Eight Silly Data Myths Marketing People Believe That Get Them Fired.

Beautiful DangerIt turns out that Marketers, especially Digital Marketers, make really silly mistakes when it comes to data.

Big data. Small data. Any data.

In the last couple months I've spent a lot of time with senior level marketers on three different continents. Some of them are quite successful, but sadly many of them were not. In the latter group I discovered two common themes:

1. Some absolutely did not use data to do their digital jobs. This group should be fired immediately, so I'm not going to talk about them.

[A benchmark for you: If you are not spending 30% of your time in 2013 with data, Ms./Mr. Marketer, you'll fail to achieve professional success.]

2. Many used some data, but they unfortunately used silly data strategies/metrics.

Silly not in their eyes, silly in my eyes. And silly simply because as soon as the strategy/success metric being obsessed about was mentioned, it was clear they would fail.

A silly metric, I better define it :), is one that distracts you from focusing on business investments that lead to bottom-line impact. They get you fired. Sometimes sooner. Other times a little later than sooner.

I'll expand my purview a little bit in this post, from just looking at silly metrics to also looking at silly data myths. My hope is to use these eight examples to illustrate to you how, if you are spending 30% of your time with data, you can use crazy cool data strategies/metrics to ensure many, many promotions.

Eight data myths that marketing people believe that get them fired:

Excited? I am, let's go!

1. Real-time data is life changing.

A lot of people get fired for this.

Sadly not right away, because it takes time to realize how spectacular of a waste of money getting to real-time data was.

real time google analytics

It seems absolutely stupid to say, "No, I don't want real-time data." It's like saying no to Chocolate/Jesus. You just don't say no!

But I want you to.

I want you to say: "I don't want real-time data, I want right-time data. Let's understand the speed of decision making in our company. If we make real-time decisions, let's get real-time data. If we make decisions over two days, let's go with that data cycle. If it take ten days to make a decision to change bids on our PPC campaigns, let's go with that data cycle."


Here's why… Real-time data is very expensive. It is expensive from a systems/platforms/data processing/data reporting perspective. You end up paying substantial amounts of money to your analytics/big data vendor – for questionable value. It is also very expensive from a decision-making perspective because if you have real-time data you'll darn well make sure that it is being shoved down every single person's throat. That approach will ensure that, even in the best case scenario of the proverbial pigs flying, they'll obsess about tactical things. All the time. The normal case, after a few days of "OMG I can't believe I have data! It is real-time! Call my mom!!!" their eyes will glaze over and they will ignore all the numbers flying by because they won't know what to do with it.

So shoot for right-time data.

That is a cheaper systems/platform/data strategy. (And remember even the most idiotic system in the world now gives you data that is a couple hours old with zero extra investment from you. So when you say real time you are really saying "Nope, two hours is not enough for me!").

That is also a way to get people to sync the data analysis (not data puking, sorry I meant data reporting) with the speed at which the company actually makes decisions (data > analyst > manager > director > VP > question back to manager > yells at the analyst > back to director> VP = 6 days).

As a result of the above two outcomes, you'll get promoted.

PS: The phrase "real-time data analysis" is an oxymoron.

PPS: I've mentioned one exception in the past. Real-time data is super valuable if zero human beings are involved from data collection to action being taken. Say for example, artificially intelligent platforms that do automated trading on Wall Street.

2. All you need to do is fix the bounce rate.

No. You'll get fired. In three months.

I love bounce rate. It is a really good metric. But it is not a key performance indicator.

The difference between a KPI and a metric is that the former has a direct line of sight to your bottom-line, while the latter is helpful in diagnosing tactical challenges.

Bounce rate is really useful for finding things you suck at. Bad ad creatives. Horrible landing pages. Poorly targeted ads. Missing calls to action. Et. Al. You measure bounce rate and you can find those things, then figure out if the problem is at the source (ads) or destination (your site). Finally, like magnificent little troopers that you are, you'll fix the problems.

bounce rate by language

Along the way you also learn how not to stink. Bounce rate goes from 70% to a manageable 30%. Takes three months.

Now what?

Stop obsessing about bounce rate. By lowering your bounce rate all you managed to accomplish is get your ads created and targeted properly and optimize the landing pages. You got the person to the site, they did not puke and leave right away. Great. Time to focus on rest of the process.

From the time people land on your site it might take another 12 – 25 pages for them to buy or submit a lead. Focus on all that stuff. The tough stuff. Then you'll make money.

Fixing the bounce rate is mandatory, without that you are coming to play the super bowl naked – you are not going to win.

But just fixing that won't ensure you win. Focus on the actual game. Focus on incredible behavior metrics like Pages/Visit, focus on the Visitor Flow report, obsess about Checkout Abandonment Rate, make love to Average Order Size.

All that will get you promoted. Because you are going to focus, not on metrics, but on key performance indicators that have a direct line to the bottom-line of your company.

3. Number of Likes represents social awesomeness.

Ohh … this one will get you fired even faster. :) Because it does not take a very long time for your Senior Management to figure out how lame the Likes metric is and that it drives 1. Zero value on Facebook and 2. Zero squared economic value or cost savings to the business.

There are many spectacular reasons for why Like (and +1s, Followers) is a horrible metric. Here's one: We are looking at two consumer product brands, the tiny company Innocent Drinks and the Goliath called Tide Detergent.

Checkout the number of Likes each has.

Innocent has 0.3 million and Tide has 3.7 million. Small difference.

Now if Tide was lame they would use the number of Likes they have and boast about that to their CMO. Bad idea.

innocent drinks tide detergent facebook

Tide is not lame. They also look at the number right next to the Likes number. For Tide that number reads 15k. For Innocent that number reads 58k!

Even with 10x the number of Likes on Facebook the giant called Tide has 4x fewer people talking about their brand when compared to the David called Innocent.

That's primarily because Tide does not truly understand how to do Conversation Marketing. Their relentless day after day mix of "here are pictures of our products repeated every day, here are the people we sponsor and their ads" is insufficient to create brand engagement.

And if Tide were lame and used Likes as victory, they would not know this.

On the other hand, Innocent clearly understands Conversational Marketing (they are a small company, not yet corporatized I suspect, and likely deal with a smaller combination of lawyers/PR types/Social Media Gurus/Agencies – a sad but likely bane on Tide's existence). They manage to get hundreds upon hundreds of comments (Conversation Rate) and thousands upon thousands of comment Likes (Applause Rate). I'm not using hundreds and thousands as metaphors:

innocent drinks facebook

[Update: As no less than three comments mention below, Innocent is 90% owned by Coca Cola. Fooled me! Please read the above section in that context. But I have to admit this only makes me even more impressed with Innocent. In a massively large company they've carved out an identity uniquely their own. They refuse to be corrupted by Coca Cola's own Facebook strategy of constant self-pimping and product ads masquerading as "updates." As a result pound for pound Innocent's fan engagement on its page is multiple time better than Coca Cola's – even if the latter has many more likes. So Innocent, I'm sorry of thinking if you were a David but I'm mighty proud that you can remain that inside a Corporate Machine. There is hope yet for all other brands at P&G, Unilever, Nestle, Kraft, Pepsico, J&J, etc. etc.]

Tide is not lame. They are not going to obsess about the number of Likes. They will measure the four sexy magnificent best social media metrics and use them to drive a magnificent conversation marketing strategy on Facebook (and YouTube and Google+ and Twitter and Pintrest and …).

Neither should you Ms./Mr. Marketer. Because Likes (and +1s, Followers) measure a fleeting "hello." It is what you do after that first hello that creates business value. Focus on that, and you'll get big 5. Buying targeted impressions = business impact.

PS: Bonus: Facebook Advertising / Marketing: Best Metrics, ROI, Business Value

4. # 1 Search Results Ranking = SEO Success.

Not going to happen.

So what is it? When you search for a brand or a category term, most companies, small or big, want to show up number one in the search results.

search results ranking

Much money is spent on all kinds of demands to SEOs, big or small, which results in all kinds of shenanigans to try and get to #1. Sadly, all that yields very little.

The main reason, as all decent SEOs will tell you, is that search results are no longer standardized. Rather they are personalized. I might even say, hyper-personalized. Regardless of if you are logged in or not.

When I search for "avinash" on Google I might rank #1 in the search results because I'm logged into my Google account, the engine has my search history, my computer IP address, it also has searches by others in my vicinity, local stories right now, and so many other signals.

But when you search for "avinash" your first search result might be a unicorn. Because the search engine has determined that the perfect search result for you for the keyword avinash is a unicorn.

[Do the search wherever you are, do you see me or a unicorn? Share via comments!]

You should give up obsessing about only the number one keyword ranking for just this reason. But of course there are many others. Universal search for example means that personalized results will not only look for information from web pages, they also look for YouTube/Vimeo videos, social listings, images of course, and so on and so forth. Then let's not forget that, proportionally, there are very few head searches and your long tail searches will be huge. Oh, and remember that searchers rarely type just a word or two, and instead use long phrases.

There are a ton more reasons why obsessing about the rank of a handful of words on the search engine results page (SERP) is a very poor decision.

So check your keyword ranking if it pleases you. If your boss insists that your brand must rank #1 for x, y, z keywords, before you show him/her progress log, into Bing on his/her computer, search for x, y, z and click on your brand (even if it is on page 2), and chances are when he/she searches for x, y, z they might see your brand ranking #1. :)

But don't make it your KPI.

There are many other better, no-way-I'll-get-fired SEO metrics.

For purely SEO, you can use Crawl Rate/Depth, Inbound Links (just good ones) and growth (or lack thereof) in your target key phrases as decent starting points. You can graduate to looking at search traffic by site content or types of content (it's a great signal your SEO is working). Measuring Visits and Conversions in aggregate first and then segmented by keywords (or even key word clusters) will get you on the path to showing real impact. That gives you short-term acquisition quality, you can then move to long-term quality by focusing on metrics like lifetime value.

Don't start with LTV, it is hard. Use the step-by-step process above. And you'll get promoted.


I. Hate. This. One.

H. A. T. E.

Deep breath.

It upsets me greatly when I see companies create entire Pay Per Click / Search Engine Marketing strategies based on this single metric.

I've heard this more times than I care to remember: "Our CPC for our Bing/Yandex campaigns was $2.25. This quarter the goal of our PPC campaign is to get that to $2."


This is the image that comes to my mind.

short sighted decisions

Image Credit Frits Ahlefeldt

Let me use an example here.

Let's say you have a stock portfolio with someone like E-Trade. As a prudent investor you'll buy low and sell high. (Easier said than done!) When you trade stocks you'll incur a per-trade fee from E-Trade, usually $10.

Would you measure the success of your trades based on cost per trade? Would your overall trading strategy be to reduce that price to $9 next month?

Of course not, that would be insane.

You will measure the impact on the bottom-line as a result of the trades. How much profit did you generate?

Likewise for the results of your Bing/Yandex campaigns.

You should not care if the CPC is $2 or $25. If someone is on Bing and raising their hand that they want to buy a vacuum cleaner, then you should be willing to pay to show up to sell a vacuum cleaner because that is what your company does.

You should judge the success of that showing up by measuring whether you made money! Did you earn any profit?

As you buy paid search tools, hire smart people/agencies, you should measure if you are able to make more and more profit. You should measure whether, over a long period of time, you are able to increase the lifetime value of PPC acquired customers.

CPC is a profoundly silly indication of your search strategy success. It causes companies to make silly decisions, which leads to poor results (both for the digital strategy and your career).

Friends don't let friends use CPC as a KPI. Unless said friends want to get their friend fired.

6. Page views. Give me more page views, more and more and more!

Content consumption is a horrible metric. It incentivizes sub-optimal behavior in your employees/agencies.

If you are a news site, you can get millions of page views writing stories like (not kidding, all real headlines) "10 Reasons Apple's Innovation Machine is Dead" or "The Kardashians Are On Vacation In Greece" or "Guy Performs 'Do My Thing' In Sailor Moon Outfits Made Of Construction Paper." And it will probably get you transient traffic.

Then that traffic goes away. So your next story is "22 Longer Sex Condom Ads From Around The World."

That works for 40 minutes. Then what?

And what about business impact from all these one-night stands ? Unless the spammy display ads on your site are getting you $14,000 CPM, your company won't be able to afford your salary for too long.

pageviews trend

If you are in the content-only business (say my beloved New York Times) a better metric to focus on is Visitor Loyalty (and if like me you are a paying subscriber: Customer Loyalty). Rather than focusing on a transient metric, you focus on your site's ability to deliver such value to the visitor that they come back again and again – and pay you!

If you are in the lead generation business and do the "OMG, let's publish an infographic on dancing monkey tricks which will get us a billion page views, even though we have nothing to do with dancing or monkeys or tricks" thing, measure success on the number of leads received and not how "viral" the infographic went and how many reshares it got on Twitter.

If you are in the ecommerce business, the only reason to care about pageviews (in a pages/visit context) is to obsess about understanding how to create the most optimal shopping and purchase experience on your site (and the fewest pageviews to happen in the checkout!).

Don't obsess about page views. Spend a short amount of time thinking what causes your salary to get paid, the bottom-line. Then measure the metric closest to that. Hopefully some ideas above will help get you promoted.

7. Impressions. Go, get me some impressions, stat!

Display advertising is an integral part of any digital marketer's repertoire. As it should be.

But I'm heart broken when the success of their Facebook/AOL/Doubleclick/Video ads is purely based on impressions.

If you are forced to watch, say a TV or Digital Video ad, perhaps we can summarize that you actually saw it. You can imagine how tenuous the connection to impact is for "impressions" of banner ads (all shapes, sizes, levels of intrusiveness). Did they really see them?

display ad formats

My hypothesis is that TV/Radio/Magazines have created this bad habit. We can measure so little, almost next to nothing, that we've brought our immensely shaky GRP metric from TV to digital. Here it's called impressions.

Don't buy impressions.

I know you are holding a gun to my head so I'll say this instead: Buy engagement. Of course define what it means first.

I'll be a smidgen more delighted if you evolve to measuring clicks on those ads. It is a signal that someone saw something and clicked on it.

If you are willing to go to clicks, do one better and measure Visits. At least they showed up on your mobile/desktop site.

Now if you are a newbie, measure bounce rate. If you have a tiny amount of experience, measure Visit Duration. If you are a pro, measure Revenue. If you are an Analysis Ninja, measure Profit.

Impressions suck. Profit rocks.

Perhaps you disagree. That is ok. We are both reasonable people. You can buy impressions if you can prove via a simple controlled experiment that when we show impressions we get more engagement/sales and when we don't show impressions we do not get more engagement/sales. And I'll be extra sweet to you, the display/video impressions don't even have to be last click! Actually you don't even have to have a click!!

If the simple A/B (test/control) experiment demonstrates that delivering display banner ad impressions to the test group delivers increased revenue, buy impressions to your heart's content. I'll only recommend that you repeat the experiment once a quarter. See, I can be reasonable.

But if you won't do the experiment and you use the number of impressions as a measure of success, don't get too comfortable in your chair. Bye, bye, coming soon.

8. Demographics and psychographics. That is all I need! Don't care for intent!

This is not a metric, this is more of a "what data you'll use to target your advertising" issue.

It’s another legacy from the old advertising channels like TV, magazines and radio. Our primary method of buying advertising and marketing is: "I would like to reach 90-year-old grandmas who love knitting; what TV channel should I advertise on?" Or they might say: "I would like to reach 18-to-24-year-olds with college education who supported Barack Obama for president." An example of demographic and psychographic segments.

We would have no idea if Grandma actually wanted what we sold or if the young person was remotely interested in our service/product. But we had no intent. We just had results of questions asked during dinner by phone surveys and content habits. We took that on very thin ice data, we bought advertising. That was our lot in life.

[Did you know 50% of TV viewership is on networks that each have <1% share? Per industry.bnet.com. I dare you to imagine how difficult it is to measure who they are, and how to target them to pimp your shampoo, car, cement.]

psychographic segments

We do the same on the web. We go to Google+ or Facebook or AOL and say "Hey, you have a billion people, give me their age and education and let me send a deluge of display ads to them or push my promoted posts!"

The click-through rates prove the poorness of that strategy. Just look at your own reports.

Intent beats demographics and psychographics. Always.

So if you have advertising money to spend, first spend it all on advertising that provides you intent data. (Don't worry, you'll have plenty left over to gamble on demographic/psychographic data. I promise.)

Two examples.

Search has a ton of strong intent. It does not matter if you are a grandma or an 18-year-old. If you are on Baidu and you search for the HTC One, you are expressing strong intent. Second, content consumption has built-in intent. If I'm reading lots of articles about how to get pregnant, you could show me an ad related to that (even if I'm a man, I'm actively expressing interest in getting pregnant!).

The first intent is strong, the second one is weaker. (If you use remarketing you can make that second intent even stronger.) But in both cases the most important thing is not how old I am or my gender or my education or the number of legs I have.

intent marketing

There is a lot of intent data on the web. That is our key strength. Don't waste your marketing and advertising on mental models for targeting, delivery and engagement that were created in the age of Mad Men. Leverage the mental models of our day and age and you'll be immensely successful.

I wish you all the very best!

Ok, as always, it is your turn now.

There is perhaps no limit to the number of silly mistakes Marketers (or pall bearers or butchers or …) can make. Do you have favorite mistakes that are not listed above? Which personal "mistake" taught you the most valuable lesson of your career? Do you agree with the eight above? Which one do you most disagree with? Any thoughts on the cultural challenges that cause us to make these mistakes?

Your insights, advice, helpful tips and critique are most welcome.

Thank you.


  1. 1

    Pure gold, Avinash!

    For a second I thought you were going to argue for targeting demographics and psychographics because your list made it sound sarcastic: "Intent beats demographics and psychographics. Always."

    Rest assured I scrolled to the bottom to make sure you hadn't smoked something funny.

  2. 2

    Really useful post, I think everyone is guilty of at least one of these… Amazing there's anyone still working in digitial marketing, really.

    One small note – Innocent has been owned by Coca Cola for some time now. They do have a great heritage of excellent 'conversation' marketing though, as you mentioned.

  3. 3

    Another fine post that is full of observation and colour, Avinash!

    So glad you put real-time up there in first place too.

    Continuing the theme, perhaps you'll find this rather "tongue-in-cheek" post entertaining too [cue shameless plug link] http://www.ab-analytics.com/blog/dont-invest-in-real-time-web-analytics-buy-a-lava-lamp-instead/

  4. 4

    Nice post Avinash. Allow me to add few things from my experience.

    1. Not understanding how different marketing channels work together to create sales or conversions. Wrong attribution can easily result in huge monetary loss and getting fired. This is IMO the most common deadly mistake made by both marketers and analysts.

    2. Not segmenting the data to granular level before taking business decisions. Segmentation is the key for any successful optimization campaign. It is another most common deadly mistake.

    3. Unreasonable use of maths and stats like not understanding the difference between %change and % difference, not understanding statistical significance and how ratio metrics works. This results in lot of misinterpretation of data.

    4. Too much obsession with a single metric esp. conversion rate. Lot of marketers have no idea that this metric can negatively correlates with revenue and profit. They think that the conversion rate always positively correlates with revenue and profit and so increase in conversion rate is always a good thing.

  5. 13

    Hi Avinash,

    I'm confused by no. 8 — did you flip around the post format? I scanned the list initially and thought, "What? Is it a silly mistake to think that intent trumps demographics?" You're saying the opposite there, right? That focusing on demographics over intent is a silly mistake. Right?

    • 14

      Tim, it does look like that. he just needs to reverse the subheader.

    • 15
      One web company says

      Actually intent versus demographics makes a lot of sense when you think about it. While keeping your target demographics in mind is a good thing, of much more importance is the intent behind the action that is taken.

      Demographics, as Avanish points out, is a passive metric, and is a shot gun approach. You can not guarantee that the people you are reaching want the product or service you are offering. However, when a potential takes an action (search, following links, opening an email),this indicates active desire, and that means your potential for conversion is significantly higher regardless of what demographic that individual is in.

      Demographics are a great way to segment your targeted brand awareness, but when it comes to converting potentials to clients, if a potential has already ACTIVELY participated in trying to find your service or product, the battle is half done.

    • 17

      Tim, Cody: It took me a moment to recognize the snafu, even after you both pointed it out to me! Thanks so much for the help. I've fixed it in the post. It was, as you mentioned Cody, a sub header reversal issue.

      One Web Company: We are like two peas in a pod. :)

      I love your framing of "passive metric." That is an interesting way to think about it.

      Thank you.


  6. 18

    Hi Avinash,

    I really fight my career with clients demanding all of the above, but mostly 5. – 8. It was frustrating, but you gave me back hope.

    Clients don't understand what's going on and usually the HIPO's are 'old school' marketeers. Feels good to be on the right path, even if you loose a client, or your job :)

    @Tim Wilson: If you are looking for customers, intent is more important than demographics. It's not so hard to understand.

    • 19


      I had the same issue but by showing your clients at the pre-propals stage what Avinash is pointing out here you can set their expectations to move more towards value driven KPI's.

      Just getting you ranked 1st for phrase X, potential client should not be what is important. It should be ranking high for those phrases that bring in quality traffic that convert at a quality rate and become repeat clients.

  7. 20

    Just a point about Innocent – they are 90%+ owned by Coca-Cola, so it's very interesting to see how their conversational marketing changes…

    • 21

      To be fair, Innocent did the hard work of establishing a unique culture and customer experience early on. That's partly what attracted Coca-Cola.

      That they have been able to continue their trail blazing approach to conversational marketing is a testament to both the team that stayed on and the folks at Coke who knew they were onto a good thing and let it continue.

  8. 22

    Nice article Avinash.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  9. 23

    Completely agree that buying impressions is silly.

    Also, thank you so much for your rant about bounce rate and Facebook likes. I knew they both had a level of importance, but I couldn't really figure out how to use that information going forward.

    Much appreciated.

  10. 24

    Great post Avinash, may I suggest a follow up? "8 great data things that will get you promoted".


  11. 26

    Hi Avinash,

    Good list – the one that we're currently hitting on most frequently is 'dwell time' or 'average time on site/page/whatever it is that you happen to be measuring today'.

    Apart from being flawed technically as a metric from the start (it misses the final page viewing time and anything that is 'average' when it isn't normally distributed is rubbish), it doesn't tell you anything either.

    Why did they stay on your site for so long? Was it because it was absorbing or because it was confusing? Why did they leave so quickly – was it because it was so easy to find what they wanted or because they, came, they puked (to steal a phrase) and they left?

    99% of our lives would be easier if we could persuade people to choose the right metrics from the start.


    • 27

      Alec: This is where limitations of quantitative data are their most raw (and clear to the smart analyst). Both with time on site, time on page and even pages/visit the collection of your experiences (read: biases :)) determine what you see.

      Hence I'm such a big fan of using surveys to measure Task Completion Rate and asking "Why Not" for people who say they could not complete the task. I would much rather go through the pain of reading their words to figure out if the quant metric is showing something good or bad.


  12. 28
    Anthony Centeno says

    Nice post Avinash!

    It's been a while since I've left a comment, but if you remember I shared a regular expression with you that targeted long-tail keywords a good while back. Anyway, what I like most about this post is that it helps analysts save time by avoiding obsession with the wrong metrics and getting right to the good stuff.

    Keep up the good work!


  13. 29

    [Do the search wherever you are, do you see me or a unicorn? Share via comments!]

    I see you in 5 of the 7 links returned in the search. I see less on Bing but you are still the number 1 result.

  14. 33
    Kostas Panayotakis says

    Once again, very useful ! Avinash

    I particularly liked the 'right time data' concept

  15. 34

    Great post, Avinash. I think a major portion of folks are making the jump between not using metrics and using silly ones. I'm happy to see us making the move to better metrics though.

    What's funny to me is how defensive some folks get when you suggest a KPI instead of the metrics they've chosen. Do you ever get that?

    • 35

      Josh: All. The. Time.

      I think the onus then is on me (and you and our peers) to walk the talk. My strategy is to not say "get rid of that stinky stuff," rather I say "for the next time period why don't we add x."

      Then it is just a matter of presenting x bundled with some insight and then other stuff automatically looks stinky in comparison. :)


  16. 36

    Avinash this is why I always get excited when I find a new post from you in my reader list.

    Great example of telling the Hippo's what they really should let us focus on. I battle alot with clients at the start with 5 – 7 and from being an avid reader of your blog and teachings I have waken several to the reality of what a true KPI is, thank you for that.

    As for your test I think your readers here will find you in their search for "Avinash" just for the reasons you listed we read you all the time and are on your site so they like I should have you come up first and not a unicorn. ;o)

    As always I learn something every time I read one of your posts.

  17. 37

    Dear Avinash

    It's official, you can quit your day job. Your new career is mind reader. Thank you for taking the time to lay down the law (in the same "Hey! Numb-nuts! We're over here now!" tone that I would use).

    Now if you don't mind, I'd like to return the favor and take these eight insights to their logic conclusion. The summary is simple: Shift your way of thinking from 20th century based quantity to 21st century quality. And then apply that thinking to measuring the experience of the buyer / target / visitor / customer / guest.

    Granted, that might be easier said than done. But, per your list of eight, it's better than taking the easy route to the wrong destination.

    Always a pleasure –

  18. 38


    You REALLY struck a chord when you talk about "real time data". I couldn't agree with you more that it's a waste (for most people). In fact, it's this very principle that led to the concept behind Minimalytics.

    Minimalytics is a product that aggregates your most important pieces of data (though you still need to choose these wisely) and delivers the information to you in an email report at whatever time interval you want – once a week, once a month, etc. In other words, it specifically addresses this issue of "real-time" and allows you to take a step back, stop the 24/7 monitoring of data, and delivers the relavent info to you at a most appropriate time. I like to call it "Digestible Analytics".

    I really hope this fascination with the idea of real-time data dashboards fades – it doesn't serve people well, as you know, yet there tends to be so much hype around the concept. It's so refreshing to see posts that validate this! Thanks, Avinash!


  19. 39

    Which personal "mistake" taught you the most valuable lesson of your career?

    I think the biggest mistake was that I didn't measure results correctly. I did measure them, but they were on a macro scale. I would look at my overall conversion rate instead of breaking down the "Traffic Sources" and looking a the individual conversion rates.

    The only thing that matters to me now is what affects the bottom line. Metrics like Page Visits and Bounce Rate don't help me that much. At least with Bounce Rate I can do an average site comparison.

    Real Time Analytics is some I NEVER use! That data is not in a form where I can analyze it. I personally think it's a waste of time.

  20. 41

    The Coca-Cola Company actually owns 90% of Innocent Drinks, which leads me to believe that they do possess a corporate-structure.

  21. 42
    Ron Drabkin says

    Since you asked Avinash… if I type in Avinash, Google autofills "Kaushik" and gives me a link to the post above.

    The content is almost all about you. Other than the related results, and at the bottom of the right rail there is a picture of actor Avinash "who stars in South Indian language films."

  22. 43

    Great post, and thought-provoking.

    I did have a comment and question about #3, though:

    Because +1's show up directly in the SERP's (albeit sparingly for now), might they be somewhat different in value from "Likes" since they theoretically pay off in "intent" driven moments when a user is performing a search?

    • 44

      Dan: {Remember I'm not a "SEO GURU," I just play one on TV… :)}

      Social signals do play a role in search result rankings. It depends on the type of signal, the source of the signal and the search engine you are using.

      But it is just one of thousands upon thousands of signals that the search engine is using. And there are so many other things I would try to score on before I get to Social Signals (and try to go Like hunting!).

      Social is a key part of inbound marketing. One of those things we should do and not stink at. A channel we should be in to add value to our users lives. My personal believe is that if you execute against that vision, you'll naturally have more than enough Likes, +1s, to have the SEO impact you want.

      Thank you so much for the thought-provoking question.


  23. 45
    Hozaifa Alsafwa says

    Hi Avinash,

    Really it's a really beautiful post that will change my web analytics strategy to the company's website I work for.

    Thank you alot.

    Hozaifa Alsafwa

  24. 46
    Vladimir says

    I mean honestly, I think I've learned more about analytics and how to go about it than reading tons of other blogs and articles. You are simply a great storyteller, thank you for that.

    To the article, I have two points, one 'technical' and one cultural. In comparing Innocent and Tide, you used PTAT as a better indicator of success on social than likes. I do agree that meer number of likes doesn't really prove much, but in my short experience as a Social Media Analyst, PTAT is a deeply flawed metric. In most cases, for the pages that I monitor, PTAT is mainly driven by the actual new likes/fans, which gives a distorted image of how good of a content your page is actually providing to fans. I hate it, so much so, that I am trying hard to persuade my bosses that we should not use it as an engagement metric (provided by and heavily payed to an agency that gave us that).

    This brings me to my second point, persuading the management. I, as an analyst, am far away from, not just people who are making decisions in general, but even the people that are publishing content. Sometimes I am so disheartened by how little data we are using.

    Instead of big data, we should be focusing on big usage of 'small' data, before even thinking we are ready for the 'big data' challenge.

    P.S. I am reading your book at the moment, and although it is mostly about Web Analytics, it is totally applicable to Social as well. Thanks much for providing us your wisdom!

  25. 48

    I have bookmarked this post and will refer to it forever! It's so refreshing and honest… great perspective and excellent advice.

    I am one of those marketers who was fired due to a lot of rainbow-and-unicorn thinking, but it's one of the best things that ever happened to me! I have my own business now and have learned from my mistakes – but also realize I still have a lot to learn and always will!

    My favorite is #3 – such a fallacy to think that the number of likes or followers you have represents your organizations' success – but it is a good indicator of how much people like you. Maybe that's important for some people!

    • 49

      Jennifer: You are so brave to share this comment. Thank you!

      I'm thrilled that things are working out for you. I've been laid off twice (!), and both times it was the greatest possible thing that could have happened even though it did not quite feel that way when I was laid off. :)


  26. 50

    Haha this is what I call a great content!

    But kind of sad for SEO experts sometimes. ;)

  27. 51

    For completeness sake, the avinicorn:


    • 52

      Jero: OMG! That is awesome!!

      Thank you for going the extra mile for me. The Unicorn looks amazing. :)


    • 53

      Well done Jero. Well. done.

      But what exactly is an Avicorn?

      "The creature soon-to-be-fired marketers see when they look in the mirror that unfortunately does not exist in reality"


      • 54

        I hope the unicorn represents -in this field full of buzzwords, gurús, wizards, quantum physics and magic- the common sense human being in all of us.

  28. 55


    "Oh and remember that no one types a word or two, people use long phrases."

    Do you have evidence to back up this statement?

    • 56

      Aidan: A simple Google search for that will find you the information. But let me try to do one better.

      You should measure the evidence for yourself with your own data.

      Checkout this blog post: 3 Advanced Web Analytics Visitor Segments: Non-Flirts, Social, Long Tail

      The last segment I share (you can download it into your own GA account) is for computing exactly this. It uses regular expressions to categorize all your search queries by the number of words used in each.

      For example if you want to identify Visits by people who use three words in their search queries: ^\s*[^\s]+(\s+[^\s]+){2}\s*$

      Download the segments, come to the conclusions that your data presents you with.



  29. 58

    Great title.

    Reduce your assumptions and increase your facts. Apply logic and solve the real problem, not the problem you embellished.

  30. 59

    Thank you for this post. I was wondering if you could do a followup post on capturing "intent" data? (or share links to older posts about this topic).

    I work for GiveIndia,org and we use Google Analytics for our site. One thing we have been struggling with is getting "search term" data ( available through secondary dimension) under Ecommerce > Transactions. As matching these 2 metrics is what, we believe, will help get us this intent data (per customer).

    Your advise on if this is the right way, and how we could get there, would be helpful :-).

    • 60

      Tarika: I'm not sure exactly what you are trying to do… but it seems you want to know what queries were typed into your own internal site search engine for people who placed orders.

      If that is what you want to do, just create an advanced segment for everyone who had a transaction during their visit (like this: http://goo.gl/k1YqR) and apply that segment to your site search report. Content > Site Search > Search Terms.

      If you need more help you can hire a GACP, you'll find a list here: http://www.bit.ly/gaac


  31. 61
    IntentData.com says

    "Intent beats demographics and psychographics. Always."

    Great line Avinash, it sums up the sentiment of our site a great deal right now!

  32. 62

    I loved your 5th and 4th points. The search for actual KPIs becomes very tough where multiple departments are there on the role to support the digital media and to generate most of the business out of online technology.Simultaneous training and mutual understanding, and the awareness are mandatory to break this silos and search for real success parameters all-together.

  33. 63

    Hi, I always get http://www.kaushik.net for "avinash" for natural logged-in search on google.pl, unlogged google.co.uk, incognito or SERP Chrome plug-in.

  34. 64

    I think number 2 is particularly interesting because it could be used as the starter for a follow-up post on applying Lean to analytics.

    In this case, it nicely illustrates a case for using the Five Whys:

    "Why is my bounce rate so high?"

    "Because people aren't engaging with your content"

    "Why aren't they engaging with my content?"

    "Because it's focused on you not your visitors/it's irrelevant/it doesn't exist (delete as appropriate"

    Plus three more Whys that take you – and your boss – to the root cause of the problem. Solve that root cause, bounce rates will go down, revenue will go up, and everyone will be happy. In theory, at least…

  35. 65

    Thank You Avinash,

    I sent this link to my clients. I HOPE they will understand. :)

  36. 66
    Rafael Galante says

    (data > analyst > manager > director > VP > question back to manager > yells at the analyst > back to director> VP = 6 days).

    Hahaha soo true!!!

  37. 67
    Ralph aka fantomaster says

    Great story, very well told, thanks for that!

    Obviously, your #8 is the real soft spot here: so many different ways to equate behaviour with intention – and to confuse the one with the other. E.g. I may gobble up your webpages as a visitor because I'm trying to spy on your business model, to check you out for suspected copyright or trademark infringements, because some criminal suspect has been shown to visit them at some point, because I'm an insomniac and simply bored stiff, because I like your web design or your sales process flow, because I'm looking for content to steal or copycat etc. etc.

    Point being that even if the above may qualify for statistically insignificant, rare instances, there's very little by way of hard number crunching that will actually fortify a soft, essentially very subjective "metric" as "perceived intent" (which, IMV, would be the more precise tag to put to it).

    Which, of course, is actually the whole rub of online marketing: even when boiled down to mere big data blips, humans are (or at least: can very often be) rather too ambiguous in their behaviour for comfort. Not sure how to tackle this issue except by resorting to such incredibly fuzzy and more often than not highly unreliable "skills" such as "intuition" and "marketing psychology"?

    • 68

      Ralph: We can't be chasing corner cases. I doubt even God can. And you've outlined a nice bunch in your comment.

      But a vast majority of uses cases are not corner cases. A vast majority of people are not trying to check for criminal activity, steal business models, copy web design etc. For them, intent can be inferred. I would not let the corner cases define our strategy.

      Demographics and psychographics present very weak intent. You are super old, chances are you want an Adult Diaper. Those chances become very high if you search on Bing for adult diaper. Those chances are a little less strong if you are reading how to control flow on some health website.

      So think of intent as a continuum. You want to go as high as possible.


      • 69

        Agreed, Avi, that on the intuitive level these "corner cases" constitute (by their very definition) a tiny minority. Or do they? I mean, how many corners does this particular polygon actually sport?

        Not trying to be facetious here: what most people don't seem to realise – to the detriment of efficient marketing – is in what a great post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy loop this ensnares us. So sales/conversions/actions "prove" intent, right? Hard to argue with that – except when you want to blow it up to a halfway reliable, robust metric. Because when you actually achieve a conversion rate of, say, 5%, all that tells us is that in 5% of all cases "intent" and "offering" actually did match up to a hopefully happy marriage. As for the others – who really knows?

        And there's more to it: what if that "minority" isn't that tiny after all? If it constituted, say, 15% of all your pages' visitors? Or 20%? Would you still regard that as insignificant? And again: how would we actually know anyway?

        So there's only so much data can actually tell us beyond mere surmise, no matter how much it may be based on "common sense" or whatever authority of pragmatism we want to invoke.

        Not dissing your approach at all, please don't get me wrong! But it's the limitations of validity (or, if you prefer: explanatory power) that will define whichever degree of efficiency we wish to postulate. Nothing wrong with groping about in the dark – as long as we're sufficiently aware of it to factor it in rather than glossing it over.

        • 70

          Ralph: I'll bite.

          Even with the simplest web analytics tool (or BI tool if you are doing traditional analytics) it takes a trivial amount of effort to find the corner cases. It has never been hard to find the jokers trying to scrape your content or copy your design or mess around with your platform for their pleasure or nefarious gains.

          What is important is to decide what to do with the jokers. Do we get sucked into their corner cases or do we focus on profitable activity for the business?

          If the corner cases are small, say less than 10%, they will cause negligible impact, even on the work of a novice analyst. If they are more than 10 percent, say even more than 25% then one has to be clever enough to decide to ignore the jokers. Some people find that hard to do.

          Finally it is important to remember this: If 25% of your data is polluted with jokers you have bigger problems. You should work harder to get enough real traffic so that jokers go back to being what they deserve to be: Ignorable noise in the system.

          I hope this helps.


  38. 71

    Great post Avinash,

    In particular I like the parts about the bounce rate and page ranking. For some reason people are way to obsessed with bounce rates, and page ranking.

    I do get that high bounce rate is bad, however, i see it more as a perfect opportunity to get better at things that we suck at.


  39. 72

    Excellent post Avinash. Especially liked the section on CPC and Bounce. Going to share this with colleagues in my office! Cheers!

  40. 73

    Great post!

    Hi-five on the social likes!

    The sooner people understand it is about a quality community which engages with others about your brand rather that the quantity of users that simply click the like button the better!

  41. 74

    Great stuff as always Avinash. Love the social likes bit. Thank you!

    PS: I get results about you and not unicorns.

  42. 75

    I really wanted to see a unicorn! Just got you!

    But Jero's avinicorn will do.

    Thanks for this post. I will definitely pass it on to colleagues

  43. 76

    I searched for Avinash and got your blog first up. I didnt get an Unicorn :)

    Nice post

    • 77

      Agree great post – and I would add a reminder that the ultimate metric is sales – marketers spend a lot of time these days agonizing over minor metrics and forget what they are were hired for – build loyalty for current customers and attract new ones.

      I also get you Avinash vs unicorn (even though it's our company symbol).

      Will share with clients!

  44. 78

    Searched "avinash"… no sign of unicorns.

  45. 79

    Great article.

    I am wondering though about the last point; aren't the search engines now blocking the referrer tags when customers click over from the search engine to your web site, so it is no longer possible to discover what their intent was if they were on a search engine and click over to your site?

    We find this information extremely valuable, and it is rather annoying that they are heading that way (probably in an effort to force us to buy more CPC ads I suspect)…

    • 80

      Kendall: Let's unpack a couple of items. Google is not passing on organic search keywords for people who are logged in/use secure search. That makes our understanding of SEO performance incomplete. This makes me sad, because that number is growing with time.

      We can still get a decent idea for how we are doing with SEO by using Webmaster Tools where you are able to see all the keywords your site is showing up for etc.

      But when it comes to monetizing intent, in this post we are talking about ads and that you can still do. On any search engine (or display advertising platforms etc) you can still use intent to target the ads against intent.


      • 81

        Yes but if we are trying to monetize the intent when they land on our site, we are losing that ability because they are hiding the intent from us. Clearly IMHO they are doing this so we will only be able to serve ads based on intent from their networks and pay them for it and not be able to do it when they land on our site.

        Honesty I am sick of paying google crazy amounts of money for CPC and shopping ads, because all we see is the cost of the ads going up and the ROI going down. With all the latest changes in the last 12 months or so our google spend has more than doubled, yet the converted revenue has only gone up a small amount. And it Is really hard to get the right information from analytics to determine if the spend is really worth it. The question we are working to solve is how much money are we spending on CPC ads for traffic we would have gotten anyway from organic long tail search terms. I think it is 90% of the spend if your organic SEO is working well, but if you simply analyze the results of the traffic itself, the conversions and the revenue, it appears to be paying for itself. What you cannot work out is how much of the revenue you STILL would have gotten through organic SEO and not CPC or shopping ads. You can't test for that because google of course will never allow us to run A/B tests and serve ads to say 50% of traffic and let SEO handle the other 50% :) The results would not be in googles favor IMHO!

        Best we can do is use our analytics package and run tests with and without google, and hope to make sense of the results and all the other variables that might affect traffic, revenue and conversions during the same period.

        • 82

          Kendall: Here are my golden rules for marketing life:

          1. Data beats opinion, it i even better at beating emotion.

          2. Don't spend money on anything I'm losing money on.

          3. If I need help, it is always cheaper, and faster, to ask a qualified consultant rather than invest time in figuring it all out by myself.

          I hope this helps.


  46. 83

    What? I can't just buy a big ass targeted media plan recommended by my agency and go to some commercial shoots in Bali and call it a day?

    Why do you think I got into marketing in the first place???


  47. 84
    Corlyssa says

    I get you, Avinash, not the unicorn :)

    • 85

      Corlyssa (+ other wonderful folks): Thank you so much for checking.

      I realize that the search history of readers of this blog likely biases your search results in my favor. Next time to do this experiment, I'll recommend checking in incognito mode not being signed into the browser. :)

      PS: Those of you who wanted a unicorn, Jero provides a link to one in his comment above to a "avinicorn". Here it is: http://martinezcabeza.com/sites/default/files/avinicorn.png

  48. 86

    I spent 3 days to read your post Avinash. Thank you, this is gold.

    I'm getting you on Google, not the unicorn :)

  49. 87

    Very timely post for me.

    And just to follow with your request… in a search I see YOU, no unicorn. Could be though that from my computer I never search for unicorns… but do occasionally search for you.

    • 88

      Madeline: That is definitely a factor.

      The cleanest way to checkout "clean rankings" is to do so in an Incognito window in Chrome, not be logged into your Google account (or Bing account etc.), and if at all possible not to do it from your normal Office – Home location.

      Always insightful.

      PS: A cheap way to change your location is to connect to the web via your phone. I use tethering/my HTC One's hotspot feature. That is enough to switch your ip etc to give you a different view than you normally see on the web. If your phone is with a cell provider that charges extra for tethering, you can use something like FoxFi and connect to your phone's data connection via Bluetooth.

  50. 89

    Hello Avinash,

    "Friends don't let friends use CPC as a KPI."

    I love your blog! I read a lot out there. Books. Blogs; other mediums too, online courses, videos, etc. I view learning as a lifelong adventure. However, your blog posts are my favorite. Every time I see a new post update via email I become excited. I wait until I can focus then I devour every word. They are relevant to my career path but also your writing style is entertaining yet highly informative.

    Thank you so much for these posts.


  51. 90

    Spot on as always, Avinash!

  52. 91

    Great post Avinash, you are the top result, not unicorn, on my search!

    I think your point about being number 1 in the rankings is particularly misunderstood, unsurprisingly it is something that many of my clients obsess about and I have had to demonstrate to them that they get personalised results.

  53. 92

    Absolutely love this article but lots to take in, in one sitting :-). Excellent point about "Likes" vs. "Talking abouts" re: Innocence Drinks. Looks like humor gets people talking the most, no?

    We are just getting started with my husband's landscaping site & social media plan (frankslawncarefps.com), and it cost us $87 in Facebook ads to get him 44 new "Likes" on FB, LOL. Plus we ran a "Plant-a-Pear Tree Raffle" to get there ($100 for the tree, plus his time & labor to plant it). He now has 55 FB Likes, but he wants to know, so what!? and now what!!?? We shall see…

    FYI, in my Google search of "Avinash," you came up top. No unicorns.

    • 93

      Lisa: Thanks for sharing Frank's story. He will probably have greater luck, in terms of converting to actual sales, if we can get the Facebook page to become a small hub with lawn/gardening/pool tips and tricks and conversation.

      That way more people would engage with the page. This is very important because if people don't Like your posts (not the page, posts) and reply and reshare etc, Facebook's Edgerank will only show your posts to a very small number of people who like your page (so maybe only 5 of 55!).

      But if they engage, because your content is good, more people will see your posts more regularly which will get them to remember to hire Frank because his name/brand will be front of mind.

      So it all starts with solid content, related to your area of expertise, that people engage with. Then sales!


  54. 94

    Well doing a search for Anivash on my browser came back with you as the #1 result (also 2, 4, 5 and 6) in Google and it actually looked just like your screen capture from the blog post. Apparently my experience is personalized to put you as number 1.

    Awesome post as always, if only every marketer I work with would read this post.

    I'm passing it along in hopes they'll learn something from you!

  55. 95

    Love this post and want to spend an evening with it. I have at least one possibly harmful metric obsession (AdWord's Quality Score), but in general I aim at very common-sense things: good content, discoverable content (with a little help), neat structure (I want a page to be like my appartment – nice and clean), usability, and perhaps some things more that are not rocket-science.

    I am hoping there will be a time when SEO is pretty much dead, perhaps because there's no telling what to do to rank higher "SEO-wise", or because it simply pays off much more to think about the client than to think about Google & Bing. I am curious what's your view on that! Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    P.S. I found Avinash the person – not the unicorn.

    • 96

      Ivan: Good one! Quality score is one of those tricky things. We can obsess about it too much, and because so much of it is out of our control it might not be a healthy obsession.

      I do encourage an understanding of the key components of the quality score because that can be good for your overall execution. This is one of my favorite videos on it: http://goo.gl/UvtOh

      In its simplest form SEO is the art of ensuring that your site is well organized, crawlable by all search engines (technically) and contains the content (updated if relevant) that represents your business and its value. That I believe is going to be around forever in some shape. :)


  56. 97

    Excellent article, thanks for sharing your ideas, Avinash. Got bunch of very useful reminders for me.

    When googling "Avinash" name (from Poland) your blog and twitter was the 1st and 2nd. The third was wiki of Indian actor.

  57. 98

    Thanks for the great article. As an in-house SEO/SEM Expert I immediately shouted out to the Brand Management and Media Teams to 'pin their ears back and listen to what my unicorn has to say'. I then read them out the article, well, most of it anyway.

    They pretty quickly got the idea about use of Analytics in their reporting. The only thing you didn't mention, maybe because you don't believe it, is that Analytics possibly doesn't pick up 100% of visits, or has down time and doesn't inform us? I always mention that Analytics is free, so you can't argue with the value we get from it!

    • 99

      David: The cool thing about the web is that we can use data to make our points. For example your point about analytics does not "pick up 100% of the visits or has down time and doesn't inform us" is likely not true.

      I say that because it is easy to check that assertion with data. Here's the site: http://www.google.com/analytics/status

      Look for red checks. And if you find them, there are issues. Else not.

      But let me pull this up a bit. On this blog I've frequently said that we have more data than any other channel on the planet. We don't even use 20% of the value it contains.

      Hence my overall personal belief is that… so what if we only have 90% of the data that was supposed to be collected. It is still way more than what we know what to do with!


      Having said that I want to state that Adobe Analytics, WebTrends, Google Analytics, SAS, blah, blah, blah all collect greater than 99.99999% of the data from your digital existence.


      • 100

        Thanks Avinash, for the reply.

        The reason I didn't use data to make my point, is that I didn't know the numbers to quote! If you say that Analytics captures 99.9% of my data then I will not argue.

        I agree whole heartedly that we don't know what to do with the data we collect and I will follow this blog very closely to see your, and commentators', suggestions.

  58. 101

    This is awesome.

    Sometimes people want me to do SEO or to just tweet and Facebook for them and it's so hard to convince them that even if you get tons of traffic, who cares if no one turns into a customer? That's where SEO can't be separated from the rest of Internet marketing.

    I love this!

  59. 102
    Miguel says

    I've discovered your blog recently and I'm hooked Avinash. It's a real education.I love this post and will refer to it.

    I also liked your comments on social FMCG. As an ex FMCG-er (I started out marketing dish liquid and toothpaste) I am always quite bemused looking at how supermarket brands use social channels and to be honest I'm pretty sceptic because I personally don't want to befriend my butter or talk to to my detergent. There is also the question of reach and ROI, but I can accept that there are FMCG product categories which lend themselves to conversational marketing, as you so elegantly put it.

    Interesting to see how the social metrics you mention would stand up in the context of the Scrunch or Fold social media from Andrex the toilet paper brand. It is all over the web as possibly the worst campaign in history.


    They successfully started a conversation on whether it is better to scrunch or fold when you wipe and was successful by every metric you mention Conversation, Magnification, Applause and probably even Economic value . But it was a crap (pun intended) concept that probably damaged the brand judging by people's reactions on blogs and their FB page.

    Maybe you need a fifth metric for social media marketing – Common Sense?

    • 103

      Miguel: You can never have enough common sense. Never!


      I think brands of all types can create communities. There are a couple examples in this post. But Crystal Chevy is a great example of that, they are not a CPG company. So is Red Bull, amazing FB/G+ strategy. But so is the Real Estate Agent in Seattle who's created a nice watering hole for his local community to gather around on Facebook – and when they need a home, boom!


  60. 104
    dqcolor says

    Hello from Spain!! Great article!

    Makes me feel a lil fool and discover how great in my ignorance.

    By the way… i search for Avinash and i have seen you, not a unicorn :)

  61. 105

    "Intent beats demographics and psychographics. Always."

    This sentence bring to me very new to online marketing.

    Thanks SeoMoz take me here!

  62. 106
    Odysseas says

    I love the list. The one thing that I disagree is: "Bounce rate is really useful for finding things you suck at."

    As a user when I do an informational search, I love to land to the right page that gives me all the info I need without clicking around and then move on with the next thing I want to do. That does not mean that the site sucks. It means that it answered my question.

    For example, don't we all prefer reading a news article on one page rather than four?

    So a high bounce rate in some cases may be a VERY good sign. You agree?

    • 107

      Odysseas: If your business is making money by people just visiting your site and *not making a single click*, then you should not worry about bounce rate.

      But if that is not a proven fact, then you should worry about proving your assertion.

      You can read the article in one page. I like that. And every site should provide that. Now you are happy. How did the company make money? How are they going to ensure that they can pay salaries and provide healthcare?

      They can only do that if you, the happy reader, are going to pay them some money! Sometimes it is via a phone call you make to place an order. Sometimes it is from you subscribing to the content, paying for it, and bouncing every day (that is now ok). Sometimes it is from getting you to click on an affiliate link. Etc. Etc.

      A high bounce rate, say 70%, is ok if you've proven that if 7 out of 10 people do nothing on your site you can still make money.


  63. 108
    Madrid 1 says

    I'm going to take issue with your No. 6:

    "If you are in the content-only business (say my beloved New York Times) a better metric to focus on is Visitor Loyalty (and if like me you are a paying subscriber: Customer Loyalty). Rather than focusing on a transient metric, you focus on your site's ability to deliver such value to the visitor that they come back again and again – and pay you!"

    Only to a certain extent. Visitor loyalty is all very well, but when a single spike of traffic of 5k-10k visitors can pay for 1 day's worth of journalist time + bring in a bunch of shares and viral links – then getting more page views is a key component.

    And when you get regular spikes in short term traffic, you can then invest more time in building long-term (loyal) traffic.

    So I want my publishers to write some '10 ways unicorns beat zombies' content. Because it works, because it pays, because, and I know it hurts you, PEOPLE ACTUALLY LIKE THIS STUFF. Really. That's what they talk about and share. I can't remember the time anyone shared with me an NYT article. But I get 20 monkeys dancing on potatoes stuff every day. And my friends are, for the most part, intellectual, highly-educated, worldly citizens. But they SHARE monkeys, unicorns, celebs and top 10 funny-shaped potatoes content.

    To be clear, I'm not denying the loyalty aspect, but I want short-term impressions too because that is how advertising is sold. Big advertisers want big impressions. THEY DO NOT CARE ABOUT QUALITY. Sure, they SAY they do, but they're lying. And I know this from the media buyers I deal with – one of whom is my flat mate.

    Finally, you ever hear the 'I only read Playboy for the articles' trope? Sure, Playboy has great articles. But people read it for the tits. Titz meanz hitz. Impressions matter. And if you don't get them you'll get fired before you get a chance to analyse your loyalty stats.

    • 109

      Madrid: Let us agree on something first. Those articles are popular, and people like to read them weather they admit it to us or not. We agree!

      The question is simply: Did you make money?

      So if you are making enough money to eat food and pay your employees to eat food and get health care off page views. Then more power to you. Keep doing what you are doing. Keep writing those "viral" articles and keep getting transient traffic and keep serving relevant or irrelevant display ads you are charging CPM for. I genuinely mean that.

      For most people that is not true. They keep writing these articles and get lots of traffic and can't afford a can of Coke.

      Then you need to think different.

      Here's a specific case study. My friend Thomas was getting a million unique visitors (not visits, visitors!) a month. They was making tiny amount of money off display ads. He switched to a different business model for his content site, mostly premium/paid. His traffic, unsurprisingly, dropped instantaneously by 90%. His profits went up by 1,125%.

      More here: https://plus.google.com/u/1/106909838320943141098/posts/hqwQLWXbPPi


  64. 110

    I get you when I search Avinash, but probably because I read every single thing you post…you are genius! I especially like #3 and #4 in this article. #3 is something I think most marketers know but fail to look beyond simple metrics because they do not want to explain to a boss the deeper metrics and be responsible for tracking. The spreadsheet in the Best Social Media Metrics: Conversation, Amplification, Applause, Economic Value article is huge and makes the tracking of this better metrics very easy.

    In regards to #4, as a digital marketing consultant, I constantly hear from clients, "get me #1 rankings for xyz keywords, and that is all I care about." I often inform them we cannot 100% guarantee this because that is impossible to guarantee for a host of reasons — the competitiveness of the keyword, the position you currently rank in, the history of the site, etc.

    I'm glad that you mentioned personalized results though because now that is what really effects #1 rankings. I still have a difficult time explaining this to clients though, and there most common question when I do is, well how do I get to the top of people's personalized results then…so now, the new request is — "Get me to the top of searchers personalized results."

    • 111

      Amy: It is definitely difficult to change minds. Especially after there has been so much noise in the industry about one way of thinking early on.

      One of the "tricks" that works for me is to just open different browsers in their own computer and show them different results. Or open a browser in their computer and then my computer and search for the same thing and show them that both our results are different.

      That at least gives me an opening to talk about not obsessing about the #1 ranking.


  65. 112

    Sorry, no unicorn. Just you.

    Sublime post. THANK YOU.

  66. 113

    Thank you! Excellent post.

    I am new to search marketing and your insights here are extremely helpful. I will definitely be following you in the future!

  67. 114

    More than anything else, this article makes me want to google bomb this image with the anchor text Avinash


  68. 115

    Great post Avinash,

    Cant agree more.

    Data is receiving lot of interest recently, agree that lot of people use 'corner case examples' in all disciplines of marketing .
    Each digital discipline is different also esp with SEO there are numerous things to look out for.

    However diff KPIs are imp at different stages of maturity of campaign.


  69. 116

    Very informative post, i guess the lesson is we all need to work on the overall picture instead of focusing on just one or two facets.

    For example you say that by lowering your bounce rate all you managed to accomplish is get your ads created and targeted properly and optimize the landing pages. The work is not done as you still have to focus on rest of the process.

  70. 117
    Muhammad Farhan says

    thanks avinash, i'm going to be marketer that focused on seo and monetize program, this post is very interesting, i'm really excited to keep up-to-date with your newsletter!

  71. 118

    On my ipad your site is searching with "avinash" ranking on google on #1! Congratulations!

    Your question is a clever strategie to get internationally searched an clicked :))))))

  72. 119
    Martin Wiedenhoff says

    Hello Avinash,

    I am a Digital Marketer and it was a pleasure to read that my decision to fire myself to get access to these 30% of data with another employer was the right one to make in 2013.

    My wife being from Peru I can confirm that Inca Kola that Coca Cola purchased is family owned still in Peru! So there is another success story like Innocent.

    Montreal, Canada

  73. 120
    Ana Mourao says

    Awesome post, as always. Not only made me think hard, it also made me laugh hard…

    Concerning the SEO bit, I read about a workaround for SEO metrics analysis due to the "search term not provided" change from Google (I think it was on Search Engine Land, can´t find the link – please feel free to correct it, anyone).

    In any case, if you missed it, it suggests that you match the landing pages from the search term not provided bundle and match these pages with your list of key terms (of course, this require mapping out your landing pages and keywords).

    Best, ana

    • 121

      Ana: We can certainly make some conjecture, but I'm afraid there is no clean/good way to really know what was Not Provided. In fact as more time passes and we have more content and new ways in which people are finding it, we can't even really rely on our historical data (say keywords referring to that landing page in the past).

      Until we get that data, we simply don't have it. We can try to make better SEO success guesses based on data in Webmaster tools. A bit.


  74. 122


    I just saw you at the Digital Dealer Conference in Orlando and you were awesome.

    You had a scorecard/chart on how dealer's should rate themselves. I was hoping to get a copy of the deck but I am being told that won't happen.

    Can you send me the deck and/or post the scorecard you presented?


    Adam Stone
    617 335-4579

    We are re-doing all of our websites. Don't judge us on what you see now.

  75. 123
    Aime Yann Mbabazi says

    Nice Post Avinash,

    Having said that, and more precisely related to Bounce Rate, I am quite astonished that you dismissed Bounce Rate for not being an acceptable KPI. If I remember well, for behavior, you rather stated that Bounce rate is among "Best Metrics/ KPI for Small Businesses Websites"

    • 124

      Aime: You are absolutely right, for small businesses I've recommended the use of Bounce Rate (and in the post above I've recommended for all business). Because for small businesses there is such a sense of urgency to save money. And Bounce Rate does that so well.

      But for med, large sized businesses there is so much more we can do. For more context on this, please see this post:

      ~ Best Web Metrics / KPIs for a Small, Medium or Large Sized Business

      In the post I also recommend what the big girls and boys should be measuring!


  76. 125

    No unicorn in my search.

  77. 126

    Unicorn! Haha.

    But seriously, it's mind blowing how many businesses already believe they are on page 1 since they click their site from their computer 1000 times and it keeps showing up because it's catering to their search history.

  78. 127


    Really great insight.

    As a marketing NooB, your post is great for pointing out the bull****, and mistakes I should avoid making.

    Thanks a lot.

  79. 128

    I agree with what you said about SEO, but I dont understand something here.

    Suppose i am #1 for my keywords, and I get a lots of clicks, doesnt that mean my site will be in a lot of people's search history, which then leads to me showing #1 on a lot more keywords because it is personalized? (until they cleared their cookies, of course).

    Thanks in advance.

    • 129

      Mike: Your search optimization strategy should be structured to get as high a rank as you can from making your site crawlable, creating great relevant content for your products and services, having a presence on social to earn sharing currency, earning links from great sites, etc.

      The strategy should focus on getting all of that for a wide portfolio of head and tail terms for max business impact.

      Your search strategy should not exclusively be geared towards earning #1 SERP. But if you do get it, awesome. Rock harder. :)

      PS: This is a small nuance…. often times the personalization is not triggered based on your cookie, it is based on the fact that you are logged in. If this is your first visit and there is no cookie history that is not a issue. When you log in, your history and personalization will come with you.

  80. 130

    Great post!!

    Reminds me of an old job where I was concentrating mostly on visitor conversion rate (regardless of source) and was able to improve it. Then my bosses wanted me to focus on pageviews & impressions and ultimately fired me because they didn't see the increase in page views and impressions they wanted, tho conversions were still going up. Ah well….

  81. 131

    These are all great, but #4 re:SEO and being #1 on Google is dearest to my heart. Everyone ALWAYS wants to be #1 on Google.

    I appreciate getting some help explaining why that's not necessarily the thing to focus on.

  82. 132
    Michael says

    Good marketing trick to compel me to search for your name! :)

  83. 133

    Hi Avinash,

    Great article, as usual !

    I came back to go deeper in your advices in order to take actions and just noticed that you have a link to a 404 (on "New york time" in your 6th point).

    Just to let you know :)

    Best, François

  84. 135

    Great post.

    A company I used to work for had Facebook likes as a KPI.

    As soon as you scratched the surface you could see that it was a meaningless metric.

    Thankfully they have changed now.

  85. 136

    Great insights. Thanks for helping us keep our job ;-)

  86. 137
    George Brown says

    Hi Avinash

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  87. 138

    Those all seem pretty obvious. It's amazing that senior [digital] marketeers still fixate on them.

  88. 139

    Avinash – I think we should be friends.

    You just nailed a lot of top marketing pet peeves in one post.

    Thanks for the great article!

  89. 140

    Excellent post! Thanks Avinash for sharing with us.

    BTW I have found you on the very first page on Google search for this keyword " Avinash "

  90. 141
    Prashant says

    Really very informative article.

    I am new in SEO and promoting an NGO which is well known for free of cost treatment for physically disabled people. This article suggest me how to create a brand and what is meaning of proper seo.

  91. 142

    Another amazing article. Your blog is a goldmine.

    Very insightful thoughts on real-time data, and intent. I'll be sharing this article.

    How long does it take you to write an article?

  92. 143
    doc truyen says

    "Intent beats demographics and psychographics. Always."

    This sentence brings to me a very new view of online marketing.

    Thanks for your sharing!

  93. 144

    That is awesome!!

    I particularly liked the 'right time data' concept…

    Thanks for giving a valuable information about Marketing………….


  1. […]
    Eight Silly Data Things Marketing People Believe That Get Them Fired. (Occam's Razor by Avinash Kaushik)

  2. […]
    Eight Silly Data Things Marketing People Believe That Get Them Fired., http://www.kaushik.net

  3. […]
    So there we have it, IT. Looks like we're in this together. Evidently, we are both expected to deliver "tangible business value" for our investments. Crazy, right? You're IT! You keep our desktops locked down so we can be safe from viruses and such. Isn't that enough? And we're marketing! We're on every billboard on ever major highway in our key markets! We've got the backpage ad in the Times locked up for another six months! And have you seen our Twitter follower count? We could sneeze and it would go viral (get it? Cause the common cold is a virus!). What more does this guy want?

  4. […]
    Avinash Kaushik discusses data strategy metrics (or lack thereof) with “Eight Silly Data Things Marketing People Believe That Get Them Fired” at Occam’s Razor.

  5. […]
    See the article at Occam's Razor by Avinash Kaushik here: Eight Silly Data Myths Marketing People Believe That Get Them Fired.

  6. […]
    Eight Silly Data Myths Marketing People Believe That Get Them Fired. – interesting read on some common thoughts that can actually get you canned from a digital role.

  7. […]
    Eight Silly Data Myths Marketing People Believe That Get Them Fired
    As a digital marketer, you know it’s important to track your KPIs and optimize your campaigns accordingly. Even if you understand that premise, you may not be using digital data to its full potential. Digital evangelist and analytics guru Avinash Kaushik has eight common myths and misconceptions that bring marketers’ performance down. Are you guilty of any of them? Read them here

  8. […]
    Avinash Kaushik recently wrote a brilliant article called “Eight Silly Data Things Marketing People Believe That Get Them Fired“. I would encourage you to spend about 10 minutes to read it through. I think the central idea is that there is a vast difference between metrics and KPIs.

  9. […]
    Eight Silly Data Things Marketing People Believe That Get Them Fired.

  10. […]
    Eight Silly Data Myths Marketing People Believe That Get Them Fired.
    Web analytics data is complex. It can be worse to only understand part of the story. If you have heard some universal marketing “truth” about web metrics it is probably a myth.

  11. […]
    Based on this model and those expectations of immediate response, real time data is critical. I didn’t totally buy into this though. The resources required to deliver a response based on real time data are very large. I agree that it is possible and will deliver a positive impact but it feels like more a top of the tree actions. There are likely many more low hanging fruit which will deliver more value for the resources invested. Coincidently, Avinash has “Real-time data is life changing” as the first of 8 data myths that marketing people believe in but can actually end up getting them fired.

  12. […]
    Which is a post taken from comments given after a post by Avinash Kaushik: https://www.kaushik.net/avinash/silly…rics-mistakes/

  13. […] Eight Silly Data Things Marketing People Believe That Get Them Fired (Occam’s Razor) […]

  14. […]
    Let’s understand what has worked and what hasn’t worked in the past, and let’s allow that to inform our decisions. But let’s not stifle our creativity based on an equation of what normally works. There have been plenty of demons summoned in successful films in the past, and there will be again in the future. And in fact, Paranormal Activity, today’s demon franchise of choice, was a surprise hit. Likewise, when I do keyword research I don’t just look at the highest volume search terms; instead, I look at which search terms convert well, which ones are the most relevant, which ones make sense within the context and within the ethical SEO strategies we’re committed to, and what the intent of the searcher is.

  15. […]
    Don’t make assumptions about your data – an incredible piece of advice is to really understand the data you’re looking at and avoiding assumptions with data. Avinash Kaushik has an insightful blog that provides great digital marketing advice, and one article “Eight Silly Data Myths Marketing People Believe That Get Them Fired“ is an awesome read. He goes over several myths with data that you should avoid, and helps you in understanding some of the basic concepts data should help you observe.

  16. […]
    As usual, Avinash is an incredible source of inspiration and ideas that can applied directly into real work. In one of his last articles, he writes the following:

  17. […]
    Eight Silly Data Myths Marketing People Believe That Get Them Fired by Avinash Kaushik (https://twitter.com/avinash)
    Smart advice on using Analytics the right way – and why you’re doomed to fail if you don’t.

  18. […]
    5. Eight Silly Data Myths Marketing People Believe That Get Them Fired Post by Avinash Kaushik Your data strategy needs more than just numbers to be effective. Read this blog post, and you'll be smarter. Guaranteed.

  19. […]
    Avinash Kaushik, the highly respected digital marketing evangelist for Google, looks at eight silly data myths that marketing people believe. These mistakes include focusing on likes, page views and impressions, as well as confusing KPIs for metrics. Well worth a read.

  20. […]
    Eight Silly Data Myths Marketing People Believe That Get Them Fired [from Occam's Razor; written by Avinash Kaushik] Your Friday long read.

  21. […]
    In a study we conducted about marketing “athletes” last year, we found that one of the key differences between the star marketers and the less successful ones was the time spent on planning. In general, star marketers spent almost four times more time on planning than the less successful marketers. As a rule of thumb, you should spend at least 20% of your time on planning.

  22. […]
    La mayoría de los lectores de Vuelo Digital saben que desarrollar un sólido hábito para analizar sus resultados es tan importante como dedicar tiempo a crear estupendas campañas y contenido. Avinash Kaushik, reconocido experto internacional, dijo recientemente que si los especialistas de marketing digital no pasan el 30% de su tiempo analizando información no lograrán alcanzar el éxito profesional. Mientras el porcentaje exacto puede ser un tema de debate, lo que sí es seguro es que todos los aspectos del marketing y comunicación digital, desde la definición de tu estrategia en línea hasta el community management, requieren rigurosos análisis para lograr la excelencia. Entonces, ¿qué herramienta de monitoreo y análisis deberías estar usando para tu dosis diaria de analytics de redes sociales y la web abierta? Nuestra favorita es Ondore Scout.

  23. […]
    Chapter 8: 8 Silly Data Myths Marketers Believe That Get Them Fired | Avinash Kaushik
    You’ll have realised by now that there’s no shortage of marketing metrics advice out there. But as Market Motive founder Avinash Kaushik demonstrates, there are two common themes among senior level marketing professionals. Some – shock, horror – aren’t even using data. And of those who are, these are the most common traps they fall into. Are you in any of them?

  24. […]
    But why do some promotional or marketing efforts go off the rails so horribly? “Silly metrics,” Avinash Kaushik explains. A silly metric “[…] Is one that distracts you from focusing on business investments that lead to bottom-line impact. They get you fired. Sometimes sooner. Other times a little later than sooner.” He outlines eight silly data myths marketing people believe that get them fired and what to do instead.

  25. […]
    Я мог бы объяснить вам причину, но гуру веб-аналитики (и один из вдохновителей) этой статьи, Авинаш Кошик уже объяснял, почему одержимость показателем отказов доведет вас до увольнения. Пока будете там, заодно почитайте, почему позиции – ужасный показатель KPI, если мне вы не верите.

  26. […]
    Questo purtroppo è una cosa non sempre chiara negli uffici di marketing, poiché misurazione implica giudizio e quando vi sono di mezzo i giudizi, il timore maggiore è quello di avere dei riscontri numerici negativi. Niente di più sbagliato, come ha fatto notare di recente Avinash Kaushik, poiché poiché i risultati negativi evidenziati da una piattaforma di analisi dovrebbero essere il trampolino per programmare interventi correttivi mirati e calibrati al fine di migliorare la situazione esistente.

  27. […]
    Social and SEO go together well, but I think the industry could use to remind people a little more of the incredible value of a search visitor vs a visitor from social media. In most cases, nearly every analytics will take a visitor from search over a visitor from social any day of the week. Avinash explains this recently talking about how powerful intent is, and how most social traffic doesn't have that powerful intent element ….

  28. […]
    This distinction–between the speed of real-time data and the speed at which your business makes actual decisions–is a crucial one, notes Avinash Kaushik, Google’s digital marketing evangelist, on his Occam’s Razor blog. His overall idea is you don’t necessarily need data that moves faster than the pace at which you make decisions.

  29. […]
    However, the bounce rate shouldn't be main priority, according to SEO blogger Avinash Kaushik on his personal blog. Finding out that metric is a good first step in determining the types of people entering your site, but it won't help you find out if they stick around. One method of determining where else they went is the average number of pages per visit. You're able to track, from the starting point, how many pages on your site were visited before they stopped or clicked off to another site.

  30. […]
    A high bounce rate might suggest that a web page doesn’t have an inviting call-to-action, or links to other pages of the web site. It can also mean that a web page lacks quality content, failing to convince users to stay.

  31. […]
    And we’re not the only ones in the ever-evolving world of digital marketing to think this way either. In fact, we’re far from alone. You might say that when it comes to much about “diagnostic metrics,” especially in the realm of social media, it’s a lot “like” that classic quote from “Catcher In The Rye” Author and renowned recluse J.D. Salinger:

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