I’ve been pondering a question for the past few days that I’d love to hear some input on whether you think I’m off-base.
Do you think the traditional metrics used for measuring traditional Web sites really apply to blogs in light of the surfing behaviors driven by social media sites?
Think about it….with traditional Web sites, we measure metrics like page views, unique visitors, time on site, bounce rate, and referring domains. But with behaviors like tweeting, Facebook posting, digging, stumbling, pinning, I find myself drawn to other metrics when looking at Google Analytics. Sure, traffic from search engines is still key, but other sources like Twitter, Facebook, and StumbleUpon are giving Google a run for their money. (BTW…be sure to click that link to StumbleUpon if you don’t think it’s a player in driving traffic).
In light of the fact that social is playing such a big role in driving traffic, I started to rethink traditional “Web site metrics” and their value. So, here’s a list of 5 metrics that I really like, and 5 more that I have started paying less attention to. Again, let me know if you agree, disagree, or find other metrics valuable.
5 Web Site And Blog Metrics I Find Important
1) Unique Visits – I still find this one important. It helps me understand whether I am consistently growing traffic to my site. It also helps me understand when visitors find content to be particularly useful when I see spikes in traffic
2) Referring Domains – Another traditional metric that allows me to understand where my traffic is coming from. Because I am so heavily involved in social media, my traffic is split between social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and search domains like Google and Bing. Since inbound links are really, really good for search engine ranking the more referring domains, the better! Especially if they are from credible sources.
3) Number of comments/tweets/likes – Not something you can see in the Google Analytics (yet), but something very important. I consider these three metrics to be indicators of interest and content value. If readers find the content engaging enough to share with others, then the content must be serving a purpose (bonus if it’s the one intended <G>).
4) Incoming Search Keywords – While Google Analytics certainly tells me which keywords drove content to my blog, it doesn’t let me get as granular as I’d like to determine which keywords drove traffic to which article. Sure I can pretty much extrapolate that the search phrase “ios 5 slow on ipad” drove traffic to my article on iOS5 Cloud Services Causing Crashes On iPad 1 or the phrase “DQ Guy” drove traffic to my article asking Dairy Queen and Edge Shave Gel to stop ripping off the Old Spice Guy. On the other hand, more generic search phrases like “intranet tips” or “social media comics” don’t tell me which article the user actually viewed.
To make up for this limitation, I leverage a WordPress plugin called “SEO Search Terms Tagging 2“. This nifty plugin adds incoming search terms to the bottom of each post, helping with search engine optimization. Additionally, I’m able to look in the WordPress Admin Console to determine what keywords are driving content to specific articles. The plugin also helps me understand which of my articles aren’t receiving any search engine traffic at all. Great for helping me re-optimize them for search.
5) Time On Page (not to be confused with time on site) – As I’ll explain in the next section, there are some traditional metrics that I find less valuable in the world of social media. Time on page remains important because it tells me whether people are actually reading the articles. If a user comes to my site from Twitter, reads the article for 4 minutes, and then leaves, I consider that a success. It means that they were willing to stay long enough to read, which means they likely found the content engaging. If, however, time on site for an article is 10 seconds, then I need to re-assess whether the tweet or Facebook post that drew the user to the site was accurately describing the content.
5 Web Site Metrics I Find Less Valuable (Note…I didn’t say NOT valuable)
1) Bounce Rate – Traditionally used to determine how many users left your site after reading only one page. For a traditional Web site, this metric theoretically helps you understand whether people were willing to “surf” your site, viewing pages other than the one they landed on. In light of social media, however, I find this metric to be of little value. When I tweet, I share a link to an article and I expect that my visitors were looking for that specific article before moving on to the next tweet or Facebook post in their feed. I have little expectation of surfing, so I focus more on unique visitors than I do bounce rate.
2) Average Time On Site – Again, I expect my visitors to come to my blog to read the article that they were searching for or that was included in a tweet or post. If they hang around the view additional articles, outstanding! However, I’m not really judging the value of my content on whether my visitors surf.
3) Top Exit Pages – For traditional Web sites, this used to tell us which pages lost the readers interest. For blogs that are promoted via social media, the reality is that most visitors come, view a page, and then exit via that same page and go back to their Twitter feed, Facebook page, or StumbleOn to something else. So this metric is significantly less important to me.
4) Search Engine Sources – Let’s see…yesterday my blog received about 500 unique visitors from Google, 3 from Bing, 1 from Ask.com, and 1 from Yahoo. While I’d love to spend a bunch of time optimizing my site to get more traffic from Yahoo and Bing, I’d really rather spend that time writing new content to get more traffic from Google. As a result, I just rely on the fact that the vast, vast majority of my search engine traffic will come from Google.
5) Browser Capabilities – Honestly, I really don’t care what browser you use. I need for my blog to work the same in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari. I test in those browsers to make sure that my blog works, but I really don’t care which one you use when you visit. I like all visitors equally, regardless of their browser of choice.
There you have it, total of 10 metrics that you can either pay attention to or ignore when determining how to measure you blog. Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you find to be useful metrics for your blog.