Analyzing Return User Behaviour helps you optimize your site for better engagement and more conversions.
Data Snacks | Jul 23
Kevin Kononenko on August 19, 2019 (last modified on January 14, 2021) • 11 minute read
Traffic is just one of the metrics you should track to measure your blog’s performance.
Why? If you’re judging the success of your blog based solely on the traffic it generates, you’re probably neglecting the other metrics that add context to blog traffic data.
If you’re just measuring traffic to your blog, a post with 100,000 visits may look like a sweeping success. But what if everyone who visited your post left within 15 seconds of the page loading? What if not a single one of those visitors viewed another page on your site? What if not one person converted? Is that still a success?
Most content marketers and bloggers would say no. The goal isn’t just to get people to load your pages. It’s to get people engaged with the content you’ve produced, to pique their interest in whatever it is you’re selling, and to get them to convert or—at the very least—to come back to read more of your content later.
Beyond that, measuring the success of your blog based on traffic alone can lead to low-quality content. If a clickbait headline gets people to click on your content from social media—and all you care about are those clicks—who cares if the payoff (the actual post) is subpar.
In total, there are five blog metrics you should track in Google Analytics to measure the performance of your blog:
These metrics will provide the insights you need to add context to your traffic data, helping you make more informed, data-driven decisions.
While traffic may not be the most useful metric when measured in isolation, it is an important metric to track alongside the other metrics on this list.
In Google Analytics, traffic is represented as pageviews: the number of times your individual blog posts have been viewed.
There are a couple of ways to find pageview data in Google Analytics. If you navigate to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages, you’ll be able to see pageview data for every page on your site.
Of course, if you have landing pages, product pages, knowledgebase entries, etc. on your site in addition to blog posts, this report shows all of those pages, so you’ll have to scroll through the list to find your actual blog posts.
Conversely, if your blog posts are all contained within a subfolder, say “/blog/”, you can get a report showing just pageview data for your blog posts by navigating to Behavior > Site Content > Content Drilldown and then clicking on the appropriate subfolder.
This will produce a report that only lists blog posts:
The “Pageviews” column tells you how many times each individual blog post was viewed within the selected timeframe. The “Unique Pageviews” column just to the right of it tells you how many of those pageviews were from unique visitors.
Knowing how much traffic your individual blog posts are getting tells you a couple of things that are important for evaluating the success of your blog:
Of course, pageviews alone won’t really provide all of the context you need to evaluate the performance of your blog posts, so you’ll want to look at a few other metrics, too.
In the same report where you looked at page views, you’ll find the average time on page (also known as dwell time) for each of your blog posts: the amount of time, on average, that visitors spend reading your blog post.
Average time on page tells you whether or not people are actually reading your blog posts.
For example, on the Databox blog, each of our blog posts list how much time it takes, on average, for people to read the post:
So if we know it takes the average person 21 minutes to read a post—but in Google Analytics, the average time on page for that post is only one minute—we know people aren’t really reading that post. That could be because:
The same Google Analytics report you used to find pageviews for your blog posts can be used to see the average time on page for each blog post:
Once you identify the posts that lead to the highest average time on page, you can search for trends. How long were these posts? What was the subject matter? How many graphics did they include? How did the majority of visitors find the article?
You can use these insights to create more readable content in the future.
In Google Analytics, average pages per session tells you how many pages of your site in total that a visitor viewed during his/her visit (session).
You can get this metric for your site overall, but as a blogger, you should be more interested in finding out how many additional pages people tend to view after entering your site via a specific blog post.
You can get this data in Google Analytics by navigating to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages. The landing pages report shows you what pages people viewed first when visiting your site, plus data for each of those pages for metrics like bounce rate, average session duration, and pages per session:
In an ideal world, every visitor to your blog would convert immediately. Of course, that’s never the case. But if you can’t get everyone who visits your blog to convert immediately, you at least want them to stay on your site for a while and consume more of your content.
The more content they read and pages they view, the more familiar they’ll become with your brand and products/services, and the more likely they’ll be to subscribe to your newsletter, come back to view your content again later, or at least see you as a reputable source when your content pops up in their search results.
If your posts have a low number of pages per session, it may mean that you need to add more internal links to direct visitors to other pieces of content on your site, or it may mean that your offer or CTA wasn’t compelling enough for visitors to click further into your site.
Writing consistent, strong content helps you create authority in your space and stay top-of-mind for prospects. They will be more likely to recommend you to others, and when the need for your product arises, you will be an obvious solution. You will be able to develop more streams of traffic beyond first-time organic search visitors.
For that reason, another important Google Analytics metric for measuring the success of your blog is returning visitors: the number of people who’ve returned to your site to read a specific blog post.
If people are spending a lot of time reading your blog posts, that’s a great sign that you’ve created a quality piece of content. But another sign that your content is useful and high quality is that people are referencing your blog posts multiple times. Returning visitors gives you that data.
Finding returning visitors for your blog posts in Google Analytics is a little trickier than finding some of the other metrics on this list, but it’s worth it to get the data you need. Here’s how to do it:
This will add another column to your report that lists the type of user (new or returning) for each page on your list.
Next, you’ll want to sort your list by page to see the number of new versus the number of returning visitors for each of your blog posts. To do this, click the Page header.
This sorts all of the data by page so that you can easily view new and returning visitors side-by-side for each of your blog posts:
If returning visitor data is missing for any blog post, that means your post has only attracted new visitors—no one has returned to view your blog post a second time.
Beyond helping you identify which posts are the highest quality, measuring returning visitors per blog post also helps you identify what other, similar content your visitors might be interested in reading.
For example, let’s say you have a personal finance product. If a blog on credit card debt attracts a high percentage of return visitors, you know that credit card debt is a major struggle for your readers.
Goals in Google Analytics measure actions you want visitors to take after reading one of your blog posts. That might be signing up for your newsletter, signing up for a free trial or freemium version of your product, filling out a form, or making a purchase.
Your goal conversion rate in Google Analytics tells you the percentage of visitors who took that action when the first page they viewed was a specific blog post. This is one of the most important blog metrics to track because it tells you how your blog posts are contributing to larger department and company goals.
To track your goal conversion rate, you first need to set up a goal in Google Analytics. Once you have a goal set up and have given Google Analytics some time to collect data, you can find your goal conversion rate for different blog posts by navigating to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages.
Your goal conversion rate for different blog posts is perhaps the best indicator of which topics need more content. Once you can track your post-by-post conversion rate, you will learn how to bring qualified traffic to your site. Write more about a high-converting topic, or just drive more traffic to the existing high-converting post.
At Databox, we use these five blog metrics to make informed, strategic decisions about our blog. Combined, these metrics help us make editorial decisions based on how our current content impacts our entire sales and marketing funnel. They also help us make decisions about which posts to promote more heavily.
When we see a post performing well across all metrics, we know we have a winner. When we see we have a few winners with common topics or formats, we know we’ve found a system for producing better and better results in the future.
That doesn’t me we stop experimenting with new formats and topics. It just means we know what’s working and can do more of that to hit our growth goals.
And as you might imagine, we use our own product to track these five metrics. This saves us from having to click around in Google Analytics to view multiple reports. Instead, we see everything in one central, shareable view:
And the Blog Quality Metrics dashboard pictured above is a free template you can use to easily track these metrics in the same way we do.
As long as your blog posts have “blog” in the URL (i.e. databox.com/blog) or the page title, this will work for you as soon as you set it up. We did the hard work to set up custom queries for you.
If you’ve been making editorial decisions solely based on the amount of traffic a blog post gets, this dashboard will help you become more data-driven.
If you want to step up your Google Analytics reporting, check out our comprehensive Google Analytics guide, and learn everything there is about Google Analytics dimensions, metrics, and much more.
Originally published in June 2017, this post has been updated with additional information about each metric and details for how to find this data in Google Analytics.
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