on there because they were aware of someone who had done the same tactic and they were seeing incredible results, like 17 times return on investment compared to what was happening on Google Ads. And it was leading them to be interested in wanting to run social media ads because they believed that all of that conversion was coming from social.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Social. That's interesting. I've done a few social ads campaigns for clients and I've found, well, first of all, I'll say it that Meta Ads Manager isn't great. First of all.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

No.

Tom Haslam - (host):

And a big one is social media ads are fantastic for retargeting. They are. They're not great, let's say an organic campaign or a Google Ads strategy for getting new clients or new custom, shall we call it. But they're great for retargeting clients.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

So there's no intent behind social ads. This is the problem. Nobody is looking for a social ad. They're on social media to engage with their friends and family. If they see an ad, doesn't mean they're not interested, but at the same point, they're not there to engage with adverts. So that lends itself to two stages of the conversion journey. Awareness right at the top of the funnel. It's good for awareness and at the bottom of the funnel, good for retargeting. Remarketing. The thing is, so the problem is if you are trusting any platform's own data, it's very easy to overinflate it. I'm not saying this happens, but it would be pretty easy for Meta to show statistics that makes it look like your advertisement is working. Because if they show you those statistics, you're going to spend more money with them. So it's in their interest to give you information that it thinks is going to be useful to you spending more.

The big problem with the reporting on Meta is it tends to do it based on views instead of clicks, which instantly over inflates the statistics. And if you are logged into Facebook and you so happen to engage with a website elsewhere, and you might even do a Google search for something, click on a website, so it might even be a brand search, click on the website and convert Facebook generally because you've viewed an ad will take credit for that. So this example that Josie was talking about specifically, when you actually analyse where their revenue had come from, the statistics that were provided were grossly wrong, incredibly wrong, and it's because they're taken from views instead of clicks. So you really need to understand what that means. You can't just trust the platform's numbers or even necessarily if you're provided with a report on something, you've got to actually understand what that means. And in certain situations it can mean different things. So that's really quite important.

Tom Haslam - (host):

There's lots of ways as well that Meta Ads Manager try and almost force you down a route that is beneficial to them. Because obviously they're going to be making the money from it, but I've found a sort of sweet spot for getting Ads Manager into the right place in terms of trying to optimise it, charging on link click, not impression, because obviously they're going to get the thousands of impressions compared to link clicks. So that's one little tip for you.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

First tip of the day.

Tom Haslam - (host):

First tip. Yeah, tip. I don't give any of that.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Can I give a second tip?

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Okay. So second tip of the day, if you are running social ads, do not analyse them inside social. Obviously you've got to use the platform. You can look at the numbers, you can figure out what's happening, but if you want to really see the performance, use your analytics platform.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah, agree.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Probably Google Analytics. So it can give you a much bigger picture of what's actually happening

Tom Haslam - (host):

And don't take everything off face value either from those platforms, even social ads in general, because they're, like you say, there's no intent behind social. If you're using it for a retargeting campaign, then better. I think if you're setting ads up yourself within social, it's good to keep your targeting separate in terms of your audiences. So have a target audience and a retargeting audience. Nine times out of 10, we end up turning off the targeting audience because it's not beneficial.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Unless the only goal is awareness.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Speaking of audiences, I think that's probably a bit of a vanity metric to think about. When you look at something like Facebook or Instagram and you are creating an ad campaign and you see, oh, this is going to reach, I don't know, 10,000, 300,000, a million people.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

That's a great point.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

It's like, oh, so many people are going to see my ad. Brilliant. I'm going to make loads of sales. Probably not though, because there's not going to be a huge amount of them that are actually interested.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

And actually the bigger that audience gets, the looser your audience is in terms it gets much less specific. So that absolutely is a great example of a vanity metric.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Just to play devil advocate, and I don't know if you'll be really able to answer this because it's still new, but saying that social media doesn't have intent. What about TikTok? Because that we now know is being used for people, for searches, for reviews. It's becoming the new Google for younger generations.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, it's like a hybrid, isn't it? So the problem is it's still retained within the platform, so chances are they're not seeing your content and going to your website, they're seeing your content and following you, which is still, it's still good and there's an element of intent there, but there's no intent then behind a visitor or a conversion.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Yeah.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

But yeah, there's certainly a hybrid feel about that.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Yeah.

Tom Haslam - (host):

It's not a traditional method like Facebook or Instagram, is it really?

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Yeah, it's evolving pretty.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Pretty intensely.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Have we got any tips for identifying the best metrics for businesses? Obviously every business is going to be different in terms of actionable metrics. Ultimately for me, it's going to be revenue.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah. You've got to start with your business goals and work backwards. If you have a goal to increase revenue by X amount, you need to figure out how you're going to do that, and you need to figure out which signals are important in order for you to achieve those goals. So we'll use that classic example of an e-commerce business. Again, if you want to increase your revenue, you need to keep an eye on your conversion rates, your traffic will matter in that case, as long as it's the right traffic, you need to be thinking about average order values, lifetime value, repeat custom. You need to be thinking about dropped baskets or abandoned carts. They'll often be called. So these are all signals that actually will help you achieve those goals. Whereas other signals are, wouldn't say unimportant, but they're certainly nowhere near as important as those ones.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Interesting. What about finally just touching on A to B testing for metrics. How can people utilise that?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

I think that's quite an interesting one to be fair, because it's maybe not so much for analysing metrics or anything, but actually doing something with your metrics. Like say you are noticing a lot of friction on one of your product pages or let's say a category page or something like that. You can put together a different design, see what is potentially going to work a little bit better. Again, going back to using something like Hotjar or what was the one you mentioned, Matt?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Microsoft Clarity.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Microsoft Clarity. Using either tool like that, you'll be able to see specifically if there is a friction point on your funnel somewhere. Maybe it's the checkout, maybe it's a product page, whatever it is, you can A to B test to some other design, and that's going to allow you, I guess, a potential opportunity to increase your conversion rate.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Also, user testing's great, yeah. So there are various platforms you can use where you get real people analysing your website, trying to do specific tasks. You can literally watch them doing it.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Or you can set them the task.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

You can set them the task, you can tell them what you want them to achieve on your website. There's lots of things you can do, but by analysing how they behave on the website, you can often find pain points.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

I think another thing that's really important with A to B testing is making sure that you're choosing really specific and measurable metrics to make sure you know what you're looking at and know what the results are.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah without that, you just have no idea if you are analysing the right things, if you don't understand which metrics are important, it's going to be very difficult to A to B test. You don't really know what you're testing. So you've got to have those KPIs and the signals and the goals all aligned before you do A to B testing. Because otherwise you're going to get to the end of it and you're not actually going to know what the result of the test is. That's really quite important that you've got all of your ducks aligned before you do A to B testing.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Absolutely.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

It's got to be very specific. You've got to prioritise things that are very measurable.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah, because then they're actionable.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Exactly.

Tom Haslam - (host):

And you can work with them.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

If they're not measurable. They're not actionable.

Tom Haslam - (host):

As part of an ongoing strategy, not something that's just off the cuff.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Exactly. Well that's actually really important about A to B testing. It can't be a one-off thing.

Tom Haslam - (host):

No.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

By default, once a test is finished, you move on to the next test. It's a continual process of improvement.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah. Nice. Thank you all for being on the podcast. Have you enjoyed it?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Loved it. Yeah.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Always do.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Been a good one.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Nice. Well, we'll see you next time. That brings us to the end of the podcast, our enlightening discussion on vanity metrics. Those flashy numbers that can easily steal the show, but often mislead. Remember, vanity metrics might sound impressive, like broad keywords for SEO, high search volume, tonnes of page followers on social media or even your website's bounce rate. Remember, it's essential to differentiate between these and truly actionable metrics. The kind that actually show you how your business is doing, how it's performing. We're talking about things like revenue, return on investment, conversions, actual engagement on social media, and also direct communications like phone calls.

These are the numbers that actually matter to you, the ones that should be forming your KPIs. Don't let vanity metrics lead you astray. And don't forget the power of A to B testing too. This can be an invaluable way to compare different strategies and see which truly delivers the best results for your business. So thank you everybody for joining us today. Remember, the goal isn't to get the biggest numbers, it's to get the right numbers. Until next time, stay strategic and above all, stay actionable. I'm Tom, more to you next time.

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