Measuring Blogs Success -  Part 1: The Basics, Goals & Visitors

Josh Chambers, Former Viget

Article Category: #Strategy

Posted on

If you have a blog, or if you have a client who has a blog, I'd like to offer some suggestions on how to measure that blog's success. As a disclaimer, much of this post (but not all of it) is about how to use Google Analytics to measure blogs. So if you don't use GA, I hope you still find value; but the last two paragraphs might not make sense. I've decided to include these suggestions in a seriees and I shall call it, "Figuring Out Your Traffic So You Can Blog to Your Audience So That You Can Garner More Traffic and Engagement And Feel Better About Yourself So You Can Go to Awkward Social Media Events and Talk About Your Blog In Real Life Because That's Really Cool."

Today is part 1 and I'll be covering: the basics, identifying goals, and new versus returning visitor segmentation.

All blogs have an intro, so here's mine:

Me: "How many blogs are there, Ryan?"

Ryan: "A lot."

That's our hard-hitting Ryan Moede, everyone. The kid's on top of it.

Ryan: "There are up to 184 million worldwide."

Now that's the Ryan we know and love.

I'm betting a huge chunk of us bloggers have Google Analytics; but how many of us have any idea how to measure our blogs? Traffic volume is, of course, important. But isn't there more?

All the bloggers I talk to, and some of our clients, ask similar measurement questions -- questions that are often unique to bloggers. What about returning visitors? Do you even have returning visitors? Most of us work to build our RSS subscribers, so do you even want returning visitors? What about organic search -- should you care about search results? Or only referrals? Does the most active visitor comment or not?

Measuring a blog is much different than measuring a standard web site. Blogs are particularly different. Why? One big reason: someone could visit your blog, read every post on page one, and never click on anything causing a high bounce rate. Sure they didn't click anything, but maybe they did exactly what you wanted -- read it all. How do you know if they hated it, or loved it?

Using Google Analytics to Measure Your Blogs Success

Custom segmentation
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Google Analytics' new custom segmentation offering. This is a gold mine for bloggers. If you don't know what that is check that post out, because much of what I'm talking about requires custom segmentation.

The Basics:

  1. Just a sidenote, use Feedburner! And turn on "Feedburner Pro" - it's free and awesome.
  2. Get a Grip: Check out visitor overview, traffic sources, and top content. Just start by getting a feel for what's going on across your site. Don't spend too much time in there, just get a flavor.
  3. Bounce Rate: Just a quick answer. A question I always get from bloggers: "Why is my bounce rate so high?" From what I've seen across our client's blogs, our Viget blogs, my blog and my friends blogs, I would say an average blog bounce rate is in the 70% range. That ranges from crappy blogs, to highly traficked and respected blogs. See, you're normal!
  4. Date Range: Make sure you're looking at least three months of data; you can narrow it down later. The goal is to get a big picture view and identify themes. This prevents inaccurate data. For example, if you were Dugg in the last 30 days -- which always happens to me. Basically every post.
  5. New vs. Returning Visitor: What is your new vs. returning visitor count? Look that up, and write that down for reference. We'll use that as a segment as we dig into other data.

Defining Goals:

Answer this question: "Do people need to visit my site to interact with my content? Or, can they get the same content from a reader vs. onsite?" Notice I used the word "need" -- do they really need to show up to your site? Or, is that just your preference? If your blog is 100% textual then your subscribed audience is just as important, or possibly more important, than your onsite audience. However, I write a music blog so I need people to visit my site to listen to the music, find other artists, and buy music. Each blog has different goals.

  • For example: For my music blog, my overarching goal is to expose people to good music in a non-pretentious manner. But, how do I get there? I need sub-goals to achieve that goal, and I need to be able to measure them. Here they are:
  • To be found in organic search for new albums in a timely manner
  • Get visitors to listen to the music
  • Provide ways for visitors to search for other bands and listen to more music
  • Inspire them to share their favorite music with other readers
  • Maybe buy from my Amazon store (less important).
  • Note: I've made sure that each of those goals is measurable.

New vs. Returning Visitors

Open Google Analytics and click on "Advanced Segments" and then check the "New Visitors" and "Returning Visitors" boxes. You are now looking at new visitor behavior, versus returning visitor behavior.

  • Bounce rate: On my blog, returning visitors have a 70% bounce rate, while new visitors have a 76%. For me, this is good. The whole point of my blog is to get people to listen to music. Therefore, I want my returning visitors to spend longer on the site as they dig deeper into the archives. However, for our Viget Engage blog I wouldn't mind if returning visitors bounce faster as the expectation is they will have already seen previous content.
  • Time on Site & Average Pageviews: Again, returning visitors spend more time on site and visit more pages per-visit which is a good thing. It means people like coming back and listening to multiple posts.
  • Visitor Loyalty: You can find this report under "Visitors / Visitor Loyalty / Loyalty." Here I notice that most of my returning visitors return to my site 2-5 times; but then there's this crazy group of people who come back 9-14 times (all this data is within a three month period).

Conclusion and Action Items: My returning visitors are consistent, and they're going deep - which means they're meeting my goal of "Provide ways for visitors to search for other bands and listen to more music." But what do I do with that 9-14 visit audience? We'll discuss that later in the series!

Here are a few other topics I plan on covering in this series.

  • Identifying key content using landing pages measurements and internal site search
  • Measuring non-analytics based engagement
  • Tying it all together: how to respond to your data and write to your audience

Are there other topics or questions you would like me to cover regarding measuring blogs? Hmmm??? HMMMmmMMmMmmM???? Let me know.

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