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Which KPIs Might Be Vanity Metrics and How to Avoid Them

Updated: Jan 18

A woman looking stressed at the vanity metrics for her business

Vanity metrics are like those flashy numbers that can make a business seem impressive, but they don't really show if the business is doing well in the ways that matter. These numbers often just make you feel good without giving any useful information for making things better.

For instance, things like likes, shares, and page views might make you think your business is popular or relevant, but they don't necessarily mean you're making more money or keeping customers happy. It's like getting a lot of high-fives, but it doesn't mean your business is actually thriving. It’s important to keep an eye on metrics that actually DO matter for the growth of your business.

So in order to avoid using vanity metrics, you need to first learn how to identify them. Here are some ways to guide you in spotting these misleading numbers:

How To Spot Vanity Metrics?

A group of team members discussing vanity metrics they should stay away from

Vanity metrics give you a basic overview of how your business or product is doing, but they don't give you any useful insights to make important decisions.

These metrics might look impressive at first glance, but they can be deceiving and not really helpful when you're trying to make informed choices.

Here are some common traits of vanity metrics:

Lack of context: These metrics don't provide the full picture or the details needed to understand what's really going on.

No substance: They might look good, but there's no real substance or meaningful information behind them.

Misleading information: These metrics can lead you in the wrong direction, making you think things are better than they actually are.

No assistance in improvement: They don't help you make your business or product better in any meaningful way.

Too easy to measure: Just because a metric is easy to measure doesn't mean it's valuable. The ease of measurement doesn't always translate to its importance.

Which KPI is Most Prone to Being a Vanity Metric?

Well, it really depends on the goals of your business, but here are some general metrics that are more likely to be vanity metrics:

Pageviews: This is just the number of times people look at a webpage. It doesn't tell you if they stayed long, did anything useful, or if they're even real people – could be bots or spam making the number look good.

Total customers, purchases, or downloads: This is like a running total of all the customers, purchases, or downloads over time. Sounds impressive, but it doesn't say anything about how the business is at the moment, like retaining customers or generating revenue. It also doesn't factor in the costs or value of those customers.

Followers: This is the count of people following a brand on social media. But having lots of followers doesn't mean they care about the brand or actually convert. Some followers might be fake, bought, or just not really interested.

Number of new users per day: This is about how many new users sign up for an app or service every day. But just signing up doesn't mean they're using it, liking it, or staying loyal. It also doesn't consider how much it costs to get those users or how much they're worth in the long run.

Traffic sources: This breaks down where website visitors come from, like search engines, ads, social media, or emails. But it doesn't say if those visitors are really interested or if they end up becoming customers. It also doesn't tell you if the different sources are worth the money spent on them.

If you’re still confused, you can distinguish vanity metrics by asking yourself these questions:

Can This Metric Help Me Make Business Decisions?

If the number can't guide a decision or tell you what to do next, it might be a vanity metric. Useful metrics should give you insights into whether your business strategies are actually working.

What Can I Do to Make This Happen Again?

Another way to spot a vanity metric is by seeing if the data lets you understand what caused the result. For example, if your content goes viral and gets lots of views, that's cool. But if you can't figure out how to make it happen again, it might not be that useful.

Does the Data Tell a Story?

Sometimes, people claim you'll get better data if you spend more money. Take social media followers, for instance. They look great, but if you paid for them, they might not be reliable. 

Paying for followers turns a good metric into a vanity metric. It would be much more valuable if you used the info to improve your page for real, organic followers.

What Are the KPIs You Should Be Keeping an Eye On?

Here are some commonly important KPIs that many businesses monitor:

Revenue: The total income generated by your business.

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): The cost of acquiring a new customer, including marketing and sales expenses.

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV or LTV): The total value a customer is expected to bring to your business throughout their entire relationship.

Conversion Rate (CVR): The percentage of visitors or leads who take a desired action, such as making a purchase or signing up.

Churn Rate: The rate at which customers stop using your product or service over a specific period.

Customer Retention Rate: The percentage of customers you retain over a specific period.


Return on Investment (ROI): The ratio of the net profit from an investment to the initial cost of the investment.

Remember, it's crucial to align your chosen KPIs with your business objectives to ensure you're measuring what matters most to your success.

How To Avoid Using Vanity Metrics?

How can you avoid feeling falsely accomplished? If your Ecommerce business is chasing after metrics that make you look good but don't really mean much, it's easy to think you're doing great when you might not be. To steer clear of this, first, figure out which metrics might be giving you a false sense of success.

Understanding Vanity Metrics

Take a look at the numbers you usually keep an eye on – are they directly related to your actual business goals and growth? If not, they might be those misleading metrics. 

Remember, the numbers you track should really help you make smart decisions and move your business forward. 

DON’T GIVE IN (as much as you want to, stick to your goals)

Don't give in to the temptation of relying on vanity metrics. Sure, big numbers might seem exciting and impressive, but it's crucial not to build your strategies solely around them. 

Shift your focus to metrics that give you useful insights you can act on. It's more worthwhile to figure out where your most effective traffic is coming from rather than just chasing after a bunch of clicks.

Watch out for Vanity Metrics

Those numbers like page views, likes, or shares that might look good but don't always lead to real success for your Ecommerce business.

Now, it doesn't mean you should ignore them completely, but don't make them your main focus. Let's say you sell clothes online, and you're using Instagram to bring people to your website. If your main goal is to sell more clothes, just getting more likes on your Instagram posts might not really help.

For example, if you make getting more likes your main goal, it might make you feel good, but it doesn't guarantee more sales. On the other hand, if you realize that more likes could mean more people checking out your page and possibly becoming customers, then it makes sense.

So, it's crucial to understand the difference. If getting likes becomes your goal, you might feel accomplished even if your sales don't really go up. But if your real aim is to make more money, then you'll focus on getting likes only if it helps increase your website traffic and, ultimately, your sales.

This is especially important when spending money on digital marketing or choosing where to advertise. If you only care about Vanity Metrics, you might end up spending a lot without seeing the actual results you want.

Discover and Apply Metrics That Drive Real Change

Direct your attention towards actionable metrics – the numbers that actually make a positive difference in your business. Look at metrics like conversion rates, customer retention rates, and average order value. 

When you grasp how your audience behaves and what they prefer through these actionable metrics, you can tweak your strategies to achieve better results.


Well, aren’t we glad you asked! We at DigiCom are obsessive data-driven marketers pulling from multi-disciplinary strategies to unlock scale. We buy media across all platforms and placements and provide creative solutions alongside content creation, and conversion rate optimizations. We pride ourselves on your successes and will stop at nothing to help you grow.


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