Are you starting a blog -- or maybe you've been struggling with a blog for a few months without feeling like you're getting any return for your business?
You might be stuck in the page-view trap. That's the state of blog purgatory where the blogger is excessively focused on page views.
It's a trap for business bloggers because it's easy to get into (page-view data is readily available in most blog software) and easy to get stuck in (you can spend months trying to improve your page views, without making progress towards the goals of your business).
Before page-view defenders cry foul, let me be clear: Page views are widely used, useful in many circumstances and aren't going away any time soon. They are relatively easy to collect (they represent the number of requests to load a single page ), and for large blogs and media sites they're a practical way to measure the value of their audience to advertisers.
Page views are far less useful for business bloggers.
Business blogs help companies get found in search engines , build followings, generate new leads and grow sales. Page views don't directly assess progress towards any of those goals. The number of times your pages load won't give you direct insight into your blog's progress in search engine optimization or your growth of loyal readers.
So what metric should you be following?
I ask this question all the time for my work on the HubSpot blog, and I've decided there is no single answer. Business blogs must be assessed with a series of metrics.
Here are four that I pay attention to most:
(1) Quality Inbound Links -- This is the holy grail of business-blog metrics. Good links don't come everyday, but when you do get good links, they show at least three things: (1) readers are engaging with your post enough to link back to your site, (2) you have a permanent new source of traffic, and (3) your reputation in search engines in improving.
(2) Comments -- Posts that generate a lot of comments are posts that engage people. People that are engaged are likely to come back to your site. Look at your posts, see which ones have the most comments, and use those as a guide for future posts.
(3) Subscriptions -- At the end of the day, a blog is successful if you grow subscriptions. A healthy subscription list (make sure you have both RSS and email) is a huge asset. It's a group of people that you can reach out to at any time with your message. Of course, part of the art of building a subscription list is finding the right balance of great content that keeps them interested, and content that more directly advances your business goals.
(4) Conversions -- It's tempting to rely heavily on conversion data to measure the success of your blog. Users who enter your site from your blog and end up as a lead or a sale represent direct, measurable value of the blog. Obviously, that's important, but it should serve only as a baseline value. Conversion numbers don't capture the value a blog creates in SEO, the company brand and subscriptions.
So what tools can you use to track all this data?
You can track links by scouring your referral logs, searching Google or Technorati, then assessing their quality via a second set of searches. You should be able to track comments on your blogging platform or via independent services like Disqus. To track subscriptions you'll have to put your feed into a service like Feedburner, then merge your email subscription list.
In our case we use the HubSpot platform (yes, we eat our own dog food!), so all of this is in a simple blog analytics dashboard .
Photo by Stephen Downes .