Over-obsession: How Focusing On Your Metrics Can Be a Bad Thing

Several years ago, I was at a conference on social media and search engine marketing when I watched a panel that featured some staffers from WebCertain.TV. I won’t go into what the company does though, because the interesting thing is the story that they shared about over-obsession and misleading metrics.

At WebCertain, they created daily YouTube videos that covered the latest digital marketing news and linked back to their website. When looking at the analytics, they saw that the amount of traffic coming from YouTube was negligible, and so they scrapped the videos as being not cost-effective. But something strange happened. Within just a couple of weeks, traffic to the website had taken a major dip, and the only thing they’d changed was the videos.

Sure enough, when they started creating the videos again, traffic to the website increased to its former levels. It turns out that the videos were driving traffic, but much of it was direct traffic from people who simply punched in the company’s URL.


What this can teach us

This is a valuable lesson about the dangers of over-obsession. In sales and marketing, when everything ties back to a return on investment, it can be easy to only focus on the tasks that will have an impact on that bottom line. That can be a good thing in certain circumstances, but not always.

That’s because a company is made up of much more than just whichever activities have an impact on its profit and loss. A good company offers everything from training programmes and mental health resources to corporate CSR programmes, and many of these initiatives have no directly measurable impact on the bottom line. That doesn’t mean that they’re not valuable, though.

Your goal should be to keep an eye on the metrics but to think critically about them at the same time. They should guide you, but they shouldn’t dictate you. Use a little common sense alongside the data that your metrics give you and make educated decisions instead of blindly following what the data says. Remember, data can be interpreted in many different ways, and there’s no guarantee that your interpretation is the correct one.


The bottom line

Ultimately, metrics can be misleading, and data can often be shaped to tell multiple different stories. It all comes down to how we analyse it. We also need to remember that it’s not enough to draw a conclusion and to make a change; we need to follow up with what happens next and ensure that the changes had the effect that we expected. Only by doing that will you be able to make sure that your company is heading in the right direction. Good luck.

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