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A Comprehensive Guide to Non-Aggregatable Metrics in Digital Marketing

In the vast realm of data analytics, especially in the field of digital marketing, understanding the nuances of different metrics is crucial. Among these, non-aggregatable metrics stand out due to their unique nature. Unlike standard data that can be easily summed or averaged, these metrics require a more nuanced approach. 

This guide delves into the intricacies of non-aggregatable metrics, their types, and the challenges they pose, offering solutions to navigate them effectively.

What Are Non-Aggregatable Metrics?

While many metrics can be aggregated, or combined, to provide a broad view of performance over a period or across categories, there exists a subset known as non-aggregatable metrics.

Non-aggregatable metrics are unique in that they can't be accurately summed up or averaged over different dimensions without risking distortion of the underlying data.

For instance, consider an average. Averaging an average across multiple categories or timeframes can lead to misleading results. Instead of summing these values, analysts should look at each value in its specific context to maintain the integrity of the information.

Understanding and recognizing non-aggregatable metrics is crucial. It ensures that data is handled and interpreted correctly, steering clear of potential pitfalls and inaccuracies. When dealing with such metrics, it's essential to approach them with an analytical mindset, ensuring that each metric is evaluated in its individual context rather than being hastily combined or averaged.

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Types of Non-Aggregatable Metrics

Non-aggregatable metrics, often referred to as "nonags" or "nags," are quantitative values that cannot be simply summed or averaged. This is because their value depends on a more detailed level of data that isn't always provided. 

Here's a deeper dive into the different types of these metrics, particularly in the context of digital marketing and marketing analytics.

Running Totals

Running totals, as the name implies, represent the cumulative sum of a metric over a certain period or across dimensions. They provide valuable insights into growth patterns, letting analysts and marketers see how a metric evolves over time. However, these metrics can't be aggregated in the same way as regular sum-based metrics, as they inherently carry historical data.

A prime example of a running total is the cumulative number of subscribers or followers on a platform. Let's consider a brand's YouTube channel. If the brand observes that they gained 50 subscribers on Monday, 100 on Tuesday, and 150 on Wednesday, the running total for subscribers by the end of Wednesday would be 300.

Now, if one were to simply aggregate the subscriber count for the week so far, the total would be 600 (counting each day's addition). This would double-count subscribers and provide an inflated view of the channel's growth. In reality, the channel hasn't gained 600 subscribers; it's gained 300, as indicated by the running total.

This distinction highlights the importance of understanding the nature of non-aggregatable metrics. While they provide invaluable insights, they need to be approached and analyzed with care to ensure the data's integrity is upheld.

Unique Metrics

Unique metrics account for non-duplicative values within a set of data. Essentially, they eliminate repetitions, allowing for a clearer and more concise view of specific data points. However, their inherent nature means that they cannot be casually aggregated or summed like other metrics, as doing so could inadvertently reintroduce duplicates or provide misleading data.

An example of a unique metric is the concept of unique visitors on a website. Suppose a user visits a website in the morning, again during their lunch break, and then once more in the evening. If you were to count total visits, you'd register three visits. However, when considering unique visitors, this individual would only be counted once, as it's one distinct user making multiple visits.

If, for instance, the website has 500 total visits on Monday with 300 unique visitors and 600 total visits on Tuesday with 350 unique visitors, simply summing the unique visitors for both days would give 650. However, this doesn't account for the possibility that some of the unique visitors on Monday might also be part of the unique visitors on Tuesday. Aggregating in this way could lead to overestimating the actual number of distinct individuals who visited the website.

Such intricacies underline the vital importance of handling unique metrics with precision.

Calculated KPIs

Calculated KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are metrics that are derived from the combination or calculation of two or more base metrics. Rather than being straightforward counts or measurements, these KPIs offer synthesized insights that can provide a deeper understanding of performance. The nature of their derivation, however, means that they cannot be aggregated in the same way as basic metrics without risking data distortion.

An example of a calculated KPI is the Conversion Rate. This metric is derived by dividing the number of conversions (be it sales, sign-ups, or other desired actions) by the total number of visitors, and then multiplying by 100 to get a percentage.

Let's consider an e-commerce platform running two distinct campaigns. Campaign A in January resulted in 10,000 visitors and 200 conversions, yielding a 2% conversion rate. Campaign B in February brought in 15,000 visitors with 450 conversions, translating to a 3% conversion rate. If someone tries to aggregate these numbers naively, by averaging the conversion rates, they'd get 2.5%. However, if you aggregate the total visitors and conversions from both campaigns and then calculate the conversion rate, it's actually 2.6% [(650 conversions / 25,000 visitors) x 100].

The Pitfalls of Misinformed Decisions

If misunderstood, non-aggregatable metrics can lead marketers off course. Let's dive deeper into why these metrics matter and how to use them right.

Risk of Misinformed Decisions

Making choices based on incorrect data can lead to strategies that miss the mark.

Solution: Always double-check and validate data sources. Use tools that specialize in handling non-aggregatable metrics to ensure accurate readings.

Budgetary Implications

Spending too much on campaigns based on inflated numbers can drain resources.

Solution: Regularly review and adjust marketing budgets based on real, verified data. This helps in allocating funds where they'll make the most impact.

Reputation at Stake

Consistent errors in data interpretation can make stakeholders question a marketing team's skills.

Solution: Invest in training and workshops focused on understanding complex metrics. This boosts the team's confidence and ensures accurate reporting.

Missed Opportunities

Not spotting the real potential of a campaign can lead to missed chances to grow.

Solution: Use a mix of qualitative and quantitative data. This provides a fuller picture of campaign performance and potential areas of growth.

Complexity of Digital Landscape

With so many online platforms, each with its set of metrics, it's easy to get lost.

Solution: Create a centralized dashboard where data from various platforms can be viewed together. This offers a clearer view of overall performance.

Dive Deep with Granular Data

Broad or summarized data can mask important details, leading to potential misinterpretations.

Solution: Always opt for the most detailed data set available. Detailed data offers a clearer picture, allowing for a better understanding of individual metrics and their implications.

Harness the Power of Specialized Tools

Standard data tools might not be equipped to handle the nuances of non-aggregatable metrics.

Solution: Invest in tools specifically designed for these metrics. Such tools are built to manage the complexities and provide accurate aggregations, ensuring that data is both reliable and actionable.


Non-aggregatable metrics, while complex, are integral to accurate data analysis in digital marketing. By recognizing their unique characteristics and employing the right strategies and tools, marketers can harness their full potential. Ensuring a deep understanding of these metrics not only aids in making informed decisions but also paves the way for successful marketing campaigns and strategies.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is a non-aggregatable metric?

A non-aggregatable metric is a type of data that cannot be simply added or averaged like regular numbers. For example, counting unique website visitors differs from counting total website visits because some visitors might visit a site multiple times.

What are some examples of non-aggregatable metrics in digital marketing?

Examples include running totals like follower counts on social media, unique metrics such as reach and unique impressions, and calculated KPIs like cost per click (CPC).

How do I ensure accuracy when dealing with non-aggregatable metrics?

It's essential to access the most detailed data available, use specialized tools designed for these metrics, and stay updated with the latest data analysis methods.

What challenges might I face with non-aggregatable metrics?

Challenges include the risk of making decisions based on incorrect data, budgetary implications due to inflated numbers, potential harm to reputation, and the complexity of the digital landscape.

How can I overcome the challenges posed by non-aggregatable metrics?

Solutions include double-checking and validating data sources, investing in training and specialized tools, using a mix of qualitative and quantitative data, and creating centralized dashboards for a clearer view of performance.

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