For years now, I’ve listened to a host of consultants, speakers and experts talk to the floor covering industry about online strategies and all of the different steps that companies must take to be successful. But when it comes to the online metrics that help companies grow, the so-called experts are carefully vague, generalizing the online experience as “lead generation.”

Understanding the online world—and its role in helping you grow sales—is more important than ever for floor covering installation companies. So understanding online metrics, the RIGHT metrics, is critical to making better marketing decisions and evaluations.

Let’s take a look at five pairs of common online metrics, to explain why one matters and why the other is likely to be misleading.

1. Visitors vs. Visitors from Within Your Marketing Territory

Do most of your customers live in a specific geographic area? I’m willing to bet the answer is “yes.” Floor coverings, by their very nature, involve showing up in person at the homes of your prospects, giving them a quote, and ultimately installing the selected product.

The broader point is you can’t sell a floor covering installation to homeowners on the other side of the country. If you operate in a territory 100 miles around St. Louis, why would visitors from Seattle matter to you? It’s doubtful they will ever turn into a sale for your business.

If you hire a firm to boost your web site rankings (commonly known as an SEO firm) we recommend you incentivize your provider not just to drive traffic, but to drive traffic from visitors in your particular service area. Those are visitors who at least have a chance of converting into prospects and closed sales.

Google Analytics (we highly recommend you use this free application) offers a mapping tool that shows you where your web traffic comes from. You can drill all the way down to individual cities and towns, allowing you to ignore overall visitors outside of your area. You’ll have a much clearer view of your web site’s performance, and maintain a stronger focus on those prospects most important to you.

2. Leads vs. Issued Leads

What’s a “lead” anyway? The truth is, it could be almost any name, address, phone number or combination thereof. For many lead generation companies, that broad definition is exactly what they use when promising to “deliver leads.”

But that’s not what you need—particularly when it comes to online lead sellers. Instead, you want to measure “issued leads,” defined as leads given to a salesperson to follow up on after your team has spoken to an interested homeowner. Those are the leads that result in sales.

Lead quality matters, and there are important differences between what one provider considers a lead and what you consider a good sales opportunity.

Here’s an example. According to lead sellers, a “flooring lead” could be a $30,000 luxury home project, or it could be a $300 carpeting repair or chipped floor tile. Or slight water damage on a wood floor.

There are huge differences among these opportunities—even though lead sellers typically refer to them the same way. If the opportunity is not significant enough to become an issued lead that’s passed on to a salesperson, it’s not what you’re looking for. Don’t let big volumes and low prices per lead fool you. The truth reveals itself in issued leads.

3. Clicks vs. Conversions

Clicks have been around as an online metric since the dawn of the web. They’re easy to track and we intuitively understand what they mean. More clicks obviously means you’re performing better.

Not so fast. Clicks for their own sake don’t matter to you either.

Clicks from India, for example, not only are not in your marketing territory, they probably aren’t even real (e.g., “click-bots”). This is traffic that stays on your web site for a second (literally), and also isn’t coming from a real person, let alone a floor covering installation prospect. Yet, they register as clicks.

Not only are these random clicks meaningless, online marketing companies will do things to deliberately increase their volume. It’s incredibly easy to send unqualified traffic from social media promotions. Or to place links to your site all over the web, where they know it will get phantom visitors. Who you want visiting your web site are flesh-and-blood human beings, and so you need to move from “clicks in general” to “clicks that matter.”

Which clicks matter? Those that lead to conversions. Here again, Google Analytics will help you pull back the covers. You can see where the clicks come from and you can distinguish click-bot traffic from real, local people who spend time on your web site and are interested in floor covering options.

4. Phone Calls vs. Qualified Phone Calls

Online pay-per-call services are growing in popularity. They generate leads in the form of phone calls to you. You pay based on the number of phone calls you get. After all, inbound calls don’t lie…most of the time.

Remember, when you sign up with a service to generate phone calls, it’s in their best interest to generate as many calls as possible. Shady tactics include putting your name and number out to cold call lists and auto-dialers, as well as having technology to call you at night, after business hours. The more calls that come in, the more money they make.

The solution here is to monitor your telephone traffic by checking for length of call, listening to sample recordings and understanding which calls are billable vs. those calls that are no good. It takes some time initially, but it prevents you from entering into expensive marketing arrangements that don’t drive results.

5. Social Followers vs. Reviews

“Followers,” “likes,” and “fans” on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and elsewhere are all the rage these days. Not only are these social metrics hip, they’re easy to measure.

The problem is few have found a significant correlation between this type of activity and leads for a floor covering installation business. In the overall marketing scheme, social media has a supporting, relationship role for your brand. But it doesn’t drive any volume of leads.

Social reviews by customers, on the other hand, are extremely valuable. Why? Because reviews are a new type of “online currency.” The more you have, the more likely Google, Yahoo and others will rank your web site near the top of your local flooring contractor listings.

Now, you may ask, “Won’t bad reviews hurt me?” The answer is a couple of bad reviews won’t hurt you. A dozen will. But as long as you have good reviews to balance the bad ones, you’re doing fine.

The important thing is to make sure you actively ask customers to go onto Yelp or Google and review your company. It will take the homeowner five minutes, but it can pay big dividends for you in search engine rankings.

It boils down to this: activity—even precisely measured activity—can be easily confused with results. Nowhere is this more common than when gauging success online. Your key metrics will always be those most closely tied to activities that drive real sales into your company. Don’t be fooled by numbers that may look good but do not lead you to the promised land. If you keep your focus on the metrics that matter, you’ll drive more sales.

All the best in online success!