For many people, spring marks a time to start fresh – out with the old, in with the new. Why not apply the same principle to your measurement practices and data? Throw out those old vanity metrics like advertising value and bring in business-driving results that actually show your content is moving the needle.

Why toss vanity metrics?

Put simply, vanity metrics are basic stats that measure potential reach, shares or likes. Traditionally, communications pros turned to vanity metrics in an effort to prove their content was being seen. The only problem? Vanity metrics don’t actually do a great job at showing exactly who is engaging with your content. Using Google Alerts or mentions to track a story’s potential reach doesn’t mean people read the story, or let you know what type of readers actually were interested in the content.

Grab the duster and dive into data

Don’t start to panic — you still have time to grab your duster and rethink your measurement tactics! While vanity metrics like shares and likes are a great starting point for your content, there are plenty of ways to make sure your data tools can track and measure true return on investment. Below are some more advanced analytics steps you can take to give context to your story’s reach and readership:

Web traffic - Measuring web traffic is a must when it comes to understanding your audience. Google Analytics can show you how long people stay on your page, where they’re coming from (did they click a link to get to you? Did they find you in a Google search?) and bounce rates. When you can see how long people spend on your site, where they’ve come from and how they navigate it, you can better adapt your content to fit their needs and expectations.

Conversions - Another important metric is your conversion rate. The conversion rate is a percentage of visitors who achieve a goal on your site. Goals can include filling out a form or even viewing a page. For content marketers, this data point is especially important because it can help brands prove their content is being seen and read, not just shared.

Sales - Even for communications pros, sales shouldn’t be overlooked. Did your PR efforts about jeans lead to an increase in jeans sales while the campaign was going on? Establishing and analyzing this relationship will help prove to your brands the direct effect of their PR coverage without relying on hazy metrics that only hint at overall impact.

It’s time to start throwing out your old vanity metrics — things like ad value in earned media, likes on social media — and start reporting the business results that matter. Once you’ve decluttered your measurement tools this spring, you’ll be on your way to demonstrating that your PR efforts are actually effective.