Gold stars. Trophies. Awards certificates. Back in the day, it was easy to spot the most successful kids in the classroom. But nobody is handing out smiley face stickers for the best blogs (and if they are, somebody let me know!) These days, blogs are your brand’s playground, giving you a place to use your outside voice to shout your brand’s merits, engage with your crowd, and make new friends. But how do you know your blog is performing as well as it should? At First Page, we specialize in content marketing, and we’re here to tell you how to see if your blog measures up, and help you create a strategy that brings all your customers to the yard.
Want to prove your blog is the top dog? Here are the metrics you need to be tracking.
The Dynamic Duo: Lead Generation and Conversion
Let’s start at the top. The two biggest indicators of blog success are lead generation and conversions. While your brand’s blog should cover a wide array of topics, relevant information and engaging content, it all boils down to how effective it is at reaching your audience – or the audience you want – and convincing them to act.
Lead Generation: In order to be a success, your blog should be a source for discovering and nurturing leads, whether it’s through email sign-up, RSS subscription, content download or other lead capture. To improve your lead gen analytics, improve your closed-loop marketing techniques, a cyclical process that evaluates how your visitors experience and utilize your blog to move from simply browsing to becoming a qualified lead.
Conversion: To accurately measure your blog’s success, you need to be tracking both visit-to-lead and lead-to-customer conversions. This will help you pinpoint the content that’s most engaging, and the CTAs that inspire the most clicks. If you have content you think should be performing better than it is, evaluate your CTAs. Are they strong, concise and clear? Are they prominently placed on the blog? Are they being muddied by too many backlinks or third party content? Measuring conversions is about more than just the numbers; it’s about figuring out why the numbers are what they are, and tracing them back to the root of the problem.
How Success KPIs Shape Meaningful Blog Strategy
Tracking leads and conversion rates will get you started with blog success metrics, but they are just the tip of a very deep iceberg. For the most accurate depiction of your blog performance, you’ll need to measure a broader range of KPIs. Once you’re tracking the right numbers, you can analyze them for actionable insights that will guide your blog strategy and boost your performance. This is not an exhaustive list, but here are some of the top KPIs you should be monitoring:
Traffic: Overall traffic to your blog gives you great insight that is easily trackable. At minimum, track on a monthly basis, so you can begin to identify trends in heavy-traffic periods (for instance, you're likely to see a spike in traffic during a marketing campaign, or ahead of a new product launch). What can you do to maximize the impact of your blog during high-traffic times, and how can you create a reason for visitors to stop by in the off-season?
Visitor Behaviors: What do the people who visit your blog actually do there? Are they scanning headlines and then dashing out? Tracking time spent on the site will help you understand the behavior. Maybe they aren’t able to easily find what they’re looking for, or perhaps your headlines need some work. Visitor behavior metrics also include tracking the pages visited to see what content is most engaging. If visitors are leaving after viewing your blog homepage, there’s likely a reason why.
Social Shares: Is your blog optimized for easy social sharing? If not, you’re missing an opportunity to spread your brand message, nurture ambassadors, and drive new traffic to your site. Measuring social shares helps you see which blog posts spark conversation, and which topics inspire action and engagement.
Inbound Links: Is your content so good that others want to share it? If so, you’ve reached one of the big markers of blog success. Inbound links occur when other websites link back to your site. Blog content is great for inbound links, because often they are more information-oriented rather than sales or product-driven. Tracking your inbound links will help you see what kinds of blog content gets linked the most, and will help you find the balance between educational content and sales content. Plus, inbound links contribute significantly to your search ranking by showing that you are a trusted content source.
Post Views: Tracking post views gives you a picture of how your blog is performing, both by individual posts and on average. Look for the correlation between post volume/frequency and performance. Does your traffic go up when you’re posting more regularly? If it goes down, that means fewer viewers per post, and it’s important that you start looking into why.
Origin: It’s important to know how much traffic your blog is getting, but it’s arguably even more important to know where that traffic originates. Are visitors finding you via organic search? Social media shares? Emails? Identify gaps and work to fill them. Perhaps you need to revisit your SEO strategy. Or maybe your email CTAs could use some refining. Understanding visitor origin can help you make smarter strategic decisions.
Repeat Visitors: You know that phrase about always leaving them wanting more? The same can be said of your brand’s blog, but instead of playing hard-to-get, you’ll want to be the pursuer. Measuring new vs. returning visitors is an indicator that your blog provides value to readers – enough so that they return over and over to learn more. If your return visitor numbers are low, it might be time to look at what might be turning them off.
The Measure of Success: Setting the Right Goals
You can’t have a successful blog until you’ve set goals that are meaningful, achievable and in alignment with your brand. The goals you set will help you determine which KPIs to track, and which will have the biggest impact on your blog strategy. While blog goals are unique to each industry, profession and company, they generally fall into three larger categories. Ideally, your brand’s blog will include a mix of these content types, though you may be more heavily weighted in one or two.
Sell: Blogs are often a space for softer selling techniques, focusing more on educating and informing. However, they also offer a perfect place to showcase new products, preview upcoming sales and promotions, and hook very warm leads who are ready to convert. If selling is your primary goal, ensure your CTAs pop off the page. Consider placement, graphics, buttons and more to draw the visitor’s eye and give them a reason to click. And don't just put your CTAs at the bottom of a blog post — statistically CTAs perform better the higher they are in a blog post.
Inform: Depending on your industry and business, you may prefer to give your blog a more educational focus. This type of blog often highlights thought leader content, industry news and best practices. While the intent is not to convert directly to sales, an informative blog can still generate plenty of leads, ready to be nurtured.
Uplift: This type of blog is most applicable to the non-profit arena, though all blogs should feature some content that supports and empowers its community. This content lets visitors know what your brand stands for, what it values, and how it fulfills its mission.
Your blog goals will likely shift over time; this is normal and good. It’s important to evaluate your goals to ensure you’re tracking the right numbers, and in turn, adapting your blog strategy to achieve success.
If you’re wondering why your blog isn’t performing the way you want, or your current blog strategy feels tired or outdated, let our content experts help. We can walk you through setting up an analytics process to measure the right KPIs, adjust your blog strategy as needed, and create content that works for your brand.