Content marketing is as much of an art as it is a science. Often it’s a delicate balance between being creative and basing decisions on hard data.
Over the years I have come to rely on a few different content marketing metrics to help me hone in on what works vs. what’s not working on my blog. I don’t intend for this to be the “end all, be all” but these are a few metrics that I regularly follow that I believe will help any blog get on a path to growth.
Once you’re done, I’ve provided an additional resource at the end of the article to help you take your data measurement skills to the next level.
1. Most Popular Pages
Go into the content section of Google Analytics (or whichever web stats program you use) and check out which pages on your website are most popular.
If you’re in Google Analytics, you’ll want to login to your dashboard, look at the left side menu and select “Behavior” then “Site Content” followed by “All Pages”.
You should see your most popular pages now appear in the table (pictured below). You can keep track on a monthly basis but I get the most value from my quarterly and annual analysis.
2. Page Views
Interpret This Stat As: A measurement of your titles’ effectiveness
Let’s continue looking at the above table. You’ll notice it defaults to organizing your most popular pages based on page views (the total number of views). You can also choose to organize by unique page views, which represents the number of individual visitors without duplicates. Translation: if someone views the same page twice, it only counts for one unique page view.
When specifically dealing with blogging and content, the number of hits a certain page gets usually indicates how attractive the title is. After all, they have no idea if the content is any good before they click on it!
If you have a great article with low hits, it’s likely because of the title. I realized this when I recently analyzed my top 7 worst performing articles – it’s all in the title!
3. Time Spent On Page
Interpret This Stat As: An indicator of content quality
This is the primary indicator of quality for your content, much more so than tracking website hits alone. When I see readers spending several minutes on an article, I know that content is high quality.
In my opinion, you can’t look at website hits alone without factoring in the time spent on page!
4. Site Load Time
How quickly your site loads plays a key role in your search engine rankings, especially with Google. Visitors will often bounce from your website before checking it out if it takes too long to load, it’s for this reason that search engines favor quicker load times.
This is actually an area I need to improve upon myself and you can quickly find out how your website scores using a tool like Pingdom or Google PageSpeed Insights. Both of the mentioned tools also provide helpful tips on how to optimize for speed.
5. Mobile Traffic
I recently discussed how my mobile traffic has grown by over 50% this past year, up from 33% the previous year. You need to monitor how your mobile audience is reacting to your content and, more importantly, making sure those numbers are growing because they absolutely should be. If not, you might have a problem that’s turning off mobile visitors that needs to be addressed.
Go to the left sidebar and select “Mobile” under the Audience menu and then “Overview”.
Compare the mobile audience behavior with your desktop audience behavior. Are they sticking around once they arrive (bounce rate)? Is the time spent on your popular articles alarmingly low? It’s not unusual for mobile users to spend less time but if the gap is wide enough from desktop, there could be an issue that requires investigation.
I had a client that was getting amazing results with desktop users and could not understand why mobile users dropped off so fast. It turned out that a lot of the features on their site weren’t translating to mobile. We noticed an immediate 130% increase in time spent on page after the problem was fixed.
6. Social Sharing
Interpret This Stat As: An indicator of high quality content
Tracking website hits and time spent on page is key but the next metric I look to is social shares. That means they were attracted to the title and then loved the content so much they had to share it…a grand slam!
You should be using a social sharing plugin (such as Digg Digg or Flare) right on your blog to make it easy readers to share. You also get the added benefit of showing how many times that page has been shared, adding an element of social proof.
These plugins keep track of shares well but don’t give you an easy way to compare social sharing stats against your other content so I use a tool called Quick Sprout to give me a snapshot comparison of my most recently shared articles (pictured below).
NOTE: I’ve noticed that Quick Sprout doesn’t show an accurate representation of the total social shares. Despite this, it’s a quick and easy way to get a rough idea of what’s most popular on your site.
7. Bounce Rate
Interpret This Stat As: Your ability to drive visitors to other pages on your site
Traffic is great but do your visitors stick around when they arrive? The point of your content is to drive users to the pages that inspire action, aka subscribing to your email list and using your contact form…or if you sell products, going to the pages where they can purchase things.
There’s much debate around what a “good” bounce rate is but ideally it should below 50%. I consider 20-30% an excellent bounce rate. I’d be interested to hear what you think is the “ideal” bounce rate in the comments.
8. Referral Traffic
Interpret This Stat As: Who are your biggest supporters on the web?
Who’s sending you traffic and how much? This will help you understand which sites are your greatest allies plus reveal the social networks that drive the most traffic for you.
Reviewing the time spent on page and bounce rate will also reveal how beneficial that traffic actually is for you. For example, we have gotten HUGE traffic boosts from Reddit but the quality of that traffic has been questionable at best since 95% of visitors bounce after reading a page and only stick around for an average of 27 seconds.
On the other hand, Social Media Examiner is an example of a referrer that sends us high amounts of traffic that’s very high quality. The bounce rate from their traffic is below our site’s average and the time spent on page is almost always several minutes.
9. Actions Taken
This is the most important stat of all…did your visitors end up taking an action that puts them into your sales funnel? This could involve becoming an email subscriber or filling out the form on your contact us page.
BONUS: Setup Goals In Google Analytics
We are huge fans of the genius that is Andy Crestodina over at Orbit Media. The video below will show you how to setup goals inside Google Analytics so it begins tracking the exact actions you want to measure and goes well beyond the basics described in this article.
If you’re looking for a more advanced tutorial, check out this killer article on how to setup Google Analytics from the team at Orbit. In the meantime, check out this video.
What Metrics Are You Tracking?
At the end of the day, the stats that matter most are the ones that promote growth and get you on track to YOUR definition of success. I want to hear from you in the comments below…what do you believe are the most important metrics for bloggers to follow?