26 Sep Blog Measurement 102: Down the Rabbit Hole
In my last post, I laid out the three basic metrics everyone with a blog should be tracking, or at least watching. While those metrics can provide a lot of actionable information, there are many more insights to be gained by tracking some other numbers over time.
Although there are probably hundreds of possible metrics to track, not all of them will be important for everyone to watch; what you choose to monitor really depends on your overall goal. With that said, here are some specific metrics that could prove to be important in getting your business blog to the next level.
Social Media Shares
Social media can be a huge driver of traffic. While your social channel effectiveness can also be seen in your traffic sources information, tracking actual shares can provide great insight on the topics that are resonating with your key audiences. There are MANY paid tools out there that help you track when and how your content was shared, but a list of 10 free ones and how to use them can be found here (my suggestion is to check out Hootsuite). Monitoring all of these outlets can take some real time, but once you zero in on where your target audience lives and interacts you can target your resources to that area.
Inbound links are the key to high page rank, so tracking (and fostering) them is important if you are focused on SEO. This metric again will also help you determine the content topics and types that are resonating with your target audiences. Additionally, links can provide information on which ads, campaigns, or partnerships you’re running are working (and give you a sense of the ones that are not) and what is effectively bringing people to your site.
Subscribers are the base readership of any blog. Whether via RSS feed or email, your subscribers have “asked” to see every post you create. This number should trend upward over time but may grow slowly. Having a solid base of subscribers underscores the expertise and credibility of your content. The goal is to have your subscribers be your true target audience and loyal followers, so we’re looking for quality over quantity here. Ultimately, as long as this number doesn’t trend down, it’s nothing to get too worried about.
You want new visitors to come, click around, stay a while, and read a few things while they’re there. So, high visitor retention and click through rates are the goal. The more time a person spends on your site can signal one of two things – 1. They really like your content and are going to become a subscriber or 2. They can’t find the exact information they are looking for but feel they are close.. Ideally you want each visitor to see two or more pages before they leave your site.
Bounce rate is the flip side of visitor retention. When a visit lasts less than 10 seconds it’s considered a bounce. It’s possible that a small number of bounces occur because of accidental clicks, but the majority of these visitors weren’t sold on your site in their first 10 seconds there. Taking a look at the content on the pages with high bounce numbers may provide some clues as to why they are leaving. It could also provide some insight to see where these bounces are coming from – social media, inbound links, or search engines – they may have your site described wrong or an errant link. And, looking at flip side of that – the sources with low bounce rates shine some light on where your most engaged readers are coming from. Remember: the magic number (read: industry standard) to try to stay below is a 65 percent bounce rate.
Comments (… and mentions and feedback)
Obviously, you’ll want to pay attention to the comments to your posts, not just to respond and engage with your readers, but to see which topics are conversation starters and which don’t engage your audience as much. Mentions on other blogs and direct feedback can be helpful for this as well.
Leads and customers (or conversions)
Are visitors to your blog actually buying anything, or at least converting from causal reader to lead? A simple way to quantify this (without the use of lead tracking software, which makes this even more simple) is to calculate how many people are purchasing out of everyone coming to your website. You’ll be able to see which offers are working and which aren’t. This information can help you target or word your offers more clearly, to help them appeal to your customers.
Like I said above, it is not necessary for every blog manager to track all of these metrics. However, being aware that they exist and taking a minute to see if they could help gain followers, increase sales or generally hit the goals of your blog is a good idea.
One caveat to keep in mind: Blogging is a slow process. You’re trying to reach your exact target audience, so it takes time to tailor your message, build trust, and convey that you are the expert they need to be reading. Don’t expect to see your numbers increase ten-fold every time you look at them or you will be disappointed often. Just take it slow, focus on creating good content, track what you can (and make adjustments when needed), and promote your content to the best of your abilities. Do all of this, and you should see success over time.