The Truth About Vanity Metrics

I’ve been doing digital for 10 years now and for me, it’s a little bit too long. When you started in the days, that using some plugin and a bunch of data entries to do over thousands of directory submissions a month can get you to the #1 spot on Google, published one too many squidoo lenses to earn a few bucks, then you’ve pretty much seen how online marketing has evolved from its very early stages to today; a time when people hail machine learning.

Does it make you feel old? Well, it definitely makes me feel old and I do find that there are days when I don’t even know where to start explaining to newbies how to get on with the show. I hear a lot of people talk savvy vocabulary that confuses non-digital marketers like, lookalike audience and custom audience. I hear people talk vanity metrics, like impressions, reach and what not. I hear people talk attribution modeling, user experience and what not.

These are all good, but in the end, these are all vanity metrics, these are all just the packaging. The ribbon and the wrapping. The real deal is what’s inside that package. And what’s inside that package is the business. Digital marketing doesn’t give you the right to appear smarter, doesn’t give you the right to boast that you’re doing digital marketing. Digital marketing is simply another way to do marketing and the core function of marketing is to build the business.

I read a lot of human resource papers on how there is a lack of digital marketing skills in the various countries. Rankings of what skills are more important over what skills and then professionals scrambling to get certified, to learn more how to brush up on those skills, and use the tools related to those skills. Sometimes I wonder what the hype is all about. Is it really about skills? Can a certified Adwords individual really deliver higher ROI campaigns that a highly analytical and business-oriented person? Or is certification another vanity metric? Another ribbon for the packaging?

It makes me sad to think and see sometimes how very high potential candidates lose out on opportunity. Lose to the competition just because they’re behind on vanity metrics. Just because they lack those certificates. What is potential? Potential is perhaps not just about the jargons that make you sound smart. Potential is really being able to see through what it takes to grow a business through marketing. It’s about being able to relate how your day-to-day job drives conversion or traffic to your website at the end of the day. As oppose to doing something for the sake of just doing it based on vanity metrics that everyone else is talking about.

Sounds like growth hacking? Perhaps. But then isn’t growth hacking also another fancy term given to something that any person with good business common sense would want to do? SEO isn’t for everyone they say, SEM isn’t for everyone they say. Growth hacking is for the growth hackers they say. But at its very core, they are all essentially the same. It’s analytics, it’s data that gives you information on how to move forwards with your business. It sounds eerily similar to simply just doing marketing. While it’s true that SEO, SEM, Social, and what not may not be for everyone. But fact is, the true potential are those who can cross any digital marketing discipline. Any channel. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter which channel or discipline or specialty you’re responsible for. It’s all built on the same foundation and way of thinking. And all are simply tools for the digital marketer to grow a business.


An avid digital marketer and writer, Monlamai completed her studies in technology and psychology. She is interested in everything related to online marketing, with a soft spot for SEO and content marketing. Connect with her to share and discuss anything related to the internet, marketing, technology and psychology!

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