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So you’ve acquired 1,800 new users, increased your followers by 12%, and are bringing in a high amount of traffic through your content marketing strategy. Why isn’t this translating to your bottom line?

Many businesses fall into the trap of equating growth with success. They see their users, followers or traffic increase and assume it’s time to break out the champagne. The truth is, looking at the wrong metrics can leave you drawing faulty conclusions.

Here are three potentially misleading metrics companies track and what you should be looking at instead:

1. Number of users

You’ve researched, developed, and launched your new platform, e-commerce store, or media company. As you begin deploying your new marketing strategies, you start to see a large number of users coming in. It’s time to celebrate!

But first, stop and take a deeper look into your growth analytics. A study by Mixpanel found that if you consider Daily Active Users divided by Monthly Active Users you can see that SaaS companies experience a steep drop in both metrics after only the first few weeks.

Hype and press around your product may cause your user rates to surge, but how many of these users are actually engaging with your platform? How many are returning and how often?

Inactive users simply inflate your numbers and won’t give you the insights you need to improve your product. They also can’t be monetized later.

The solution is to dive deeper into your daily/monthly active user rates. These two metrics will give you far better insights that you can actually use to improve your user experience. For example, if after the first week of launching, you experience a high number of sign ups but low active user rates, you may have one of the following problems:

  • Difficult onboarding experience
  • Ineffective reminders and incentives to return
  • Wrong target audience

Keep in mind that active user rates can be measured in a number of different ways. Rather than considering all activity together, consider which user activities are most important for your product. Are users using your platform in the way it was intended? Which features see the most engagement?

Also consider how often users should be using your platform to be successful. Is your product made to be used on a daily, weekly, or biweekly basis? Setting standards for what constitutes ‘active users’ specifically for your product will give you better insights into product success.

The point is, by mapping out your new users and active users on the same graph, you can identify a problem early and tackle it before you see user rates start to drop. In the product world, most things are fixable; the key is to identify the problems early enough to act on them.

2. Number of Twitter/Instagram followers

As great as it can feel to reach a sizeable following on Twitter and Instagram, bots, trolls, and accounts that simply following you to acquire more followers could be inflating your numbers.

Just last year Twitter undertook a massive purge of fake accounts, suspending more than 70 million between May and June 2018. This led some companies to lose more than half of their followers. While Twitter can still be a great channel to reach audiences, the number of bots that have either survived the purge or popped up afterwards are still distorting our data.

Instagram also went through a similar purge around the same time last year. The company was particularly set on eliminating apps being used to help companies gain more followers by following and then unfollowing accounts a couple weeks later. The problem became so rampant, the company developed new tools to identify inauthentic follows, likes, and comments.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t look at followers at all. Simply that you need to look at a number of different data points together, including impressions, (authentic) comments, reshares, and (most importantly!) referral traffic from social media to your website during and after each campaign.

Likewise, when choosing an influencer to team up with, you shouldn’t just be looking at their number of followers. Just like some companies, many influencers have used bots to boost their profiles. Luckily there are now a number of tools you can use to detect an influencer’s authenticity.

3. Traffic

If you drill down in your website traffic to each individual post, you’ll likely notice only a small percentage of your landing pages/blog posts bring in the majority of visits. Seeing how well these keywords performed, you may be tempted to use these posts to come up with your next SEO strategy. Stop!

Instead, consider if each pages/post is actually converting customers.

Keywords are a tricky thing. If you hit on a keyword with a high traffic volume and low competition you could generate lots of traffic. But how much of this traffic is actually benefiting your business? Looking at metrics like bounce rate, time spent on page, and conversion will give you a more complete picture.

If your content is generating high traffic but not resulting in conversions, you could have one of the following problems:

Your topic/keywords aren’t relevant for your business. If you have a post with a super high traffic volume but also a high bounce rate, it won’t bring your business any value. In this case, check your keywords and the topic of the post/landing page. How relevant is it to your target audience? There’s no use spending time on keywords that generate a lot of traffic but no leads.

Then check your call to action and links to your website. Is your call to action simply dropped into the text, or does it fit naturally within the flow of your content?

Your content needs some revision. If you have a lot of people clicking through to your content but dropping off after a few seconds, it’s likely a sign that the topic is relevant and interesting to your audience but the content itself needs revision. Does the content truly match your URL/headline? Does it provide actionable insights?

When considering blog posts specifically, keep in mind that a study by Hubspot found 43% of people admit to skimming blog posts. This makes it essential to avoid large blocks of text. Instead use formatting that includes prominent subheads, short paragraphs, and bullet points that allow the reader to easily assess whether it’s worth their time to read through the whole article.

Having this information will help you tweak and improve your content and choose the most effective keywords for your business over time. Research by Hubspot shows that just one compounding blog post — or posts whose traffic grows steadily over time — creates as much traffic as six decaying posts. This really shows that taking the time to track, analyze, and improve conversion rates pays off more than simply focusing on mass content creation.

The bottom line

Focusing on the right metrics helps you drive results for your business, not just user signups. Don’t look at growth in a vacuum. Look at the wider story. If you see a large spike in users, that’s great. But don’t stop there. Analyze where your growth is coming from, why it occurred and what impact it has on your business.

Kirsty Sharman is the  founder and CEO of Aerialscoop.

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