In a digital world, you can know a lot about your content’s performance. But, frankly, so many data points overwhelm even the most analytical entrepreneur. To make metrics a helpful tool that you’ll actually use in your business, narrow the choices to what matters most.

Pick five to 10 data points, then create a spreadsheet template to track them at least every month. How do you know what data to select? Look to the goals of your content business. Here are some potential purposes for your goals and the metrics that can help you see if you’re achieving them.

Know what motivates people to visit

Your website analytics spell out what led a visitor to your website. Did they arrive through organic search engines like Google or Bing? Did they type the URL into the address bar or click on a bookmark? Did your paid ad campaigns motivate people to visit? What traffic comes from links on other sites? How do your emails (or other emails with your links) affect traffic?

How to assess: On your Google Analytics page, click on Reports in the left column. Under Life Cycle, click on Traffic Acquisition. Click on each channel to learn even more.

What to do with the info: Change the timeframe (upper right) to see short-term and long-term trends. Assess which channels consistently deliver the most traffic and maintain or invest more resources in them. 

Identify which sources deliver little traffic. Consider spending less time on those channels. But before you do, go to that source and dig deeper into its numbers to ensure the smaller audience isn’t more valuable – staying on the site longer, converting into subscribers, etc. 

When you see spikes in any channel’s impact, dig deeper to understand what worked so well during that time.

See what content sticks 

Engagement metrics indicate what content resonated with your audience. However, the components of an engagement rate are not the same across platforms. If you opt for a channel’s official “engagement” rate, learn what goes into that calculation.

For example, Google Analytics defines the engagement rate as the percentage of sessions lasting over 10 seconds, having page views/conversions, or at least two screen views. But Instagram calculates an engagement rate based on reach – adding up likes and comments compared to the number of people who saw the post.

How to assess: Pick an engagement metric(s) that means the most to your content mission and audience-related business goals. It doesn’t have to be the standard “engagement” defined by the platform. 

You might be interested in knowing how long visitors spend on a page (time on page). Or it could be the percentage of visitors who took the action requested (conversion rate). It also could be the percentage of visitors who view only one page in a session (bounce rate).

Explore your selected platform’s analytics or insights section to ponder the options. If you already know which metric you want but aren’t sure how to find it, type it into the insights search bar.

What to do with the info: Look for topics and content formats that resonate best with your audience. Does an image with hashtag captions get more reactions than an image with a lengthy caption? Does a long-form blog post with graphics get more attention than one that’s just text? Incorporate this data into your future content planning.

Assess email effectiveness

Sending emails produces two somewhat helpful metrics – open and click-through rates. 

Click-through rates are easy to interpret. They represent the number of unique clicks on links in the email compared to the number of delivered emails. 

Open rates calculate the percentage of recipients who “opened” the email compared to the total number delivered. But there’s a caveat with open rates. If you have many Apple Mail users in your subscriber base, open rates may be artificially inflated because Apple preloads their emails, which indicates it was opened even if the recipient never viewed them. (Expect other service providers to do something similar in 2024.)

How to assess: Each email program has its own analytics section. All should share the CTR and open rates. With the CTR, identify both the unique clicks and total clicks. 

What to do with the info: With open rates, look for spikes (up or down). Then, assess the subject and sender lines as well as the previews for those emails to understand what really resonated (or disinterested) your audience. Do more of what worked well – style, topic, sender, etc.

Don’t look too hard at open rates to assess whether the content in the body of the email worked well. After all, your subscribers must open the email before they can see what you published.

Look across time to identify trends in open rates. Is there a time of year when it rises? Does it drop during other times? Is there a slow decline in open rates or a gradual increase? Does one topic do better than others?

As for clicks, explore the subject and phrasing around the links people tapped (and the ones they didn’t). Did one offer work better than the other? Do subscribers want to learn more on a certain topic? Do they prefer emails with worksheets or templates to help them?

See who shares your content 

Backlinks occur when another site publishes a URL to your site, usually within their content. Through these backlinks, new audiences are prompted to view your content, and search engines recognize that others find your site valuable.

How to assess: You can use free and paid tools to assess. Logically, the free tools offer basic or limited information. Google Search Console, Moz Link Checker, Ubersuggest, Ahrefs Webmaster Tools, and Semrush are among the options.

What to do with the info: The sites that consider your content valuable and relevant for their audience could be good opportunities for content collaborations, sponsorships, and more. But before you reach out, do some additional research to ensure their brand is something you want to connect your content brand to. Does it provide quality content? Does its audience seem like one that would be likely to join your audience?

Once you’re ready to reach out, craft an engaging pitch.

Count what matters

By focusing only on those metrics that matter most to your business goals, you can make analytics more manageable for your content business – and more likely that you’ll track and assess them on a regular basis.

Helpful Resources:

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About the author

Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. An IABC Communicator of the Year and founder of G Force Communication, Ann coaches and trains professionals in all things content. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.