Let me kick things off with a confession – I’m a stickler for clicks, shares and traffic.
It’s kind of addictive. Getting up every morning, opening up the Google analytics iPhone app and seeing how many people checked out your site over night.
It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside when things LOOK on the up.
But there’s a dark side too.
What about those days when you doubt yourself. Those days when one more roadblock could make you give up everything and start from scratch.
What if your traffic is a little down that day?
All of a sudden it’s a catastrophe.
“Maybe we can’t do this”
“No one cares about our content any more”
“Is this whole thing a big fat waste of my time?”
Blogging is a tough slog, and most businesses give up too early.
We fall into this trap of chasing the metrics. (I’m just as guilty as the next person)
More traffic, more social shares, more email subscribers, more, more, more…
But what does it all mean? How do all of these factors add up to what we really want…
Leads, customers, revenue and profit.
Today I want to help you make better decisions when it comes to measuring success for your blogging activity – instead of getting lost in a sea of blog metrics.
Before we dive into the metrics themselves… Let’s define what success looks like for YOU.
The fundamental problem with “measuring” when it comes to blogging is what we THINK we care about.
All those nasty vanity metrics that distract us from what really matters.
The metrics themselves aren’t the problem. It’s how we perceive them and the way with which we monitor them.
The way I see it, a blog metric is pointless unless it can be tracked back to a meaningful business outcome.
What I want to know is this… What are you trying to achieve by blogging for your business?
Seriously, have a think about it.
What is the purpose/goal/aspiration you are pursuing?
This needs to be a clearly articulated destination. A future state that you wish to arrive at. Something you can work towards and anchor your efforts around.
Your blog’s definition of success is a crystal clear statement that defines exactly what winning looks, feels, smells and tastes like when you get there.
Your definition of success is aligned to your greater business goals and it is there for everyone to see. Your team, your community – anyone that turns up on your site will understand (even if it’s subconsciously) what it is you are trying to achieve.
Once you define success, then you can start to think about how to measure it.
Why you should measure success
If you don’t measure success, how will you know if you win?
Take a basketball game for example…
You’ve got two teams. Each has no more than 5 players on the court at once.
The only way to score points is by getting the ball into the basket at the opposite end of the court from where you begin.
48 minutes and 4 quarters later, there is a winner – the team who has scored the most points over that time.
Throughout the game, everyone watching keeps track of who is winning by looking at the scoreboard.
It’s easy to track success in this game because it’s clearly defined.
But what if there was no clear definition of success in a game of basketball?
What if one player thought that winning involved something entirely different than another?
This might sound ridiculous, but it’s how most of us go about measuring success with blogging.
Our boundaries are flimsy. We don’t know where the finish line is, and very rarely does anyone have the same definition for what success is.
Instead of measuring the things that help us win (the baskets) – we measure an array of totally unrelated metrics that add up to what? A good feeling inside?
Running a successful blog isn’t about luck, it’s about clearly defining a destination and meticulously working towards that.
If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know how to get there and you certainly won’t know how to measure if it was successful or not.
What blog metrics should you measure?
We’re about to get into the nitty gritty.
These are the metrics that I measure, because they add up to my goals as a business owner.
They help me understand what I need to do to grow my business and where I can improve along the way.
If you are blogging to get leads, grow your business and generate more revenue – these blog metrics will help you track success.
Traffic matters, but only if it is the type of traffic you want.
Measuring pageviews is a complete waste of time if you aren’t deliberate about the people you want on your site, and where you are going to find them.
If you have created a buyer persona, your content strategy is aligned to that persona’s needs AND your site is optimized to capture their contact information when they turn up – then pageviews are an important metric.
Because essentially, the more views you get, the more leads you get.
Then it’s all about optimizing your lead magnets and growing your traffic.
On the flip side, if your conversion rates are low and the leads you get are poor quality – pageviews are useless.
It’s no good having 20,000 visitors land on your site if next to none of them opt in, and of the ones that opt in none become customers.
So track pageviews, but only care about this metric AFTER you have your persona nailed and your sales funnel tightly constructed to serve this audience.
Google analytics makes tracking this metric easy in the “Audience : Overview” section of your dashboard.
2. Traffic sources
It’s all well and good to track how much traffic you’re getting…
But where is it coming from?
An insight into exactly where your site visitors are coming from can make a big difference in the effectiveness of your content strategy.
For example, let’s say you are spending lots of time and money on paid advertising.
But when you look at your ‘Traffic Source’ breakdown in Google analytics, paid advertising is ranking below both organic search and social media.
This might be telling you that your money could be better spent elsewhere. (Of course there may be other reasons you have ads running, so this isn’t the only factor to consider)
Understanding exactly where your traffic is coming from will tell you whether your strategy to build traffic is effective, and guide the way you approach it moving forward.
To find out more about this break down, in Google Analytics go to the “Acquisition : All Traffic : Channels” tab on your dashboard.
3. Steady growth
Blogs create spikes in traffic.
When you hit publish and promote your latest blog post, the next couple of days of traffic will naturally increase.
The goal is to create steady and gradual growth in your baseline traffic metrics.
For example, if you weren’t to publish a blog post for two weeks – what would your average daily visitors look like?
The best way to maintain a steady stream of traffic, that doesn’t rely on new content to deliver you leads, is with a solid SEO strategy.
Search engine traffic is the most consistent traffic you can get.
The better your SEO strategy, the less worried you have to be about peaks and troughs.
Keep in mind that your SEO strategy is a long-term play. You won’t see results overnight.
But you should keep track of your organic search growth and try to keep it steadily rising. (The more established your domain, the easier it is to rank in search results)
4. Time on site and bounce rate
If your website is a primary driver of revenue, it’s important to keep prospects on there for as long as possible.
But it’s more than that…
The longer someone stays on your site, the more engaged they are with your business and the more they trust you. (Trust is a primary driver of purchase behavior)
Google also considers ‘bounce rate’ and ‘average time on site’ as important factors when ranking your content in search results – it’s how they measure user experience. (So it plays a part in your long-term steady traffic growth and lead generation)
You can pull up a tailored graph for bounce rate in Google analytics.
Here’s a few ways you can decrease your bounce rate and increase the average time on site of your site visitors;
- Improve your page loading speed (people tend to bounce if a page loads slowly)
- Make sure your search description (meta description), social snippets and ads are natural extensions of the page you are driving traffic to (if visitors land somewhere they don’t expect, they will leave quickly)
- Include internal links to other pages on your site
- Write long, high quality content (if it’s good enough, visitors will stick around to read it)
- Vary your visual media (videos are a very effective way of keeping someone on a page for longer)
5. Social media shares
Social media shares are another way to see if visitors are engaging with your content.
If people feel compelled to share something they appreciate its value. By sharing it they pass their trust for you onto others.
When it comes to growing your business social shares don’t mean much by themselves.
But here’s two reasons I care about them (and you should too);
- By displaying social share counts on your site it creates social proof for your brand
- When someone shares your content it gets in front of a new audience of potential prospects
By dropping the link of your site into a BuzzSumo search it will pull up your most popular content ranked by social shares.
See below for Blogger Sidekick;
The Social Warfare plugin will track social shares in real time and display them on each individual page of your site. This is where the social proof kicks into gear.
You can take tracking this metric to a new level with this hack I learnt from David Boutin at Lab3 Marketing.
Copy the URL of a page on your site and paste it into a Twitter search (like I have below)…
The search will show you all the most recent shares of that piece of content.
The great thing about this hack is you will discover a whole bunch of shares that you never knew happened. (Because lots of sharers don’t include your Twitter handle when they share)
This way you can connect with your community on a new level and nurture sharers into regular site visitors and eventually customers.
6. Social media clicks
Hopefully when you write a blog post you are actively promoting it to social media – over and over again.
This not only gets more eyes on your content, but it also allows you to see what is working.
What type of content do your audience engage with regularly?
What headlines are working?
How can these insights guide your future content strategy?
These questions will help you create content in the future that is aligned with your customers needs and is more likely to strike a chord.
I like to you Bit.ly to track clicks:
The most respected blogs get a lot of comments.
They get a lot of comments because people see the comments section as an opportunity to connect with the author.
By commenting you are showing the author you care and adding to the value of their community.
Much like a big social share count – blogs with a lot of comments get noticed.
It’s kind of like the cool kid at a party…
You want to find a way to talk to them because everyone else is doing it. But deep down you’re kind of jealous, wondering why they are getting so much attention.
So why should you care about tracking how many comments you get?
- Comments reveal valuable information about your customers and what they are struggling with – the more you get, the more insights you get
- Comments are a type of social proof. People like to hang out with the cool kids (And buy stuff from the cool brands)
- Comments tell you if anyone cares about your content. If no one is voicing an opinion about your content you either aren’t providing enough value, providing the wrong TYPE of value for your audience, OR you are writing about safe, boring topics that don’t spark interest
Orbit Media (Andy Crestodina’s blog) is a great example of a blog with lots of comments and a highly engaged audience. See below:
Make sure your comment section is adding additional value to your website visitors by regularly replying, encouraging people to comment and deleting any spam comments.
There’s no perfect way to track comments – it’s more about feel. But if you’re not getting ANY comments, it should send off some alarm bells.
8. Inbound links
Links aren’t what they used to be.
Once upon a time lots of links meant more search visibility, higher rankings and a whole bunch of traffic.
So internet marketers would hunt down links from anywhere and everywhere.
Then Google muddied the waters just a little.
Links still matter when it comes to ranking in search – but not just any link will do.
You need to get well respected, “authoritative” domains linking to your content. Plus the pages these sites link from need to be contextual. It needs to make sense that they are linking back to your content in the first place – the topics need to match up.
Therefore, when it comes to measuring your link profile, it’s not just about volume it’s also about context and domain authority.
To measure backlinks for this site I use BuzzSumo.
See below an example of Brian Dean’s Backlinko in a search;
Just remember, this isn’t about the links themselves. So try not to get obsessed with it.
The important thing is that a strong link profile will equate to more search traffic, and more search traffic will result in more leads and more customers. This is what we care about.
9. On-page links
Not as many people talk about measuring this one… But it’s just as important.
Often we get caught up with “building links” – which typically refers to other sites linking back to our content.
But internal linking on your own website, AND linking off to respected resources and content is also considered a quality factor by search engines.
By linking from your content to other credible sources (your own and others) it boosts the credibility of your content, increases the chance it will get shared and adds value to your audience.
To do this properly, you need to be measuring it.
I would recommend regularly conducting a link audit of your best content – let’s say, every 3 months.
Make sure that your old content is linking to some of your new posts, and that all of your best content is linking to several authoritative websites.
Here is an example of Neil Patel using this tactic on his personal blog:
10. Email stats
Email marketing is still hands down the best way to turn a stranger into a customer.
It’s your ticket to sustainable, consistent business growth through the power of auto-responders and tightly constructed marketing funnels.
So when someone visits your website, opts in for your lead magnet and starts their email relationship with you – it’s important to measure how effective your strategy is.
When it comes to email stats, it’s easy to get lost in the vanity side of things too.
If you have an automated email series setup where you are actively nurturing your prospects into customers, this is where you need to worry about measuring stats.
Open rates, click throughs and unsubscribes are the three main metrics I look at when it comes to my automation sequence.
Open rates are important because it will help you understand whether or not your email subject line is resonating with your audience, or even making it to their inbox in the first place.
Once someone opens an email, measuring click throughs will tell you if the content within the email is hitting the right emotional triggers and encouraging people to take action.
You will start to understand how well you have aligned your lead magnet strategy with your nurture process as well as if you are sending too many emails (or perhaps not enough), by tracking unsubscribes.
There is no perfect click through, open and unsubscribe rate you should target – it’s largely contextual based on your industry and objectives.
But if you set up a sequence of emails, let it run for a while and then start to make small tweaks to some of the important features – you will begin to see an improvement in these metrics.
If your sequence ends in a sale; more opens, click throughs and less unsubscribes means more revenue.
If you’re looking for some inspiration to increase email open rates, Richard Lindner from Digital Marketer has put together a great resource of 11 tricks.
11. Email subscribers
If you are driving targeted traffic to your site, lots of people are engaging with your content, and your automation sequence is optimized for action – then you can focus on getting more email subscribers.
Essentially new email subscribers are considered leads because you can begin to accurately track how likely a new prospect is to buy from you based on the metrics we have just spoken about.
The goal then becomes steadily growing your list over time so your business grows with it.
Robbie Richards has put together an epic resource of list building tactics if you’re ready to start scaling things up.
12. Conversion rates
The next important blog metric you should be tracking is conversion rates.
Out of the people that visit your site, how many of them become email subscribers?
If you have high conversion rates, it means you are attracting the type of traffic that is interested in your lead magnets.
If you are attracting people that are interested in your lead magnets, and your email marketing is designed around those lead magnets; conversion rates will equate to more sales.
The key to a high conversion rate is relevancy.
The more congruent your lead magnet is to the prior action the user took or the content in the blog post they are reading, the more likely they are to opt in.
For example below you will see an A/B split test I ran for a lead magnet.
Notice that it tracks the conversion rates of my original pop-up box compared to an alternative variation (I think I used a different colored button for this one).
Over time the second variation has performed statistically better than the first, so then I can revert all visitors to see the better performing opt-in form.
By tracking conversion rates and testing to see what works, I’m able to convert more traffic into email subscribers.
Check out the “Conversion Optimization Guide” by ConversionXL for some great tips on increasing your website conversions.
For this metric, I want you to ask your current customers where they originally found you.
Was it because they read your blog? Or did they come to your site from an ad? Or something else?
You might have a whole bunch of conversions from your blog content and a ton of engagement, but if these people aren’t becoming customers – you have a misalignment.
It’s easy to go for the quick win content that gets a bunch of shares and some nice attention. But if that’s all you’re after then you may as well film a rodeo clown jumping through a ring of fire.
Your blog should act as added value to your customer group. It should help reinforce their purchase decision, teach them new things about your industry and inspire them to want more from you.
The most effective way to capture ongoing customer feedback about your blog content is through a survey.
I would recommend creating a short 3-5 minute survey and building it into your auto-responder series or customer on boarding process.
Another trick is to add a user experience survey onto your site as a pop-up – but I prefer to save this space for lead generation.
The insights you get from your current customers will guide your content strategy for the future.
You can create a survey for free using Google forms:
What does it cost to run your blog?
You can get all the leads in the world, but if it’s costing you a disproportionate amount of time and money to do so – then it’s ineffective.
Blogging comes with a whole bunch of nitty gritty tasks that most business owners don’t have the time or headspace to deal with.
Here’s just a few examples:
- Coming up with a content strategy and blog post ideas
- Researching your blog posts
- Writing and editing
- Publishing and optimizing your posts
- Promoting your content
- Managing a team of contributors
If you’re doing all of these things for your blog, I’d almost guarantee you are not getting an ROI for it.
Imagine if you could use just a bit of that time to focus on other, more impactful activities for your business.
Things like customer service, client delivery and lead nurturing.
On top of the time it takes to run a successful blog, there are a bunch of financial costs that come with it too.
Web hosting, web development, email marketing software, landing page and opt-in form software, social media management tools… the list can go on for as long as you want it to.
It’s important to track all your time and financial costs and figure out where you could be getting a better ROI.
For example, what tasks could you outsource or hand over to someone else? If your time is better spent on other activities perhaps it’s worth getting someone to manage your blog.
Or on the flip side, if your financial costs are starting to get out of control, it might be time to reduce the amount of tools you’re using and only focus on the most important ones.
15. Most popular posts
Over time I’d encourage you to keep a list of your most popular blog posts.
The posts that have the most comments, shares and links.
Because these are the ones your audience have engaged with. They care about these topics and value your opinion on them.
Most likely you have covered a topic that is a deep, embedded problem for your potential customers.
Not only will your most popular content guide your future strategy, but it can also decide the direction of your business.
For example, are you answering any questions in these posts that could turn into a product or service?
There are a bunch of WordPress plugins that allow you to display your most popular posts on the right sidebar of your site.
Here’s an example from Marketing Results below.
You might be sitting there thinking I just contradicted myself.
I told you not to measure the vanity metrics…
And then went ahead and listed out 15 blog metrics that are probably as vain as they can get.
But that wasn’t my intention.
Blog metrics are just that; they are numbers, statistics and measurements that can be interpreted in anyway you want them to.
Alone they are useless.
But when partnered with a specific definition of success and a clear purpose, they can actually mean something.
Metrics are a necessary evil, because they help you meticulously pursue a destination, an outcome, a goal. And they help you figure out whether you are actually making progress toward that aspiration.
But in the wrong hands metrics can be unhelpful, and often detrimental to progress.
So, be cautious.
Measure as much as you want, but make it meaningful.
What other blog metrics matter to you?