Last updated on May 29th, 2020
You made the wise decision to invest in producing high-quality content for your website, and now you want to know if it’s actually working.
But which metrics matter?
Upon first look at Google Analytics, the tool can be both impressive and overwhelming. There’s probably more data available than you ever thought possible.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be an analytics expert to know if your content strategies are working. You just need to know which data matters most. While every business is different, these 10 key performance metrics, grouped into 3 general categories, should reveal some important insights for you.
Who are your visitors?
Are your visitors loyal readers who check back regularly and browse through your website with the same kind of organized precision that they would use to read a magazine or newspaper? Or are they finding you through organic search engines, where an otherwise obscure piece of content suddenly becomes the de facto home page for that particular visitor?
To get to the bottom of who is visiting your website and how they found you, rely on these 3 metrics:
#1: New vs. returning visitors
This metric is simple enough and is typically highlighted by a color-coded pie chart right on the default dashboard of most standard analytics accounts. The chart shows percentages, but it’s more important to measure each number by raw volume. After all, it’s fine if your percentage of returning visitors falls because your marketing strategies were so successful that new people are coming to the site. But if the total number of returning visitors falls, this suggests you need to focus on retention tactics.
The Channel metric tells you where your visitors are coming from. There are a few important channels to get familiar with:
Direct. A direct visitor has typed your domain name into their browser and gone straight to your home page. A high number of direct visitor traffic either means that you have strong brand recognition or that your team’s visit to your own site isn’t being blocked from data collection and is skewing the analytics data.
Organic. The organic channel tells you how many visitors found you via the search engine results page (SERPs).
Paid search. If you’re running a pay-per-click campaign with Google, those visitors will show up under this channel.
Referral. Referral traffic indicates the number of visitors who clicked on a link to your site from another website. High referral traffic is a good indication that your link building strategies are working.
Social. Social media traffic is measured through this channel. If you click on Social, you can see the data further broken down by which social media platform the visitor found you through (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
#3: Unique visitors
Simply knowing the number of “hits” your website receives isn’t enough. One person who clicks on 10 different pages is different from 10 people who click on a single page. Unique visitors tell you how many individual people have come to your site.
It’s important to understand that the data from this metric has to be viewed as a whole. For example, is there a disparity between returning visitors and direct traffic? If so, figure out why that is.
It might be that users like your Facebook page and click on your links there (thus falling into the Social channel). In this case, you want to work on ideas to get them to visit you directly, but it’s a pretty normal part of a marketing funnel.
But what if you have visitors coming back via search engines? They obviously like your content because they keep clicking on it, but why aren’t they specifically seeking you out? Is your URL too hard to remember? Is your home page uncompelling?
Whatever the reason, understanding how metrics interact is a vital part of making wise marketing decisions.
What are your visitors doing?
There are 5 content performance metrics that will create a good portrait of what people who visit your website do upon arrival.
#4: Bounce rate
Bounce rate tells you what percentage of visitors left your site after landing on the first page, and whether that was the home page or a secondary page. A high bounce rate means that people are arriving on your site and immediately leaving without engaging further by clicking on additional pages.
Some “bounces” are normal and expected due to the nature of how people use search engines. As a general rule of thumb, a bounce rate in the range of 26 to 40 percent is excellent, while 41 to 55 percent is roughly average — though this rate may vary depending on your industry and target keywords. Simply put, you want the lowest possible bounce rate.
#5: Pages per session
Another important metric is pages per session. Presuming they stayed, how many other pages on the site are people visiting per session? This metric will give you this information and help you realize if you should develop more high-quality content to attract and retain site visitors.
#6: Time on page
How long are people spending on each individual page they visit? This metric lets you look at the average time visitors are spending on each page and can help you find potential pages that can be improved with better content, conversion optimization and other engagement tools.
#7: Exit pages
Where do your visits drop off? If it’s from a URL that has “thank-you” in its title, then visitors are probably leaving exactly when and where you want them to. They bought or signed up for something, or filled out a contact form — and it’s a natural end to a successful conversion.
But what if people are exiting a page that describes your product or service? Either your product description isn’t compelling or you’re bringing the wrong people to that page. Whatever your preferred next step is, this isn’t where you want people to leave.
#8: Sessions by device
Do most people visit your site through a desktop computer, a tablet, or a mobile phone? People behave very differently in each situation. Those on their phones are likely looking for quick information, whereas someone sitting at their desk on their laptop might be more apt to enter a credit card number to purchase something.
Of course, this data doesn’t automatically make certain traffic more valuable. A brick-and-mortar store might rely on mobile traffic to get information on location or hours, which then turns into a sale at the cash register. Every business is unique, but they can all benefit from understanding what devices people are using to access their site — and how to tailor their content and design accordingly.
Again, consider how all of these metrics interact. Maybe you’ve got a high bounce rate, but also a high average time on page. That might suggest that your content is of high quality—people are staying online and reading it. But it also means they’re just leaving after that. For an e-commerce site, this means you need to think about how to get visitors to take the next step and become leads or conversions.
How much are these visits worth?
Now we get down to brass tacks. Is this whole website thing actually improving your bottom line? Use these metrics to get to the bottom of this question.
#9: Value per visit
If you strictly sell products, this metric is easy enough to value. How many visitors do you get, and how much money do you make? Just do the math.
But content marketing is often more nuanced than that.
If a person signs up for your free newsletter, what are the odds they become a customer? Even better, a repeat customer? What kind of time-cycle is involved in that process? If you’re a brick-and-mortar shop, how can you correlate online activity to in-store purchases?
Do some deeper thinking, get more data, and you can assign a precise value for each action on your website.
#10: Cost per conversion
Following the same thought process, you can better understand how much it’s costing you to get people to take the actions you want. Are you paying someone to write your content? If it’s a staff member, what’s the value of their time? How much do you pay to host, maintain and design the website? All of these factors should be considered in your final cost-per-conversion.
The relationship between these 2 metrics should be self-evident. If the cost per conversion is higher than the value per visit, then your current approach to content marketing is costing — not making — you money.
So, what now?
Google Analytics is a treasure chest of data, and it would take a long time to exhaust every metric and the many nuances of how they all interact to tell a larger story about your marketing efforts. Start with these 10 content performance metrics and assess whether your marketing is working the way you want.
If your digital marketing efforts are falling flat and you don’t know why, or if you need help decoding your Google Analytics data, consider contacting SEO Advantage for your free website evaluation.
What metrics do you use to measure your marketing performance?
Let us know in the comments below.