There is an old and not-very-funny joke about how half of all advertising budgets are flushed down the toilet; if only we, as advertisers, could figure out which half. Yeah, it's dumb, but it makes a compelling point. When it comes to digital marketing, the better you understand exactly what numbers spell the rise and fall of your business or brand, the better position you'll be in to understand how to keep your marketing dollars from ending up in the crapper. Unfortunately, there are plenty of metrics, still used every day, whose value should be seriously questioned because they might just be lying to you.
First things first: Get your head straight and sort out what you can track at all. The accuracy of some metrics (social media attribution is one) is still notoriously difficult to measure. So, if you are using social media to grow brand reach, positive sentiment, perception, goodwill, etc., you'll have your work cut out for you. It's definitely doable, but buckle-up. On the other hand, if you are in the business of generating leads, good news: It's going to be pretty easy. In any case, the software that integrates available data sources and reports valuable insights is getting better every day. Technology is your friend, so do your homework and see what's already out there that meets your needs.
When you're ready to get started, set baselines. Start collecting data (i.e., set up your Google Analytics, SproutSocial, Clicky, etc.), and then run a report after about a week. It's essential that you know how to succeed before you can succeed. In other words, (a) nail down the metric that makes you money (Is it complete sales? Or maybe you are paid for every lead collected?), and (b) measure your current effort. With a good baseline, you can get down to the nitty-gritty of improving your numbers right away.
So which metrics are the most notorious for communicating mistruths? Which numbers have been blown out of proportion by marketing agencies? In other words, which ones are the liars? Let's take a look.