“What gets measured, gets managed,” management guru Peter Drucker once said.
Not all metrics, however, are created equal.
There are, in fact, quite a few “vanity metrics” around. These measurement tools may be great for a quick ego boost, but they don’t do much for your business, your audience interaction, or your long-term goals.
Take your number of Twitter followers, for example. You may have 10,000 followers, but if only 1 percent of them ever see your tweets, is it worth investing the time and energy to build up your number of followers even further?
What you should be focusing on are actionable metrics. These are metrics that will give you an accurate picture of your blog or business’s current reach and growth trajectory. They’ll also let you know where you need to focus additional work.
Here are four metrics you need to track in order to get an accurate assessment of the state of your blog or business:
1. Bounce Rate
Google defines a bounce rate as “the percentage of single-page sessions (i.e. sessions in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page).”
Basically, the bounce rate is a measurement of how many viewers came to your blog, took a look, had no interaction with the page, clicked nowhere, and left.
The bounce rate is a much more effective measure of reader interest than plain old traffic stats. While a count of aggregate page views might tell you how many people visited your website, on its own it’s not a very useful statistic, since it doesn’t tell you how many stayed and explored further.
A high bounce rate may indicate that your content isn’t resonating with your audience. Alternatively, it could also be an indication that your traffic sources aren’t very good. If you’re blogging about fitness and your traffic is coming from sites about credit card debt, you may have high traffic, but it’s unlikely to be traffic that is meaningful in terms of true audience building.
A bounce rate in the range of 25 percent to 40 percent is considered excellent. Anything higher than 70 percent probably indicates that your audience-building approach requires drastic change.
2. Email subscribers
Everyone wants to know — in straight-up raw numbers –how many readers they have, and there’s no better metric to measure this than email subscribers.
A mailing list is a key tool for a blogger to have because it shows how many people actively want to know when you update or publish a new post. The number of email subscribers often gives an accurate picture of a blog’s success because while you may get many casual visitors, it is the people who trust you enough to give you their email address that will prove to be loyal readers, fans, and customers.
3. Conversion rate
Keeping an eye on your page views and unique visits is a good idea, but trying to deduce your blog’s growth and reach (or lack thereof) from these metrics can lead to a skewed interpretation.
That’s because your blog for runners, for instance, might get mentioned on a popular forum for web designers as an example of fantastic design and fetch you thousands of page views. But because these visitors are not your core audience, and will likely never visit again, raw traffic data doesn’t really tell you what you need to know about how you’re doing at reaching your target audience.
Your conversion rate, on the other hand, does.
The conversion rate, expressed as a percentage, measures how many visitors are converted to email subscribers.
To calculate your conversion rate, use this formula: Email subscribers x 100/unique visitors.
4. Time on site
Like the bounce rate, the time-on-site metric helps you see how keen readers are about your content. It also shows you whether they’re taking the time to look around or simply leaving after taking a quick look. Keeping an eye on this number, especially in the early days of your blog, can help you become aware of design and usability issues. This metric will also give you an idea of what kind of blog posts generate the most reader interest.
This metric is best used in combination with your traffic numbers. For instance, a high time-on-site score combined with low traffic numbers shows that despite your small visitor count, people are sticking around and consuming what you have to offer. But a low time-on-site score with high traffic numbers could mean that visitors aren’t really getting what they came looking for, especially if this traffic is generated by search engines.