This is the second blog post in our series on “How To Measure Blog Success.”
Read our first post, “How To Measure Blog Success with Google Analytics.” Do you have a question about blogging that we should answer? Send us a Tweet or shoot us a note and we’ll answer it as best we can.
7 Ways To Measure Blog Engagement
So you have blog traffic, but are they actually engaging with any of it?
You built a blog. You’re getting eyeballs.
But is anyone engaging with the content you’re creating? Or are your visitors just leaving you hanging like our boy, Tom Brady here?
The stickiness of a blog and its reception are tied directly to engagement. And engagement is directly tied to SEO success. We wrote this post to help you measure whether your blog’s engaging your audience.
Engagement Is Relative—To Your Goals
The goals you have for your blog (you have goals, right?) will dictate the type of engagement worth measuring. Some companies’ blogs are there to build awareness while others are to build sales. And still, some blog posts are written to exact one specific action (e.g. downloading a whitepaper or submitting a form).
It’s crucially important to have blog goals in place so you don’t spend inordinate amounts of time chasing down every metric, using every dashboard, and monitoring too many numbers that’ll inevitably drive you completely nuts.
Regardless of your blog goals, don’t lose sight of your audience If the posts self-serve too much, you’re not going to attract an audience that will take any action. Be mindful of striking the balance between your blog goals and the wants and needs of your audience. You’ll know when the mix is right when there’s a healthy amount of traffic AND engagement that justifies the investment in your content marketing.
Blog Engagement Metrics For Consideration
We could really get in the weeds with the level of detail desired to measure blog engagement. But in keeping with the spirit of this series, we’ll home in on achievable, measurable data to get you comfortable.
1. Measuring Inbound Links
Inbound links are links from other sites linking back to your site, or in this case, your blog.
If your content is solid and shareable, other sites will want to reference it. Inbound links not only contribute to overall blog traffic, but they also give your site and blog more authority. Sites that see lots of inbound links receive more SEO authority.
For example, if you’ve written a blog post about “the best yoga studio in Denver” and a competitor also wrote about “the best yoga studio in Denver” Google is going to give the nod to the site with more SEO authority.
Lots of inbound links are good. But lots of inbound links from legitimate sites with strong SEO visibility are an EVEN BETTER indicator of your blog’s SEO authority.
The Best Tool for Measuring Inbound Links
If you’re investing the time and resources to blogging on a regular basis, you should invest in the tools to gauge the efficacy of your blog content. The best tool, with the most actionable data, isn’t free. But the insight from this tool will more than pay for itself in the long run.
Now, we could list a bunch of places to analyze inbound links, but in the interest of ease and action…don’t overthink it. Go with Moz.
Moz’s Open Site Explorer – You simply type in your URL (or a competitor’s URL) and get a wealth of insight around your site’s page authority, inbound links to your site and social links. Moz and its Domain and Page Authority metrics are great starting points for baselining the impact of your SEO efforts.
Get the standard plan for $99. We have it. We use it. And we’ve never been disappointed or needed to upgrade. The beauty of Moz is your standard plan includes a whole host of other Moz tools to use as well.
2. Measuring Social Engagement
Use social media to gauge the interest level of your blog posts. There are easy ways to manage the engagement of your blog on social.
Social Sharing Tool + Social Monitoring Tool = The Ultimate Content Critic
Use a social sharing tool like AddThis or ShareThis to gauge the number of social shares across your blog posts. Couple one of those tools with a social monitoring tool like HootSuite to see which blog posts you share across social media receive the most activity (likes, retweets, favorites, and shares). Combining the metrics from both will give you a better sense of the content your audience engages with best.
You can get even greater granularity into social engagement with your blog via Google Analytics and using more in-depth (read: expensive) tools you can investigate. We want to make this easy to get started and decide what you want to add later.
3. Measuring Blog Subscriptions
If you haven’t already, you should make it easy for readers to subscribe to your blog. Depending on your blogging platform, there are solutions to have readers subscribe. JetPack is a great tool for WordPress users while others, like HubSpot, have a built-in subscription field that you can simply enable. We’d recommend starting to prompt your readers to subscribe to your blog.
4. Measuring CTAs
Always try to include a CTA within your blog. Some CTAs can be as simple as the aforementioned “Subscribe to our blog”. Others can promote additional content offers like an e-book, webinar signup, or Slideshare download. We use HubSpot to create CTAs and make a point of trying to add one to the bottom of each blog post.
Regardless of how you manage or monitor your CTAs, doing something as easy as creating a trackable link with bit.ly is a low-cost solution to seeing the engagement your CTAs get on your blog.
5. Measuring Conversion Goals (Purchases, Subscriptions, Etc.)
Tracking your business’s conversions through Google Analytics gets a little trickier but can be a huge asset to justifying your blog investment.
This isn’t going to be a how-to on setting up goals within Google Analytics, but Google provides a useful step-by-step guide to getting started.
Once you’ve successfully started tracking your conversion goals, the world is your oyster in terms of creating audience segments and slicing and dicing your audience traffic to see of those who visited your blog first and ended up buying your product or service.
With our audience segments, we track the following to determine our blog’s impact.
- Users who visited our blog and completed a conversion goal
- Users who visited a blog page first and completed a goal on either their first visit or returning visit
It’s not a perfect ROI model, but when we can tie sales to visitors who came to our site through our blog, we can justify its existence a bit more.
6 & 7. Measuring Blog Bounce Rates and Average Session Duration
These are at the bottom because we don’t put too much stock in these as the other metrics we’ve listed.
But first some definitions:
Bounce Rate: Someone visits a page, doesn’t visit any other pages on your site, and leaves.
Average Session Duration: The average length of a session (duh, thanks Google…). Google defines a session as: “a group of interactions that take place on your website within a given time frame.”
Why Bounce Rate Matters (and Also, Kinda Doesn’t Matter)
We’ve read that a good bounce rate should be below 50-60% percent. But if a user comes to your blog post, gets exactly what they need from your page and leaves, that’s still considered a bounce. So, should that be considered a bad thing? That’s what makes bounce rates so finicky. The bounce rate is a good metric to be aware of, but not necessarily one where you should adjust your entire content marketing strategy.
However, if you see high bounce rates sitewide and it’s a recurring theme on a lot of blog pages, that’s no coincidence. Those numbers are telling you something. More specifically, they’re telling you your content needs work.
Which brings us to average session duration.
Why Average Sessions Duration Matters (and Also, Kinda Doesn’t Matter)
Just like the bounce rate, don’t put too much stock in this metric. But it’s a good metric to be cognizant of. It does indicate just how interested people are in your site’s content. If a site’s content is good, you’re more apt to click around and see what else they got. If visitors are on your site for less than a minute, you should definitely be concerned, regardless of whether you’re blogging or not.
The takeaways from low average session duration could be a combination of factors:
- Confusing navigation – Peeps just don’t know where to go
- Bad content – This takes many forms. For example, your headline may be great, but the very first lines of content could stink. That’s going to turn folks off and they’ll leave.
- No decent calls to action – You want people to navigate further within your site. So if your navigation stinks and your CTAs stink, people aren’t compelled to poke around.
- The design is poor – You’ve heard the stats: people like images. People are visual. If they come to a site and it’s just a bunch of 8 point font, single-spaced, and no images, they’re peacing out.
If you’re hungry for even more SEO-related engagement stats, check out SearchMetrics SEO Ranking Factors for 2014. There’s A TON there just waiting to blow your ever-loving, SEO-hungry mind.
Wondering how we might be able to help write blog posts on your business to drive traffic and increase blog engagement?