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Facebook Metrics: Those That Matter vs. Those That Don’t

April 7th, 2015 Posted by

Facebook Metrics

I recently wrote a blog post breaking down the issues of a recent report focusing on a reported drop in reach and Facebook shares. Such a report underscores how we far too often obsess over things that don’t matter while ignoring things that actually do and are right in front of us.

Here’s a closer look at many of the metrics that marketers tend to care about and how I think we should value them.

Metrics That Don’t Matter

Now, I realize I’m using broad strokes here. You can argue that any of these stats have some value. But these three either have too many flaws or are far too frequently misunderstood to be your central focus.


I could go on all day about this one. Where should we start?

  • There are often bugs in reach reporting
  • Reach can’t be verified
  • Facebook can change the way reach is reported
  • High reach does not always mean a high desired action

While it is often — but not always — an indication of success, far too many marketers use this as a KPI. It simply is far from that.

If your reach is down, I do not want to hear about it. Tell me if your metrics that actually matter are down. Then I’m ready to listen.

Post Shares

Admittedly, I would normally list this metric much higher. But a recent report indicating there may have been a bug in share reporting forced me to rethink this one.

Yes, in and of themselves shares are very important. You should be happy if lots of people share your posts just like you should be happy that your posts reached lots of people.

But you shouldn’t care too much about the details — if Facebook reports 20 shares and 30 for another and what it means. Frankly, this metric is like reach in that it can’t be fully verified.

Why? Because Facebook will only show you those shares that they can show you based on privacy settings. A recent post of mine received 57 shares, but Facebook only showed me 15. That leaves a whole lot of room for error in reporting.


Likely the most misunderstood metric of all.

Far too often, I have people comparing number of clicks of their ads to demonstrate performance. All clicks are not created equal!

The truth is that a Facebook “click” is a measure of any click on your ad. When in the news feed, that could include things like comments, likes, shares, expanding the description, expanding the comments, link clicks, reporting spam, clicking photos and a whole lot more.

Many of these clicks are invisible. And many of them are pretty darn far from important.

The only thing a click does is verify that someone actually saw your post and engaged with it. Other than that, we tend to make way too much of this metric.

Metrics That Matter Very Little

These metrics aren’t completely useless. They have a tad more value than the first three. But they are again often misused and overvalued.


I often get questions like, “How can I get my CPC down?” These people are often from the Google Adwords world or simply don’t understand how little this metric means.

Cost Per Click again relies on the “click” metric. So Facebook is reporting the average cost per any click on your ad. Clicks that include comments, likes, shares, photo clicks, link clicks and more.

But far too often, people just assume that means “Cost Per Website Click.” It’s not. It’s not even close.

If your CPC is lower for one ad than another, it doesn’t mean that the one with the cheaper CPC was more effective. It just means it was cheaper to get the general “click.”

But how many desired actions resulted? And what was the cost per that desired action?

If you focus on CPC, you often make bad decisions.


CTR (or Click-Through Rate) is flawed for the same reason that CPC is flawed: It’s based on the general Facebook “click” metric. But it goes a bit further than that.

I’m often asked whether an achieved CTR is good or bad. It could be good. It could be bad. But it really means very little by itself.

Click-Through Rate is based on the rate that people click anywhere on your ad — again it’s any click, not just a click on your link. So your important clicks (usually website clicks) are lumped in with all of the other clicks to clutter the meaning of the metric.

One ad could have a better CTR than another, but it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily more effective. The other could be getting more website clicks. Or it could be getting more conversions. CTR doesn’t tell us that.

Additionally, we’ve learned from differences in CTR by placement how this is a misleading metric. Yes, the CTR for the right column tends to be far worse than for desktop news feed and mobile. But it’s also far cheaper to reach people there, which could result in a better Cost Per Action.

Ultimately, CTR could help signify problems. For example, maybe you have a high CTR but a low conversion rate. That could mean that either people are clicking too much on your ad without clicking the link or that your landing page isn’t effective.

But in and of itself, the CTR really doesn’t mean much at all.


CPM is the Cost Per 1,000 Impressions. I’ll often have people tell me that they don’t have Facebook optimize bidding (previously known as oCPM) because of the higher CPM costs involved.

But high or low CPM costs won’t mean that your ads are necessarily more or less expensive. It tells you how expensive it is to reach people, on average, but it has nothing to do with the success of reaching those people.

Using oCPM vs. standard CPM bidding is a prime example of this. When using oCPM, Facebook will show your ad to people most likely to perform your desired action, skipping those who are less likely. When using CPM bidding, Facebook will show it to as many people within your target audience as many times as possible.

As a result, CPM bidding tends to be cheaper than oCPM, but oCPM almost always results in a far higher rate of desired action — typically making it more efficient.

Another example is again CPM costs by placement. If CPM was a major concern, you might only show your ads in the right column because it’s so cheap to reach people there. But rate of desired action also tends to be lower.

I’ll often pay attention to CPM, but not because it’s an indication of success or failure. I’ll simply keep an eye on it as it could contribute to why Cost Per Desired Action is more expensive for one ad than another.

Page Likes

Don’t get me wrong, building a relevant audience matters. It matters a whole lot. I’m not trying to say here that page likes have no value.

But the problem is that the number — in and of itself — just doesn’t have value. Too many factors contribute to whether the number of page likes you report means anything.

You could build an audience by buying likes. Or you could run poorly targeted ads. Or you could only build that audience through running irrelevant giveaways and contests. As a result, the value of a page like for such an audience would be close to nothing.

You could also build an audience by sharing helpful, valuable content that appeals to your target audience. And you could run ads that target your website visitors. In that case, the value of an individual page like would be much more.

But without knowing context, we just don’t know. It’s why when people ask me what a good Cost Per Page Like is, I always say, “It depends.” It’s not all about getting the cheapest page like, but getting the most relevant fans who are likely to be engaged customers.

Post Likes

Engagement is good. But you’re not going to impress me much by bragging about your number of post likes.

“Today is Friday! Are you excited? CLICK LIKE!”

Yeah, you get the point. There are a lot of lame practices like this one to get post likes.

Context matters again, but really it only means that your audience is engaged. It rarely is directly correlated to traffic or sales, particularly because those who click links are less likely to comment or like (because the link takes them away).

Post Comments

Again, a post comment matters. But in the end, I don’t want you chilling out on my Facebook post all day. I want you on my website!

So those who measure success based on this metric are focusing on a low priority metric.

Metrics That Matter a Lot

Okay, enough of the fluff. When you measure success or failure, you need to focus on the good stuff! The things that actually matter to your business.

Desired Actions

This isn’t the same for every business. But you need to decide what is most important to your success.

I won’t say this never includes things like comments, likes and shares, but I will say that far fewer businesses than those who care about this should be making these metrics a major focus.

Focus most about things within your control — that you own. During the past month, how many of the following did your content generate:

  • Website Clicks
  • Registrations
  • Sales
  • App Installs
  • Leads

You determine the metrics, but these are the things that actually matter. Your reach could be down, but if these important metrics are steady or increasing then you have nothing to be concerned about.

Cost Per Desired Action

When measuring the success of your ads, this should be your primary metric. Anything else is either secondary or completely irrelevant.

If your objective is website clicks, what was your Cost Per Website Click?

If your objective is website conversions, what was your Cost Per Website Conversion?

We overcomplicate advertising analysis. The truth is that very little matters beyond this metric.

Website Clicks

Stop measuring clicks and focus instead on the website click!

One of your main priorities should be driving traffic to your website, whether a conversion is happening or not. While a user is there, they are expressing interest in you, your content or your product. They may register for your email list. And they may buy.

But just as importantly, they can — and should — be added to a website custom audience so that they can be remarketed to later. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more valuable and efficient group of people to target with Facebook ads.


End of the day, this is what matters most. Did you get new sales? Did you add people to your email list?

Success and failure of your business is based here, so why focus on something like reach that is not directly connected to conversions?

Since conversions matter, don’t get lazy here. You must use Facebook conversion tracking, and you should track all active pixels whenever you run ads.

Anything Missing?

Are there any metrics missing — either from the lists of those that don’t matter or do? Or do you disagree with where I list any of these metrics?

Let me know in the comments below!

Category: PHC Blog Uncategorized