The right metrics to track blog success

Valerie Turgeon May 4, 2017

I’ve attended a few poetry and story slams around the Twin Cities. These talented artists rip open their hearts and show the darkest corners of their lives to strangers in an audience.

One time I was randomly chosen as a judge. I was expected to assign a number (1-10) on the quality of the stories and how they were performed.

It felt wrong! How do you assign a number to someone’s personal story?

You may take a lot of pride in your brand’s blog posts, but have you recorded specific numbers to track its success? There isn’t just one way to track your content performance. It all depends on what your goals are and what you want to learn about your content.

If you haven’t recorded any numbers yet, it’s best to start at the top of the sales funnel before digging deeper into conversion rates and ROI.

We’ve put together a simple blog-metrics template to get you started. Once you’ve gathered all the data, you can begin analyzing it to determine if your current content strategy is a boom or a bust.

As a large company, you may have the capacity to post a blog per day—maybe more. But if you’re a small- to mid-sized company, you’re looking at publishing about two to four posts per week instead. We recommend using the template to create monthly metrics reports, which will provide a more thorough overview of patterns and trends.

Bonus: We’ll also tell you where to find each metric in Google Analytics. Just apply your desired date range. To look at metrics for a single blog post, paste the tail end of your post’s URL into the search box. Example: /blog/best-post-ever.

Consumption

Pageviews

This is the most basic data point you can use to gauge how many people saw your post.

The post with the most pageviews = the best, right? Not necessarily. It’s a signal to dive a little deeper into the analytics to understand why a post did or didn’t garner a high number of pageviews.

Be sure to also keep track of your social media calendar so you know on which channels you shared each post and which ones received paid promotion. You could have forgotten to share one post on social, so it didn’t receive as many views as it could have.

Unique pageviews is another option to track. If a user visits a post multiple times in one session, it will only count for one pageview.

Where to find it: Behavior > Site Content > All Pages

Overall blog traffic

A top reason to track your blog’s performance is to spot trends. Is there a season when your blog does exceptionally well? Is there a time when traffic is slow?

Tracking the overall visits to your blog each month gives a broader look at these trends, as well as progress over time.

You can look at more detailed metrics (outlined below) to analyze where you need to make your adjustments—whether in quality of your content or in how its promoted or shared.

Some of the hardest work is having the patience to wait a few months before detecting these broader trends. Sit tight! Soon you’ll have all the answers you need.

Where to find it: Behavior > Site Content > All Pages (use the URL for your general blog)

Publishing frequency

Tally your total number of blog posts published after each period. This number can be valuable as you compare this to other data, including the correlation between volume and frequency.

For example, if you published 20 blogs in March and only eight in April, but received almost the same pageviews each month, that might mean April’s blogs were of a higher quality or were more relevant to your audience. Your time will be better spent writing these types of posts.

Where to find it: In the blog metrics template, add the number of all blog posts you’ve included in that time frame.

Engagement

Returning visitors

Know what percentage of your audience is new, or a die-hard fan by seeing the number of times a single user has returned to your blog.

This might tell you how valuable your blog is as a whole. Are people coming back to read more? Are those return visits generating lots of new leads? Based on those findings, you’ll have a better idea of the kind of content you should be publishing more of (or less of).

Where to find it: Audience > Behavior > Filter by Frequency & Recency

Email subscriptions

Tracking the number of email subscribers to your blog/newsletter can provide insight into the quality of your content, as well as interest in your brand. If people sign up to have your content delivered straight to their inbox, it must be valuable.

Because you capture an email address that can be used later to move the user through the sales funnel, you could possibly gain a new customer…and it all started with your blog.

Where to find it: Wherever you keep your sales database—we recommend using a marketing automation tool.

Social referral breakdown

Track referrals to know how readers made it to your blog post. Google Analytics breaks it down to show what exact social channel led a user to your post.

Social referrals may be something you want to track as part of your social media strategy so you can also analyze which types of content do best on which social channels, and where you want to promote paid posts.

Where to find it: In Google Analytics, Behavior > Site Content > All Pages > Filter by Acquisition > Source. You can also create custom redirect links to post on different social channels and track those numbers.

Average pages per session and bounce rate

Once someone gets to your post, are they checking out the rest of the blog? What about the rest of your website?

The more pages someone visits, the more engaged they are with your website. You can measure this with average pages per session or with bounce rate.

If a visitor closes out of the blog post and does not shuffle through more of the website, this is considered a “bounce.”

You can increase page views and reduce the bounce rate by including internal links to other blogs, ebooks, product pages, etc., within your website, or by suggesting relevant content at the bottom of your page.

Pop-up ads, surveys, music and streaming video can increase bounce rate, according to KISSmetrics. They suggest eliminating these factors as well as reducing external links, speeding up the page-load time and any plugins you might be using, and building a clear navigation menu on the website.

For many new leads, their time spent with the website is a first impression. Make it easy to navigate and fill it with only the most essential information. And show off your brand!

Where to find it: Bounce Rate: Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. To see average pages per session: Audience > Overview. Detailed page depth: Audience> Behavior > Engagement

Quality

Time spent on page

All the metrics above can be analyzed to determine quality. But looking at the time spent on a page indicates if your content is actually getting read. This metric also gives insight into how engaged your audience is with a piece of content.

There is no key number to look for in this case because it’s going to depend on the type of post, word count, number of visuals, etc.

The longer you collect data, the better you can identify a meaningful number to assign. Then, as you analyze future posts, you can determine if users are spending enough time on each page.

Long-from content is a big time investment, so if you’re finding that visitors are spending just as much time on these as a short 300-word listicle, you may be better off sticking with the shorter posts until you can figure out how to enhance the quality of the long form pieces.

Where to find it: Behavior > Site Content > All Pages

Qualitative metrics

In our downloadable blog metrics template, the light gray category denotes qualitative data:

qualitative blog metrics

These are metrics that you can’t assign a number to, but can help you better analyze the meaning behind all the data you collected.

Does the post have a photo, video, animated GIF, an infographic, or CTA? You can also categorize the type of post, the general topic and tone of the post. That way, when looking at all the metrics we’ve covered so far, you can make conclusions about what assets and types of content are performing best.

Once the report is complete and you’ve determined what makes a blog post successful, it’s time to revisit your content strategy and how you want to measure metrics that go deeper into the sales funnel.

[Check it out: How to make content your best sales person]

It may be tough at first to see the numbers, especially if your stellar content isn’t performing like you had hoped. In the end though, tracking your blog’s performance will ensure that your inbound marketing efforts are paying off and that your content is supporting your business goals.

Valerie Turgeon May 4, 2017

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