Analyzing your website provides you with the ability to gain insights into your audience and whay you are offering to help you do a better job. You can see the effects of each blog post or website change you make you do, sometimes with startling specificity.
Through blog analytics, you can quickly find out what's working and which posts are not performing so well, and come up with possible causes in both cases. Find out who is visiting your site, where they are coming from (this might surprise you), what they are looking at and for how long, and ascertain whether or not they are appreciating what they see.
Here's how you identify your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses.
Regularly Audit Content
The use of analytics is on the increase. Almost all bloggers surveyed by Orbit have access to analytics and most of them are checking it regularly.
Many blogging platforms come with their own analytics capability. In addition to this there are plugins and online services, free and premium, that you can use to perform analysis of your blog.
How often should you perform analysis of your content?
How often would you consult a map if you were driving in a foreign country? Or perhaps you'd be using a GPS to track your progress, predict traffic and keep your destination in sight.
Keeping track of your analytics will dramatically help you to direct your content strategy, your road map to blogging success.
Set a regular date for audits: Make them monthly or weekly, depending upon how often you post. Note that we're talking about a full audit here. You can glance at your analytics at any time and check up on any number of metrics or see how particular posts are performing or to view your overall traffic at a glance. In most cases, you just have to log in and the data will be before your eyes.
Mike Allton of The Social Media Hat told Orbit that he checks his overall traffic several times a day and performs a more in-depth audit weekly or monthly.
If you're new to analytics, it can be like opening a treasure chest. You might struggle to stop yourself checking it several times a day.
Use Google Analytics
Through Google Analytics, Google provides a simple but powerful way to track various metrics on your site, whether you are an individual with a small personal blog or a large business looking for an enterprise-level app. You sign up, insert some tracking code into your website, and within a few hours, you'll be able to follow what's going on behind the scenes of your blog via the Google Analytics dashboard.
The metrics you'll be able to track include:
- Traffic - Identify peak periods and troughs during the day, week, month and year. Do seasonal events or holidays have any effect on your traffic levels? When traffic is low, will your policy be to avoid posting, or to do some social media promotion to boost the numbers?
- Referral sources - Confirm where your traffic is coming from. Knowing what percentage of your visitors are coming to you via social networks (these may be broken down by individual network depending upon your analytics service), via direct links or via organic search will help you work out how successful your promoting campaigns have been and where you might focus your efforts in future. If you've been focusing your promotional activities on Twitter, for example, but most of your visitors turn out to be coming via LinkedIn, you might reprioritize your content promotion strategy to engage more with LinkedIn.
- Duration spent on pages - It's one thing to get traffic, but it's another to satisfy your readers enough to keep them on your site. If your visitors are spending an average reading time of just a few seconds per post, then they're clearly not reading them. Unless these posts comprise images, very small lists or infographics, you might have a problem here. Perhaps you're not providing the content that your visitors are looking for. Perhaps the content type is not appealing to them. Alternatively, perhaps you are targeting the wrong audience. It happens. Use analytics to learn where your visitors are coming from and compare this with your current buyer persona. Are they really in sync and if not, how will you alter your marketing to match what you do with people who want it?
- Top posts and post comparisons - These are the posts that are getting the highest volumes of traffic. Also look out for the posts with the most engagement and where visitors spend the most time reading before clicking away from that page. What can you learn from the trends of these top posts to incorporate into your content strategy going forward? Having success with a certain topic? Are longer posts satisfying your readers more than brevity? Did all these posts have numbers in the title? Make these top performers even better by promoting them some more, particularly if breaking news makes them super relevant again. Ensure you are making the most of your top posits by checking that relevant calls to action are visible on all the pages.
- Opportunities for SEO optimization - In terms of keywords, your analytics software will be able to show you what keywords you are ranking for, the keywords that were used to find you in organic searches and whether or not you've used keywords effectively in your posts. By comparing all three, you'll be able to focus and refocus your SEO efforts. Many analytics applications will also allow you to analyze various components of your pages to see where there might be HTML errors or opportunities for optimization.
Are Blog Posts Assisting in Converting Visitors to Leads and Customers?
Over at Hubspot, they have suggested a simple way of analyzing your posts with conversions in mind.
Divide your top performing posts into four categories, mentally if not physically.
1) Your posts have low traffic but a high conversion rate.
In this scenario, it looks like you have everything in place to turn visitors into customers. People are finding your content enticing and are persuaded to find out more about you or dive in and buy. Now you just need more visitors!
This is not such a bad place to be. Concentrate your efforts for a while on promoting and optimizing these blog posts. As your traffic increases, you should be able to make the most of your good work generating conversions.
2) Your posts have high traffic and a high conversion rate.
You've knocked the ball out of the park. Great work! You're doing things right. Invest in learning from these successes to maintain quality throughout your blogging. Work out what it is that makes these posts work. Finesse this and repeat.
3) Your posts are receiving high traffic but a low conversion rate.
You're drawing in the crowds, but failing to close many deals. In this circumstance, ask yourself if the content that you are offering is really a match for your audience. More research into your visitors might be required. Where are they coming from? If traffic is mostly being referred from one social network, how do those users normally behave? Should you be expecting conversions? Look at your offering to see that it is aligned with these potential customers and work on your calls to action.
Don't forget to test your links. You might find that some element of your site is not working or is not accessible via certain browsers or operating systems.
4) Your posts are generating low traffic and you also have a low conversion rate.
The best advice is to concentrate on building your traffic first of all. This way, you'll have something to work with.
Look at your SEO optimization and make sure that your posts are easily shareable. Think about increasing your promotion efforts for a time and reconsider your audience to ensure that you are satisfying their needs.
Once your numbers are up, then it's time to see what you can do about your conversion rate. You might find that your conversation rate becomes more satisfying once your posts are getting more traffic. If not, experiment with tweaks to your calls to action and double check that your offers are genuinely valuable to your target audience.
SEO Performance (Give This at Least 3 Months)
It's advisable to give your blog time to build up momentum before embarking on major changes to SEO. It takes some time before search engines spider your site and it might take a while to be listed with directories, as well as to receive your first backlinks from other bloggers and websites.
When doing your first major check of SEO performance, pay close attention to the search terms that people actually use before coming across your blog and giving it a try. Which keywords and keyphrases occur most frequently and which align most closely with the subject of your blog? Could you alter your SEO or optimize your pages in order to make the most of the traffic coming from these searches? You could try writing blog posts specifically covering searched for topics or alter existing posts to include more popular or more relevant keywords.
When it comes to auditing your social engagement, try to work out which formats get the best response i.e. the most shares, comments and inbound traffic.
No doubt, all your posts will have share icons at this point, but following your research you might decide to change the primary icons that you use to attract visitors from specific social networks.
If your analytics indicate that social sharing is low, ensure that your posts are optimized for sharing on social networks. If the wrong image pops up when an article is shared, that's a sign that your images need optimizing for social media sharing.
Use one or more of the following tools to control your branding and increase shares on social media.
- Facebook OpenGraph Debugger
- Twitter Cards Validator
- Pinterest Rich Pins Validator
- Google's Structured Data Testing
- Bing Markup Validator
- KnowEm's Social Media Optimizer
- Social Debug
Look for Gaps in Google Webmaster Tools
Google has a place for you to give your blog a service. Kick the tires and see what happens when you rev the engine. It's called Google Webmaster Tools and you'll find a range of support documentation and great, free tools to give your blog a once over.
Rather than waiting for feedback - or lack of feedback - to tell you that something is wrong, use these easy-to-use tools to assess your site. If there is a problem, the site gives you access to masses of helpful documentation so that you can get your site running at its best and listed correctly.
What to do with branches that are not bearing fruit?
Improve, Consolidate or Destroy Poor Performing Content
You're always going to have some blog posts that perform better than others. In addition to learning from your top performers, lopping off the poorest performers can strengthen your overall offering, particular if the poor performing posts in question are off-topic. Off-topic posts can have the effect of diluting the power of your blog and guess who notices this kind of thing as a matter of course. Google.
If your poor performers are on-topic, however, you might want to try improving them rather than removing them from your blog. There are plenty of ways to do this. If you have the time, it can be rewarding to watch a post reach its potential. Work through the post systematically, comparing it to your top performers. You might find that you don't need to do a major rewrite in order to revamp your content. Altering the content-type, headline or images might be enough to give your post the boost it needs to get seen and start working for you.
You might also decide to try consolidating two or more poor-performing posts to make one post that is more comprehensive and more valuable to your visitors.
Analytics – An Ongoing Process
Don't get complacent about analytics. It's always worth checking in to see how your posts are performing. Trends change. Regularly checking in with your analytics software will help you to see that your blog is a living thing, growing as you grow as a content creator. Your blog is you, your words, your passion and your community. With so many elements and people involved, it's no wonder that it's constantly changing, constantly improving.
Use all you learn from your adventures in analytics to improve your content strategy. Whenever you blog, you'll be doing so from a position of strength and informed knowledge.