On this episode of Ground Up, Kieran Flanagan talks about the early days of freemium at HubSpot, instilling a growth discipline that expanded well beyond the marketing team, managing cross-functional teams, and more.
Ground Up Podcast | Oct 21
Jessica Greene on May 21, 2019 (last modified on May 22, 2019) • 24 minute read
That’s what we set out to discover when we created our most recent report. We asked 74 marketers to weigh in on the blog KPIs they feel are the most important to measure, asking first about the KPIs that we feel are crucial:
The most popular response? Other.
In the end, there is no one most important blog KPI. In fact, our respondents replied with 28 different KPIs that they each feel is crucial for measuring blog performance.
So why were there so many recommendations, and which blog KPIs should you be measuring?
Let’s take a look at what our respondents recommend.
You can’t have KPIs without first setting SMART goals. Once you have a SMART goal defined, you can set your KPIs and determine which metrics to measure to track your progress toward hitting those goals.
For example, your goal might be to grow awareness of your product. Your KPIs, then, might be things like “increase organic traffic by 20% in six months” or “get at least 1,000 shares of our content on social in Q1.”
But as Oxygen’s Laurent Ross explains, you can have overall business goals/KPIs and goals/KPIs for individual pieces of content.
“The most important KPI will always depend on the stage of the content,” Ross says. The best content strategists create content for different purposes, and this must be reflected in your KPIs.”
So as you’re determining which KPIs to track, you may want to determine which KPIs are key for your overall goals, as well as which KPIs to track based on the goals of each individual blog post you publish.
Below, we’ve broken down the different KPIs by four different goals:
However, the KPIs in each section aren’t necessarily restricted to that goal. For example, social shares are in the “increase awareness” section, but they can also be used to measure engagement. Email signups are in the “increase engagement” section, but they can also be used to measure generated leads.
Here are the 28 blog KPIs that our respondents recommend measuring.
Awareness metrics are often classified as “vanity” metrics, but the truth is that increasing things like traffic, pageviews, and social shares is an important part of growing awareness of your product/service. As Nextiva’s Yaniv Masjedi said in one of our recent posts on important social media metrics:
“If we can get our brand seeded into the minds of more individuals across a company’s infrastructure, we are that much more likely to pop up in conversation—whether at the water cooler or the board room—whenever there’s a discussion concerning our niche.”
If your goal is to grow awareness, consider measuring the following KPIs.
“Traffic is the optimal metric for measuring content success,” says Noise Creative’s Jeffrey Baker. “Although the end-goal of content is lead generation and conversion to a sale, this isn’t possible if potential buyers aren’t landing on your page.”
PACIFIC Digital Group’s Jodie Booras agrees: “Traffic is so important to track because having great content that no one sees is like having a beautiful Porsche that never leaves the garage. Whether you are targeting consumers in the awareness, consideration, or conversion stage, getting customers to your blog is key.”
“Without traffic, you will have a much harder time monetizing your blog,” says Woman of Noble Character’s Susan Nelson. “Traffic translates to ad revenue, new subscribers, and sales.”
“If you’re not measuring traffic, it’s hard to audit what content types perform the best, where you’re generating users from, etc.,” says Alison Schroeder of Leighton Interactive.
Kicksta’s Rafaella Aguiar recommends monitoring traffic by source: “You should be tracking your traffic sources to determine which channels are driving traffic to your blog. It can be from organic search, direct, referral, paid, or campaign.”
“Determining your traffic sources will help you understand which channels are performing better than others so you can focus on the ones that are your leading sources for growth, Aguiar says.
SmartAcre’s Beth Kern agrees: “Most of our clients are looking to increase their organic presence via their blog, so we use traffic sources as an important KPI to measure.”
Sally Wills of Isoline Communications says that “understanding how people have found you lets you begin to more accurately profile your readers and their content preferences, which allows you to adapt your strategy to better resonate with your audience.”
And Daisy Campbell of CANZ Marketing says it’s also important to consider the costs associated with traffic from different sources: “Identifying the costs of your traffic allows you to optimize your workflows to reduce costs while also increasing traffic.”
“A session is a group of user interactions with your website that takes place within a given time frame,” says Jim Milan of Auto Accessories Garage. “A session can contain many pageviews, events, or ecommerce transactions.”
“It’s possible for a single user to have many pageviews within a single session, so if you’re just tracking pageviews, it seems like there were many interactions from many users. But sessions keeps track of all of those pageviews in a single session,” Milan says.
“Measuring the growth of blog sessions over time can help you understand the performance of your content marketing efforts over the long run,” says Flaunt Digital’s Daniel Dudley. “For example, if your sessions remain stagnant over the space of several months, this could be an indication that you need to try something new.”
Colorstone Marketing’s Brad Ormsby measures visitors for many of the same reasons that other respondents recommend measuring traffic and sessions.
“Without visitors,” Ormsby says, “you can’t optimize for email sign-ups, product sales, or any other goals.”
“Pageviews show you how many people saw your content,” says Katherine Faulk of inferno. “It’s particularly helpful to measure alongside metrics like time-on-page and pages per session.”
“It’s important to see how much traffic your site is getting and whether or not that number is increasing over time,” says Studio DBC’s Erin Kahn.
“Pageviews is a key metric because it tells us whether or not a topic was relevant to our audience,” says Romy Fuchs of BEE Inbound AG. “Since we are HubSpot users, we can easily see the pageviews for the blog as a whole and per article.”
Editor’s note: Want a quick view of how your top blog KPIs have changed year-over-year? HubSpot users can download this free HubSpot Marketing Monthly Reporting dashboard to compare YOY performance for key blog KPIs like sessions by source, pageviews, and number of blogs published.
“Social shares is an important KPI because it shows that people enjoyed and appreciated your posts enough to share it with others,” says Mark Hunter of Mark Of Approval Web & Marketing. “Most sharing plugins will allow you to see how many times a post has been shared to your social networks.”
“Commenting on blogs is no longer a thing,” says Bonehook’s David Burn. “The conversations around content are widely dispersed on a multitude of social sites.”
Like the KPIs in the previous section, the KPIs in this section can also be used to measure growth in awareness.
However, while the KPIs in the section above could be used to measure awareness growth from efforts on any channel, these metrics are specific to awareness growth from organic search.
If your goal is to increase organic traffic and search rankings, consider measuring the following KPIs.
“The most important KPI to measure is organic traffic,” says Emu Web Marketing’s Steve Canipe. “Almost everything else filters into this one KPI.”
“If you’re doing your blog correctly, organic traffic will really give you a good measure of the pulse of your site. Are you bringing in the specific, targeted traffic that your blog is reaching out to? If so, this will open doors to many others, as it will give you insights into the keywords your visitors are using to find you.”
“From there, you can review other indicators like bounce rate, inbound links, etc. However, these all contribute to your organic ranking in SERPs—not the other way around.”
“When measuring the overall performance of your blog, always look at organic landing page visits in Google Analytics,” says Sam Olmsted of Superior Honda. “This will tell you how many people are seeing your content as a search result and clicking through to your website.”
“The most important KPI for me is page authority,” says Tablet Resellers’ Akiva Leyton. “This tells me how powerful each blog post is and lets me know how it’s impacting the rest of my website.”
“I use SEMrush to view this, and it is essential to my marketing strategy.”
Editor’s note: SEMrush users can get a quick overview of all of their most important organic traffic KPIs by downloading this free SEMrush Keywords & Organic Search Traffic dashboard that combines key metrics from SEMrush and Google Analytics.
“If we were to select a single KPI to measure blog success, we would consider keyword ranking to be among the most important,” says Niles Koenigsberg of FiG Advertising + Marketing.
“We believe that the value in this metric is actually two-fold: (1) your rankings for your targeted keywords and (2) your rankings for related keywords that you were not previously ranking for.”
“For example, if your blog article targets ‘Denver digital marketing’ and it’s strategically optimized, your rankings will naturally improve for that specific keyword.”
“Another way you measure success with this single KPI would be if your blog also gets indexed for new, related keywords like ‘digital advertising’ or ‘marketing near me.’”
“How your blog ranks for your targeted keywords and the network of related queries relevant to your topic can give you a good idea of how your blog is performing in organic search.”
“As the name implies, this is the average position of your site in search results, says DollarSprout’s Jeff Proctor.
“Why is average position important? It’s a great indicator of the overall health of our blog, especially as we balance publishing new content versus updating old content. Since our site is largely dependent on search engine traffic, this is a quick metric we can look at to gauge how authoritative Google views us as a whole.”
“If our average position starts to slip, it’s typically a sign that we need to slow down on publishing and shift more of our focus to improving existing content and otherwise building our authority.”
“One of the most underrated blog KPIs is inbound links,” says Matt Benevento of Geek Powered Studios. “Backlinks are a crucial ranking factor that will build the authority of your blog on search engines like Google and Bing.”
“Quality, relevant backlinks to your blog tell search engines that your content should be prominently featured in top search results. The higher you rank, the more traffic you can expect. Inbound links from well-trafficked sites can also provide your blog with reliable referral traffic.”
“There are some great tools like Ahrefs that track your backlinks.”
“The most important KPI for measuring the overall performance of our blog right now is featured snippets,” says LogoMaker’s Audrey Strasenburgh.
“Whenever we write our blog content, we always strive to make sure that each of our blogs fully answers a question in hopes that it will appear in a featured snippet. Appearing in these spots not only increases our online visibility and trust but also our click-through rate and the number of sessions.”
“Measuring this KPI will tell you how useful, accurate, unique, and thorough your content is.”
“We are currently using a few different third-party tools to measure this specific KPI, but at the moment, Ahrefs and BrightEdge are the ones giving us the most accurate and up-to-date results. Both tools tell us if we have a page URL inside a featured snippet, image pack, or site links.”
If your content is engaging, it’s easier to build an audience that’s not dependent on third-party traffic sources like search and social. But engagement metrics can tell you about a lot more than just how your efforts are paying off in your attempts to build an audience of your own.
KPIs like average time on page and bounce rate let you know how well you’re satisfying searchers’ queries when they arrive on your page from paid or organic search. And they can tell you how well your content caters to your target audience on different social networks.
If your goal is to increase audience engagement or build an audience of your own, consider measuring the following KPIs.
“While the general wisdom says pageviews make or break a blog, we believe it is truly the average session duration that matters,” says Shrex Design’s Shreyash Mishra. “Session duration speaks to your quality and credibility: two of the most important goals of a blog.”
Caroline Sumners agrees: “You want to know that potential customers are coming to your site and staying long enough to read and consume your blog.”
“If people come to your site and stay to read your blog content, you know you’re doing something right,” says BestCompany.com’s Alayna Okerlund. “Session duration speaks to the quality of your content.”
“One visitor may read one really long blog post and then leave,” says Vital Dollar’s Marc Andre. “If you look at average pageviews per visitor, that one pageview won’t look very impressive. But if that visitor spent 15 minutes on your blog reading that one page, that’s really good.”
While session duration measures the average time a user spends on your site, average time on page measures the average amount of time a user spends on a specific page of your site.
“A high average time on page is a solid indicator that your blog is performing well,” says Pedro Campos of PedroConverts. “This key metric will tell you if your content is relevant, engaging, and good enough to make people want to come back. Nobody wants to spend time on a blog that doesn’t provide any useful information.”
“The longer a user is on a blog the more likely it is that he/she is engaging with the content on the page—not bouncing off or exiting the site,” says Wpromote’s Jessica Anguiano.
“Average time on page of a blog post can be found and compared to site-wide content in Google Analytics. By then drilling down deeper, you will hopefully find that users who are engaging with your blog posts are navigating further into the site and are actually converting,” Anguiano says.
“When executing a content-focused, inbound marketing strategy, keeping your audience’s attention is key to building the relationship that ultimately leads to a conversion,” says Big Sea’s Autumn Sullivan.
“I look to see how much of our overall monthly website traffic is returning visitors, and which blog pages are driving those returns.”
“When measuring the performance of your blog, it’s important to focus on the bounce rate,” says Roger West’s Samantha Simon. “Even if you have many pageviews, if your bounce rate is high, then you know people are not engaging.”
Avanade’s Jennifer Glover says that bounce rate can show you where to focus your efforts:
“I monitor my bounce rate very closely in my PowerBI dashboard. If I’m seeing in the data that my how-to articles are producing lower bounce rates than my product review articles, then I’ll adjust my editorial calendar accordingly so that, over time, my overall bounce rate will decrease.”
YourParkingSpace’s Gregory Golinski says a low bounce rate can help you rank higher in search: “If your bounce rate is low, Google’s RankBrain will understand that your content is very helpful and popular. This will help your website rank higher in search results, which will lead to more traffic and conversions.”
And Nili Zaharony of Penguin Strategies says that looking at bounce rate can help you find ideas for topics that will resonate with your target audience. “Find the blog topic with the lowest bounce rate and then write, write, write.”
If we were going to say which blog KPI is most important based on the results of this survey, we’d have to say email signups. Of all of the KPIs our respondents recommended, email and newsletter signups received more votes than any other blog KPI.
So why is measuring email signups important?
“In my opinion, the reason for a blog to exist is to capture prospects at the top of a sales funnel,” says James Pollard of The Advisor Coach. “For most marketers, the next step for a prospect after reading a blog post is to sign up for an email list.”
B King Digital’s Branko Kral agrees: “Blog posts are used to drive relevant traffic and to capture that traffic’s email addresses. Other channels and flows are used to convert those users later. Newsletter signups are indeed the bread and butter.”
“No other single metric provides a better overview of your blog’s performance,” says Robert Baillieul of Lombardi Publishing. “It tells you whether potential customers can find your content. It tells you if they have actually clicked on your articles. It tells you if they have actually read and appreciated your posts.”
“The way we measure these sign-ups is by using MailerLite to create our signup forms and then looking into its analytics,” says Ahlem Mahroua of bHYPE. “MailerLite lets me know daily how many new subscribers I have collected out of how many times the signup forms were displayed.”
Editor’s note: Not a MailerLite user? No worries. You can use Databox to easily track new signups for email providers like Mailchimp, Seventh Sense, HubSpot, Marketo, SendGrid, or Campaign Monitor. The free Mailchimp dashboard below is a great example, showing new subscribers and other key email marketing metrics side-by-side.
“In my opinion, the most important KPI for marketers to track on their blog is their CTA click-through rate,” says HQdigital’s Meghan Hultquist. “We make sure to always include at least one CTA in each blog post, and we monitor its performance diligently.”
Miva’s Luke Wester agrees: “It answers the question: ‘Did the user like the blog enough to consume more of our content?’ It informs your team what topics are appealing to your audience and empowers your team to create better content.”
“It also sheds light on conversion rate optimizations. You may have a popular blog that fails to convert and the reason is due to a lack of a clear next step for the user. Focusing on click-through-rate helps to define readers’ preferences, allowing your team to make the most engaging content,” Wester says.
“The best indicator of the overall quality of our work is the frequency of users who follow a link or query our archives and go on to read more of our content,” says Colibri Digital Marketing’s Andrew McLoughlin. “If we’ve done our jobs, our readers will want to read more.”
“The number of comments (collective and per post) is the hidden KPI that most marketers miss when tracking the overall performance of their blogs,” says Kurt Uhlir of The Made in America Movement.
“Overall traffic, the number of visitors, and even signups are important, but those are trailing indicators to performance and can take months to fully develop as Google’s algorithm ranks the page. The number of comments is a leading indicator of how the content is resonating with your visitors.”
“Top posts by views is the most important KPI for us,” says Catalin Adam of TUYA Digital. “It helps us figure out what content to adapt to improve our CRO efforts and get more leads.”
ExpertSure’s Ollie Smith agrees: “Knowing which posts are real traffic-drivers and which topics, types, and formats are most popular will enable you to sustainably grow your traffic numbers.”
“Use the data about which of your posts perform the best and keep making content just like that,” says Lauren Pope of G2. “It will keep people coming back for more.”
For many content marketers, the most important blog KPIs are things that point to ROI: lead acquisitions, sales, revenue generation, etc.
The following KPIs will help you measure the goals that your boss and/or clients are most interested in.
“Perhaps the most important KPI to track for your blog is not the number of views but the actions taken after your post is read,” says Matt Erickson of National Positions. “ Was a subscription form filled out? Are readers going to other places on your site? Or is your pop-up for a free offer being accepted?”
Conversions is a metric that serves as a sort of catch-all for different actions visitors can take on your site. “A ‘conversion’ could mean many different things depending on the context,” says MarketMuse’s Stephen Jeske.
“It could be email signups, a marketing-qualified lead, a sales-qualified lead, or even a sale itself. At the very least, a conversion is the start of the journey on the path to a sale,” Jeske says.
“Conversions demonstrate true intent and can actually affect ROI and future business, whereas sessions and views are not indicative of effective and engaging content,” says Arcalea’s Leo Herrera.
“You should set a clear conversion path and measure its effectiveness,” says Tony Mastri of MARION Marketing Firm. “These conversion paths are all furthering your marketing efforts and contributing in some way to the success of your company.”
“I track conversions through HubSpot by looking at the number of CTA clicks, views, and conversions each blog is generating,” says SyncShow’s Jasz Joseph.
Editor’s note: HubSpot users can see all of their key blog KPIs, including conversions, by downloading this free HubSpot Marketing CONVERT Performance dashboard.
If you’re measuring conversions that aren’t true sales, The Good’s David Hoos recommends taking it a step further and measuring qualified conversions.
“Our true-north metric for our content is qualified conversations. That means someone whom, based on an initial call, we know has the budget for and an interest in our offering.”
“As a SaaS company in a vertical market, the most important metric we track for blog performance is campaign responses by target accounts,” says Julia Woodward of VTS.
“We associate each one of our blog posts with its own specific campaign so we can track opens and click-throughs when the blog post is sent out to our blog subscribers or gets used as part of a nurture campaign.”
“Then, we not only track general responses to each of those campaigns but we also specifically look at how our target accounts are interacting with and responding to that content based on the number of opens and click-throughs each campaign is receiving.”
“While blogs offer top-of-the-funnel content, this metric is an insightful indicator into if your messaging throughout the funnel is resonating with your target audience, or if you may need to do some additional persona research, segmentation, and copywriting.”
After email signups, leads acquired was the second-most-popular blog KPI our respondents recommended. And as A1 Future Technologies’ Srish Agrawal explains, the two KPIs can be related: “lead acquisition can be anything from an email address for a mailing list subscriber to a new, paying customer.”
So why is it important to measure leads?
Museum Hack’s Michael Alexis explains: “We’ve had some articles that get tens of thousands of views—mostly from SEO—but result in very little actual business for us.”
“If you get 1,000 people to read one of your blog posts but only one person enters his/her email, your conversion rate is 0.1%,” says Growth Hackers’ Jonathan Aufray. “But, if your blog post only attracts 100 visitors but you generate five leads out of it, this is a conversion rate of 5%, which, in my opinion, is much better.
“If you don’t capture, measure, and optimize lead volume from your blog and blog posts, you’ll be missing out on the biggest benefit of having a blog in the first place,” says Lianna Kissinger Virizlay of Vertical Measures.
“We really drill-down into leads generated per blog post, and we constantly split test which lead-capture tactics are outperforming others,” says Nathan Reiche of Content Chemistry.
“Contact form submissions are my top pick for evaluating a blog’s performance,” says Nextiva’s Yaniv Masjedi. “It’s unrealistic to assume you are going to make a sale off of a blog, plain and simple. However, your blog should take top- to mid-funnel prospects and suck them a little further down to solidly mid-funnel.”
“This is where I consider the contact form submission comes into play: prospects are nearly convinced of your authority and ability to solve their problems. Now, they are voluntarily increasing their exposure to your product or service.”
“After a contact form submission, you’re not yet on easy street, but it is downhill. You’ve got them on your email list. If your sales team is lucky, you already have their phone number. Either way, you no longer exclusively rely on them navigating to your website. Instead, you provide fresh, CTA-packed content directly to their inboxes.”
“The most critical KPI for our team’s blog is our lead generation rate,” says Gwen Sim of Dearest, Inc. “We believe our lead generation rate is the true test of whether visitors find enough value in our blog to subscribe to our mailing list, submit an inquiry about our programming, or convert into a paying customer.”
“Our lead generation rate is a litmus test for both the quality of our blog’s content and how aligned that content is to our customers’ needs and expectations.”
“Using Google Analytics acquisition reports, we’re able to track and analyze the number of new leads directly referred to our main site from our blog. We then use our Google Analytics conversions reports to further break down the number of visitors to our blog who converted into paying customers.”
“The most important KPI for measuring the overall performance of our blog is revenue,” says Social Catfish’s Johnny Santiago.
“It’s vital for marketers to track revenue generated by your blog because it will give you ideas for topics that you need to create to cater to people in need of your product or service.”
“We currently track revenue generated from our blog through Google Analytics and pull data from there to optimize our blog content based on revenue.”
When deciding on which blog KPIs to measure, Thomas Bosilevac of MashMetrics recommends “defining KPIs in groups of two.”
“We choose a qualifier (such as conversion rate) for every quantifier (volume) that allows us to baseline whether we should concentrate on growing or improving traffic, engagement, loyalty, customer success, and more,” Bosilevac says.
Grace Montealegre of Persist Communications agrees that tracking multiple KPIs together is key. “You have to have a holistic multi-channel view with a multi-touch attribution model. Measuring multiple metrics allows you to be more agile in optimizing and adjusting your content.”
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