As a creator, keeping an eye on your analytics can be super useful.

But it’s important to realize these metrics are just a proxy for what matters most—relationships, trust, delight, connection, belonging.

  • Traffic is a proxy for whether your work is worthy of people’s attention.
  • Email subscribers are a proxy for earning their trust.
  • Sales and revenue are a proxy for making a compelling promise.
  • As for whether you’re keeping that promise, there are metrics for that as well (churn, completion rates, refund rates, etc).

These metrics can help us understand whether our efforts are working. And they can help us know whether our business is healthy or not.

But they never tell the whole story. And therein lies the danger.

A cautionary tale of metrics gone awry

If we’re not careful, it’s easy to start chasing certain metrics for their own sake, and shift our focus away from the goal of earning true fans.

For instance, let’s say you’ve got a killer offer that your niche loves. So you decide that increasing traffic is the most important area to focus on now. You believe your business will thrive once you reach 50,000 visitors per month.

You start by writing a few really good essays, sharing them in relevant communities, etc. But that only drives a few hundred visitors. Sure, these people are digging your work, but there just aren’t enough of them.

Well shit,” you think to yourself.

So you tweak your strategy to start writing to a broader audience. You begin covering hot button topics. You dig into the psychology of headlines, and start tweaking yours to invoke as much curiosity and emotion as possible.

You start growth hacking. You start optimizing your articles for search engines instead of humans. None of this stuff pays off quite like the marketing gurus promise. But it does work, little by little.

Sure enough, you eventually get to a point where you’ve got 50K people coming to your site each month. Huzzah!

But wait, sales and revenue aren’t keeping pace. Not only that, but your refund rates are higher than ever, and you spend more time supporting customers who clearly aren’t a good fit for what you offer.

What happened?

Turns out, attracting 50K monthly visitors doesn’t mean diddly squat if they’re the wrong people.

Not only did you have to compromise your creative work to reach that number, but you had to get a bit spammy and manipulative. All of which further undermined your ability to create happy customers and earn true fans.

By making traffic a goal—and going “all in” on that goal—you inadvertently shot yourself in the foot.

Womp womp.

The same thing happens when creators focus too much on social followers, email subscribers, likes, shares, conversion rates, etc.

Once a metric becomes a goal unto itself, you’ve essentially lost the game of creating true fans.

So, should you abandon your marketing metrics?

Here’s the hard truth of the matter.

True fandom is about emotion. It’s about people genuinely connecting with your work. It’s about mattering.

And for better or worse, you won’t find those things in any analytics dashboard.

So you’ll need to start looking for other signals to know you’re on the right track. For instance, you might keep track of…

  • How often you ship something you’re genuinely proud of
  • Enthusiastic, emotional replies to your work
  • Number of times you connect with someone and make their day
  • People who message you out of nowhere to say how much they love your work
  • New fans who come into your world via word of mouth (not easy to measure, but an important signal nonetheless)

These things aren’t necessarily measurable. But they’re all signals that you’re on the right track, and that your work is weaving its way into people’s emotional lives.

By no means should you abandon analytics. There is useful data there.

But make sure you’re not valuing a proxy over the real thing. And find ways to identify and document what actually matters.

Because when you see your work resonating with people, it’ll put more fuel in your for the journey ahead.