Sessions count each time someone comes to your website regardless of if it’s their first time or not. The more clicks there are, the more your content is working, and the longer visitors stay on your site. The ratio of returning visitors to total visitors is a key metric for answering the question, “Is my content good enough that people are coming back for more?” Google Analytics has an option in their dashboard to evaluate the percentage of new sessions. This is the true measure of people clicking through to your website. But when your content is reaching people when they aren’t on your site, you can measure the real performance of your headline. If people are clicking through to your site, that’s a good indicator that your headline copy is working. The Facebook Insights concern you, while the general traffic from Facebook in your Google Analytics includes traffic coming from all of the people who also shared your content. While you want to pursue a strategic internal linking strategy that enables people to discover more of your content, the bounce rate is a much more general metric that in itself can mean multiple different things that aren’t always clear. For example, let’s say someone clicks one of your articles from Facebook. The best you can do is execute your strategy, deliver content with value, and try to keep your metrics in line month after month.
I get this question a lot:
Neil, how do you know that your content is performing?
I like this question because I can give a concrete answer.
So often, people working in content marketing think that it’s subjective.
There are very real, specific metrics that show you how well your content is performing.
But be careful. There are also vanity metrics out there that can be more distracting than worthwhile.
That’s why in this post I’m going to give you the most valuable metrics for evaluating the performance of your content.
The 7 Most Important Metrics to Track Your Content’s Performance
Metric 1. Traffic
No surprise here.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I’m all about traffic.
Traffic is the most important metric because it enables everything that comes after it: engagement and conversion.
But traffic by itself is not a clear indicator of your content’s performance.
The real metric that you should be paying attention to is the increase in traffic over time.
Every site or blog will have different levels of traffic.
Some are better at SEO than others. Some have been around longer. Others have marketing budgets that can boost traffic numbers.
You should read my post about creating an organic traffic pipeline to get up to speed on the basics of traffic acquisition.
There is no definite amount of traffic that you should have. Each blog and website will have different objectives and a different threshold of traffic before people start to convert.
All websites do share a common goal, however, and that is to increase traffic.
If you’re properly executing your content strategy, you should see an increase in traffic over time.
That change in traffic is a clear indicator of performance. You should keep a record.
In Google Analytics, traffic is divided into two different categories: users and sessions.
Users are the unique visitors. Unique visitors only count someone once during a timeframe. For example, people who visit my blog every day would only be counted once when I add up the users for the month.
Sessions count each time someone comes to your website regardless of if it’s their first time or not.
So, if you come to read my blog once a week, that would add up to 4 sessions per month.
Both measures have value for different types of reasons. What we are really concerned with is the change in traffic over time.
Keep your record every month and see how it changes.
Line that up with the content that you posted.
Then, isolate months where things went really well and look to see what you did.
When something works, you should do more of it.
You can learn the best practices and start to adopt them as you progress, while at the same time cutting out things that you did that didn’t make your traffic increase.
Metric 2. Your SERP ranking
SERP stands for search engine results page. Your ranking is where you show up when someone searches for something relevant to you.
This is the view when I search for Neil Patel.
While your SERP ranking is not really a metric that you can calculate, it is one of the clearest indicators of how well your content is performing.
If Google likes it and references it highly, you’re doing it right.
Try searching for a few different combinations to see which of your posts or pages show up.
I show up as the 2nd organic result when I search for “online marketing.”
For the term “SEO guide,” my step-by-step SEO guide is the 4th organic result:
Over time, you can see if those pages go up.
If your content is good enough, you can eventually get to having your content delivered in what’s often called the “#0 result” in Google SERPs in the form of a snippet.
As you test and optimize for search, the direct result should be an increase in your ranking.
Here’s how you test SEO tactics:
Metric 3. Time spent on site
Have you seen the counters on Medium that show how long it takes to read the post in minutes?
It’s right at the top of the article.
There is a good logic behind doing this.
People like to know how long something is going to take before they get started.
Adding in the time it takes to read lets people know if they are going in for something quick that they can finish before a meeting starts or if it’s best consumed at home in the evening when they have more time.
Medium calculates their read time like this:
That’s all well and good, but nothing replaces the power of a great headline to get people’s attention.
The real measure of the quality of your content is how long people actually stay on the site.
The longer people stay, the more content they are consuming.
In Google Analytics this is called Session Duration.
You can see how people are engaging with a specific post by finding the URL.
Then, calculate according to Medium’s method an estimated read time.
Compare the read time to the average session duration for that URL.
Do they line up? If they do, that means that nearly everyone is reading the article in its entirety.
It will never line up all the way. There will always be people who click, read a few sentences, and then leave.
But if it’s clear that no one is making it to the end of your content, then it should be time to rethink how you are presenting it.
Metric 4. Pages per visit
Internal linking is a huge part of publishing successful content.
Content that supports other content helps fuel a virtuous circle where people continue through to other articles while learning and receiving value.
You should make it as easy as possible for people to click through and find more of your content.
You can read my complete guide to internal linking and discover what it can do for your site traffic.
The strategy is to deliver so much value in one article that when you link to a different article, people assume that it contains a vast amount of value as well.
You need to make it irresistible. Appeal to their sense of FOMO (fear of missing out).
The more clicks there are, the more your content is working, and the longer visitors stay on your site.
Metric 5. Returning visitors
Content is a lot like a meal. The best honor you can bestow on your host…