01 February 2009

Blogging Tips : Web Site and Social Media Metrics You Should Monitor

This post is the last in a series of posts by Hendry Lee. Check out part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5.

Website tracking is one of the least discussed topics. When it comes to blogging, most people only think about how to produce content, promote and make money. Well, newbie bloggers often overlook the importance of content promotion, which I talked about quite thoroughly in the last post.

It’s true that for professional bloggers the ultimate goal is always to make moolah. However, thinking that the only thing you need more of to make more money is traffic is self-limiting.

Oftentimes, it is more effective to optimize web pages and overall site before getting more traffic. And I should assure you this should be the way to go in the future. Those who are able to squeeze more value per visitor will have more competitive edge.

They afford to pay higher cost per click in search engine, for example. And that strategy alone is capable to kick their competitions out of the first page of the AdWords listings.

Every Page is a Landing Page

It is necessary to position each blog page as an independent landing page.

Although quite a number of people enter your blog via the home page, remember that many new visitors come because of links from other blogs or sites. Referral traffic may enter your blog straight into any page. Search engine traffic also makes every page a possible entry page.

Also remember that new visitors usually attempt to find a way to get around your blog and look for interesting content. If you fail to make it easier on their part, most likely they will just leave.

It is the purpose of the landing page to help the readers find their way and engage them as long as possible on your site to consume your contents — or to take action as soon as possible. Whatever it is, you don’t want them to randomly browse your blog.

Define your most wanted response for the visitors and work on getting as many of them towards it. It may be as simple as clicking on your ads, or subscribe to your e-newsletter.

Quick tip: If you are offering a product or service, most likely direct sales will convert much weaker than if you capture their information and follow up.

What to Track on Your Blog

That highly depends on your goal(s). Most bloggers need only a bunch of metrics. In fact, I can’t imagine anyone who needs to look for all combinations in the analytics report.

Last time I read, Google Analytics have over 80 reports with hundreds of detailed views of the data. Who has time for all of those, right? With the sheer amount of data available, you need to know which metrics are important.

The following is a list of them. Some of these metrics are nice to have. Others are necessary to help you make decisions.

RSS Feed Metrics

RSS provides another way for content consumers to get updated content from your blog by pulling data from your server as new post becomes available without giving away their name or email address.

Despite its anonymity, you are still able to get some insightful marketing metrics out of it, namely:

  • Subscribers / readership. Google FeedBurner lets you track subscribers who access your feed in given day, week, or month, including aggregated subscription data from web-based news readers like Google Readers and Bloglines. What this number shows you: Level of engagement and influence, content consumption trend. Based on this you know when to release news or update your blog.
  • Robots and feed readers. Which news feed robots and software fetch your RSS feed and how many unique subscribers available for each of them?
  • Items use. Which type of content the audience likes most? Obviously if the trends move toward one topical matter, you should blog about it more often to increase engagement.
  • Revenue. How much do you earn from your feed? If you set your analytics software correctly, you will be able to track sales and other goals from RSS readers as well. I’ve created a WordPress plugin called RSS Feed Campaign Tagger (RFCT) that will help you track links within your RSS feeds via Google Analytics.

Email Marketing Metrics

This is another bonus section for bloggers who also send out email newsletters. Email has been around much longer than RSS feeds and it is one of the most measurable online marketing and advertising channels.

Here are some metrics you need to pay attention to if you want to engage and target your prospects / customers via email:

  • Sent and bounces. The number of subscribers obviously is also the “sent” number. Bounces occur when emails are undeliverable for one reason or another. Clean list should have minimal bounce rate.
  • Delivery rate. Ideally, number of sent minus bounces should be the the number of delivered emails. But alas, nowadays spam filtering prevents even legitimate emails from reaching user’s inbox. You may need service such as Delivery Monitor for complete metrics on deliverability.
  • Open rate. This metric is overrated but still it shows you if people are interested in your email or otherwise.
  • Click-through rate, or CTR, is the percentage of people that click after opening the email. The higher the percentage, the better response you have from the recipients toward your message.
  • Actions. What the email recipients do after visiting your site. This metric is measurable with web analytics software.
  • Unsubscription rate. The number of subscribers who decide to cancel subscription to your e-newsletter. If the number is high, you are doing something wrong.

Social Media Metrics

Discussions about social media metrics are heating up, but there’s no single answer to every situation out there. Some of the traditional metrics are still useful for tracking social media activities, because eventually you are leading people back to your web site or blog.

The agreed consensus right now is to measure everything you can. Sure, you are going to throw away some of the metrics, but at the same time you will be able to tune in to the metrics that matter most to your business. It is different from one business to another because of the diversity of social media.

Engagement in social media may be used as currency to the success of your campaign. Most marketers are confused about how to measure engagement. And as you know, if you don’t track, there is no way you can improve. The question will finally lead to, in this example, how do you communicate with the audience to increase engagement?

While this metric may be nice to have, let’s face it, it is quite subtle to track. Right now, it is not possible to track how much time people spend to read your email, or if they remember your brand more than ever after reading your story in one particular issue.

Now the good news. Those metrics don’t matter.

Most marketers, for instance, are satisfied with email metrics, although they are not able to get the same information as above from their email marketing campaigns. Even if they are able to do so, again the number is useless. Each individual has different engagement level toward a business or something. And there is no step-by-step system that guarantees it.

If testing everything sounds too much work, start with something that you care about. Are you interested in knowing how well your Twitter friends respond to a mention of your blog post? If so, use URL shortening service that allows you to track clicks. It is possible to track even further through clickstream analysis how those visitors interact with your web site.

While it is impossible to track how many people actually like your brand after befriending you in Facebook, you can measure the number of people that visit to read your blog and later buy your product or service. After all, that should be the (engagement) metrics you should care about.

Some other metrics are harder to measure because the lack of control on your part. While you can measure how many clicks you get from your blog to your Twitter profile, you can’t be sure about how many of them really turn into followers because your recent followers may come from other places. You get the idea.

Web Site Metrics

Over the years, marketers have developed quite a good set of metrics for measuring various activities and campaigns. Big companies need to know precisely the ROI of advertising and activities around various media. Individual bloggers may also learn a lot by analyzing these metrics regularly.

With so many things to do and so little time, it pays if you focus on the 20 percent that brings in 80 percent the results (The Pareto principle).

Below are a few metrics webmasters and bloggers usually focus on. You may not be interested in all of details, but knowing all of them gives you a picture of how well you are doing with your site:

  • Number of visitors. Traffic, for many bloggers, is the only thing that counts. If everything else is the same, more traffic simply means more revenue and sales. That’s true but nowadays, knowing more metrics can be really helpful if you want to survive and thrive in the market.
  • Pageviews. Pageviews should be greater or equal to the number of visitors. It shows how people are interested in pursuing your site further after the first page, among other things.
  • Page / visit. On average, how many pages each visitor sees before leaving your site. This is important to measure stickiness.
  • Time spent on site. The average time a visitor spends on your site. This shows if the visitors actually spend time interacting with your site, i.e. reading, listening to audio, watching video, etc.
  • Bounce rate. This metric measures the average percentage of visitors who visit a page, but bounce away without visiting another page. Particularly interesting is bounce rate of individual page, such as landing page because it shows you how well it works.
  • Referring sites / pages. Who sends you most traffic? Perhaps you are guest blogging in 5 different blogs at a time. Based on the referral traffic, you will be able to decide which blog to focus on and which one requires you to change your approach. And that’s just one example. Tracking which source of traffic brings you most email subscribers, for example, is possible with the right analytics setup.
  • Search engine keywords. What keywords did people search to find your site / blog pages? This may as well serve as the foundation for your keyword research and expand your content.
  • Geographic location. Based on the IP address of the visitors, you can identify the geographic locations of your readers.
  • Clickstream. By definition from the standpoint of web analytics, clickstream is about logging a user’s activities on a web site. With the understanding of visitors’ behavior, you will be able to optimize your web site to enhance user experience and conversion.

Web analytics is a topic of its own but you don’t have to be an expert to start getting value from the collected data.

Recommendation: Start collecting data with Google Analytics (hosted) or Piwik (standalone, self-hosted) today. Even if you don’t use the data right away, you will be able to see a lot of interesting data such as how your traffic grows one year from now, among others. Log analysis tool such as Awstats (comes with most hosting packages) is not enough.

Sales Metrics

As the primary goal of every business web site or blog is to increase bottom line, it pays to know the figures related to sales.

You may not sell a product or service on your blog yet, but if you put ads on your blog, you are selling something. Virtual real estate or ad space is still a product you sell to advertisers, just that you may be tracking an entirely different set of numbers.

If you are just getting started, these figures may not mean anything to you. But believe me, they will become crucial as you grow your blog.

  • Conversion rate. The number of your visitors that subscribe to your email newsletter, or buy your product or service, is your conversion. It depends on your most wanted response.
  • Cost per lead. For most professional blogs, a lead is a prospect. In corporate world, both of them are very distinctive. Knowing your cost per lead gives you an advantage to compete in paid search and other media.
  • Customer acquisition cost. The cost associated to get a customer. Optimizing your sales process can help decrease the cost, which translates into higher profit margin.
  • Lifetime customers value. Knowing this figure means you are able to invest at the customer acquisition stage.

Let me show you how powerful these numbers can be. With them, you will be able to know how much to spend and still break even or profit. You can tap into one marketing channel after another and grow your business by leaps and bounds and still know for sure after tracking that you are going to profit while your competitors may not make a decision based on this.

One last thing I must mention is that building a business involves a change in mindset too.

Just because blogging often involves getting free traffic from search engines and referrals from other bloggers, that doesn’t mean you should not buy traffic. Pay per click and media buying may be effective, especially if your blog doesn’t rank very well on several keywords that you want to target, or when you want to tap into a pool of targeted buyers who frequent other blogs.


Blogging in upcoming years is more about having a better strategy and execution. It is the intention of this article series to give you a new perspective into what’s coming ahead based on analysis instead of mere predictions.

Millions of blogs already exist, and the number is going to increase on a daily basis. You need to take it seriously if you want to succeed. I don’t try to scare you off. In fact, there’s no better time than ever to start a blog, contribute and add value to the Web and specifically to the blogosphere and make a killing. The numbers show us that despite the economic situations, people choose to save on gas and other things and still shop online.

All those blog readers are just like you and me. We are them. Deliver value, make them happy, before you try to get their hard earned money.

The opportunity is there. Just that you need to have the right mindset, plan and persistent to get things done.

Let me close with a quote from Zig Ziglar. “You can have everything in life that you want if you just give enough other people what they want.”

Notice that contribution comes first. Happy blogging!

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