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Don’t Let the Dangers of Vanity Metrics Trip You Up

Try doing your own web analytics just once and you’ll be floored by the sheer amount of numbers that greet you. It’s hard to tell what to pay attention to between all of the different kinds of measurements of website traffic. What is the most important metric to use when you evaluate the performance of a website or social media page? Do a certain number of pageviews, downloads or referrals mean success or failure, or is it donations and growth we’re meant to focus on? Unfortunately, there are a plethora of important numbers to take into account, alongside numbers that can give false impressions of how well your nonprofit is doing. The latter are called vanity metrics, and they’re probably hiding in some of your latest reports.

Clicks vs. Conversions

Discerning the difference between vanity metrics and more valuable performance indicators is as simple as asking whether a metric focuses on clicks or conversions. A follow, like, comment or share is one click standing alone in the void of the internet. A donation, on the other hand, has much more significance in the grand scheme of your nonprofit’s performance. If you take a close look, the difference is clear.

Correlation Does Not Equal Causation

Take pageviews, one of the most tantalizing iterations of classic vanity metrics. They produce an exciting number for you to report without including any subsequent significance behind it. There is nothing inherently wrong with counting pageviews, but a certain number of views doesn’t necessarily produce an equivalent increase in donations.
To make good use of a vanity statistic like pageviews, analyze them in tandem with other metrics that make them actionable. The percentage of your pageviews that ends in a donation, for example, is a valuable metric that shows which pages are most successful and how other pages might be improved. Using pageviews by themselves as a trustworthy measure of a site’s performance, however, is a dangerous game. Such is the case with any vanity metric.

Focus on Real Engagement

While tracking vanity metrics shouldn’t be given up on altogether – after all, you do need traffic of some sort in order to generate donations – it’s important not to lose sight of metrics that have inherent significance. Keeping an eye on social media numbers should always take a backseat to tracking donations and donor retention rates. In the end, followers aren’t necessarily engaging with your nonprofit other than scrolling past your posts in their feed. Likes and comments may be a nice ego boost for your team, but your non-profit gains nothing unless those users are actively converted into leads.

Real engagement yields real world results that aren’t just numbers on a screen. The bottom line is no nonprofit can afford to get lost in vanity metrics. Affinity Connection produces that kind of engagement rather than focusing on superficial markers of nonprofit popularity. We keep track of your progress toward tangible goals. Contact us today to learn more about avoiding vanity metrics and charting real progress.