How Idiots Track Success

  |  September 1, 2011   |  Comments

Why are we still making the same mistake of using "hits" as our main metric?

Much like Kurt Vonnegut was credited for Mary Schmich's wonderful "Wear Sunscreen" article, I have been cited as having come up with the observation that "Hits" should stand for How Idiots Track Success. While I'd dearly love to take the credit for that one, it was the brainchild of Katie Delahaye Paine. Perhaps I helped promote it with frequent repetition.

The primary reason hits are for idiots is technical. The practical reason hits are for idiots is that they reveal a lack of business foresight in the face of technical confusion. That is, people turn to hits as a metric when they have no idea what they are talking about.

Those of us in the industry have finally learned to stop trying to educate those who use the term. We simply recognize them for the fools they are and let them blather on.

I did once stop a client midsentence with a look of incredulity when he said that his hits report was the most popular in the company.

"Oh, no. Don't worry. It's doesn't really report hits. It reports page views, but we just have all agreed to keep calling it the 'Hits Report.'"

I disagreed and after calling on four of the recipients of this report, determined that each thought it was something else; page views, people, visits and, yes, the actual and technically correct hits against the server. My client was appropriately chagrinned.

While the majority of the industry has backed off of this vilified word, the mistake continues, and that is the crux of my screed today. We are still making the same mistake.

This was pointed out in a Chinwag blog post ("What's In a Number? Why 1m Facebook Likes Isn't Enough") wherein Simon Caine asked the fundamental question, "Why do you need a million 'Likes'?"

And so, a new generation of online marketers brings in a new set of acrimonious acronyms:

  • VISIT: Virtual Interaction Supposedly Initiating Transaction
  • LIKE: Little Intrinsic Karma Enhancement
  • FOLLOWER: Folks Only Looking for Little, Obvious Wealth Enhancing Rewards
  • FRIEND: Frequently Ranting Individuals Endeavoring to Nab Discounts
  • TWEET: Tirades Wishing for Envisaged Error aTonement

The only three metrics that really matter are:

  • Increase revenue
  • Lower costs
  • Improve customer satisfaction

The rest is interesting but not always useful. Please, let's keep our eyes on the customers and the business and not on metrics that are the easiest to track.



Jim Sterne

Jim Sterne is an international consultant who focuses on measuring the value of the Web as a medium for creating and strengthening customer relationships. Sterne has written eight books on using the Internet for marketing, is the founding president and current chairman of the Digital Analytics Association and produces the eMetrics Summit and the Media Analytics Summit.

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