When it comes to a successful marketing campaign, metrics are everything. Data isn’t just for scientific purposes, almost every industry is getting in on the data craze by using knowledge to focus or improve their businesses. In some instances, those metrics can imply levels of success that don’t exist to make a business appear more successful - and those are called ‘vanity metrics’. While vanity metrics can certainly be measured, they don’t necessarily signify that the business, itself, is doing well. But they look good and that’s why they can be a helpful addition to a marketing campaign.

I don’t just want to point out what vanity metrics are, the goal of this piece is to help you identify them for yourself. Marketing agencies and other companies want you to become a client and keep you, so look for deceitful practices like vanity metrics that don’t really mean anything. Companies will blast how popular their social media posts are, or how much attention they purposefully-hyperbolic content gets, without telling you how that equates to better business practices or sales numbers. The truth is it doesn’t. There’s a wide range of meaningful ways to track website success that we’ve written about, but vanity metrics aren’t one of them.

So before you start making huge business decisions because a company seems to get a lot of page views or hits, think again! Let’s talk about the ways marketers use vanity metrics to portray success and the ways you can distinguish a vital metric from an irrelevant one.

Misleading Metrics & What They Mean

It doesn’t have to be a marketing company, like an SEO company, but they’re the most common culprits. They want you to look at inflated or misleading data that implies they’re doing much better than they are. Why would they do that? Because 60% of all customers have made purchases based on what theyexpect to receive, not what they know they’ll receive. The perception of success or quality can be just as important, if not more important, as actual success and quality.

Buyers like the above might seem gullible, but when marketers are purposefully presenting misleading metrics, it’s not surprising. We’ve all been impressed by a marketing campaign talking about big sales numbers or quantities, but you need to look a little deeper to get to the truth of those numbers. So let’s break these metrics down into different categories.

Highlighting Large Numbers

Page Views

If you want to make it seem like your website’s popular, just highlight high page view numbers. Getting 10,000 views on a single page in a week is great, but just because the company’s reporting it doesn’t mean it translates to public interest. Those views could be coming from misleading keyword usage or clickbait titles and it doesn’t say anything about those views turning into purchases, subscribers, or even readers.

Social Media Followers

Social media pages are relevant, that’s undeniable, but engagement or popularity doesn’t mean that’s reflected in sales numbers. A large audience number can imply there’s outreach and engagement, but follower numbers are essentially meaningless if they don’t eventually turn into engagement or any form of interest. Not to mention anyone can buy a few thousand, or million, followers on Instagram or TikTok. If those followers aren’t commenting and liking, they’re probably not real.

Likes and Shares

Look how many likes this post got! Great, did those likes convert to sales? Probably not. Showing large like or share numbers is an easy way to imply popularity, but if those likes don’t convert to sales or other forms of engagement, then it’s simply irrelevant.

Selective Reporting

Bounce Rate

A low bounce rate seems like something to brag about, considering that means users aren’t clicking away from your site. Still, that’s another number marketers can exploit. While a low bounce rate implies users are visiting multiple pages, it also implies they’re not finding the content they need and have to search multiple pages out of sheer frustration.

Time on Site

Similar to bounce rate, a high amount of time spent on a site, or session length, implies users are spending more than an average amount of time on those pages. What it also implies is that users aren’t finding the content they need and have to spend time searching for it. If it’s not correlating to conversion rates or goal completion, then it’s essentially superficial.

Number of Comments

High comment numbers mean the word is spreading about that company or product, right? Not exactly. Fire and thumbs-up emojis are misleading and easily purchased forms of engagement. A negative comment also counts just as much as a positive one in that metric. If the content of those comments aren’t substantive and positive, then it’s just another number that’s being selectively reported to keep you impressed.

Leveraging Context-Less Metrics

Number of Downloads

Listen, all of your friends are proud you self-published on Amazon, but download numbers don’t indicate success. A marketer could be reporting that an e-book sample or some other content was downloaded hundreds of times, but did those hundreds of users actively engage or become customers? Probably not.

App Installs

It looks great when an app is downloaded 10,000 times in a month, but how much are they using the app? App Install numbers don’t typically include the subsequent uninstall numbers and, as such, is another metric that doesn’t actually reflect success.

Boosting Superficial Engagement Metrics

Email Open Rates

When an email campaign achieves a high open rate, it doesn’t mean it was entirely effective. A 30% open rate might seem like a successful number, but if those marketers aren’t also sharing the CTR rates or sales numbers, then it doesn’t reflect the campaign’s actual success.

Number of Mentions

Brand awareness is huge, but just because the number of mentions is huge too doesn’t mean there’s success behind it. A marketing team highlighting that a company or brand received 200 mentions on a social media platform doesn’t mean there was any impact from those mentions.

Click-Through-Rates (CTR)

A high CTR rate is more of a indicator of success then many of the above metrics, but it still needs to be reflected in sales. A 10% CTR rate that a marketer reported could seem high, but once again, if it doesn’t convert to sales then it’s not really a sign of success.

Presenting Inflated Exposure

Ad Impressions

Impressions are, potentially, the most meaningless form of engagement. It can make it seem like a campaign is reaching its market, but just because that content was seen does not mean it leads to anything more than a quick swipe away.

Video Views

Just like impressions, a high video view count can be just as irrelevant as any other vanity metric. First of all, that viewer could have clicked away one second into the video, and even if they stayed, if it didn’t lead to a sale then it’s just another big number to exploit.

Misleading Growth Numbers

Generated Leads

Leads are key, but they’re also not a sign of success. A campaign could have generated hundreds or thousands of leads, but without conversion, that number is just as superficial as a view count.

Event Attendance

Listen, just because your webinar saw a lot of visitors doesn’t mean it lead to anything but a closed window or tab. If attendees don’t engage or follow up with the company or brand, then there’s no tangible success to be found.

Follower Growth Rate

Does rapid growth mean increased influence? Maybe, but if that influence isn’t capitalized on then that follower growth is meaningless. If new followers aren’t engaging and converting then it’s just another number smart consumers should ignore and quality business owners should avoid.

Surface-Level SEO Metrics

Search Rankings

Sales are the key metric, not search rankings. Ranking #1 for a keyword that gets no searches means nothing. You need the context of what that ranking is getting you.

Traffic Sources

A marketer showing off how much traffic came from social media doesn’t demonstrate anything other than a couple of successful ads or posts. You need substantial engagement or actual conversions to make source volume data anything other than another vanity metric.


Backlinks can often demonstrate market reach or word-of-mouth success, but only if you spend the time digging into every backlink. Otherwise, if the content is backlinked to low-quality sources or those considered spam by Google, it could harm the ranking instead of help it.

High Word Count

Sometimes, you might see users bragging about the word count for a blog post, article, or landing page of some kind. Does that mean all of those words are relevant? Of course not. Google values relevant content, so having a high word count might be more of a detriment than a boost.

Keyword Density

SEO doesn’t mean shoving as many keywords as possible into a piece of content. A marketer “optimizing” a page with keywords could actually harm the page due to Google’s stance on keyword stuffing. Search engines are prioritizing relevant content, not those crammed with as many keywords as possible.

Number of Published Blog Posts

When a marketer brags about their team knocking out 30 blog posts in a month, they think that means it’s been a productive month that’ll lead to more SEO gains. But the quantity of those blog posts, like all of these manipulated numbers, doesn’t mean those blogs are thoroughly-researched, engaging, or even relevant. The real way to convert readers into customers is with content and subjects that reflect quality over quantity.

Reputation and Branding Metrics

Brand Mentions

Just like a social media mention, a brand mention is only as valuable as the context. Boasting about hundreds of brand mentions is irrelevant if those mentions didn’t impact the businesses’s goals or outlook.