Peter Drucker once said, “What gets measured gets managed.” And he was right.
When you have numbers and data, you study them; you wonder how you can make them better, especially if they involve sales. And in the world of content marketing, measuring blogging productivity has become a critical piece of any strategy that results in visits, return visits, lead generation, and, ultimately, conversion.
The marketing performance metrics—or tools you use to measure the value of the content you write—have become quite sophisticated. And you can use them to inform all of the decisions you make about the content on your blog.
This is exciting stuff to help you reach your goals and improve the content you’re already publishing. Let’s take a look!
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Begin With Your Marketing Goals
You CoSchedule users are publishing content because you have big goals to reach. Figure out your general marketing goals first, something like:
- Grow your traffic
- Grow your leads
- Grow your customer base
Once you have your foundation—the understanding of what you want to achieve with your marketing—you can then look into the marketing performance metrics that will guide you toward actual data you will use to measure those goals. A super effective and easy way to define your goals is with the SMART goal setting process:
- Specific: What, when, and why.
- Measurable: This is where your marketing performance metrics come in to help you know when you accomplish your goal.
- Attainable: Requirements necessary to achieve your goal.
- Realistic: Acknowledge the road blocks that would prevent you from reaching the goal.
- Time-sensitive: Start and (most importantly) end dates.
So, a format like this is what you're looking for:
Beginning, January 1, 2016, we will increase our blog and website traffic to 1 million monthly page views by December 1, 2016, to help marketers plan better content while establishing ourselves as an authority in our niche.
The rest of this guide will walk you through choosing the marketing performance metrics you’ll use to measure your progress toward your goals.
Understand The Basic Marketing Performance Metrics
Your content creator should be an expert in two things:
- Creative and engaging writing.
- Using analytics tools to measure the effectiveness of content that is created and published on your blog that will help you reach your goals.
The basic metrics are all available through Google Analytics, a free tool that will provide huge amounts of data and deep insight into how your content is really doing.
These are all about quantity and can be used to tell a big story in the following ways:
- Users: This number is a total of how many separate visitors come to your blog over a set period of time. The same visitor is not counted twice. This is the first step in a longer process of analyzing what you are doing right and wrong—the more, the better.
- Number of pageviews: Once a visitor lands on your blog, are they accessing other pages of your site from your blog? This is important information to have because it demonstrates that a visitor is impressed enough with a post to then check out your site as well.
- Bounce rate: When someone visits your blog and opens a post, do they stay or do they bounce out within the first 10 seconds? If the number is high, at least the first part of that post content is not what they expected to see—an opportunity for you to improve.
- Inbound links: How many visitors are coming in from outside places via an external link? This means people think your content is important enough that they have provided a link to it in something they have written.
All of these metrics give you important data that should tell you if your posts are doing the job or not. And Google Analytics does a great job of generating this kind of data for you, although some content marketers use other tools that may go a bit deeper, such as Whoopra or Clicky. The data should tell you specific things. Low traffic and low “staying power”—as seen through pageviews and bounce rate—means that your content may need a major facelift. Either you are not capturing visitors with your titles and first 100 words, or the content in the remainder of the post is not engaging them enough to stay, read, and, ultimately, share. On the other side, if traffic is good and there is high “staying power” and movement from a post to other pages, you have a winner. The content is good and is well suited to be repurposed and recycled.
Create Better Content With Audience Performance Metrics
These metrics are often called the “feel good” or “vanity” measurements. It’s nice to see good numbers of views and comments, because you feel like other awesome folks appreciate your content. Yay for us!
- Numbers of views within a set period of time: Track the number of views (usually in a month), along with the amount of time spent once a post is opened. You could also combine the number of comments a post receives or the decline of views as a post ages.
- Comments per views: If, for example, you are getting a comment for every 50 views of a post, you have a winner. That content should be used again, in a different way.
- Views vs. users: You will also want to know who among your visitors are unique repeat visitors. The repeat visitor number is an important one, because research shows that conversions often come from visitors who view between 5–9 times. These people are highly active—the visitors you have managed to engage well. It's a solid goal to increase the numbers of your highly engaged audience. You can determine the type of content they enjoy and plan for more of it by analyzing the posts that your highly engaged visitors view.
- Number of shares per article: When you get the data on share numbers from each post, and even better, to which social media sites those shares are going, you have some pretty valuable information. Now you can choose the networks where you may want to expand your presence because your audience is clearly using certain networks more than others. It also gives you an understanding of what content is the most popular so you can replicate your success.
Find ways to build upon the popular blog posts you publish that generate tons of long views and comments, and engage your visitors. You could possibly:
- Publish new posts covering related ideas.
- Repurpose the blog posts into different media.
- Optimize that existing content with better graphics to increase time on page.
- Add downloads into your posts to convert that traffic into email subscribers.
Google Analytics does a fine job of generating vanity data, although some marketers prefer to use Mint, a tool that can also tell you from where your viewers are coming. A Word Of Caution: There is a growing group of content marketing experts who believe that bloggers spend too much time (and money) and give too much importance to vanity metrics analysis. Jason Amunwa is the director of products at Filament, who warns:
Vanity metrics do nothing for your actual website objectives, but make your marketing efforts look good. This is problematic, because oftentimes they siphon effort and focus away from the things that could really move the needle for you. Engagement metrics tell you what content is truly performing for you, what’s just “meh”, and what’s ripe for enrichment and optimization; in short, engagement metrics tell you where the real opportunities are for growth.
Consider your vanity audience metrics as a learning tool to understand what is popular to create better content. That said, if your main goal is to grow your customer base, let conversions be the metric that influences your content creation process the most.
Optimize For Conversion With Content Performance Metrics
This is the truly actionable part of your marketing performance metrics, because you will get invaluable information about how your blog is doing and what you specifically need to do to improve your blogging productivity. Check out three types of marketing performance metrics for your content—content life, content engagement, and content conversions.
Content Life (Longevity)
Every post has a shelf life. You need to track this so you know how long each post continues to receive views. How many views do you get the first 6 hours, the first day, the first week, and the first month? And what times and days are are you getting the most views? With the right analytics, you can understand the longevity of individual posts and an average longevity of all of your posts combined. This kind of information can drive your decisions about what content ideas work well and how to flesh out your blog schedule and social media promotion:
- Which posts are the most popular? The style and content is obviously right, so you will want to mimic that as much as possible.
- Which posts are the least popular? You know what style and content not to post again.
- Which posts have the greatest longevity? Is there a particular common aspect of those? Do you have embedded videos, infographics, etc. on those with a longer shelf life? Again, this tells you what to mimic in future posts.
- What is your average longevity number? Your average longevity number is the number of days your posts typically have a lot of interaction before fading. If your posts are getting the most views within the first three days, and then viewership is dropping off, you know you need to post every three days to keep your blog filled with fresh content. Alternatively, you could use a tool like CoSchedule to share your content more on social media to extend the life of your content.
You can use these Google Analytics reports to understand when you are getting the most pageviews, visits, and leads to help you publish and share content at the best times when your audience is most engaged.
Part of evaluating engagement, of course, includes some of the vanity metrics you just learned about. How many comments and shares are you getting? High numbers indicate that your viewers are actually taking the time to check out your entire post and are so engaged that they want to comment or to share that content with others.
- Which types of media complement your posts the best? So you're blogging, but you're probably including different types of content into your posts. When you share that advanced media like infographics and videos to your social networks, what is performing better for your audience? This kind of information will tell you which types of posts you want to link to which social media.
- Measure the time spent on each post by each visitor. If a visitor stays 3 minutes or more, that visitor will most likely return, and studies show that you need to capture a visitor within the first 10 seconds if they're going to stay. If you're getting lots of bounces within that first 10 seconds, you need to do something about your headlines and your blog post introductions. You can also get data on whether a visitor is actively engaged with your content or whether the page is open by sitting on a background tab right in Google Analytics.
- Are viewers scrolling through other posts after they spend time reading one? This is clearly engagement, and the longer they spend doing this, the more likely they are to come back again. And if you really want to dig deeper, you can track the specific posts a visitor views and collect data on that, so that you know which posts of the past are still piquing interest—review that content and see how you can repurpose it. Personalized content is trending now, so this is a great way to prepare for it!
- Viewer Loyalty: Google Analytics calls this “frequency” or “recency.” How often does the same viewer come and how many days before they come back? Chartbeat conducted a loyalty study and found that anyone who comes 5 times in a month will keep returning regularly after that.
Conversions are any action you want a viewer to take, whether that is a sale or an action that may funnel that conversion to an eventual sale. You need to know the percentage of visitors that take some action after having been on your blog—giving an email address signing up for a newsletter, taking a free trial, etc.
- Lead generation metrics: Are they converting before they read your content or afterward? This will tell you if your posts are productive or not. If conversions are occurring after your content is read, your inbound blog posts are doing their job.
- Sales generation metrics: If specific content is generating purchases on the part of viewers, you will know that you want to get that type of content into as many posts as possible.
Google Goal Analytics can give you great data through conversion reports, and these are pretty critical, because, after all, marketing exists for one purpose—to sell. Create your goals in Google Analytics now:
You can request conversion rates per page on your entire site, which will include your blog, and then compare the percent of conversions for each page. And, if you dig deeper, you can get a report that shows the page that was the original view of that conversion. If you find that a healthy percentage of conversions begin with a view of a blog post, then these posts are paying off well. If you have lots of views, comments, and shares but not a good conversion rate, then all you have are vanity views. Analytics tools are sophisticated, rather amazing, and can really help you make some big decisions about your blog content. Turning your marketing performance metrics into actionable ways to improve your blog will help you create better content and focus that content on achieving your goals.