Talking tech since 2003

One of the hardest things about blogging is knowing which post(s) to promote. It sucks, right? Googling “how to promote your blog” returns 67 million hits, each of them providing conflicting information – you should be doing this, 10 ways you’re killing your blog by doing that, and on, and on.

It’s common to hear content marketers making decisions off of simple numbers: total page views, total #shares, etc., which is understandable – after all, big numbers make us look good, right? We all love to see big spikes in our Google Analytics charts and numbers with lots of zeroes, because that must be a sign that we’re winning!

I hate to be a bubble-buster, but this is why they’re called Vanity Metrics. They simply pump you up and make you feel good about a post’s performance – nothing wrong with that, per se, but if you want to make an informed decision about which posts should be getting your promotional love, these aren’t the droids metrics you’re looking for.

After leading the product team at an analytics startup, and having used tons of different analytics tools, I came to the conclusion that we need to change how we think about measuring content performance and comparing the value of different posts – so in this post I’m going to share some of the metrics that can help you get a better, more objective gauge of the performance of your content.

But as Simon Sinek advises us, first ask “Why?”.

Why aren’t vanity metrics good measures of performance?

By “Vanity Metrics”, I’m referring to all the usual suspects of website performance – total page views, total number of social shares, # of comments, etc. Raw totals like these give you no idea of true performance, only history.

Focusing on raw numbers is only good for vanity’s sake.

For example, a 6 month-old blog post that has more traffic than a 2 week-old post, simply demonstrates it’s had more time to attract those eyeballs – and says nothing about the difference in quality between the two. The same goes for social shares and all the other top-level metrics that people typically lean on in conversations about performance.

Give your sapling posts a fair shot at growing into your strongest performers.

But these numbers become damaging when they mislead us into treating our oldest content as our champions because they set an unfairly high bar for our younger posts to reach with their top-level numbers, even if they actually outperform the older posts. This means you’re missing out on promoting your truly most effective content – GAH!

How to objectively compare your posts’ performance

First of all, stop focusing on vanity metrics and instead start paying attention to what your content motivates people to do. Much like throwing a memorable house party, you want to get positive confirmation that your guests genuinely had a great time at your house, instead of only fretting about the number of people who showed up.

Here are some metrics that indicate the extent to which your visitors are digging your content – it’s these numbers that can tell you whether you’re putting your best foot forward while promoting your blog.

Compare potential reach with Share Rate

A longer reach helps when you’re trying to hit your target.

Share Rate = # Social Shares / # Page views

What it tells you: The Share Rate of your post tells you how likely visitors are to share it.

Why it’s useful: Promoting posts with higher share rates increases the reach of your promotional efforts, thus potentially driving more traffic.

Additional reading:

Keep visitors on your site longer with Exit Rate/”Stickiness”

Exit Rate = # Site Exits from the Post / # Total Visits to the Post

What it tells you: Visitors are entering and leaving your website from every single page, so why not direct traffic to the ones that do the best job of keeping them there? Each page’s Exit Rate shows you how effective they are at keeping people engaged with your website and content.

Why it’s useful: Pages with the best (lowest) Exit Rates are the ones you should build links to – after all, the longer they stay on your site, the higher the likelihood they’ll do something you want them to (buy, share, subscribe, etc.).

Additional reading:

Find your most actionable content with Clickthrough Rate

Clickthrough Rate = # Clicks / # Visits

What it tells you: The higher the clickthrough rate for your post, the more likely visitors to it are to click on the links/buttons you include in it.

Why it’s useful: If you’re monetizing your blog content via clicks on Adwords or affiliate links, the posts with the highest clickthrough rates are literally your money-makers!

These are the posts working the hardest to get your visitors to click, so it behooves you to focus on driving more traffic to those posts.

Additional reading:

Build your mailing list faster with Subscriber Rate

Subscriber Rate = # of Subscribers from post / # Visits to post

What it tells you: How efficient are each of your posts at capturing new email subscribers?

Why it’s useful: Even in an age where everyone is walking around with a social media megaphone in their pockets, a robust, active email subscriber list is still one of the most valuable assets for an online business. Knowing the subscriber rate of each of your posts tells you which ones to put out there more in order to grow your list faster.

Additional reading:

Keep your visitors’ attention with Average Scroll Depth

This one’s a little more tricky to manually calculate, as it requires you to track how far down each of your visitors scrolls, then take an average of those numbers. That being said, Google Analytics, and my good friends here at KYA can track your average scroll depth for you.

What it tells you: Like it says on the tin, this metric tells you how far down the page your visitors typically scroll, once they arrive.

Why it’s useful: Put simply, greater depth indicates more visitor interest. As a rule of thumb, if your visitors are only getting about ⅓ of the way down the page or less, they’re probably seeing something they don’t like, or deciding early on that your blog post isn’t what they were looking for – and deciding to leave.

Knowing this is super-useful for figuring out how to keep your visitors’ attention longer, as you can optimize your content – find the spot where visitors are typically leaving, then enrich the post to keep them scrolling further.

Additional reading:

Completion Rate

Completion Rate = # visitors that reach ~90% depth / # visits to post

What it tells you: Very similar to your Scroll Depth, the Completion Rate tells you how likely your visitors are to get to the end of your posts.

Why it’s useful: Completion is another useful way to determine which of your posts are keeping your visitors hanging on your every word. This is also useful, if you’re including calls to action at the bottom of your post. Your posts with the highest completion rates are likely to help you best convert new visitors into customers, subscribers, etc.

Additional reading:

In Summary: Be fair to your content

Blogging is hard, and you’re putting a lot of effort into creating your content – so you should do the same when gauging its quality, and which of your posts should represent your blog to the outside world.

Vanity metrics may make you feel good, but disciplined focus on the metrics that tell you how your visitors are reacting to, and engaging with your content will help you make more informed decisions when it comes time to promote your blog. So don’t miss out on significant potential growth by using raw numbers to determine post performance!

About Jason

I advise startups on product management and have been on the teams behind 8 SaaS products in the past, including Hello Bar (acquired by Crazy Egg), Flare & Filament, which was acquired by ShareThis. I also write all about startups, product management, artificial intelligence, and designing human-readable analytics. Oh, and my favorite guilty pleasure movie is Stealth (shh, don’t tell anyone).

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