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The Top 10 Most Overused Metrics of 2007 – Part I

We all know marketers love metrics.  Flashy award winning campaigns are great and celebrity spokespersons are always appealing, but most of the time we try to base judging the success of a campaign on hard and fast metrics.  The only problem is, many times the metrics that marketers use to gauge success are wrong, inaccurate, incomplete or just plain useless.  There are two main reasons this happens … precedent and ignorance.  Precedent means using the metrics you have always used and is always tempting.  Particularly so when you are encouraged to fill out the same spreadsheets year after year comparing one year’s effort to the last.  Effectively, you are locked into a cycle of using crap metrics.  Ignorance is a growing reason, usually as a result of having better tools to measure results, but not taking advantage of them.  Where this leaves us at the end of 2007 is with lots of marketing teams focusing on the wrong metrics and without a plan in sight for changing this in the new year.

When it comes to metrics, the big shift in 2008 for smart marketers will be moving from measuring simple eyeballs or obvious things such as clicks to engagement.  Many have already started.  This post is the first in a two part series meant to highlight some key overused metrics in 2007, and to offer some ideas for better metrics you may want to consider moving into 2008 (tomorrow’s post).  These cross the spectrum of metrics on websites to metrics around online advertising, keyword marketing or social media.

Of course, metrics are not a singular thing that can be blindly applied to any campaign.  They depend on the objectives of your marketing and your overall strategy.  Still, hopefully these two posts can give you some thoughts to consider, starting with a few metrics you may want to reconsider focusing on: 

  1. Impressions – I have posted before about how impressions are just about the most meaningless metric that brands continue to focus on.  Why?  Because they rarely indicate any kind of action, or even any amount of attention.  Impressions are empty.
  2. Technorati Authority – As tempting as it is to use that neat little number beside every blog as the ultimate ranking for a blog, doing so can give you a false idea of the prominence of a blog and unjustly tip the scale against blogs that deserve a higher ranking.
  3. Comments – Another element that many people are starting to look at on blogs and online videos is number of comments.  The problem with this is that it fails to qualitatively look at comments.  If you get 5 spam comments, 3 comments calling you an idiot, and another three that are nothing more than linkbait … that’s not 11 comments, that’s 0 useful comments.
  4. Trackbacks – Trackbacks are like communism, a decent idea in theory that will never work because real people and human nature inconveniently get in the way.  In order for trackbacks to be an accurate measure of links to a piece of content, everyone who links to you would need to send one.  We all know people don’t, which makes trackbacks incomplete and useless.
  5. Time Spent (searching) – Time spent on a site is a metric that marketers love to use, but it is only partially useful.  Often, the time spent on your site is not an indication of engagement, but rather a result of a poor or confusing user interface.  When a user has to spend 5 minutes trying to figure out your navigation, that’s not good news or something to consider a success.
  6. Keyword Conversion Rate – When running search marketing, keyword conversion rates are great metrics to point to … particularly when the percentage conversion is high (10% or more).  The problem is, these rates are usually on low volume niche search terms.  It is a misleading metric that some marketers love to employ to inflate the success of a keyword marketing program.
  7. Number of Pages – Another common site measure is number of pages accessed by a user.  Again, looking at this number does not indicate the real interest level or engagement – but rather how many pages a user had to access to find what they were looking for.  More pages is not necessarily a good thing.
  8. Email Open Rate – Chances are, if you have conducted any email marketing program, you are measuring open rate and using it as a benchmark value.  The only problem is, many email clients (and the newly redesigned Yahoo Mail client) essentially cause users to automatically open emails simply by hovering over the subject.  This means that accidental opens can be extremely high, even coming from users who are only clicking on the subject line in order to delete your email right away.
  9. Popover Click Rate – One of the most common mistakes, this is decreasing in prevalence, but many marketers are still using it as a key metric.  The problem with many popover (rollover) ads is that users struggling to find a close button may inadvertently click your ad.
  10. Page Views – No list of useless metrics would be complete without mentioning an old favourite for the online world … page views.  This is another metric that most forward thinking marketers are getting rid of (or have already) and are replacing it with something like unique views to avoid capturing multiple views from the same person and double counting them.

Check back tomorrow for Part II of this post … 10 more meaningful metrics to focus on for 2008.

12 thoughts on “The Top 10 Most Overused Metrics of 2007 – Part I”

  1. Rohit:
    Thanks for the commentary. You show once again that metrics or numbers without background analysis can be totally misleading. I agree with your stance on searching and depending on the number of windows you keep open, you can get distracted and give a really misleading impression about how long you were really paying attention to the material on the page.
    I am truly looking forward to tomorrow’s post.

  2. Rohit:
    Thanks for the commentary. You show once again that metrics or numbers without background analysis can be totally misleading. I agree with your stance on searching and depending on the number of windows you keep open, you can get distracted and give a really misleading impression about how long you were really paying attention to the material on the page.
    I am truly looking forward to tomorrow’s post.

  3. I spent some time thinking about stats for and came up with the same conclusion – time spent searching is totally useless as a metric.

    I look forward to tomorrow’s post.

  4. Hey, very cool post Rohit. I agree with you that some measuring metrics are pure crap. I’m actually looking forward to your recommendations on what “will” be worth tracking. Hopefully, it will give me a lot better insight for 2008 and how I should go about it. Thanx again.

    “The Davinator”

  5. I agree with the post; it’s a basic statistical problem. I believe ‘number of visitors’ to a website say nothing at all. I am not interested in how many people visit my website. I’d rather have 10 visitors a day – with 5 of them contacting me than 3000 visitors a day – with not a single of them contacting me. Even with an SEO campaign, I do not care about ‘visitor numbers’. SEO drives traffic to the site, but what if all these extra visitors are not converted into customer (or at least leads?).

  6. Rohit,

    I disagree with Impressions being empty, especially in search. In understanding search marketing opportunities and more importantly searcher behavior (which also correlates to consumer sentiment) impression data is of incredible value. Its value increases when used to evaluate cross-media success and it’s fractionally essential as a metric to help determine success of creative. Not to mention search impression are free. We’ve yet to understand that value, but I argue it’s there.


  7. Jonathan –

    I knew someone would come up with this point, and you’re absolutely right. I agree with you that search impressions have a value that most marketers completely underestimate. It’s tough to say all impressions are meaningless … of course I did that to be a bit provocative. The most meaningless impression metrics (and the ones I referred to) often come from guessing about monthly traffic audiences on media properties or impressions of ad units that people wholly ignore. Search impressions, on the other hand, are accurately measured for the most part and do offer some branded value. And as you rightly pointed out, they’re free. Thanks for commenting.

  8. While unique views is an interesting alternative metric to page views, it is not true that page views are useless. Consider a user who is sufficiently interested in your home page to return every day for a month. This indicates a high degree of engagement. But unique page views would equate such a user with someone who accidentally lands on your homepage from a search, then back the heck out right away and never returns.


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Rohit is the author of 9 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.


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