By Omkar Mishra
When you start a blog, you don’t start expecting your blog to start hitting traffic right away. That process takes content crafting and the right mixture of expertise and content amplification. Starting a blog for an individual or a brand is not a choice anymore but mandatory.
The goal is to provide value to your audience so that they keep coming back to you for more advice. However, this sounds easier than it is. The only way to determine if you are on the right track would be to measure the growth of your blog and to keep track of whether all of your content is actually getting consumed with the right audience in mind. By focusing on the audience, bloggers can surely build a scalable and effective model of their content.
The Measurement Model for a Blog:
Whenever, a new user visits your blog for the first time, he goes through these three phases sequentially which decides your overall success with your blog. In order to track your user’s behaviour through the blog, you will need to first set it up with a web analytics tool of your choice. There are many paid alternatives used by companies like Adobe Sitecatalyst which are more suited for website level analytics along with other tailored solutions. However, Google has one more free solution for us which almost all the blogs have in place to track their performance i.e Google Analytics. Google Analytics is an easy to set up tool which you can get through if you have basic coding skills or you can set it up with the help of your webmaster. If you have your blog hosted on WordPress, here is a great post by WPBeginner on installing Google Analytics on WordPress which you can bookmark for reference. Let’s drill down further to the kind of metrics you can target to achieve the goals you must have set for your blogging initiative.
Awareness is the primary stage of your blog when your contact is discovered by the audience. This stage initially decides if the user might be interested in your content and invest his time in reading your blog and comeback for more. You can surely track these measures on a daily/weekly/monthly basis to let you know if your intended audience is able to digest your content
- Visits (Sessions):
Visits are the building blocks of any content strategy. The trend in the number of visits can surely decide if your content is getting popular or a new content strategy needs to be put up in place. The important aspect is to track if these visits are from a relevant audience or not. For example, if you are a social media B2B blog and are getting visits from people not remotely connected to this sector you would surely need to re-think on the optimization & content on your part to get a more targeted awareness to your blog.
In order to get that content from your blog, you might want to look at enabling Audience Demographics information within Google Analytics (You might need to tweak the code and adjust to ensure it starts displaying audience profile information). Google does a pretty good approximate assumption of User’s Age and Gender along with his/her interest categories. So now you can surely answer the question like: Do males interested in Sports convert frequently or read specific types of content more than females who are interested in lingerie.
You can also setup alerts under ‘Intelligence Events’ for getting alerted if a desired value for your blog (Subscribers/Visits etc) goes beyond an average limit pre-decided by you. The alert can be scheduled for a daily/weekly/monthly basis (I generally set it up on a daily basis). This demands a quick action by us who would normally go to our GA dashboard on a fixed schedule to check if something has been performing brilliantly (Visits skyrocketing to the blog when a post is shared by an influencer) or has gone bad (no lead form filled in the last one week which can indicate a technical glitch with the blog)
- Traffic Sources:
Look at where exactly are your visitors coming from under Acquisition à Channels. This metric helps you understand where your audience is finding you and where can you invest your time to get a quality audience. So if Organic Search is giving you less traffic than social media, try to divert some attention to your SEO tactics to check if your keyword optimization for each post is up to date and try to write content which is relevant and does not have much competition from a search engine perspective. You can read this clever post by Ian Cleary on how you can optimize your WordPress blog to get more SEO juice for getting started.
Look at the quality each channel is providing you with by measuring the time spent by each user coming via different channels to assess the quality of the audience coming through. For us, Email newsletters contribute the least of traffic but the most engaged users (highest time spent and average pages/visit). Because, those are the users who have subscribed (already converted) to our blog and looking forward to read our content each week. Look at what is your blog’s story and strategize your blog marketing accordingly for the coming months.
Once your audience is aware of your blog, converting that awareness factor to interest is of paramount factor. Consider your blog as your product! When an audience checks it out at the first time, it should be happy with how the product looks like (the User interface of your blog) & how it performs (is the content relevant to your audience) & what features does it have (can your blog provide any value add the user is looking for). All these factors then contribute to capture an audience’s imagination to come back to the blog regularly and build authenticity.
- Returning Visitors:
Returning Visitors tell you intent of an audience to return to your content for more. Keep a track of how these returning visitors are spending their time on your website and are they growing over time for you to build your subscriber base. A high in returning visitor can surely mean a chance to market growth in your email subscribers to keep them hooked up to your content. You can find the report under “Audience –> Behaviour –> New vs Returning”
As you can see in our case, a returning visitor contributes twice his time on our content compared to a new visitor along with a lesser bounce rate. This explains the value of a returning visitor for a more engaged experience on your blog.
- Visitor Activities:
One more way to look at if your audience is finding your content helpful is to look at visitor activities. Here we are talking Entrances, Exits and Bounce Rate (You can find them under ‘Acquisition’ to look at them through various channel level performances). Entrances will list out where your visitors are coming from i.e: which blog page is introducing them to your blog. This could be your home page or a very popular content.
Bounce Rate and Exit percentage are very similar nature with some important differences. Many people interpret them as a substitute for each other but they are wrong in doing so. Bounce rate measures the tendency of visitors landing to a certain page of your blog and exit your website without visiting any other page inside your blog (i.e: a one page visit on your blog) whereas Exit percentage indicates the number of people leaving the page who may have read many other articles on your blog and have preferred to exit your blog on this particular page (i.e: not necessarily a one page visit).
A high bounce rate for a certain blog post may indicate irrelevant content (couple this check with the average time spent on that page) on the users part or some technical difficulties the visitor might be facing on your blog (i.e: content not loading in a specific browser or non-optimized images) which you can then action upon your findings. A high bounce rate for a specific pages might also mean visitors coming to your website, grab the info they need from your blog and never to return again. Enticing them with the right content will help you make them stay longer on your website (An ‘Also Read‘ section at the bottom of the blog comprising of posts of importance which they can continue reading after they got the relevant information)
You can find the information about the pages yielding the highest Exit rates under “Behaviour à Site Content à Exit Pages”. Know your highest exit pages and test and target changes on those pages to see if you do see a declining effect.
- Audience Engagement:
Audience Engagement in Google Analytics can define if your audience is spending quality time on your blog. Engaged Visitors are likely to stay on more than a minute on your blog to read about the content they want to know about or visiting more than one post to explore similar content of their liking. You can view these metrics under “Audience –> Behaviour –> Engagement”
Set a benchmark for your engaged audience studying historical data ( let’s say an engaged user spends minimum 3 minutes on your blog to go through the post). Then you can study this pattern over time to conclude how much % of your audience crosses that benchmark on a weekly basis and if that trend is increasing as the time progresses.
Trust comes after you have built authenticity in the minds of your readers for them to convert in to a regular audience (or part of your blogging family).Building this trust is of paramount importance with the dose of right content and being always reachable. I remember starting out in social media and searching in Google for related articles and always stumbling to some great articles from Social Media Examiner. This after couple of times, compelled me to make this as a go to site for me to read about anything new which is happening in the social space. And so I followed them on Twitter (sign of trust) to always know what is going around on their blog and subscribed to their feed (sign of trust) to never miss an update. Now, whoever is a regular contributor to this site will surely stand out for me as an authentic person to converse with regarding my field. Check if your visitors are turning in to long-time customers for you with the right approach after looking at the below metrics:
- Subscriber Conversion:
There is no direct metric in Google Analytics which tells you how many subscribers you have attained over time. However, there is a feature which you can surely use and deploy for your blog to capture this metric and measure the conversion ratio of your audience to email subscribers (# of people subscribed / # of total visits during the selected period)
Goals is an underutilized feature in google analytics which can enable you to measure specific actions of your audience with your relative path in mind. Say you want to measure the audience who have converted to your feed after reading a fairly popular content piece on your blog, you can set up the exact path of the conversion via Goals. To set up a new goal, just go under your ‘Admin’ section at the top and click on ‘Goals’ under the ‘View’ section. You can start with the pre-defined templates by Google to start with and get up and running in three simple steps. You can then view your defined Goals under “Conversion –> Goals –> Overview” to understand your audience behavior and conversion factors.
You can read about how to set up Goals in Google Analytics in this helpful guide by Hongkiat
- Social Shares:
Social Media has contributed to a real time marketing platform which can enhance your blog’s visibility and land your blog to greater heights. Tracking the number of shares on every post can serve as an ego-boasting for your blog but is useless unless you measure how much return traffic those shares are generating for you. For me, a social media share is also a sign of trust from the user’s part as he is trying to share what he thinks can add value to his friends/followers and can help the blog connect with similar audience. Our blog post on the latest Social Media statistics is a true example of a snowball effect via social media and still remains our top grossing post in terms of traffic and engagement.
Also Read: How to measure your Facebook Page
Google Analytics has a separate tab for Social traffic analysis under “Acquisition à Social”. You can view & compare social network performance against each other along with which social platform is bringing the most loyal audience (higher engagement time or pages per visit). You can also create social specific goals to look at your user subscription rate through specific social channels for evaluation purposes. You can view specific user flow pattern under Users flow to understand which content of you is getting shared on which social network and the specific visitor behaviour of people coming from Twitter as compared to Facebook.
There are tons of other metrics you can find under Google Analytics which you can surely use as per your specific needs, but these are the important ones you can keep under consideration based on the three factors of measurement explained above. Learn how to adapt to changing needs of your readers and always benchmark your metrics to keep a track of how you are performing on a weekly/monthly basis.
Create –> Consume –> Measure –> Adapt
Which set of metrics would you suggest/follow for measuring the performance of a blog? Comment below to let us know.