This is Part 3 of the Metrics that matter for bloggers series. In this chapter, we will cover different metrics you should follow when it comes to your blog as a website (or any other site). In other words we will go through basic website analytics.
You can get most of the metrics described in this chapter from Google Analytics. Here we are, just in case if you are interested also in other topics regarding website metrics:
- Part 1: Metrics that matter for bloggers – understanding the basics
- Part 2: How to make money blogging and financial metrics
- Part 3: Website analytics
- Part 4: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) metrics for bloggers
- Part 5: Email marketing metrics for bloggers
- Part 6: Social media metrics for bloggers
- Part 7: Validated learning and dashboards for bloggers
You can also download (1) the completely free eBook with all the seven chapters included and (2) a free Excel template for your monthly blogging metrics report and analysis. Plus, (3) a list of potential ways to make money blogging and (4) a list of 170+ affiliate programs and ad networks for bloggers.
List of files available for download:
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Author Contribution – Number of blog posts and pages
We can start with a simple metric showing how much content you publish. The first rule in blogging is to always keep the quality of your content in mind. Nevertheless, it’s obvious that publishing more means more opportunities for traction, more potential keywords to rank, more linking opportunities, and so on. Quality content, besides assertive distribution, is the basis of successful blogging.
Therefore, you should keep a high pace of publishing new quality content and measure how much you actually produce and publish in a specific time period. You can track the number of new posts/pages. But there is also the length of each post in question, so you may include that data into your analysis.
The metrics are called Raw Author Contribution (name by Kaushik) and these metrics should measure the overall content growth of your blog. Plugins like GeneralStats can help you calculate some data.
Here are a few metrics you can follow:
- New blog posts/pages in a month
- Total number of blog posts/pages
- Total number of new words published
- Number of all posts / Number of Months Blogging
- Number of Words in a Post / Number of Posts
Here are some general directions regarding minimum amount of content you should create as a full-time blogger:
- 10 quality blog posts (1,600 – 2,500 words) created per month is probably a reasonable output
- Out of 10 articles at least 1 breakthrough sharing hit
- That should result in at least 5% traffic and email database growth per month
When you’re planning your content calendar, never forget to take enough time to produce quality content but also, as I mentioned many times before, to spend at least 50 % of your time on promoting your content. There’s no point in producing content if nobody reads it.
Number of other digital assets created
Besides blog posts, in Web 2.0 area you probably create other type of content as well. You should measure your content creation rate of all other digital assets, besides texts. Here are a few of them:
- White papers
- Other types of content
Number of comments – Conversation rate
If you have comments enabled on your blog, they definitely show how interesting and engaging your blog posts are and whether you’re able to provoke a conversation with your audience.
If you have enough comments, it gives a sense of community and that people are really following you and your work. Besides the number of comments, you also want to assess the quality of the comments. Is there really a conversation going on below your blog posts or not?
A metric for that is called the Conversation rate (by Kaushik). And you calculate it using the formula below:
- Conversation rate = Comments + Replies / Number of posts
Page speed and uptime
As you probably know (because you’re the same), people on the internet hate it if anything loads slowly and they have to wait for a page to render on their screens. Nothing is so good on the internet that your potential audience won’t click back if they have to wait only a second too long.
Page speed is therefore extremely important for your audience and for search engine ranking. Your blog speed loading time plays a very important role in how well you rank in search engines. So make sure your page loads fast.
If you’re using WordPress, here are a few suggestions for speeding up your page loading time:
- Have as few plugins as possible
- Have a good hosting
- Make sure your WP theme is optimized
- Regularly update WordPress, theme and plugins
- Use a caching plugin (W3 Total Cache)
- Consider using Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- Optimize all the images on your site
- Use LazyLoader for images to load
- Reduce the number of posts on your homepage, the number of widgets and other content
- Turn off pingbacks and trackbacks
- Maintain and optimize your database
There are a few tools with which you should regularly check the health of your blog loading speed. Most of the basic checks are for free. All the tools give you a grade, so you can easily monitor how you’re performing.
Even worse than your page loading time is if your blog isn’t available to readers at all (downtime). It can be caused by your hosting or other errors. Make sure you get alerts if your site goes down. There are a few tools that can help you with that:
Now let’s move to your website analytics. You can get all the data below from Google Analytics or other similar web analytics tools. Here are the web analytics metrics explained you should be following when it comes to your website:
- New vs. Returning visitors
- Pages per Session
- Total Page Views (Impressions)
- Average Time on Site
- Bounce rate
- Exit pages
- Top landing pages
- Traffic sources
Users (Unique visitors)
It’s the most basic blog metric you probably know very well. It’s a metric that shows individual people (uniques) who visited your blog and read your content. It shows the number of people coming to your website.
Google Analytics defines Users as your blog readers who have had at least one session within the selected time frame you’re analyzing.
New vs. Returning Visitors
As the name already implies, the metric shows how many blog visitors are completely new and how many visited your blog at least once before. The metric can give you a vague idea of the loyalty that’s developing with your audience.
You need a good ratio between new and returning visitors. Getting new visitors shows that you’re doing good work promoting your content and attracting new audience. Returning visitors indicate that people are interested in your blog and that your content is of high quality, so people come back to read more.
When you’re analyzing your metrics, look for the following:
- Increased number of new visitors
- Increased number of returning visitors
- Returning traffic should be at least 25 % of your visitors (the ideal is supposed to be 1:1)
A session is the period of time a user is active on your site. A single user can open multiple sessions. The default session time is 30 minutes, which means that if a user is inactive for 30 minutes or more, any new activities of the same user are attributed to a new session. If a user leaves your site and comes back in 30 minutes, it’s attributed to the same session. If they come back after 30 minutes or they’re inactive behind their computer for 30 minutes or more, a new session is initiated.
The sessions also expire at midnight and if there is a campaign change. The latter means that users first come to your blog by one distribution channel, leave, and then come back by using any other distribution channel.
Pages per Session
The Pages per Session metric tells you how many pages users view on average when they visit your blog. The more pages they view, the more interested they are in your content, obviously. The metric shows how good your blog’s content flow is and how interesting your blog posts are.
Here are a few ideas for increasing the number of pages a user views per session:
- Make sure your blog has a good user experience and design
- Write and publish more quality content
- Write attention-grabbing titles
- Take care of internal linking within content
- Use strong call to actions
- Feature popular posts at the bottom and in the sidebar
- Categorize and tag your posts (be moderate with tags because of duplicate pages)
- Break down longer articles into series (like this one)
- Have an attention-grabbing menu structure
- Have freebies on your blog that people can download (resources pages)
- Use excerpts instead of long texts on your homepage
- Create a FAQ page
- Have a search box on your site
- Speed up your page load time
Total Page Views (Impressions)
As the name implies, the metric shows the total number of pages viewed on your blog. As mentioned before, a page view occurs when a page is loaded or reloaded in a browser. It’s one of the most important metrics for advertisers and it shows the overall growth of your blog. Repeated views of a single page are also counted into this metric.
Here’s an example. A user comes to your homepage in the morning and reads two of your blog posts. Then the same user comes back in the evening, goes to your homepage and reads four of your blog posts. That would count as one user, two sessions and 8 page views.
When you track visitors, visits and page views, make sure you see a steady growth of unique visits each month. Don’t forget to analyze spikes in these three metrics.
Average Session Duration (Average Time on Site)
Average session duration shows the average amount of time a visitor spent viewing your page. If they spend a lot of time on your site or a specific landing page, it means that they found what they were searching for and that your content is of high quality.
Here are a few recommendations for increasing average time on site:
- Everything listed in the “How to increase page views” section above
- Quality content again and again
- Easy-to-read experience – fonts, design
- Content structure for online reading
- Short paragraphs and sentences
- Blog posts structure with enough catchy subtitles
- Bolded text
- Add lists, quotes or tables to break up the content
- Embed social media
- Pictures within text
- Adding video, image gallery or podcast to play
- Encouraging a community on your blog (comments, forums etc.)
The bounce rate is a metric that shows the percentage of visitors who arrive to your blog and click away without doing anything else. It’s measured based on a visit that lasts less than 10 seconds or if a visitor only views one page and exits (or more accurate when user closes the site, clicks the back button, types a different URL in the browser, clicks on an external link or session timeout occurs).
If you have a high bounce rate, it means that you don’t drive visitors to other pages on your blog. That usually happens because a reader expected something else than the content published in your blog or there is no other interesting content. Because there’s no interaction and no new page views in such an instance, it consequently also influences less time spent on your blog.
If you have a high bounce rate, it means you have to consider the quality of your content or re-evaluate your webpage design and user experience. You may also be targeting the wrong keywords with wrong content.
The most frequent reasons for a high bounce rate:
- Everything we talked about under “Increasing page views and time on site”
- Hard to read or understand content (complicated sentences, unclear, basic grammar mistakes)
- Too many banners, pop-ups or auto plays
- Untrustworthy design and an overall bad impression
- Broken website and technical issues
- Badly targeted keywords
- No clear next step or too many call-to-actions
- Wrong use of external links
- Site not optimized for mobile
How good are your basic blog metrics?
At this point, you may ask yourself how good your basic blog metrics are. There are two ways of getting a general sense of where you stand:
- Google Analytics Audience Benchmarking: In Google Analytics, you can find a Benchmarking report that will compare Sessions, % New Sessions, Pages/Session, Average time on site and Bounce rate to a chosen industry vertical.
- What others are saying. You can find a lot of data online and compare your blogs to others. In income reports, many bloggers also report their analytics data. For example, a bounce rate higher than 80 % is really awful. You can find a lot of data online if you’re interested.
The bounce rate is when someone visits your blog and leaves it immediately. Exit pages, on the other hand, show on which page a visitor left your blog after visiting multiple pages. Some pages (such as purchase pages) have a naturally high exit rate.
You should analyze your top exit pages to see why a higher number of your visitors is leaving your site on that particular page. There may be a strong reason behind why they leave.
Top landing pages
Top landing pages, on the other hand, show which blog posts are driving the most traffic on your site. It’s a good metric to know, especially because you want to have your top landing pages updated and fresh. It also gives you an idea of the content that works best for your blog. You should also determine the popularity of your top sites by looking at social media stats we will talk later about.
The analysis of top landing pages will show you:
- Pages that are driving the most traffic to your website
- On which pages visitors usually land first and what is their experience
- Performance of each landing page
- Conversion performance of each landing page
Never have all of your eggs in one basket. It’s the same with traffic sources. It’s very important to have a diverse number of stable traffic sources that drive readers to your blog. Traffic sources are broken down into several main categories in Google Analytics:
- Search visitors – Readers coming to your blog by using search engines
- Direct visitors – Readers coming to your blog by typing your URL directly into a browser or by using a bookmark
- Social visitors – Visitors coming from social media
- Referral visitors – Visitors coming to your blog from other websites. It shows the percentage of readers that visit your blog because a link was shared on another platform or was mentioned on another website. Referral traffic shows who the biggest supporters of your blog are.
- Email visitors – Readers coming to your site from your mailing campaigns.
- Paid channels – Different paid channels
There are some very general directions that you shouldn’t have more than 40 % – 50 % of organic search traffic. Otherwise you’re too dependent on Google and if search algorithms change, you can have big problems.
Well, it’s definitely better to have more traffic from search engines than too little, but it still makes sense to work on diversifying.
More than 30 % of direct traffic shows that you’re doing good work on your brand building, because people are entering your website directly into browsers or they have your site bookmarked. Never forget to encourage your readers to bookmark your blog.
You should also pay close attention to your referring traffic. If your referring traffic is lower than 20 %, it means that you don’t have enough links on your site. In this case, you should put more effort into link building, partnerships, blog posting etc.
General directions you should follow:
- Search traffic: Around 40%
- Referring traffic: 20%+
- Direct traffic: 20% – 30%+
In addition to that, referrals show you potential opportunities for partnerships with other blogs and websites that are sending traffic your way. If some website owners like you and link to you, there’s a great chance they’d be willing to send even more traffic your way.
As already mentioned, the most important thing is to have healthy traffic distribution. If too high of a percentage of traffic is coming from a single source, you’re exposed to high risk of traffic drop if something happens to this source. Therefore, put some additional efforts into channels that are underperforming.
You can also see a detailed report by medium and source that sent traffic your way. In a detailed analysis, you can see your top traffic sources and make sure you nurture them even more in the future. Here is what you should take care of:
- Healthy distribution of your traffic sources
- Your main traffic sources (top 5 – 10) and are they the sources where your target audience lives
- Opportunities for partnerships to get more traffic your way from a specific source
Best performing distribution channels
You’re interested in the volume, price and performance of each of your distribution channels. The volume and price (even organic traffic has its own price) are quite easy to calculate, the question is how you can measure performance. One way is to measure the following metrics for every one of your distribution channels:
- Bounce Rate
- Time on Site
- Pages per Visit
Conversions by traffic sources
When you have set goals (micro and macro conversions) in your analytics software, it’s essential to see which traffic sources are performing the best in terms of your ultimate goal – conversions. Analyzing conversions by traffic sources will give you a good sense of where most of the junk traffic comes from and which traffic channels work the best for you.
Now let’s move into a detailed analysis of the main distribution channels.
Metrics for different distribution channels
Would you like to learn more? It’s time to look more extensively into each of the most popular distribution channels (traffic sources). We’re more or less going to look at the basic metrics for a specific distribution channel. The more you master a specific distribution channel, the more metrics you can add on your own and decide which ones are actionable metrics and which ones are vanity metrics in your case.
Here are the main distribution channels for bloggers and other website owners:
- Part 4: Search Engine Optimization metrics (the post will be published tomorrow)
- Part 5: Email Marketing metrics (the post will be published the day after tomorrow)
- Part 5: Social Media Marketing metrics (the post will be published in three days)
It's time to move to the next chapter SEO metrics.