Blog post metrics can become useless noise if we try to complicate them too much. There are two sides to metrics, the good side and the bad side.
The good side is when your metrics highlight the things you’ve done well and the mistakes you’ve made, allowing you to make changes to your workflow process and spend your energy more effectively. The more you can improve your process, the more valuable your efforts will be.
The bad side is when you spend so much time burying yourself in numbers that you forget to do the things that actually earn you money (like creating content).
It’s best to keep your metrics simple. Only pay attention to what helps you improve your process and ignore the rest.
When it’s all said and done, the most important metric of all (in my opinion) is the number of blog posts you publish.
Although I do look at a handful of other things to ensure that I’m getting the most out of each post.
Measuring Success vs. Using Metrics To Improve Your Process
Before I dive into the handful of blog post metrics I use, I want to make something very clear about how I use all this data.
Many bloggers, especially new ones, measure their success by how much money they make. If not, they probably measure success by number of pageviews or how many articles are ranked number 1 in Google or some other results oriented measure.
Make your first $50 and go out for dinner. Your site gets 1,000 one month so you buy yourself something nice. You get the results you want and your reward yourself.
I think this is a mistake.
I don’t measure success based on results.
I measure my success based on the quality of my process. The process is something that I can control.
So here are my success metrics:
- Number of blog posts published
- Overall quality of the posts (somewhat subjective)
- Overall quality of my keyword research
I look at these three things as success metrics because I have complete (or near complete) control over all three of these things. And if I publish lots of high quality posts for great keywords, then I will make plenty of money.
I reward myself when I publish 100 great articles on well chosen topics. I’m looking forward to my next milestone, 1,000 published articles, and when I hit it you better believe I’m going to treat myself.
“Success metrics” vs. “feedback metrics”
I categorize my metrics into these two groups.
Success metrics are metrics I use to tell myself how well I’m doing. I reward myself based on my success metrics.
My success metrics are the three I listed above, with “number of blog posts published” being the primary success metric. It’s a bit harder to measure quality of the writing and quality of the keyword research, so I pretty much stick to number of posts to quantify success.
However I regularly check in on my writing and keyword research and reflect to see if I can spot areas for improvement.
Everything else is a feedback metric. Number of users, pageviews, time on page, bounce rate, and yes even monthly income are all feedback metrics for me.
A feedback metric is just data I use to inform me about how well my process is working. If my monthly pageviews are going up, then that may tell me that my keyword research is working. If my time on page is strong, then that could mean the quality of the posts is high.
So yeah, success metrics and feedback metrics. If you put too much stock in your feedback metrics, then you may get discouraged and give up.
So now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at my list of blog post metrics.
Site Level Metrics
First, let me take a big picture approach to metrics. Metrics that look at your entire website can give you a lot of useful insights, and help inform future decisions.
Here is what I look at for my three sites:
1. Number of published blog posts
This has actually become my primary metric for success.
There is a very strong correlation between number of published posts and income. The more posts you publish, the more money you make. And that’s pretty much a guarantee.
Obviously, making more money is the primary goal of blogging, so why is number of posts my primary metric?
Because I have direct control over how many articles I publish. And I don’t have direct control over how much money I make.
And because the money typically doesn’t come for a long time after you publish an article. If I were measuring success based on money, then I’d be more likely to get burned out, because you can write for 6 months straight without seeing a dime.
But I do know that more articles means more money, so I track articles published and I know that as long as that number is going up then I’m creating more money for myself.
Caveat: published articles must follow certain guidelines or they won’t be making money. For me the basic guidelines are that my articles are at least 800 words and they target winnable keywords. I follow these two rules for at least 80% of my blog posts.
2. Monthly users and pageviews
If you’re not already tracking users and pageviews, then you are missing some incredibly important data. Not going to go into detail here because everybody already tracks this.
I don’t really measure success here. These are a feedback metrics for me.
I use these two metrics to give me feedback on how well I’ve done choosing article topics and writing those articles.
3. Monthly income
Like I said, income is really the ultimate goal, but it’s a feedback metric, not a success metric.
My monthly income is split between ad revenue and affiliate revenue.
When affiliate revenue is low, it probably means one of three things:
- I’m not getting enough traffic to my affiliate articles
- Visitors aren’t being effectively prompted to click on affiliate links
- Visitors don’t trust the site
And if affiliate revenue is high then I’m doing all these things well.
When it comes to informational articles, there are three different things that can result in low ad income:
- I’m not getting enough traffic to my informational articles (OK this is the same as affiliate articles)
- My writing isn’t keeping visitors engaged
- My topics/niche pay very little
Another metric worth paying attention to is income per thousand page views. This helps shed light on how well you’re monetizing your traffic.
You can often make more money by making small changes that affect your entire site, thus increasing the value of each visitor (one example would be changing ad providers).
4. Average click through rate
Click through rate is one feedback metric I use to determine the quality of my post titles and the trustworthiness of my websites.
Google Search Console is a great supplemental tool to Google analytics and it gives you more information about how your site is performing in organic search.
You can track click through rate, average position of your articles in search results, and you can see total impression and clicks.
Note: another use for Google Search Console is assistance in keyword research. You can see what phrases your articles are ranking for and sometimes write a better, more pointed article towards a keyword with great opportunity and volume.
Blog Post Level Metrics
1. Number of words and average words per blog post
Number of words in a blog post is in fact a metric, and I actually use it as a success metric. It is rare for me to publish a post under 1,000 words and virtually unheard of for me to publish anything under 800 words.
Calling number of words a success metric may be overstating a little. I really use number of words to help determine whether a blog post is good enough.
I use quality of my posts as a success metric, and number of words is one way to measure quality of the post.
Also, in terms of ad revenue, you typically want somewhere between 1,200 and 2,000 words to maximize income.
If you can keep the average length of your blog posts between 1,500 and 2,000 words, that’s usually a positive indicator that your content is at least adequate quality.
2. Average monthly income per published blog post
I use this metric to determine how many blog posts I need to publish in order to reach my income goals.
Remember I said that income isn’t a success metric? Well this is where I work income into the equation for success.
In short, I take my total monthly income across all my sites and divide it by the total number of blog posts across all my sites.
This number ends up giving me a super useful metric, the average monthly income for each blog post.
I can say with some confidence something like “every blog post I write and publish will earn me $4 per month.”
And that motivates me to hit my primary success metric goals (blog posts published).
Armed with information like this I can say, “My goal is to publish 60 blog posts this month, and those 60 posts will earn me a $240 per month.” Or I can also say things like “If I publish 60 articles every month, I’ll publish 720 articles and add $2,880 in monthly income.”
That’s where improving the process can make a huge difference. If I can improve from $4/month per blog post to $6/month per blog post, then that $2,880/month becomes $4,320 per month.
3. Average monthly page views per published blog post
This is another feedback metric. I use it mostly to shed light on my keyword research process. The perfect keyword is one with tons of search traffic and no competition. Well my highest performing posts have lots of search traffic and little competition. And my worst performing posts either have low search traffic or competition that’s too stiff.
I use this information to help me recognize patterns during keyword research.
Am I seeing the same kinds of articles that I beat for one of my high performing articles? Well I can probably beat them again.
However, this metric can also be used to help inform my success metrics, just like average monthly income per blog post.
Remember I talked about average income per 1,000 page views?
Well with that information, and my average monthly page views per post, I can also put an average value on each blog post.
4. Impressions and clicks in search
As I track the progress of an article over time, I like to look in Google Search Console for the impression and clicks of that single article.
Check out this snapshot from Google Search Console. This is the performance of one of the highest performing articles on this website.
Guess when it was actually published?
Looking at this you might guess it was published around May or June of 2021. But you’d be very wrong.
This article was published in August of 2020, 10 months before it showed up for a single Google search. Now it gets almost 1,000 visits every month. Goes to show how long this stuff can take.
But that’s kind of beside the point. The point is that you want to see these upward trends once your article starts ranking.
It will be very low at first, then every month it should pick up a little bit until it reaches a peak.
I use this information primarily to show me how long it takes for articles to start paying off. That’s really hard to decipher unless you’re looking at individual articles. Usually it takes at least 6 months for an article to start working.
I think it’s a mistake to get too hung up on metrics. It’s best to keep it simple and track only the things that help you publish more content, and publish better content on better topics.
If you can create a metric system that keeps you focused on these three things, then you will become a successful blogger.