There’s no question that analytics are an important part of any content marketing effort. As the saying goes, you can’t improve what you can’t measure. But for those of us that aren’t numbers people, the volume and variety of metrics can be overwhelming. Sometimes it helps to step back and take a more holistic view.
When you set out to measure the “success” of a blog post, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. Is it better to get comments or shares? New visits or return readers? To have one influential blogger link to your post, or to have 15 people email it to their friends? The answer (like most answers in our industry): “It depends.”
Before you plumb the depths of your site analytics program, take a moment to think about what you want to achieve–not just the goals for that post, but the goals for your blog as a whole. You do have a clear goal for your business blog, don’t you?
There are many reasons an online business might create a blog, but three of the most common are to attract new customers, to increase customer loyalty or to increase direct sales. Depending on your specific goals, you’ll want to pay attention to different metrics to measure your success.
Let’s take a look at a few metrics you can use to measure your success towards those key goals.
1. Attracting new customers
If the main objective of your business blog is to attract new customers, you’ll want to look at metrics associated with new visitors and how they found your post.
– Visitors: This number will give you a good baseline idea of the amount of traffic your post generated. Did this one attract more or less than previous posts? How does it stack up against the average, the best and the worst?
– Keywords: What keywords did visitors use to find your post? Are they the ones you optimized for, or were your readers searching for something else? These keywords can help you better understand what topics your visitors are interested in, which helps you attract more people like them.
– Referrals & inbound links: Where did your visitors come from? Did most of them come from a search engine, or did they come from another site? Did someone share your post on social media or on their own blog?
If your primary goal is to attract new customers to your store, keep track of these numbers for all of your posts. Pretty soon, you’ll start to develop a better understanding of where new customers are, how they’re finding your site and what you can do to attract more of them.
2. Customer engagement & brand loyalty
For most businesses, it’s easier and cheaper to sell to a repeat customer than to find and attract new ones. So if you use your blog primarily to engage current customers and build loyalty for your brand, you’ll want to measure your success accordingly.
– Return visitors: Most of your analytics programs should be able to tell you which visitors have been to your site before. Compare this post to the other posts or pages those readers visited before. Are there any patterns?
– Sharing: If a reader shares your post, that’s a pretty good endorsement of the content you’ve created, and a pretty good indication of the things they’re interested in. Pay attention to the ways and places they share (social networks, blogs, forums), and to look for ways you can keep the conversation going.
– Average time on page: One of the best indicators of engagement is the amount of time visitors spend on that post. If they’re only sticking around for a few seconds and moving on, did they really “engage” with you?
If your primary goal is to build your brand and encourage customer loyalty, you’ll likely focus on very different types of posts than if you’re looking for new readers. Paying attention to details like return visits, shares and average time on the page will help you identify the types of posts that truly engage with your customers.
3. Increase direct sales
Whether you’re focusing on new customers or repeat business, one of the ultimate goals of your blog is likely to drive more sales. Here are some ways you can measure the impact of a post on your bottom line.
– Click-through rate: While it’s important to know where your visitors are coming from, it’s even more important to know where they go. If you include links to relevant products within a blog post (note: it’s a good idea to include links to relevant products in your posts), keep track of how many readers actually clicked through. You may find specific types of posts, like “How To’s” or special offers, get more click-throughs than others.
– Sales from blog: The next logical step in this process is to measure how many of the readers who clicked through actually made a purchase. What kinds of posts drive the most sales? What kinds of products do your blog readers buy?
Tracking sales that are directly tied to your blog can be tricky, especially if your products have a longer sales cycle. While these numbers can help you assess the impact of your post, remember that it may just be the final step in a longer purchase process.
If you don’t have a goal, how will you know you’ve succeeded?
Between traffic, shares, comments, click-throughs and the countless other ways you can measure every piece of content you create, it’s easy to forget about your long-term goals. But by taking a step back and using a more holistic approach, you can focus on the metrics that really matter. With your bigger goals in sight, you can keep the flood of data in perspective.
This post is part of our Method & Message series by Clay Delk. Check back every other Wednesday for the latest discussions on content, context and commerce on the web.