Analytics vs Metrics vs KPIs: Data terminology defined

Analytics vs Metrics vs KPIs: Data terminology defined

We all know that data is important. It lets us know whether we’re succeeding or failing, and by what margins. But one thing I’ve found is that there are a handful of terms that are incorrectly used interchangeably in most business environments. Knowing the differences between these terms (as well as how they are all related to each other) is critical to understanding how to approach data and best use insights to improve your business.


The most granular form of data, Metrics describe the exact numbers that make up the data. For example, “Sessions” are a type of metric made available with Google Analytics. There are thousands of different metrics that are made available to marketers through modern tools and software — some very valuable, and some not so much.


KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators, are those metrics that directly tell of success or failure for a business. They are strategically outlined to support business objectives, and hence become the most important metrics to study for digital marketers. For example, if a marketer launches a campaign to increase sales originating through the Email channel, KPIs may include: Email clicks, Ecommerce conversions, or total revenue by channel. 


Arguably the most misused term of them all, Analytics refers to the systematic study and analysis of data. That is, the output of information by a person or system who studied the Metics and worked to extract insights and/or conclusions about what they mean for a business. “Analytics” in their truest form, are not data points that can be pulled directly from an analytics system. Rather, they are the interpretations of data that transform numbers and metrics into actionable ideas and insights.

Why is this important?

We take these terms seriously because there is real business value tied to each term in different ways. For example, your intern may be qualified to pull metrics from your Google Analytics account, but until those metrics are studied and summarized into business insights, they are nothing more than numbers in a spreadsheet. Similarly, the same intern might be able to pull hundreds of different metrics to report to your senior leadership, but if they aren’t aligned behind a set of KPIs, the usefulness of the data will fall short.