Now that you’ve set up a blog and are regularly publishing content, you need to monitor its performance. Measurement and metrics are an integral part of the blogging equation — just as a doctor uses a stethoscope to check your pulse and heart rate, bloggers use metrics to check their blogs’ health.

Thankfully, none of these tasks are too difficult — though they do have a learning curve — and there are already established, standardized metrics, as well as analytics tools to measure them. Just find out which ones are relevant to you, and use them to track your performance.

You will first need to set some goals, but once you do, metrics will help you figure out how you’re doing. If you regularly check this data and find that something’s not working, you can take corrective measures to get your blog back on track.

Here are four key metrics you should always keep an eye on:

1. Your Visitors: Who Are They, and Where Are They Coming From?

At the most basic level, you must track how many visitors your blog attracts on a daily basis. More importantly, you need to make sure they’re the visitors you want. For example: if you’re selling women’s clothes in America, but mostly attracting single males from Europe, then you’re doing something wrong.

You should also distinguish between new visitors, unique visitors, and return visitors — fortunately, these are also easy to track. Most content management systems have integrated analytics platforms that’ll give you these numbers. Others, like WordPress, have several plugins for measuring visitors.

Google Analytics is a powerful, free tool that works with most platforms. It gives you the full picture across all your different channels, including ads, videos, blogs and social networks. It even breaks down your audience demographics, including age, gender and interest categories.

If the data tells you to attract more visitors, or different visitors, then you need to invest more time and effort into improving or promoting your content.

2. Your Traffic: Where is It Going?

Imagine driving on a crowded highway, where everyone seems to be heading in the same direction. But of course, everyone’s going to a different destination. This is exactly what’s happening on your blog: all your visitors are making a beeline to check out your latest content — that’s great! But where on your blog are they going? Which pages are they visiting?

Aggregated content data can tell you how and where your traffic is coming from, and where users spend time on your site. You can also use tools like Technorati, Google Analytics, Alexa, and Quancast to measure traffic and other related data.

Once you have a clear picture of your traffic, you can then work on improving it – for example, do you need to improve your Search Engine Optimization (SEO), or collaborate with other websites for outbound/inbound links? Do you need to boost your social activity, or start an email newsletter? If you’re using Google AdWords, do you need to boost your ad spend, or incorporate better keywords? The answers are in the data.

3. Your Social Interactions: Are You Engaging Enough?

To see if your blog posts are popular, keep an eye on metrics like visits, followers, inbound links, and especially social interactions — like the amount of comments on a blog post or number of retweets. These measure engagement and indicate how interested readers are in your content.

Google Analytics is a great resource (again), and most of the bigger social networks (including Facebook and Twitter) have built-in analytics tools. You can also take advantage of specialized social measurement platforms, both free (Topsy, Klout) and paid (HootSuite, Meltwater).

4. Your Own, Custom Metrics: What Are You Keeping Track Of?

At this point, you’re probably asking yourself some questions: “Do I really need all these web analytics tools? And how do I choose what metrics to monitor?”

Fortunately, you don’t need to track every single one of them — but make sure you list which metrics you do want to track. Some are more traditional – like content downloads, inbound links, and generated leads. Some are more complex, like “cost of customer acquisition” and “customer retention rate.” Regardless of what you choose, once you have your shortlist, keep it handy and readily accessible once you start monitoring.

Keep Coming Back!

The world of metrics and analytics can be tricky and confusing. However, with time, effort, and the right information, you can make sense of this confusing world. We can help with that last part: subscribe to Contentools’ blog for more analytics tips, and if you need help with your content strategy or content creation, get in touch with us today.