god metric

Anyone who has read this blog with any consistency or subscribes to Hammock’s Idea Email will understand why I think the article “A mile wide, an inch deep” written by Medium.com founder and Twitter co-founder Ev Williams should be required reading for marketers.

In it, he explores the desire marketers have for some form of “God Metric” that will reveal the effectiveness of one form of online performance metric vs. another. Is traffic the most important traffic? Time on site? Time spent on one page? What about the nebulous metrics of clicking, sharing and liking we lump together and call engagement?

The problem is this: The web doesn’t provide a one-size-fits-all metric to marketers. The internet, for all its promise, often seems like a continuation of the frustrating challenge experienced in any form of advertising. It reminds me of the oft-used quote attributed to the late 19th-century merchandising genius John Wanamaker: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

Williams points to a quote by Buzzfeed’s founder Jonah Peretti that concurs, in a modern context, with the frustration of Wanamaker:

Peretti says:

I feel like what you see in the industry now is people jumping around and trying to find the God metric for content. It’s all about shares or it’s all about time spent or it’s all about pages or it’s all about uniques. The problem is you can only optimize one thing and you have to pick … all you’re doing is making a bunch of compromises if you try to optimize for multiple things.

At Hammock, we strive to find appropriate performance metrics for each project that align with the key business objective of our client. Rarely is traffic a metric that aligns with the business objectives of a non-media business (i.e., a company that doesn’t have advertising revenue as its business model). Even time-on-site (or other related metrics like “bounce rates”) isn’t as important if your content is designed to help customers or users get quickly to the information they need to solve a problem. How quickly you get them off your site and bounce them back to working is a positive bounce rate.

I believe Ev Williams’ bottom line is great advice for anyone who creates content for any purpose, especially those who are trying to build longer, deeper relationships with customers:

“Numbers are important. Number of users is important. So are lots of other things. Different services create value in different ways. Trust your gut as much (or more) than the numbers. Figure out what matters and build something good.”