Done right a company blogging can be a powerful tool. It demonstrates your expertise, communicate your company culture, build a passionate following and most of all generate leads.
Take this blog for example. Boagworld generates the vast majority of new clients for Headscape because it shows that we know what we are talking about (hopefully). It also educates prospective clients about the web and gives them a glimpse of what it would be like to work with us.
Unfortunately many company blogs are not done right and fail as a result.
This failure can be due to numerous reasons, however posting the wrong content has to be at the top of the list.
The problem is that knowing what content works can be challenging. What will appeal to your target audience? More importantly, what will encourage them to take action?
To some extent you get a feel over time about what works and what doesn’t. However, having some cold hard numbers certainly helps too.
Personally I use 5 metrics to measure what topics I should be focusing on. These are:
- Social media mentions.
- Goal completion.
- Internal search.
Let’s look at each in turn.
Company blogging is about more than traffic
This is the obvious starting point for judging topics you should write about. If you get a lot of traffic when you write design posts then it makes sense to write more.
It’s also an easy metric to track. Google Analytics provides a clear view of all the pages on your site and how much traffic they have received. All you have to do is filter out pages like the homepage and you can see the most popular posts.
However, be careful! Numbers aren’t everything. Just because a type of post is popular doesn’t mean its the most useful for you to be writing. For example, it might be attracting entirely the wrong audience or that type of post doesn’t portray you in the best light because it is link bait.
Traffic does matter, but it cannot be looked at in isolation. It needs to be looked at alongside our other criteria as well as things like dwell time. Are people actually reading what you have written or are they just hooked by a sexy title and then leavewhen the article doesn’t live up to expectations.
Social media mentions
Like traffic the number of tweets and likes a post gets can be misleading. However, at least with social media it is possible to look at who is sharing your content and get a sense of what they think of it and whether they are the right target audience.
In that sense social media mentions are certainly worth tracking. If a post is shared a lot the chances are it is popular and it would be worth considering writing more on a similar subject.
There are certainly no shortage of tools that help with kind of tracking. There are even tools that will analyse mentions to work out whether the comment is positive or negative.
Commenting is a tricky one. Generally speaking the more comments an article receives the more engaged the reader is and so the more popular the subject matter. Of course this presumes all the comments aren’t negative!
The other variable is whether you ask for comments. If you ask users for feedback they are more likely to comment. So in order to be able to compare posts you must consistently ask people to do so.
If you only track one criteria to decide future post, then make it goal completion.
Ultimately you want to write posts that encourage users to complete your call to action. For example in the case of boagworld this is to drive traffic to Headscape.
To track whether posts achieve this you need to do some configuration in Google Analytics. It’s fiddly, but as this is such an important metric, it is worth your time.
Step 1: Add your events
Before you can track your call to action it needs to be defined as an event in Google Analytics. This involves adding a small piece of code to the link or button that triggers the event.
For more information on setting up Event Tracking read the Google documentation.
Step 2: Creating an advanced segment
Once you are tracking users completing a call to action, we need to isolate that group and analyse what posts they looked at. We can do this using advanced segmentations.
In Google Analytics complete the following steps:
- Select admin on the main toolbar.
- Click on the domain name you wish to manage.
- Click on Advanced segmentation.
- Add a new segment.
- Select the event you wish to track.
Step 3: Filter by your advanced segment
Once you have your advanced segment, look at the content report and select your segment to only show those views that went on to complete a call to action.
Unfortunately this kind of tracking does have its limitations. For example it doesn’t allow you to track users who viewed a post and then completed a call to action on a subsequent visit. The article might have inspired them to act, but unless they do so immediately the link would not be apparent.
So far my suggestions for identifying future posts has focused on learning from the past. However, there is another source of information. You can review the terms people used when searching on your site.
Google Analytics can be simply configured to track what users are searching your site for. This can prove an invaluable indication of the kind of content they want.
Of course, just because a user wants you to write on a certain subject doesn’t mean it is right for you. There is no way to know if the person searching is apart of your preferred target audience. You also don’t know whether they would be more likely to complete a call to action if you wrote on their suggested subject.
However, search can be a good source of inspiration if nothing else.
A gap in the market?
Although there is no shortage of information available that will help improve the quality and effectiveness of your blog posts, it is not easy to access.
With this information spread across social networks, commenting systems and Google Analytics it can be hard to draw it all together into a complete picture.
The maddening thing is that it used to be so easy.
There was once a tool called Postrank that did all of this for you. It looked at social network mentions, comments and site analytics and boiled it all down into a score for each post on your site. At a glance you could see, which posts worked and which ones didn’t.
Unfortunately the service was bought by Google and has since been taken offline. This has left us having to pick through data to decide on future posts or just giving up entirely and going with our gut.
Surely there is an opening for a web app that would replicate what Postrank provided? Perhaps it already exists and I just can’t find it. If that is the case, let me know in the comments.
In the meantime, hopefully some of the metrics I have suggested in this post will help bring some direction to your blog writing.