Whether you’re just starting a B2B blog or have been blogging for a long time, you should be hungry to see results. After all, a lot of time and effort is going into creating new content, and it’s hard to continually feed the content marketing dragon. But if you’re looking to traditional consumer blog metrics to evaluate your success and impact, you might be disappointed.
Misleading B2B Blogging Metrics
If you’re looking to the number of RSS subscribers as a key performance indicator of your B2B blog, this may not be the right metric to measure. A small percentage of business people use RSS readers to actively track blogs in which they’re interested. This is not to say that it’s a bad metric; just don’t expect huge numbers overnight. Building a subscriber RSS subscriber base takes significant time and the numbers are almost certainly going to be lower than what you had hoped for, especially if yours is a niche B2B market.
Number of Comments
Some people look to the number of comments to determine how engaged their readership is with their content. While the number of comments on your blog posts is an indicator of engagement, it should by no means be a driving indicator of the success of your blog. In general, there seems to be less commenting on B2B blogs than there are on consumer-oriented blogs. Commenting takes time, and business people have little time. Further, several years ago, commenting used to be one of the key ways people could engage with and/or endorse your content. Today, there are a broad range of other social media tools (Twitter, Linked-In, etc) that offer alternatives quick, easy ways for readers to do this. Therefore, don’t get discouraged if your blog has a relatively small number of comments per post and if some blog posts receive no comments at all. Instead, keep focused on creating high-quality content for the blog, regardless of the amount of comments you receive.
Number of Tweets
Many blogs now have plug-ins that allow readers to easily tweet or re-tweet a blog post. These options often state the number of times that the blog post has been tweeted. Don’t get hung up on having huge numbers on your tweet counter for each blog post. Not everyone tweets information they find valuable. In addition, there are many different way to tweet a blog post, and users won’t necessarily use the tweet option you have included with your blog post. They’re going to tweet it in a way most easy for them to do so, according to their personal preferences.
Meaningful Metrics for B2B Blogging
In my opinion, one of the best ways to gauge the success of a B2B blog is to analyze how much traffic it’s generating, and to analyze how hard those blog pages are working for you. The rest of this post looks at an actual B2B blog and some of the metrics associated with evaluating its impact.
In this particular case, 54% of the site visitors are landing on the blog. Take your site’s content and break it into sections. Often you can easily do this in your analytics program by carving up URLs at the folder level (e.g., /services, /products /blog.) Do this for the most recent quarter to get an idea of how much traffic the blog is pulling in versus the other sections of your site. This will give you a snapshot of current performance.
Another important analysis is to determine which pages of your site are working hardest for you. The above graphic shows that while the blog accounts for 54% of the organic visits from search engines, the blog only accounts for 32% of the sites potential landing pages. Blog pages are delivering a disproportionate amount of traffic to the site compared to other sections. Doing this sort of analysis can tell you which pages are working hard for you, which ones aren’t, and which ones perhaps need more work in terms of content and optimization.
In this particular case the portfolio section makes up a large portion of the landing pages on the site, but it’s not doing much to drive organic traffic. Consideration should be given to whether the portfolio pages should be better optimized to attract greater organic search or whether they indeed serve a different purpose. In this case, the portfolio represents historical client engagements. While they aren’t as valuable for organic search, they are vitally important on the site to establish credibility and thereby reduce the risk a perspective B2B buyer may perceive when considering engaging this firm.
While the first graph above illustrates a snapshot in time, the most recent quarter, it’s important to look at the role your blog plays over time in terms of increasing traffic to your site. This client creates one post each week for the blog. In addition, they continue to create new content for other pages on the site. The graph above show a dramatic increase in the number of site visits starting on the blog.
While the previous graph shows the allocation of total site traffic between the blog and other portions of the site, this graph shows the amount of non-paid referrals from search engines (i.e., the traffic from organic search.) In your analytics, separate your organic traffic into two groups, one that includes visits that start on the blog, and one with visits that start elsewhere on your site. Keep track of your performance to determine whether your organic search traffic is increasing because of your blogging efforts. If you’re blogging regularly, it should. If not, you need to make sure that you are properly optimizing blog posts in accordance with the keyword strategy for the post.
You should also analyze where your blog traffic comes from. Isolate the visits that start on the blog. Take a look at where these visits are coming from and chart this information over time.
The best way to increase traffic from organic search is to write strong, focused content optimized to relevant search terms aligned with your keyword strategy.
Referral traffic for a B2B blog will increase over time if others find your content valuable and link to it. Another way to materially increase referral traffic to your B2B blog is to actively engage in forums and LinkedIn groups and link to your blog posts. From a social media standpoint, however, make sure you’re not just contributing your content; be sure to point to and promote others’ content as well.
Direct traffic can be a little misleading. The reason I say that is because of Twitter. If you properly tag your shortened URLs, visits via Twitter clients (e.g., Tweetdeck) will show up as referrals. If you don’t tag your shortened URLs, this traffic will often show up as direct traffic because Twitter clients like Tweetdeck don’t pass along the referrer string.
Blogging is a great way to increase the number of relevant keywords for which your site gets found. Track the number of any keywords from natural search for both the blog and non-blog sections of your site. In the above graph, you can see that the blog has overtaken the rest of the site in terms of the number of unique keywords driving traffic. This is a function both of more content being posted to the blog over time, and periodically going back through historical posts to better optimize them. If you’re blogging on a regular basis and aligning and optimizing posts to your keyword strategy, you should start to see material increases in the number of relevant keywords sending organic traffic to your blog. If you’re not, you need to analyze why and get some guidance.
It’s good to analyze how much time people are spending during visits that start out on your blog versus visits that start elsewhere. One measure of engagement is the duration of the average visit on your site. Again, segregate visits that begin on the blog from those that begin elsewhere. In this case, you’ll notice that recent efforts have increased the amount of time for visits originating on the blog, and that these visits are substantially longer than visits originating elsewhere on the site.
In addition to the duration of the visit, you should also look at the depth of visits. While the previous graph shows the duration of visits originating on the blog is much longer than those originating elsewhere, this graph indicates that visitors originating on the blog view substantially less pages than visitors that begin their visit on a non-blog page.
Similar to the previous graph, this graph shows the bounce rate for the blog is considerably higher than visits that originate on non-blog pages. This high bounce rate is a substantial contributor to the shallow visits noted on the previous graph. This information indicates the blog could be doing a much better job of driving visitors to other blog posts and other sections of the site. On way to mitigate this is to include links to related blog posts and to other sections of your site at the top and/or bottom of each blog post.
These are just a few of the metrics that you can look at to begin to evaluate the success of your B2B blogging efforts and pinpoint areas that may need help. You should do this sort of analysis at least on a quarterly basis and make appropriate changes to your strategy and practices.
When doing your analysis, make sure to isolate your blog traffic from traffic that begins elsewhere on your site. Incidentally, none of the above graphs include data that relates to paid search activity. If you have traffic from paid search, you need to parse out paid and non-paid traffic to properly analyze the results.
So what are your thoughts, how do you analyze the success and impact of your B2B blog?