When it comes to growing a blog, there are a hundred different directions one could take. Some decide that the design of their site is outdated while others remove or add share buttons in the hope of increasing engagement.
In this day and age there are many free tools that provide insights with data that eliminates the need to guess. In this post, I cover eight different key performance indicators that every blogger should be tracking, and how each of these metrics can be used to grow a blog over time.
1. Bounce Rate
Definition: Bounce rate is the percentage of your visitors that view a single page during their visit.
Can be found In: Google Analytics
Bounce rate is one of the best metrics available to determine if there are any major issues with your site from a design or compatibility perspective. The first thing you should look at is your site-wide bounce rate. If this figure is very high (above 85%) it could indicate that your site has major design problems which are putting off the vast majority of your visitors.
If your site-wide bounce rate falls within the standard 65%-80% then you should compare your mobile vs non-mobile traffic. If there is a big difference between the bounce rate of the mobile version of your site compared to the non-mobile version, then your site is not fully compatible for mobile or tablet viewing, and you should address this issue ASAP.
If you don’t have any of the two issues I mentioned above, but still suffer from a high bounce rate, then break it down by traffic source. You might find that there are certain traffic sources which are bringing you junk traffic which is bouncing at a very high rate.
If you are happy with your bounce rate but still think there is room for improvement, then work harder on driving more relevant visitors to your blog via activities on social media, certain niche forums, and by getting backlinks from other sites in your space.
2. Exit rate
Definition: Exit rate is the ratio of page views of a specific page and the number of exits from your blog from that specific page.
Can be found in: Google Analytics
Exit rate can be very confusing, but in a nutshell it represents the likelihood of someone leaving your site from a specific page. The exit rate, similar to the bounce rate, can be used to help identify specific pages where visitors are leaving your site en masse.
If a page has a very high exit rate, it could indicate that visitors deem the page irrelevant or not what they were expecting. If you have certain flows in your blog then you can analyze the exit rates of the different pages in the funnel to determine which pages need your attention.
I wouldn’t obsess over exit rates because these will drop when other areas of your blog like better navigation, improved distribution of traffic and better formatting are implemented. The only thing I would look out for is if there are obvious issues like a high exit rate (above 80%) on pages which should lead to deeper dives into your blog like say your category pages.
Definition: The breakdown of your blog’s traffic by channel
Can be found in: Google Analytics
Capture: The Source/Medium report from Google Analytics shows the performance of traffic by different sources.
Understanding the distribution of your traffic is key to understanding the health of your blog. You can find a detailed breakdown of your traffic distribution in the “acquisition” reports in Google Analytics. I personally prefer to look at the “Source/Medium” report to see the breakdown of my blog’s traffic and I recommend you use the same report.
There is no perfect distribution of someone’s blog traffic because every blog is different and some niches can expect traffic from multiple channels while others might have to rely solely on two or three channels.
The major traffic channels are:
- Organic search traffic – Traffic from search queries run on search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing.
- Direct traffic – Includes all traffic which isn’t in any one of the other four channels. Includes traffic that comes directly to the site by typing it in the address bar, traffic from bookmarks and traffic from emails which don’t have UTMs tags in their links.
- Referral traffic – Traffic that came via a link on another website.
- Paid traffic – Traffic which came to your site from paid channels like Adwords.
- Campaign traffic – Traffic which is tagged with UTM tags will appear in this category. Paid traffic is also technically campaign traffic.
The kind of distribution I’ve seen on a few different blogs is around 30-50% organic search, 10-20% referral, 20-30% direct and 1-10% campaign traffic.
If your blog’s traffic distribution swings heavily towards one channel, like say 80% of your traffic comes from search, then this could indicate that you are not distributing your content well enough and other sites in your niche are not referencing your content.
You should try and balance your traffic distribution to lower risk and maximize your growth potential, just like you would a financial portfolio.
4. Organic traffic percentage and growth
Definition: The percentage of your overall traffic that comes from organic search and the change in the absolute number of visitors from this channel.
Can be found in: Google Analytics:
If you are already looking at your traffic distribution then you will already know the percentage of your overall traffic which comes from organic traffic. The reason I specifically focus on this channel is because I believe it is the one metric early stage bloggers should try and improve aggressively.
Search remains a major channel for bloggers and needs to be a big part of any blog’s growth strategy. Understanding first the overall percentage of traffic from search, and then how this number is changing from month to month will help indicate if you are doing a good job in ranking for more and more keywords and improving the overall SEO strength of your site.
I highly recommend using a tool like Moz for tracking your rankings for specific, relevant keywords. By focusing on climbing up the SEO ladder for relevant keywords in your niche, you will drive more search traffic to your site. The best thing about this traffic is that it is highly relevant so it will convert very well, resulting in more revenue for your business.
5. Shareability of posts
Definition: Average number of total shares that your posts generate.
Can be found in: Social metrics WordPress Plugin or Feedio
The shareability of your posts is an important indicator for your blog. The number of shares your posts get help indicate the relevancy of your traffic, the quality of your writing and the readability of your posts.
The best way to track this metric is to use a tool like Social Metrics WordPress plugin or Feedio which shows the total share and mention counts from Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn for all your recent posts.
You can use this data to determine your average share count and use that benchmark to measure the performance of individual posts.
Your aim should be to increase this average over time by improving your content, the quality of the traffic you are driving to your site, the formatting of your posts and use of media like video and images.
Caption: Feedio is one of many tools which show you the total number of likes, shares and mentions your posts are getting from different social media networks.
6. Pages viewed per visit
Definition: The average number of pages viewed by an individual visitor per session
Can be found in: Google Analytics
The number of pages viewed per visitor is a classic Google Analytics metric which helps indicate how easy it is to navigate within your site and the overall quality of your writing.
If you know that the right traffic is hitting your site but your average pages viewed per visit is very low then it could indicate that your site is very difficult to navigate and visitors simply can’t work out how to navigate to different pages.
You can use Google Analytics Behavior Flow Report (see screenshot below) to determine how visitors are moving through your site. You can also use the exit rate per page, bounce rate and landing page data to determine where visitors are hitting your site and where they are leaving.
7. Time on site
Definition: The average amount of time an individual spends on your site per session
Can be found in: Google Analytics
Like pages viewed per visit, the time on site metric helps indicate the overall appeal of your site to your visitors. If your bounce rate and pages viewed per visit are very low, then your time on site will also be low. In order to improve this metric you should concentrate on improving the other site performance related metrics like pages viewed per visit, bounce rate and shareability of posts. If you can improve each of these metrics then time on site will improve
Because the time on site metric is directly related to many other metrics, there is no reason to monitor it on a consistent basis. Look at it once every few months to see if it is moving in the right direction.
If you’re putting a lot of effort into improving metrics like your bounce rate, pages per visit etc and none of these metrics are improving then make sure you’re driving the right traffic to your site.
8. Call-to-action conversion rate
Definition: The percentage of your visitors which take a specific action on your site
Can be found in: Depends on the CTA (more details below)
Every blog should have at least one action that you want your visitors to take. This might be signing up to your email list or clicking through to Amazon to hopefully buy your latest book. Whatever that action is you should track the conversion rate in order to determine a benchmark and try and improve it over time.
Tracking CTA conversion rates can be tricky but thankfully there are good methods and tools available to help with this process.
There are a number of different CTAs that you can have on your site which can be at different stages of a funnel. Each step of the funnel should be tracked in order to determine where in the funnel people are falling out. Below is a list of different CTAs and how to determine the percentage of visitors which end up completing the action at the end of the funnel.
Email form to collect emails for a newsletter or RSS-to-email:
The funnel: Lands on the blog > enters email in sidebar, or lands on the blog > navigates to a different page > enters email in sidebar
To determine this conversion rate you would look at unique visitors to your blog and unique emails submitted to your email capture service (Mailchimp for example).
Purchases of a product which is hosted outside of your website
The funnel: Lands on the blog > clicks on banner, or link > purchases product
To determine this conversion rate you would look at unique visitors to your blog, clicks on the banner or link and purchases of the product.
To determine unique visitors to your blog, you would look in Google Analytics; for clicks on the banner or link, you would use a tool like Bitly, and for purchases of the product you would look in the platform which is hosting the product like in your Amazon account.
Downloads piece of gated content on your blog
The funnel: Lands on the blog > clicks on banner or link > fills out form and downloads content
To determine this conversion rate you would simply set up a goal in Google Analytics. This will allow you to dive into your traffic data at a higher resolution and determine interested things which are much tougher to determine in the previously listed funnels. For details on setting up a funnel-based goal in Google Analytics check out this guide.
If you consider yourself technical and you have a budget then I recommend investing in a tool like Mixpanel or Kissmetrics which will allow you to track every event on your site. These tools provide advanced reporting tools to help you run complex analyses of your funnels and traffic performance.
Caption: Example of a funnel report in Kissmetrics
Thanks to Google Analytics and similar web analytics tools bloggers have access to in-depth, useful analytics on multiple aspects of their blogs. Growth has moved from being something your address with your gut and passed experience to one of a science with methodologies and proven approaches.
If you consider yourself a serious blogger that really wants to grow their blog into a thriving business, then you will have to learn and master your site’s data so you can make informed decisions.
I hope this post has helped shed some light on where and how to start this process. If you have any questions, feedback on the post or tips you think should be added to the post then please comment below.
Justin Butlion is the co-founder of Feedio, a marketing platform for bloggers that focuses on RSS-to-email, social media engagement and blogging analytics. Justin loves to write and talk about online marketing and entrepreneurship and is a die-hard English Football fan.