Marketing metrics: 5 red herrings you should ignore

6th August 2019
Author: Chris McKay
Posted in: Impact & ROI, Strategy & planning

Marketers and data have a complicated relationship. There are ups. There are downs. There might even be some tears. However, at the end of the day, we need each other to make better content. But marketing metrics aren’t always what they appear. Don’t get hoodwinked by these 5 red herrings:

1. Inflated statistics

This is probably the one we’re all guilty of.

Which of these looks better to you?

  • Page views have increased by 300%.
  • Page views have increased from 1 to 4.

You picked 300%, huh? I don’t blame you. Why? Because contrary to popular belief, size DOES matter. The bigger the number, the more compelling the argument. Or so we feel on a superficial level. But when we hold the magnifying glass up to the numbers behind these big statistics, they often actually mean nothing and should be ignored (to an extent).

Spy kids gif of zoom-in goggles

Marketers, particularly those working at small companies where actual numbers might not be so impressive yet, are big fans of using inflated statistics to prove growth. And they are important, but the big numbers can exaggerate how successful something is.

Facebook is a great example of a company that has historically stuck to real marketing metrics. Even when it was a website purely limited to college campuses, it always focused on the actual number of daily active users, not on statistics. Stats have their place (and you should be using them), but don’t hide misleading numbers behind them.

2. An infestation of bots

Good bots, bad bots, and everything in between are constantly patrolling the internet, warping your data in the process.

What are they? Bots are software that run automated scripts across the internet. Some have good intentions and some have bad intentions.

Good bots:

  • Copyright checking
  • Index for google
  • Provide up-to-date data

Bad bots:

  • Price scraping
  • Content scraping
  • Account takeover
  • Credit card fraud

Whether they’re good or bad for your site, bot traffic is not one of the marketing metrics you want to include in your reports. According to distil networks’ bad bot report, bots made up 37.9% of all online traffic in 2018, and 20.4% of all traffic were bots with bad intentions.

Pie chart showing bot traffic

That means a significant chunk of that traffic you’re showing off to your clients and managers could not even be coming from real humans.

Luckily, you can set up filters in Google Analytics to filter out bot traffic, so that the marketing metrics you’re reporting on are actually reflective of your audience. To find out how to identify and remove bot traffic, click here.

3. Leads for days (but the wrong kind)

A primary goal for marketing is to generate leads for sales. Because of this, it can be easy to become fixated on finding leads, regardless of quality. And this is a big mistake.

Say your team has pulled off a marketing campaign of epic proportions. The result? They generated 500 leads in a month! Awesome!

The Office (US) cast dancing

But hold off on the champagne and fireworks. What happened when those 500 leads were passed on to sales? Only 15 leads were actually converted. The rest were all dead.

Even if you’re bringing in leads by the bucketful, the metric that actually matters is how valuable those leads are. If the leads are low quality, and virtually useless for sales, then your strategy is off. You need to analyze those 15 converted leads, find out where you can get more leads of their quality, and focus on attracting those, even if it means bringing in a smaller number in total.

4. Average time spent on page (sort of)

Probably one of the most important marketing metrics for content marketing, the average time spent on page should NOT be ignored. But you do have to be careful with it.

Data can be addictive. It’s why so many people get a rush of endorphins from watching their Instagram likes tick up and up after they’ve posted a picture. If you’re one of those marketers that is never off google analytics, keeping track of every minute change in data, then this is super relevant for you.

To measure data accurately, you have to have perspective on it. Looking at data over an entire year gives you a much more accurate picture of progress than over a week or *shudders* a day. There are countless variables affecting data on a day-to-day basis that you’re going to see misleadingly large changes.

Little girl shocked.

If you post a new article on your blog and then start celebrating because someone read it for 22 minutes, that’s a problem. Similarly, if you see that one person read it for only 11 seconds and you start freaking out, that’s also a problem.

You can only gauge how popular a post is by looking at the average time spent on page over a longer period of time, and only when there have been a significant number of reads. Then you can celebrate or freak out as much as you like.

5. Seasonal trends

Regardless of what industry you work in, you probably have good months and bad months. In B2B, you have to deal with everyone taking vacations during the summer, so marketing metrics are going to decrease. In B2C, your metrics will probably be higher in the months leading up to Christmas as people buy gifts to give to loved ones.

Everything from summer breaks, religious holidays, national holidays and seasons will affect your data. This creates a problem when comparing data month-to-month. You might see a big drop-off between May and June and start adjusting your (totally fine) marketing strategy when the only problem was that you didn’t take seasonal trends into account.

Allowing seasonal trend data to inform your marketing decisions isn’t insightful. You should combat this by comparing a month with the same month the previous year. This will give you a clearer picture of how your marketing is actually improving while factoring in seasonal changes.

Bonus point: What’s Turtl’s most hated red herring?

PDF download data.

If you’re familiar with Turtl, you probably already know how much we hate the PDF. When you send someone a PDF, all you can track is whether someone downloaded it or not. That’s it.

What should you be able to see?

  • Pageviews
  • Read time
  • Literally any interactions

But no. The PDF does none of that.

To find out more about why we hate the PDF so much, watch our video and check out our Kill the PDF site.