Understanding what readers want depends on measuring the right things. The best measures to use depend on whether you want to grow traffic, increase engagement or confirm that your content works for an intended audience.
Do you want to grow traffic?
You might want to increase traffic to boost ad revenue or widen the size of the funnel for lead generation. If so, “total sessions” – visits to your site – is a useful measure, one that is a good starting point for conversations with advertisers.
But lead generation depends more directly on “users”, the number of unique visitors you see in a week or month. If you have a lot of visits but relatively few users, lead generation will be limited to those who are already familiar with you. In that case, growing the number of users should take priority over total visits.
Do you want to increase engagement?
If you want to strengthen the connection you have with your readers, “page views” and “pages per session” can be useful measures. Here, it’s important to understand the spread. Do most visitors view multiple pages, or does a very engaged minority shape the result? The answers can in turn influence the audiences you cultivate.
A companion measure, “average session duration”, is sometimes overlooked in understanding how readers engage with digital content. A content site with a great deal of long-form content and correspondingly high page views would be discouraged to find session duration measured in seconds to a minute.
Is your content working for you?
Finally, it’s helpful to ask if the content is working for its intended audience. One measure to consider is “bounce rate”, defined by Google as “the percentage of single-page visits (i.e. visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page).”
Coupled with a low session duration, a high bounce rate could be telling you that the headline works but the body content does not. It could also indicate that you’re attracting the wrong audience, or perhaps you’re providing too much content for the average visitor. All of these options can lead to a shift in content strategy.
Another measure of content effectiveness is the share of “new visitors”. A growing audience pushes this number higher, but a lot of new visitors with a relatively static total audience may mean that past visitors aren’t interested enough to return. That’s worth reviewing.
Data analytics can play a key role in shaping the content investments you make, but the measures you use should be tied to the results you want. Look at what people search when they come to your site. Study the time they spend with your content and how often they stay to look at other articles or resources. Then, match those analytics to what you know or should know about your own content.