Bloggers often ask me what metrics they should be tracking. Google Analytics and other tools provide an enormous amount of data. However, you can quickly get overwhelmed if you aren’t careful.
In reaction, some bloggers overreact and get too focused on one metric. This is the other extreme.
For example, I recently heard a podcaster say that the only metric that matters is conversion. Certainly, I think conversion is important, particularly when it comes to landing pages. But I think it’s a little more complicated than this one metric.
I pay attention to three metrics:
- Traffic. This is usually expressed as monthly unique visitors or monthly pageviews. These metrics are the ones that are the most important to advertisers. Therefore, they are important to me.
I focus on unique visitors when it comes to my overall blog but pageviews when I am analyzing individual posts. Both are important. They are just two different ways of assessing traffic.
The one metric that doesn’t matter is hits. This simply refers to the number of “server requests” a browser makes to display a page. If someone lands on one of my blog posts, for example, each component of the post—images, external files, etc.—counts as a separate hit.
A pageview, on the other hand, refers to a visitor viewing a specific page, regardless of the number of components (i.e., files or images) that make up that page. This is the metric that matters.
- Engagement. I use number of comments as a proxy for engagement. The more comments, the more people are engaging with a particular post. (Side note: there is usually a correlation between traffic and the number of comments.)
If your readers don’t find your content compelling, they usually won’t bother commenting. Instead, they bounce off the post and move on to something else.
Comments are important because they indicate whether or not your content is resonating with your readers. They are also important because they provide “social proof,” particularly if you display your comment counts prominently on the blog post. (I do this next to the post title.)
In other words, if your readers see a lot of comments, they think the post is important—or at least popular. Readers use it as a filter to decide whether or not something is worth reading. (This is also why I recommend not displaying your comment counts if they are low. They can actually discourage people from reading further.)
- Shares. I specifically track the number of times a post is shared on Twitter and Facebook. I also display these next to the title. Part of the reason is to encourage more sharing; the other part is to provide additional social proof.
Again, people assume that a post must be important if people are taking the time to share it with their networks. But, like engagement, this also can work against you if the numbers are low.
In a sense, shares are the most important metric for me. I want to create content that people not only read but feel compelled to share. Twitter and Facebook are important to me. LinkedIn, Google+, or Pinterest might also be important, depending on your audience.
Metrics can distract you if you let them. There is no end to the data. That’s why I recommend focusing on these three. You can do a deep dive into the other metrics on occasion, but these are the three I monitor daily to see how my blog is doing.