This article is by Dan Norris of Web Control Room.
As an active blogger, I’m always looking at various stats to help me understand how well I’m doing. I’m not particularly fond of the idea of blogging for years without knowing whether things are going in the right direction. I’d rather know as I go whether my posts are having an impact and whether things are travelling in the right direction.
Luckily, one of the best things about being a blogger is that pretty much every stat you want to look at is available online and not stuck in outdated offline software programs. And better still, most of the tools are free!
The challenge is that, with all of the information out there, it’s difficult to know what stats to keep your eye on. In this article we’ll look at the top ten ways bloggers can measure their efforts.
1. Revenue and profit
While writing is fun, I’ll assume you are trying to earn some money at the same time. One of the best ways to have easy access to your financial data is to use an online accounting program like Xero, Saasu, or Wave Accounting—I use Xero, and it rocks.
These programs make it very easy to capture all of your financial data in the one place.
In addition to that you can look at the various ways you monetize your blog by reviewing the information available from these sources (PayPal, Adsense, Clickbank, etc.). The best part of having a central system for the accounts is that you can aggregate all of the revenue streams in the once place, to give you a whole picture.
2. RSS subscribers
Hopefully you’re using Feedburner to manage your RSS feeds—if so, you’ll have a clear idea of how many people are subscribing to your blog via RSS.
I like to keep an eye on these stats particularly after I release a post, publish a guest post on another blog, or have a guest poster on my blog. Often, their sharing of the post and the content reaching a new audience will cause a bump in subscribers. Showing the number of RSS subscribers on your blog can also be great social proof of your blogging chops.
3. What are others talking about?
One of the most important strategies for bloggers is engaging with other people (bloggers and others) online. This is a measure of performance, because if you are doing the right things then people will be talking about you. There are four ways I do this.
- Comments: An excellent way to see if you are having an impact is to look at the comments on your site. Are they genuine? How many comments are posts getting? This gives you a good idea of what is hitting the mark and what isn’t.
- Trackbacks: If these are turned on in WordPress, any time someone links to one of your blog posts (i.e. not to your homepage) you will see the link in your comments list—and then go back to their sites and engage with them.
- Google Alerts: With Alerts, Google will email you every time someone mentions your brand, product, website, and so on. I like to get them via RSS instead of email, so I check them in Google reader each morning.
- Twilert: This service does the same thing as Google Alerts but for Twitter. You get a daily email that lists every time someone mentions your site or brand or your Twitter handle you’ll get an email.
All of these are great ways to engage with your audience, but also to measure the impact you’re having, and which posts are having more impact than others.
It’s a good idea to monitor both your monthly rolling traffic (last 30 days) against the previous month, as well as traffic peaks around the release dates of your posts. The former figure will give you a good idea of overall recent trends, and the latter will give you immediate feedback on specific posts.
For this I, like most others, use Google Analytics. If you do notice changes that you didn’t expect, it’s time to delve further into the tool to see what has caused those changes—it may be something related to search rankings or referring sites (which we’ll look at separately in a moment).
5. Google ranking for keywords
Most of the time, bloggers get a significant amount of traffic from Google. You can either sit back and hope for the best or you can actively try to rank for different keywords.
Unfortunately, visiting Google and searching for your keywords doesn’t work! Google knows which websites you have visited and puts them higher up the list just for you, so this won’t give you an accurate rank for your keywords. This is a mistake made by almost everyone with a website at one time or another (including me).
Particularly if you are trying to rank for certain keywords, it’s a great idea to use a tool to monitor where you are ranking on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Using the new incognito window in Chrome will also provide a more accurate ranking, but rank-tracking tools will show you rack-tracking from different countries, for instance, and many keywords at once.
6. Other referring sites
In Google Analytics, you can also check out your top referring sites. This can give you great information about a number of things. For example, if you are active in social media or a particular forum you can see if these efforts are resulting in extra traffic to the site.
Similarly, guest posts on other sites would be expected to bring some traffic, so you can monitor whether these sites make it into your top referring sites list.
Pretty much every marketing push you make online should show up in your top sites list, so it’s a good place to look particularly for things you aren’t specifically tracking as campaigns in Analytics.
There are two types of keywords to look at in Analytics. You can look at your top keywords—these would generally be big-ticket keywords that you are trying actively to rank for. If they are ranking in Google and your keyword research was sound, then it will be validated with traffic.
It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on how many keywords are bringing you traffic. This is a simple measure of how effectively you are targeting the long tail. The more you write, particularly if you deliberately target long tail keywords in your posts, the more keywords will bring you traffic. Looking at the number of keywords is a quick way to get some sort of idea of how well it’s working.
8. Email newsletter info
Getting an email opt-in is still one of the main ways bloggers engage with their audience. Tools like Mail Chimp and AWeber will give you some great information on things like how effective your site is being in converting visitors to opt-ins, how big your audience is and how engaged they are with your newsletters (unsubscribe rates, opens, clicks etc).
It’s also a good idea to measure opt-ins as goals in Analytics so you can look at more information about the origins of those opting into your list.
9. Server uptime
Having your server go down is kind of like having a power outage at a traditional business. You can’t do business without your website, and all of the effort you have put in to generating traffic is wasted every time there is an outage. For this reason, make sure you are notified whenever there is an outage and you monitor it each month to ensure uptime is reasonable.
Unfortunately hosting companies often don’t provide this service, however Pingdom.com does, and it’s free. Once you sign up, the site will notify you of any outages, and provide reports on monthly uptime percentages and so on.
10. Social media measures
For bloggers more so than any business, social media is critical. A lot of relationships with readers and other bloggers, guest blogging opportunities, JVs etc come through relationships facilitated by social media. A few things I like to keep an eye on are:
- Klout.com, which gives you an overall idea of how you are influencing others via Twitter, Facebook, and so on. You can also use Klout to give you an overall summary of figures from the major social networks (Likes, shares, +1′s etc).
- If you are active on Twitter, you can keep an eye on your number of followers, your ratio of followers to people that you follow and the number of interactions.
- For Facebook pages, Facebook insights are there to provide useful information on likes, reach, who’s talking about the page and more.
So how are you progressing—and how do you know? I’d be interested in knowing what you like to keep an eye on to track how you’re going. Let me know in the comments.
Dan Norris is the founder of Web Control Room a free tool that enables bloggers to understand their data and make better decisions. By talking to the sources you love (MailChimp, Xero, Analytics, PayPal etc) it provides a scannable 1 page chart showing what is going well and what isn’t so you can understand your performance in seconds.