False Proxies In Online Marketing

Seth Godin wrote a post explaining:

“Sometimes, we can’t measure what we need, so we invent a proxy, something that’s much easier to measure and stands in as an approximation…You’ve already guessed the problem. Once you find the simple proxy and decide to make it go up, there are lots of available tactics that have nothing at all to do with improving the very thing you set out to achieve in the first place. When we fall in love with a proxy, we spend our time improving the proxy instead of focusing on our original (more important) goal instead.Gaming the system is never the goal. The goal is the goal.”

Online marketing is rife with false proxies.

1. Increase the amount of Likes/Followers+1s you have.
The goals associated to social media are typically hard to measure: strengthen the connection you have with our fans, allow for better customer satisfaction, enhance memory of your product offering, hold more of your customer’s attention. When you use the amount of  Likes/Followers/+1s to act as a proxy for those goals you end up using every technique out there to beg/cajole/lead/mislead people into pressing that button.  Social media strategies end up being self obsessed and include lame stuff like sweepstakes, polls and posting your latest press release – all of which give you the oposite of what you really want.

2. Increase visits
You want your site to grow but an obsession with more and more visits is an unhealthy one. Its like a drug addiction which will keep you working on sensational controversies or clever images, or other link bait that keeps the fly by night traffic coming back. If instead you engage your existing users far more deeply and Increase their participation, their devotion and their interconnection you can turn them into ambassadors, charged with the idea of bring you traffic that is focused, traffic with intent.

3. Increase page views per visit
You want to know how much people like your site but page views per visit is not the way to measure it. Focusing on the false proxy of page views per visit will lead you to become one of those awful content sites that reloads every page in a photo slideshow so you can maximize ad impressions – simultaneously maximizing how much people despise your site.

4. Increase Ad clicks and impressions
You want your advertising to be successful but getting more clicks and impressions are not meters for success. Click through rate at least gives you an idea of how relevant your ad placement is. Really you want your ads to deliver a result – like sales.

A consistent theme with false proxies in online marketing is that they are conducive to short term gain and long term loss. The better metric to use for each goal is one that focuses on how well that metric affects the end goal, not just a means to that end.

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