Master your Metrics
Julius Pankoke | January 31, 2017
What is the first thing you do in the morning? For the overwhelming majority of us, the answer is: grabbing their smartphone. While most people check various social media feeds, for entrepreneurs and specialists the day starts with a look at their metrics. How much did I sell yesterday? How many people visited my website? How is my conversion rate doing?
Due to the unlimited access via smartphone, metrics follow us through breakfast and commuting. After arriving at the office the computer takes over. The only time when we are not constantly confronted with metrics is while sleeping.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not going to be a rant against the trappings of modern technology. In fact, as a digital marketer, I am guilty of the charge myself. Lately though, I found myself becoming more and more frustrated and agitated by metrics. To find out why metrics can have that effect, we are going to take an in depth look at how to use metrics efficiently
What are metrics?
To achieve some credibility, let’s talk about what metrics actually are first. Metrics are any KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) that measure the success of a business/website. They come in a variety of forms. Traffic, impressions, conversions, sales, bounce rates and so on.
There are a lot of sources where you can get these metrics from. Some offer a more general overview, while most are specialised to accommodate a special metric demand. Depending on the algorithm these sources use to acquire metrics, the end result may very well vary from source to source.
Although customer behavior metrics are the dominant form, metrics can be non-customer based like costs. Depending on your business, you might want to include those metrics in your plans.
Why metrics can make you paranoid
Now that we know what we are talking about, we can get back to the challenges of uncontrolled metrics consumption poses. The problem does not stem from the consumption of metrics in itself, but in the way we do it and how we use that information. Especially as a start-up entrepreneur, the desire to be on top of everything is understandable.
The constant control of metrics can lead to a distorted view on the general situation of the project. Metrics like traffic and conversions are highly volatile when viewed on a daily scale. An inexperienced entrepreneur might misinterpret this information.
Let’s use an example to visualize the problem. Imagine you have a little e-commerce site selling toys for children in elementary school. You have a great idea for a landing page that should increase your traffic. So you implement it, do some SEO magic and it actually ranks pretty well. Only problem: No big traffic increase. Disheartened you ditch the idea of these landing pages and move on to different things. So what happened?
Vacation happened. All those parents who usually order your product are on away with their kids. While on vacation they usually don’t order toys online. But since the daily or weekly metrics didn’t show any worthwhile increase in traffic, the idea gets filed under “Doesn’t Work”.
Metrics have to be analysed in a time context. In our case, you would have seen a gradual increase in traffic over the next months. Short-term metrics tend to lead to rash decisions if you don’t know how to interpret them.
A more personal effect the daily metric check can have is stress. Noticing yesterday’s traffic didn’t live up to your expectations can lead to a whole day of bad mood and stress.
But enough about what’s bad. Let’s find out how to battle these habits.
How to master metrics
When I realised that I’m actually hurting my effectiveness by constantly worrying about metrics, I did what everyone involved in digital marketing would do: I went to Google. Among dozens of blog articles, videos and guides I found one concept that always came up.
Our work with metrics is a cycle, not a constant.
The cycle stated that metrics are part of a whole process and a way of measuring the success of a specific action. A time frame has to be defined in which results from that action are expected. State what you think the action will generate in term of metrics. Now you can set a date to review if the expected effect was achieved. Go and focus on other projects.
As humans, we are trained to want immediate results for our work. When working with metrics we have to learn to embody the patience of a farmer. No farmer would ever get stressed because his crops haven’t grown after sowing them a day before. Instead the farmer prepares as well as he can, sows his crops and moves on. After a while he sees the gradual growth of his plants. When it’s time to harvest, he compares the yield to the expectations he had. If there is a difference in the two, he finds out what it was and acts accordingly. That is exactly what we should do.
If you are working in a team it is important to document the actions you took so your team members know why metrics are evolving the way they do. An excellent way to ensure a good and healthy overview of metrics are regular meetings to take a look as a team. Different people have different ways to look at things. In a team meeting our toy maker might have gotten a heads up from one of the team members regarding the vacation situation.
Metrics are amazing. They are your way to see if the things you do are the right ones. Without them, we would all be in the dark about the things we do. As all things in life though, metrics have to be used in moderation. Linking them to specific project allows you to use them to their full extend without suffering the drawback of stress and misinformation.
It doesn’t matter if you are a start-up CEO, a SEO professional or just an enthusiastic website owner. Understanding metrics and what they represent will help you reach the goals you set for yourself.