Using vanity metrics to assess the effectiveness of your programmatic campaign is like basing your appearance off of what you see in a fun house mirror: You’re not getting a clear picture.

Vanity metrics don’t just waste your money; they also misrepresent your marketing impact. If you rely on them, you aren’t optimizing your campaigns toward your business goals.

Click-through rate (CTR), for example, is the most obvious vanity metric for display campaigns. On a computer, click-based metrics are inefficient because banner ads are largely ignored, receiving an average of less than two clicks per 1,000 impressions served. On mobile, errors constitute a good portion of clicks, typically the result of fat fingers on a small device. And to top it off, CTR also includes clicks by bots rather than actual customers.

By focusing your efforts on serving the highest number of impressions, you create a race to the bottom that will likely result in placements that are nonviewable, fraudulent or unsafe for your brand.

A video’s completion rate is another metric that can be just as deceptive. By measuring all impressions – not just views in a full-sized video player – you’re tallying hits even if the user isn’t actually watching your video. Unless you’re using verified impressions and analyzing cost per conversion, completion rate won’t take into account viewability or nonhuman impressions; it’s just another vanity metric, misleading you by presenting a limited scope of the available data.

The Metrics You Should Track

There are hundreds upon hundreds of metrics you can track, so it’s vital that you narrow your options to those that actually provide real insights.

Take the time to discern which metrics are most closely aligned with your company’s business goals. Consider focusing on those that incorporate both cost and performance instead of just raw counts. Every metric you track needs to help you make a decision based on real insight. Tracking numbers just for the sake of it wastes both time and money.

Here are three examples of useful metrics you should be tracking:

  1. Verified Cost Per Impression: Reaching the right audience at the right time is vital for programmatic campaigns. When you’re trying to establish the ROI for your campaign, it’s essential to verify the cost-efficiency of reaching your ideal audience. Many B2B trade websites have CPMs of at least $50, which isn’t optimal, even with high viewability rates and a low percentage of nonhuman traffic. A programmatic buy for the same audience, however, will typically cost less than a third of that amount, which offsets potentially lower viewability rates and higher non-human percentages.
  2. Cost-Per-Action Metrics: Although this type of metric is usually associated with direct response campaigns, every campaign’s objective is to influence some sort of action. The cost-per-action metric you use may differ based on both the goals of your campaign and the overall goals of your business. When measuring the ROI associated with a desired action, advertisers can optimize campaign performance by choosing metrics that drive business outcomes from customers with high potential.

    Examples of these metrics include cost-per-video view, cost per engagement, and cost-per-verified clicks. When a specific conversion (such as sales or leads) is a campaign’s goal, you can measure cost per acquisition or cost per lead. Action-based metrics should always take priority over vanity metrics.

  3. On-Target Percentage: It’s important to verify that programmatic campaigns are effectively reaching your target audience, and there are a few ways you can do this. You can use third-party measurement tools – such as Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings or comScore vCE – to gain information about demographics and specific audiences. Or, you could group impressions, clicks, and conversations into “buckets” using always-on data segments. The segments that index the highest should indicate the profile of your ideal audience.

    Tracking these metrics will provide valuable insights about who you should target in your future campaigns.

If you’re relying on vanity metrics to measure the effectiveness of your programmatic campaigns, you are likely doing yourself more harm than good. Don’t just track sheer numbers; every metric your team analyzes should be providing accurate insights that lead to better marketing decisions.

Avoid the smoke and mirrors of vanity metrics, and give yourself a clear view of your campaign’s effectiveness.

What are your favorite metrics to analyze? Let us know in the comments.

Author Photo
Sean CottonSean Cotton is president of Coegi, an independent programmatic and social media buying company that provides transparent, collaborative media services to agencies and in-house brand marketing teams. As an expert in digital and programmatic best practices, Sean has been featured as a speaker or a contributor for numerous digital industry associations. Prior to starting Coegi, Sean built and managed a large digital and social staff for one of the fastest-growing media agencies in the U.S.
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