Financial Marketing

Vanity Metrics in Financial Marketing – What are They?

By March 24, 2021 No Comments

One of the amazing aspects of digital marketing is that it grants financial firms enormous power to measure the performance of their campaigns. Examples of metrics you can measure include:

  • Bounce rates (how long people stay on your website pages/posts).
  • Exit rates (which percentage of visitors on a page exit, not clicking through to other pages).
  • Traffic sources (e.g. organic search, Google Ads, a client newsletter etc.).
  • Social media followers, likes and comments.
  • Google My Business reviews and questions.
  • Email newsletter subscribe & unsubscribe rates.
  • Contact form enquiries from your website.

There are, in fact, countless ways to measure the activity on your various digital channels. Yet which ones are worth measuring and paying attention to? Indeed, some metrics may even deserve the label “vanity metrics” – i.e. they make the marketer feel good, but produce little in the way of meaningful results for the business.


What are Vanity Metrics?

The well-known marketer Tim Ferris puts it well: “Vanity metrics: good for feeling awesome, bad for action.” In other words, vanity metrics measure things that do not ultimately matter, or which make little difference to your marketing goals.

A clear example would be measuring your website’s organic search engine rankings over time for keywords which are not relevant to the target audience, or which have little/no search volume. Another might be tracking your Instagram followers over time, even though no one engages with your posts and your ideal client is very unlikely to be found on the social media platform.

Vanity metrics can easily distract financial planners, advisers and wealth managers from the more important metrics which do make a difference to the bottom line. For instance, suppose you engage a financial marketing agency to help you with your SEO. Over the next 6-12 months, they successfully grow your organic search rankings – possibly even dramatically, getting you onto the first page of Google for a lot of search terms. However, when you look at your Google Analytics account, you notice that your organic traffic has hardly increased over this time. Moreover, your conversion volumes have also hardly changed. In which case, what difference has your SEO campaign really made?


Website Visits – Looking “Under the Hood”

One common mistake amongst financial firms is to gloss over the underlying dynamics of a particular metric (i.e. when the metric looks “good”). The classic case here concerns website visits.

Suppose you look at your Google Analytics account, and you notice that your traffic volumes remained largely stable over a two-month period. Except for a large spike on Day 13, in July. Here, you might assume that you did something great to suddenly get that high level of traffic. Maybe one of your social media posts got a lot of attention that day, driving more traffic to your website post? Or, perhaps your newsletter did especially well and lots of clients navigated to your news piece from the email.

The danger of a metric like this is that it can lead to dangerous assumptions that things are going well, when perhaps they are not. For instance, perhaps that traffic spike was caused by a cyberattack on your website which (thankfully) was thwarted by your hosting provider. Unless you drill down deeper into other metrics – such as the traffic source report for Day 13 – you may miss this important information, as well as an opportunity to put appropriate measures in place.


Metrics & the Bottom Line

It can feel really good to watch your digital marketing reports showing increased impressions, clicks, followers and website visits. These metrics can be very important – helping you gain an overall picture of how things are performing. Yet, in the financial services world at least, you cannot make money out of these metrics alone. What makes money is customers.

In short, if a metric cannot demonstrate how it is contributing towards your customer acquisition and retention, then is does not deserve status as a priority metric. It may justifiably be deemed a “supporting metric” – i.e. showing activity which contributes towards these goals, of course. However, there may also be a chance that you are dealing with a vanity metric.


Metrics & Your Goals

Ultimately, how you categorise your own metrics will depend largely on your unique marketing strategy, goals, business model and target audience. For instance, a blog which makes its money primarily from Google Adsense will likely prioritise unique website visitors and impressions as its key metrics, since the website makes money out of users who see and click on display ads.

A financial planning website, on the other hand, will almost certainly not generate revenue in this way. More likely, the purpose of the site is to generate enquiries and build brand engagement and loyalty with existing clients. In which case, metrics such as bounce rates, traffic source and conversions will probably take higher priority.

Whatever metrics you choose to track, it is important to monitor your campaign’s performance regularly and make appropriate decisions in light of reliable, up-to-date data. Many of the tools you likely use (e.g. Google Analytics) will probably have their own dashboards providing this kind of information. However, you may find it useful to invest in a reporting platform which brings the key metrics from these diverse tools into one place, making everything easier to manage and action.


Start Your Campaign

Looking to take your digital marketing to a new level for your financial firm? At MarketingAdviser, our team specialises in content creation, SEO, PPC and newsletter marketing for financial advisers, planners, wealth managers and investment firms. Get in touch to book a free, no-commitment consultation with a member of our team here.