A Digital Marketer’s tell-all: the 3 most pointless metrics ever reported on


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dropped ice cream melting on the floor

I’m not going to lie to you, the metrics I am about to list have all made their way into my dashboards at one point or another (and some might even be there still… Oops!). I’m sure I’m not the only one who loves those feel-good metrics that put a smile on your face and make you walk around the office feeling taller and prouder… right?

However, after some serious measure-reflection, it has become overtly obvious that the metrics I am about to list below provide little to no value when it comes to proving my marketing strategy is working, or when attempting to make decisions based on performance.

Basking in Vanity Metric glory

One of my favorite things to do at our company-wide updates is to share news about the  evolution of the brand. Where we’ve been, how we’ve grown, where we are headed and just how many people we’ve reached along the way.

Don’t get me wrong, growth metrics are extremely important. But occasionally I’ve found myself getting so wrapped up in vanity metrics like Followers that I’ve lost track of tying them into overall company objectives. One day I marched into the Company update to share our current brand evolution status and after I proudly rambled about my favorite metrics, our financial controller flat out stumped me by asking how these metrics tied into our bottom line.

Rather than smiling over content Downloads or Newsletter subscribers, he was more curious about how these numbers translated into converted customers – and rightfully so. Marketers, myself included, have to be conscious of who their audience is and how their efforts are contributing to the bigger picture.

We report to be able to understand how our strategies are paying off and let’s face it, there is a time and place for vanity metrics. We can’t, however, lose sight of the metrics that truly communicate value. By associating our brand success to Conversions or comparing our Cost per acquisition by campaign or channel, I’d be in a much better position to validate budget requests and distribution.

Unreliable Opens

It’s an honest mistake to think that email opens translate directly to the number of readers who are interested in your content, but quite the contrary. Email Opens is rarely a solid measure of reach. Did you know that Email open counts are dependent on whether or not the images contained in the email load? Some readers turn off image capabilities thus making their Open invisible to marketers. Certain email platforms, such as Gmail, have also been known to clip messages due to length which disables automatic image loading and thus skews results.

In order to understand how well your email content is resonating with your audience, focus on action metrics such as Click through rate (CTR) to see what percentage of your audience is intrigued enough to access your linked content or promotions.

Did your Ad leave a lasting impression?

Did you know that Ad servers can count an Impression if an Ad was destined for a page that a visitor was accessing, even if they had an Ad Blocker up. It can also be counted if the Ad loaded, but the viewer never actually scrolled past it to make it viewable. That’s crazy, right?

A report by Google admitted that 56% of Ad impressions measured are not actually viewable. So by measuring Impressions, marketers may be making decisions on a KPI that doesn’t provide accurate values. Similar to your email campaigns, try measuring actions like the Click through rate (CTR) in order to understand how many people were tempted enough by your ad to click on it. Take it even further by reporting on Conversions and don’t forget to justify your budgetary needs by calculating the Cost per click  and the Cost per conversion to understand how far your marketing dollar needs to stretch to successfully convert potential customers.

Align Marketing Metrics to Business Objectives

By far, the best way to understand how successful your marketing efforts are is to tie them into larger business objectives. Therefore, the KPIs we include in our dashboard should directly answer how our efforts are contributing to the achievement of our goals.

For example, we want to convert at least X potential clients a month at a cost of less than X. Not only should we measure the total number of Conversions for the month across all marketing channels, but we should measure the Cost per conversion for each channel to find out which one is giving us the best value for our money and converting the most qualified leads. This will help us determine how to optimize our marketing strategy and budget distribution. You may be happy to find out that your content marketing campaigns are beating out the rest, or surprised that channels you’ve been pushing resources towards have become major money pits.

Business objectives allow us to thoroughly understand how our marketing metrics contribute to company success, thus helping us to weed out metrics that provide little information on our actual performance.


We’d love to hear your story! Which useless marketing metrics have made your dashboard a reporting mess?

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Holly McKendry

Sweetspot Marketing Director. Wakeboarder & travel enthusiast. Communication Studies graduate of Texas State University, San Marcos.

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Top 6 Email Marketing Metrics & KPIs - Sweetspot

[…] important that we look beyond just the Open Rate. Open Rate, as you may have seen in our post, The 3 most pointless metrics ever reported on, is a rather deceptive metric due to the fact that emails opens can only be counted if the images […]

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