Tracking Your Blogging Success

If you've been following along this series, you're ready to learn how to measure data. More importantly, you're ready to look that data in the eye and go mano a mano with it.

Quick Recap: A Business Blog is Your Website's Human Side

And as such, its goals are going to be slightly different from your website's goals. In case this isn't clear, there are blogs that act as stand alone entities. And there are websites that do not use blogging (but those websites need to get a blog). This series focuses on websites that use a blog for added functionality. The blog is the website's human side.

What Business Blogs are Good at:

The business blog can sell, give good customer service, increase a brand's reputation, and/or help a brand's popularity. Last week, I asked you:

  • Do you want people to like you (and your brand)?
  • Do you want more money?
  • Do you want more respect (a better reputation)?
  • Do you want better results in search for your website?

And I laid out some ideas of what you could measure to find out if you have achieved those goals. (I'd go back and read that now, if I were you.)

The Rabbit Hole Called Google Analytics

There are a few solid places to gather data. The free one, Google Analytics, is the one I will focus on. (Roy does a great job of explaining analytics in many places throughout our blog, but today I'm focusing on one very small part of this large puzzle.) In Google Analytics, you can measure really anything. You could spend days in there going without food or rest, getting lost but feeling like if you could just find out where in Dubai those 3 last visits came from, you'd somehow be satisfied.

Don't do that. As Roy says, "You Treasure What You Measure." Know what you are measuring and why. Within Google Analytics, and staying true to your stated goals, you can find out:

If you want to be popular:

  • How many people visited
  • How many people visited often
  • How many people came from various places around the Interwebs (from Facebook, for example, which remarkably, is currently driving an average 10% of website traffic)

To do this, go to your Google Analytics account (if you don't have one yet, here is a good tutorial) For a popularity index in less than 5 minutes, check Audience > Overview. Check this once every two weeks. Jot down in a spreadsheet how many visits you received. Now go to Audience > Behaviour > Frequency & Recency. Notice how many people came one time versus how many people came back several times. Jot down the ratio of visits : # of visits for one visit versus 8 visits.

For example, I have a blog that I ignored for an entire month, so this ratio is particularly extreme. My ratio is this:

1:117 versus 8:1 -- 117 visits came one time, while one visit came back 8 times. Really. This is not a blog I focus on much. 

Last, go to Acquisition > All Referrals and notice where your referrals came from. This can tell you quite a bit about who you are popular with. For example, here is a screenshot from my ignored blog. My audience is mainly middle aged women, so where do you think my referrals come from?

Social media referrals

Yep. Mainly Facebook, and then Pinterest. This tells me that at least I am connecting with who I intend to connect with. If my main source of referrals were from Technorati or Digg or Reddit, I'd be confused. Jot down the top 3 referral sources and how many come from each, and you're finished with these metrics.

If you want to make more money:

This is assuming that your blog is attached to a website which is there to make money for you. If you want that blog to help you make more money for your website, you should focus on:

  • Conversion rates
  • Where people went after your blog post
  • Referrals

Conversion rates are, simply, when a visitor actually does something that you want them to do, divided by all traffic, times 100. Really specifically, it's when they buy the thing you want them to buy.

You can count lead generation as conversions, and you can even put a dollar value on each converted visitor (each visitor who has made the leap to convert -- sorry, just like this word) Today, however, let's just stick to sales.

In this case, you need to set up Ecommerce tracking on your shopping cart. If this makes sense to you, great. You're ready to set up a url destination goal in your account. If not, if, for example, you don't have a shopping cart, or if the scope of adding java script to a shopping cart makes your palms sweaty, don't worry about this. Just skip it for now. Really.

Otherwise, go into your Google Analytics account and set up a goal. Go to Goals. You'll see a screen that looks like this:

Google Analytics goals

 Set Up Your First Conversion Goal

Click on "Set up goals" and you'll be taken to the next page. Click on "Create a Goal." Name your goal. This is for internal use, so name it something useful. I'm no help here. Then click on the "destination" button and in the dialogue box, type in the url of a "thank you" page that a visitor will arrive at once they have bought something from you. If you know that each sale is approximately $50, you could assign a value to this goal. That is highly dependant on your business model.

In general, though, remember that statistics are only as good as the data used. There's no one stopping you from entering $1,000,000 in that box :) so that in one week, your analytics will show that you are a multimillionaire...but, well, you get the idea. I'd leave it blank.

Sales funnel is the next box, and is simply beyond the scope of this article, but is, in fact, useful.

Once you click through, you'll have your first goal set up, and you can then start tracking this. Every couple weeks, jot down the number of sales you have made. Hopefully this number increases with time.

Where Did Visitors Go After Your Post?

This is important. After reading your post, did visitors leave your site? Did they click through to a deeper link on your website? Did they read another post? Did they sign up for your newsletter or buy something? Go to Audience > Visitor Flow and just take a look. Then export this as a .pdf and track these over time. Don't make any snap judgements just yet. Just record the data. Keep a disinterested stance. 

If you want a better reputation:

The Google Analytics specific metrics to help you increase your brand reputation are already covered above:

  • Referrals
  • Visits

You want to do better in search results:

These metrics are all covered in Google Analytics:

  • Total visits
  • Percentage of new visits
  • Visits from search engines
  • Top Landing pages - This will also give you a good idea about helpful keywords. 

And each of these should be fairly easy to find, now that you have become used to how Google Analytics is laid out. Total visits and percentage of new visits are both listed User Audience > Overview. Jot these numbers down. Go to Acquisition > Overview to see how many visits came from organic search. To check which pages were your top landing pages, which is a huge help for figuring out how people found you, and so to get a strong indication of the type of content you should be writing if you want more people to find you, go to Behaviour > Site Content > Landing Pages. Now, look for a tab called "secondary dimension" and from the drop down menu click "acquisition" and then "Medium" -- You will now have your top landing pages listed next to how people found that page. Click on the "Medium" column to sort this way, and notice which landing pages were found most often via search. Very interesting, right?

Keep Your Analytical Hat On, and Stay With Me...

Until next week, when we finish up gathering data, by using things other than Google Analytics, and then finally, we make some big decisions about what to do with all that information. The plight of the modern era, in some ways. And remember: Content is King, but Data is either its Court Jester or Wizard, depending on how you handle it...

Wendy Kelly
Dec 11, 2013
From the Custom Fit Online team
Tracking Your Blogging Success

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