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As blogging and social media begin to enter into the business and marketing mainstream, we inevitably seek ways to measure their performance.

When a company launches a blog, it wants to know all it can about the traffic coming to the site, particularly the amount of traffic.

But is traffic volume in and of itself the best way to measure the performance of your blog? Here are areas of your blog's traffic that might be more important.

1. Where Is Your Traffic Coming from?

Web site traffic sources are also known as referral sources. If I could study only one area of my blog's traffic, I would choose to study referrals. Why does referral traffic carry so much weight? Because it tells me which sites are sending traffic to my blog.

Let's say you daily check your blog's traffic and know that you usually get 50 visitors on an average Tuesday. But this Tuesday you got 256. Why? Obviously, you had a traffic spurt that came from somewhere... but what caused it? Was it one blog link? Or did one blog link to your blog, then three other blogs saw the first link and added a link on their sites? Or did a prominent Twitter user send a link to followers on Twitter? Without monitoring your referral traffic, you really have no idea what happened.

Why is it important to know? Because once you start closely monitoring your referral traffic, the information you gather gives you a great idea of where you should be spending your social media time! And the best way to grow traffic to your blog is to spend time off your blog. It could be commenting on other blogs, it could be on Twitter, it could be on Facebook.

And if you spend time off your blog, and also monitor your referrals, you can begin to determine where (which sites) you should be devoting more time.

Action point: Watch your referrals, which will help you determine where you should be spending your time with social media. Doing so will also alert you to bloggers who are linking to your blog posts and sending their readers to you—and you can then go their blog and thank them. It's just common courtesy, and it increases the chance that they will link to your blog again.

2. When Is Traffic Arriving at Your Blog?

Have you ever wondered why you rarely see bloggers posting new posts on the weekend? The reason is that most people read fewer blog posts on the weekend, so bloggers have decided that it makes more sense to publish new posts during the week.

Keeping a close eye on when your blog gets more traffic can help you craft your posting schedule.

Let's say you only write two posts for your blog for next week. When do you publish them? As soon as you write them? Certainly not, if inspiration strikes after dinner on Sunday night—or when you wake up at 3 AM on Tuesday morning and can't get back to sleep so you write a post.

Posting new content to your blog when no one is reading it is not a good idea. But if you closely monitor your traffic trends and know which two days are the best for traffic to your blog, then you know when to publish those posts.

To break it down even further, check what time of the day is best for traffic, and publish the posts then!

Action point: Closely monitor when your blog has the most visitors; you can then maximize the exposure that new posts will get. Watch your traffic over time so that you know which days of the week are best for traffic, and what time of the day. This is especially important if you have only one or two writers for your blog. Focus on publishing new posts on your highest traffic days first, and then branch out. This also helps train your blog's readers to know when to expect new posts, which increases the likelihood that they will visit your blog on days when you normally publish new posts.

3. Know How Many Subscribers Your Blog Has

Subscribers are special people. They have decided that they want to have your new blog posts delivered to them via email or a feed reader, as soon as those become available. You should closely track how many subscribers your blog has, just as you watch your blog's traffic.

Subscriber numbers can help you get a better idea of the makeup of your blog readership. For example, if your blog's traffic is steady and your posts aren't receiving many comments, that could suggest that your blog isn't resonating with your readers. But if your subscribers are also growing at the same time, this could suggest that you are creating content that your readers find interesting—but they're simply not commenting on them. Which is definitely better than creating content that they both don't find interesting and aren't commenting on. But you can't know this until you start to closely examine how your subscribers are trending.

Action point: Start paying close attention to your blog's subscribers. Using a free tool like Feedburner, you can "burn a feed" for your blog and then track how many times people are subscribing to that feed, and which posts are clicked on more than others, giving you greater insight into how your readership is reacting to the content you are creating.

4. Track Which Posts Get the Most Comments

While traffic to your blog is good, engaged traffic is even better. You want people to both visit your blog and find value in the content you are providing them. And one way you can track engagement is to measure how many comments your readers leave.

Also, keep an eye on which topics generate the most feedback from your readers, who will in essence be telling you which topics they are interested in seeing on your blog.

Also, posts that have more comments are more likely to be read by visitors.

Action point: Closely monitor how many comments your posts get. Just as you do with your traffic, track to see which days are the best for comments on your blog, and which post topics get more comments. The information you gather will help you create posts that are interesting and valuable to your readers, and that will increase your blog's traffic.

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Now that you have four ways to closely monitor your blog's traffic, here are two free tools that can help you better study and understand the people who are reading your blog.

SiteMeter

SiteMeter is a free tool that let's you track your blog's traffic. You sign up for a free account, and then SiteMeter gives you a small piece of code that you add to your blog's template. Then SiteMeter can track your traffic and give you real-time updates on how much traffic your blog is getting, where it is coming from, what pages are being viewed, and what page each visitor clicked when they left your blog.

SiteMeter is a great tool to use for getting real-time information about your blog's traffic. For example, if your blog is suddenly experiencing a traffic spike, you can check referrals to your blog with SiteMeter, and see, for example, that your latest post was linked to by a power user on Twitter. Or if you suddenly see traffic arriving at your blog from another blog, that could tell you that the other blogger just linked to one of your posts. SiteMeter isn't the most robust traffic analyzing tool, but it does an excellent job of giving you information in real time about your blog's traffic.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is much more robust than SiteMeter, and is also free to use. As with SiteMeter, you sign up for a free account and add a small piece of code to your blog's traffic. Unfortunately, Google Analytics does not provide real-time information about your traffic. But it does give you much more information about your traffic sources, which keywords people are putting into search engines to arrive at your blog, and what content is receiving more clicks on your blog.

Also, where the free version of SiteMeter only gives you information on your blog's traffic for the last 12 months, Google Analytics goes back further. I installed Google Analytics on my blog in August of 2007, and can still track information about my blog's traffic since that time.

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With these four tips and the aid of SiteMeter and Google Analytics, you will now be able to get a much better understanding of your blog's traffic. Once you better understand your blog's readership, then you can tailor your content, as well as when and how it is distributed, so that your readership will grow.

Want to learn more about evaluating your blog marketing program? Check out SmartTools: Blog Marketing (FREE) from the Marketing Tools section of the MarketingProfs Library to learn how to assess (and improve) your blog's impact. As a Premium Member, you have free access to this and hundreds of other templates, tools, case studies, research, and "how-to" guides to help you rapidly build effective marketing programs.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Mack Collier

Mack Collier is a social-media strategist based in Alabama. He helps companies build programs and initiatives that let them better connect with their customers and advocates. His podcast, The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show, discusses ways that brands can turn customers into fans. His first book, Think Like a Rock Star: How to Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies That Turn Customers Into Fans, was published in April 2013 by McGraw-Hill.

Twitter: @MackCollier

LinkedIn: Mack Collier