Unintended Consequences Of Key Performance Indicators

Narrowly focusing on key performance indicators can have unintended consequences,
optimizing for the wrong things at the expense of something else.

For nearly every metric that an organization can focus on with web analytics, there is potential for backfire. Here are a few:

Engagement is a buzzword these days that refers to making an experience “sticky”, or that the user finds content so compelling that they develop a stronger relationship with a brand. Metrics like average time on site and page views per visit are often used to measure engagement but these metrics can be wrongly translated as frustrated visitors who can’t find what they are looking for.

Increasing visits to a site can’t be wrong can it? Not unless in an effort to reach a certain level of visits you engage in spammy tactics like click-bait headlines or spend lots of marketing dollars that in the end produces lots of unqualified traffic. Why praise increased visits if none of it takes the actions on the site that make you any money?

Measuring your advertisements reach refers to how many people are seeing the ad. The more the better is not necessarily true. In the age of precise targeting online, who sees your ad is more rewarding than how many.

Increased conversion rate is every site owner’s goal, but an unhealthy obsession can lead to marketing that only targets people who are the most likely to buy, and the most likely to buy are those people who are already familiar with your brand. Left unchecked, you never gain new customers as your marketing preaches only to the converted.

A high bounce rate is never good but continually changing content to decrease bounce rate can turn into an inverted curve – bad to better to bad again. Content goes from irrelevant to more generally applicable to banal and watered down.

Increasing revenue at all costs is the most obvious short-sighted metric and the result is what you see in many failed business: lower quality, less return customers, decreased goodwill, lower customer satisfaction, decrease in perceived brand value, the list goes on.

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