With only a month and a half left in 2015, now is a good time to look back at your metrics from the year so far and use those results to help you plan the year ahead. If blogging has been a major part of your inbound marketing strategy, you’ll want to determine what kind of ROI you are seeing for the time and money invested in creating and promoting blog posts on a regular basis.
After all, as we talked about just last week, proving ROI is one of the biggest challenges for most marketers, and proving positive ROI often leads to more budget allowances for marketing in the next year. (Click to Tweet)
So what blog metrics should you focus on as you analyze results? Three general categories to track include visitors, leads and subscribers. We’ll talk about how you can drill down into each of those categories to learn about what makes your blog work and where it needs more help.
This one may seem like the most basic: How many people visit your blog on a daily, weekly or monthly basis? Tracking this over time will give you a visual of how your blog is performing overall, but you can learn many more lessons by digging deeper and examining the performance of individual blog posts.
Look at your 10 or 20 most popular posts and try to determine what they have in common.
Characteristics to consider:
Do your readers seem to prefer longer or shorter blog articles? If you get twice as much traffic on in-depth posts, you may want to consider if it makes more sense to invest in fewer posts with more detail, rather than publishing more posts that are short. (Here are some interesting observations on quality vs. quantity from HubSpot and Moz. LINK)
Do many of the most popular posts have similar titles? That could be an indication of what kinds of headlines are most likely to catch the attention of your readers when you promote the blog posts through social media or email newsletters. Maybe some of these blog title tips could improve traffic even more.
Do your readers seem to be especially drawn to certain topics? That could be a sign that you should create more content—not just blog posts, but offers for all stages of the sales funnel—focused on those topics.
Which blog post formats get the most traffic? If your readers seem to be more attracted to infographics, perhaps you could repackage the information from early posts in that form. Or start adding more videos or podcasts if those formats seem to attract more traffic. The caveat is that some formats are most costly to create, so you will want to look beyond simple traffic numbers to determine whether the investment is likely to pay off. We’ll talk about those numbers next.
While overall traffic numbers are important, they aren’t the only ones to track and analyze. Remember that the true goal in inbound marketing is to generate leads who will become customers. Blog readers are great, but it’s the actual customers who pay the bills.
So after you’ve reviewed overall traffic to your blog, you’ll want to look at those individual blog posts from another perspective: lead generation. How many readers are converting into leads?
As with visitors, generate a report of the blog posts with the highest lead generation results. With an integrated content and marketing software package such as HubSpot, these types of detailed reports are easy to generate. You may find that the blog posts with the highest overall traffic aren’t necessarily the ones that generate the most leads.
Again, dig down into the individual posts to see if certain topics, formats, or related offers tend to outperform others. If your software has the capability, follow individual leads through your system to determine if there is a pattern in the path they follow from lead to customer. Do certain blog posts or offers result in a consistently shorter buying cycle?
Also look at how the behavior of your leads generated through blog posts compares to that of leads gained through other sources, such as email marketing or cold calls.
Armed with information about which blog posts are most successful in generating leads and customers, you can plan a blog calendar that focuses on more of the same (or look for ways to recharge the campaigns that were less successful).
A third metric to track is the number of subscribers you have. Reading a single blog post is seldom enough to give a prospect an understanding of your expertise and credibility. When readers subscribe to your blog, whether through email or RSS, they are exposed to a steady stream of content that helps them learn more about you and how you are able to help solve their problems.
Subscribers also may be more likely than casual readers to share your posts with others, expanding your blog’s reach. If your blog is steadily gaining subscribers, it is a good indicator of the quality and consistency of your content.
There are many, many more metrics you can track and examine to find ways to improve your business blog’s performance, several of which are outlined in our Introduction to Business Blogging. Learn how to parse the data surrounding inbound links and social media shares to improve your blog’s SEO while you are there.