How do you tell if your blog is working?
(And what does that even mean, exactly?)
You know that it can make a massive difference to maintain a blog, even if you don’t necessarily want one.
But how do you make sure that it’s actually moving the needle for your business in a real, measurable way?
If you want your blog to actually be worth your time, you need to do more than just research, write, and promote amazing posts. (Which you can learn how to do right here, BTW.)
You need to know how successful marketers measure their success, and how they use that information to make their blogs more and more effective!
(If you don’t, you’re just kind of doing something because you can – and that’s a good way to waste time.)
You want your blog to become a seriously powerful part of your marketing plan?
Here’s what you should check on a regular basis to see how you’re doing – and what you can improve.
The first thing to ask yourself is probably the most obvious:
How much traffic does my blog get?
Once you set up a solution for monitoring traffic – like Google Analytics, which is free – you have a lot of data at your fingertips.
(In fact, it might feel like a little too much.)
Wanna make sense of it all?
Here are three definitions to remember.
The visitors to your blog are users. Every time a user comes to your blog, that’s a session – they might read one blog post in a session, or they might read more. Every time they click to a different page, though, that’s a pageview.
(So if your blog gets 1000 sessions in a day but 5000 pageviews, that means the users visiting your blog are looking at multiple pages! Go you!)
When you look at those stats, see how they change over time. This can help you determine which posts perform better than others.
For example, take a look at this chart tracking sessions across a period of a few weeks:
Each of those dots represents a day – clearly that day in the middle was a good one!
In this case, we might ask ourselves what we posted on that day, because it’s clearly something our audience is super interested in. (It was this post, in case you’re curious.)
We’ll look at that chart again in a second, but for now, there’s more to see in your traffic patterns.
For example, how are people accessing your blog?
When we look at our Google Analytics, we see that the most popular operating systems people use when accessing our blog are:
We can see that on average, almost a third of our users are accessing our blog via iPhone – it’s the most popular way to get there! If we didn’t already make it a priority for our blog to be comfortably readable on a small screen, this would definitely give us a hard push in that direction.
One of the best things about developing a content strategy is that once you’ve started blogging, you don’t have to make up your plan out of thin air. Your site’s visitors are already telling you what they want – all you have to do is listen.
Here’s another way to do just that!
Like we saw in that chart above, your analytics can tell you a lot about whether a blog post piques the interest of your readers – and over time, that information adds up.
The more you blog, the more easily you can identify patterns in what people want to read the most.
For example, our most popular blog post in February 2016 was about recently-announced Facebook algorithm changes. Our most popular post the next month was about new Facebook features, and how they might affect algorithms in the future. Our most popular post the month after that explained in detail how Facebook algorithms work.
(Notice a pattern?)
Posting consistently allows you to figure out what’s working and what isn’t. Not everything you write will be a hit – but it takes the occasional flop to make your successes stand out. (Here’s where you can learn more about pivoting a strategy.)
You might find that your audience loves instructional how-to articles. You might find that they love behind-the-scenes posts, or posts that talk about recent news in your field. The only way to find out what your audience responds to the best is to try different things and measure your results!
Your blog doesn’t exist in a vacuum, though – traffic has to come from somewhere. And that’s why the last set of statistics you should monitor might be the most important of all.
Sometimes, people find your blog posts all on their own. That’s what search engines are for!
But relying on that kind of traffic alone isn’t always, well, reliable. Getting the most out of your blog means finding a way to actively drive traffic there.
Social sharing is one way to do it – and while there are a number of ways you can encourage readers to share on social, you should also keep track of which posts end up being shared the most. (And whether those shares translate to higher traffic!)
Same goes for your newsletter, which can actually end up being one of the most important aspects of your entire content strategy!
For example, here’s a look at our blog traffic over a period of almost three months, with the days that our weekly newsletter went out marked by a red dot:
Our newsletter alerts our readers that a new blog post is available, and every single week, we get the most traffic to our blog on the day we send that newsletter! (Over the period shown in that chart, the newsletter was our second-biggest source of traffic, bringing in more than a quarter of all our readers.)
This is why optimizing your content delivery is as important as the content itself.
In the case of a newsletter, that means keeping track of things like your open and clickthrough rates. How many of the people who receive an email open it? How many of the people who open it decide to click the link you put inside?
By answering these questions every time, you can determine patterns that make it easier to improve over time. (We actually test two different subject lines for every newsletter, so we can find patterns in what people are more likely to open!)
Building out your content delivery plan happens right on your blog, too.
The people reading your blog are probably already interested in what you have to say – in addition to making it easier to share it via social, you can encourage those readers to sign up for your newsletter, so they never miss a new post. (Just make sure it isn’t too aggressive.)
The more people visit your blog on a regular basis, the more shares you can get on social – and that means your users’ audiences become your audience. This is how your blog actually grows.
(Just remember to track your signups, too! Changing just a word or two in an opt-in box can make a huge difference.)
The best blogging strategies go beyond the blog itself – by actively creating ways to get people to your blog, you make it easier to build an exponentially larger audience!
Optimizing your blog’s performance doesn’t end here. Monitoring stats like your bounce rate, for example, can help you identify even more places with room for improvement.
When you’re focused on the standard everyday stuff, though, remember to ask yourself these questions on a regular basis – and don’t leave the value of your blog up to chance!