Blog Measurement 101: Three Basic Metrics
Once you have a solid blog strategy in place, the next thing to consider, before you even write a word, is measurement. Blogging without measurement, is as pointless as blogging without a goal in mind. However, lots of businesses and bloggers get bogged down by the amount of data available and find it difficult to get an accurate measure of success – myself included. Even Google guru Avinash Kaushik remarked that “we have more web metrics and data than there are stars in the universe.”
But no matter what your goals, at the very base level, there are three metrics that can provide valuable insight:
- Visitors – Visitors are the reason blogs exist. This is the simple measurement of how many people are seeing your content during any given period of time. Look at this number for your overall blog as well as for each post to see which posts and topics are generating the most traffic. Watch how this metric changes over time and think about blog promotion and traffic generating strategies (future advice coming on this) if you feel it needs a boost.
- Subscribers – Regular readers are the lifeblood of any blog. How many people have converted from readers to subscribers? This is a very telling number. It shows that your content is interesting, but more importantly, it shows a level of trust that readers have in you as a content provider.
- Sources– Monitoring where your traffic comes from can provide a wealth of information. But to me the most important insight is how readers are finding your blog. The first thing you’ll want to look at is the balance of search traffic, referral traffic and direct traffic. Then you’ll dive deeper into each category:
- Search Traffic: Evaluating search traffic will provide insight into what terms readers are using to find you. Are they the keywords you’re striving for, or do you need to do a little SEO work to reset the balance?
- Referral Traffic: This information can help you evaluate which partnerships are worth continuing to develop and which are underperforming – and might even reveal referrals you didn’t know about. Additionally, you can take a look at which social channels are working best as referral engines.
- Direct Traffic: Direct visits are hard to interpret because their origins are a mystery. It could be someone who has bookmarked your site and visits regularly or someone who has seen an ad or campaign and decided to visit later. Perhaps most likely, these are visitors coming from untagged (or mis-tagged) links in emails, social media posts using link shorteners, instant messaging clients, or mobile apps that read as direct traffic instead of providing more accurate source information. Seeing a rise in direct traffic could signify a link-tagging issue in one of your campaigns.
These top three numbers should be tracked over time and success can be measured (for the most part) by upward trends. One pitfall here, that I have to warn against is comparison. You know that age-old quote: Comparison is the theif of joy? Well, that applies in the blogosphere too. It’s impossible to compare one company’s blog metrics to another’s since there are SO many different variables. But, instead be patient and track these numbers numbers over time. They can be used to see what is working and what isn’t and then determine how you can increase them.
One final thing to consider is tools. There are a variety of paid services out there that provide all kinds of metrics tracking as well as other blogging and content marketing bonus features. But, Google Analytics is a free tool that provides great insight about user behavior, traffic and social behavior on your site. It’s easy to set up and use and is usually a good starter tool before you decide to spend money on a larger solution.