Millions of blog posts are published every day.

A small percentage gain traction and attract readers.

And among those readers, 55% will read the blog post for 15 seconds or less.

(If you’re still reading, thanks for sticking with this one!)

The internet is a daily battle for attention. Everywhere you turn, people are trying to share the latest marketing hacks with many of the same points echoed repeatedly.

I’m guilty of it myself, and I completely understand why many of us write articles that are a little similar and repetitive. It’s because they work. You could argue that content is becoming less art and more science. There are formulas to it — if you find the best keywords and write the correct content, you can build a high-traffic blog (that’s almost a guarantee).

But is traffic the goal of content? Or can there be some new and unusual ways of measuring content success? I have some ideas I’d love to share.

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Do the surface metrics really matter?

Why pageviews and sessions might be the wrong numbers to chase

Often (and, I’m guilty of this too) you’ll hear someone talk about the success of their content by saying something like: “10,000 people read my post” or “60,000 people saw my video on Facebook.”

But I’ve started to wonder if this is really an accurate measure of successful content?

Even if someone clicks on your article, the likelihood of them taking it all in is very slim. The internet has changed many of our habits. But one thing that hasn’t changed in nearly 20 years is the way we consume content online. Most of us still skim and rarely read a full post.

Many publishers have now started to focus on “attention metrics” alongside more traditional measurements like pageviews. Medium’s Ev Williams explains their stance on which numbers are meaningful:

We pay more attention to time spent reading than number of visitors at Medium because, in a world of infinite content — where there are a million shiny attention-grabbing objects a touch away and notifications coming in constantly — it’s meaningful when someone is actually spending time.

Maybe we need to stop focusing on how we can hack and grow the number of views our content gets. And instead, focus on how we can make each reader care about what we’re saying.

I’d argue that you don’t build a successful blog by accumulating a huge number of page views. Rather, you build a successful blog by creating something of value.

The only way content will drive results for any business is if it provides value to someone else. It’s not necessarily about how many people you reach; it’s how many you connect with. Because when people connect with us, they remember us, come back for more, trust what we have to say, and may eventually buy from us.

When you’re creating great content, you don’t need to live or die by your analytics. Maybe we should let go of our desire to write for everyone in order to skyrocket our pageviews, and instead hone in on sharing what’s unusual, valuable, and unique?

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How to measure the value of your content

3 under-used metrics to tell you just how valuable your content is

Value is quite subjective and can be hard to measure. In this section, I’d love to share a few ways we’re starting to measure the value of our content here at Buffer.

1. Run an NPS survey

A Net Promoter Score (NPS) is commonly used to measure loyalty between a brand and a consumer. It can also be a great way to measure the value that your blog is delivering to readers.

You calculate NPS by asking a simple question: How likely is it that you would recommend our blog to a friend or colleague? (Using a 0-10 scale to answer.)

Respondents to the question are then grouped as follows:

  • Promoters (score 9-10) are loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and refer others, fueling growth
  • Passives (score 7-8) are satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who are vulnerable to competitive offerings.
  • Detractors (score 0-6) are unhappy customers who can damage your brand and impede growth through negative word-of-mouth.

Subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters yields the Net Promoter Score, which can range from a low of -100 (if every customer is a Detractor) to a high of 100 (if every customer is a Promoter).

This handy graphic from the Net Promoter Network highlights the formula:

nps

By running an NPS survey on your blog you can begin to understand how many of your readers truly value the content you’re creating and whether they would be happy to share it with their networks.

How to run an NPS Survey

There are plenty of great tools out there to help you run an NPS Survey on your blog and I’d love to share a few below:

You can also create your own survey using a tool like Typeform and distribute it to your readers. One thing that feels important to be mindful of is ensuring you reach all kinds of readers with your survey. For example, sending it only to your email subscribers could slightly skew results as they’re likely to already be your most engaged readers.

2. Pay attention to the comments

There has been a lot of debate about the state of blog comments. With the rise of social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, readers have a multitude of ways to engage with your content:

  • They can share a link to your post on Twitter, Facebook (or any network of their choice)
  • They can interact with a post where you’ve shared a link back to the blog (favoriting a tweet, sending a reply, liking on Facebook)
  • They can retweet your tweet sharing the post or share your Facebook post
  • And much, much more…

With all these options and ways to interact with content, you could argue that a blog comment is losing its relevancy — or on the contrary, you could see it that the value of a blog comment is rising.

Knowing that people can share and comment on your post anywhere, the fact they’re taking the time to respond directly within the post itself could be perceived as the highest form of engagement.

For us, comments are an increasingly important metric and one we’re focused on measuring. In Q2 2016, we’ve had a focus on increasing the average comments on each blog post by 100% from Q1 and here’s how we’re getting on:

comment-tracking

Comments feel like a great measure of the value your content creates. If someone takes the time to spark a discussion on reply to us through a comment then we feel the post must have been useful to them in some way or sparked some curiosity.  A great example is our recent social media study post. This one generated over 70 comments with readers sharing their thoughts on the study and also how our findings compare to their own.

3. Monitor mentions and shares

Whenever I publish a post on the Buffer blog, I’ll get a few mentions on Twitter or LinkedIn when people share it. As a result of this, I’ve started to build a slight intuition around how much value each post is generating based on shares and mentions.

When a post really delivers value and goes above and beyond reader expectations, I’ll notice a distinct spike in the number of shares it receives and the number of mentions we receive both via the @buffer accounts and my own personal social media accounts.

It’s super easy to keep tabs on how many times your content has been shared. Sharing plugins like SumoMe and Social Warfare can provide share counts on your posts and PostReach (full disclosure: this is a tool a few friends and I have built) and Buzzsumo can pull in data about who is sharing each of your posts on Twitter. I also like to pay extra close attention to my mentions on Twitter after a new post goes live so I can gauge how it’s doing and see what people are saying.

A quick tip: Promise value in your headline

Headlines are amazingly important to the success of a piece of content. Before we publish a post, we spend a bit of time focusing on how we can craft a headline that gives the content the best chance of being seen. Amazing content behind a weak headline probably won’t get seen.

Sometimes we’ll create between 20-30 headlines for each post and choose the one that feels best and other times we’ll have a quick chat and riff on how we can make the headline stand out. Here are some extracts from a recent conversation between Leo and I:

headline-convo

The original headline we had was:

53 Graphic Design Terms and Definitions for Non-Designers

And the title we decided on when we hit publish is:

Why Every Marketer in 2016 Needs to Be a (Part-Time) Designer: 53 Design Terms and Tips to Level-Up

This post has generated plenty of shares so far and 18 comments (at the time of writing). By focusing on the headline, we were able to promise value: 53 Design Terms and Tips to Level-Up. And also spark a discussion about the role of a marketer: Why Every Marketer in 2016 Needs to Be a (Part-Time) Designer. Without the time spent tweaking this headline, I’m not sure we would have had such success with this post.

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What makes an idea worth writing about?

Every blog post begins as an idea, but what makes an idea stand out and how do you know which ideas to act on and publish?

Before choosing a post to write, I tend to ask myself three questions:

  1. Is this actionable?
  2. Who will amplify this?
  3. What makes it unique?

And I’d love to go into detail on each of the three questions below:

1. Is it actionable?

On the Buffer blog, we strive to deliver content that helps readers solve a problem or challenge they face in their every-day work environment. This means we like them to be able to read a post and directly action something they’ve learned from it.

We focus on making content actionable because we believe that if someone learns something from one of our posts they’re likely to remember us and even share the post with their network as a New York Times study found that content that is practically useful gets shared more than any other content:

surprising-interesting-practical-viral

2. Who will amplify it? 

When creating content, it’s important to hone in on your audience and think about who you’re writing for. One way I like to frame this is to ask myself “who will amplify this post?” If I can’t answer this question then I won’t write the post. Normally, this question forces me to focus on a specific area of marketing or a specific role.

(h/t to Rand Fishkin for this one)

3. What makes it unique?

We’re surrounded by content nowadays and if you want to stand out, you need to craft content that’s unique.

What makes a piece of content unique can vary from post to post. Sometimes it can be timing that makes a post unique, for example, when we published our post on Twitter Polls it was launched shorty after Polls were publicly announced and was one of the first guides on how to use the feature.

Other ways to make your content unique include:

  • Sharing your unique perspective: One of the best ways to make a piece of content unique is to create something that only you can by adding in your own perspective and point of view. As Jory McKay explains on the Crew blog: “Everything has been said before, but it’s never been said by you.” 
  • Going deeper on a topic that anyone else: There might be a ton of posts out there about Facebook Ads, for example, but you can create a unique post on this subject by going more in-depth than anyone else has.

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Over to you

I believe we can create more value if we pay closer attention to depth than breadth. It’s not so much how many people click on our content, it’s how many people pay attention to our content. It’s how many people we can make an impression on and connect with that really matters.

Measuring the success of blog content is an interesting topic and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Do you feel we put too much focus on the metrics like page views and sessions? How do you measure the quality and value provided by a blog post? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. 

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Written by Ash Read

Content crafter at Buffer. I’m fascinated by storytelling, entrepreneurship, and travel. When I’m not writing, you’ll usually find me on a football pitch or basketball court.

  • We always say “views are vanity.” I completely agree that way too much focus is on visits and pageviews. And try not to take a stereotypical or boring stance on a topic. Real opinions get people way more excited 🙂

    • Thanks, @cybersprout:disqus 🙂 Totally with you on opinions, I personally really enjoy it when writers share their own thoughts and feelings on a subject.

  • Awesome read. I like the part about NPS – which we btw. heavily use @eWings.com

    • Hey @thilotomhardt:disqus, thanks a bunch for stopping by. So awesome to hear you’re running NPS surveys at eWings. Would love to hear how they’ve helped you? Cheers!

      • Actually was thinking about my first post on Medium. Maybe that’s something I can write about. Cheers!

        • Awesome, would love to see that post 🙂

  • Whoa… whoa… whoa… STOP. I had to stop mid-read just to say THANK YOU for mentioning Social Warfare. That just made my day Ash. Now, back to reading the rest of this post. lol

    • My pleasure, Dustin. Thanks for creating Social Warfare.

  • Okay, just finished and as I expected– 100% phenomenal post @ashleyread:disqus! I wrote something similar about the uselessness of pageviews along with other vanity based metrics such as follower counts. In that post I mentioned a Google Analytics report I got from Chase Reeves which he calls the “Engagement Report”. Essentially it’s the “Time on Page” metric and you compare it to the site average. You can then find your “stand out” pieces of content and create more just like it.

    • Hey @DustinWStout:disqus, thanks a million for your kind words. This was such a fun subject to tackle. Definitely thinking of paying more attention to “time on page” for each post moving forwards, feels like a great measure of success.

  • Hey Ash!

    This article is a keeper! YAY!

    I will definitely be sharing it with my (WP101) students as well as my clients. I’m constantly surprised how “old habits” (…and old “programming” ) still hold sway…that being the “quantity” of traffic! Perhaps my students and clients will begin to take me seriously if they can see it’s not just my opinion! 😉 LOL!

    I didn’t even know “engagement” could be analyzed or tracked, so that was helpful info as well.

    On a related note, since you mentioned “blog comments” in the article, I’m also seriously considering removing comments from my site… I rarely get any comments, and I think you’re right with your assessment of social media’s impact in this regard. Then, there is the overall “quality” (or lack) of the comments…so much is just junk! [FYI…it’s not just business blog comments, but I follow science-related sites like NASA, and some of those just inane!]

    The only site whose comments are nearly all intelligent and meaningful (IMO) is Buffer! I think everyone here is seriously trying to improve themselves and their marketing! 🙂

    Thanks again!

    • Hey @kmccamy:disqus, glad you found this one useful and I hope your students and clients do too. Interesting to hear your thoughts on comments as well. I think building a community around a blog is such a hard task – you need to be mindful of the quality of comments not just the quantity. Feels like you can apply the “quality > quantity” notion to most areas of content and marketing 🙂

      Thanks again, Karen! 🙂

  • I’m going to read this post like 10 more times, because it is insane how much value you packed in here. I’m kicking myself for not coming up with the idea of using NPS for content. I’ve been working in hospitality for like 7 years and that never occurred to me.

    Actually, I’m working on a post about “blogger envy” – you know, where us smaller creators get wrapped up in drooling over other peoples’ numbers. I think this is a perfect resource to link – I dare anybody to try implementing all of this and still find the time for envy.

    But seriously. Home run.

    • Hey @michaelnoker:disqus 🙂 blown away by your comment, thanks so much. Excited to give an NPS a try here on the Buffer blog, would love to hear how you get on too.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts here 🙂

  • I get positive feedback about my blog, but I don’t get enough engagement from my readers and subscribers about what they want. The surveys I post as part of my autoresponders have helped, but it would be more useful if subscribers left comments on the articles so I can see what’s helpful for them and what’s not. We bloggers do a lot of work to provide content to readers, and it sure would help to hear from readers more.

    • Tushar Hossain

      Nice post..its essential to write quality article with attractive information to get good response from people..

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  • Ahmad Tawfeeq

    thank you so much for this interesting article , it’s simple and valuable

  • Hey Ash, I love the idea of measuring engagement and attention over simple clicks/views. I’ve noticed this is necessary especially with Facebook videos- one of our videos went “viral” in our community as far as views went (more than 105k), but our average completion was only 18% and only about half the viewers made it past 10 seconds. It highlighted the need to optimize our videos for engagement.

    Another note regarding comments- I find myself only commenting when I have something relevant and of value to say. If I just think a post is great, I share it but don’t comment. In my opinion, measuring average number of comments is a great way to gauge which posts stand out as thought-provoking and valuable to your audience. Like this one! 🙂

  • Matthew Kong

    Fascinating article and it does raise an interesting question about the accuracy of the data if true. You are very right, a creating valuable blog content and building the trust of your blog with your audience is absolutely vital.

  • Thanks for another amazingly useful post Ash! I agree that there is much more than likes and clicks to a great post. It all comes back to content (and a great headline of course). When writing for my clients, a main objective is to get 1st page placement for the keyword of the post for the blog itself. Carefully planning my target, headline, and then composing text is where all the time is spent and the results show. I’ve always wanted to have actual numbers on the calls coming in for specific topics we’ve written about, but they haven’t taken the time/effort to track them. I’m a 10 and will be sharing this across my 5 primary networks today. Cheers to all Bufferoos and have a thankful Thursday! Steve @HedstromMedia

  • YASSINE

    HELLO

  • Thanks to sharing it’s simple and valuable interesting article very useful

  • Valuable information ash! It’s always about the quality of your content to get readers hooked with your content. I agree very much with paying attention to comments. I believe that those who comment on your content are those that are really interested, there is a very high possibility of them sharing your content on any social media platform, as I will be doing after I post this comment! Keep it up!

  • Bob

    Awesome read. I like the part about NPS

  • I don’t know what’s more impressive – reading posts on your site or learning what a priority Buffer places on time spent reading your posts, and on the value of comments. These value stand out!
    Quotes like the following – help your company stand out from Internet noise, “It’s not necessarily about how many people you reach; it’s how many you connect with. Because when people connect with us, they remember us, come back for more, trust what we have to say, and may eventually buy from us. When you’re creating great content, you don’t need to live or die by your analytics.”
    We’re ready for a shift towards relationships with our content marketing, i.e. email and content comments. Quality content is still valuable. Maybe we could spend more time focusing on quality connections, even if it means reducing content amount.
    Couple tips I’ve noticed to increase blog comments: Offer a contest for your email readers. Think of ways to reward blog readers and entice comments. ~Keri

  • Jordan

    Great stuff as always Ash. Engagement and time on page are such important factors for determining the success of each piece. Things like the social share counter on the side are one of the ways we judge how much our audience is responding to our content. It tough though to make each one a home run but if you frame it like you’ve laid it out here, there’s much more of a chance for success.

    Till next time 🙂

  • ronellsmith

    I think of your idea as akin to someone visiting a fast food restaurant or grocery store: Judging their happiness based on how much time they spend yields useless data. Their goal was to get in and out as fast as possible. However, what if we didn’t see that small amount of time as the problem, but instead chose to maximize that time.

    Go with me for a second: Even if you have amazing content, it’s unlikely that people have the time to read it if it takes up more than, say, 45 seconds. Why not give them as much value as we can as fast as we can? This has incredible benefits: (a) we come to be seen as uniquely empathetic, placing their needs ahead of our own; and (b) likely leads to increased visits (and shares) as they realize our site as the place for grab and go content; and (c) would undoubtedly lead to higher satisfaction levels since we’re intently focused on THEIR needs and THEIR happiness, something they are likely to repay in kind.

    So, if you have a successful blog, but notice that the majority of folks are only spending 15 seconds with a post it should take two minutes to read, why not design, create and share content that can be consumed in that timeframe?

    • I agree with you 100% on the uselessness of metrics like Time on Page or time spent reading a blog post. Surely this data has to be dirty. On a daily basis I will typically click to read 3-5 blog posts, in the morning, and keep those 3-5 tabs open for hours or even days until I get to them. I am definitely not alone in this technique. And a lot of the time I will close a few of them without even reading.

      • ronellsmith

        David,

        Thank you for writing this: I do the exact same thing. Plus, I create “Read by” folders in GetPocket and send myself “Must read” notes via iCloud to Gmail. The key, in every instance, is I seldom get back to those posts, and if I do, it’s because something else—a conversation, maybe—reminds me of them. I NEVER, EVER go back to them because “I have the time.”

        This tells me we’re missing an opportunity: If they’re on the page but leave after 15 seconds, why not deliver content that satisfies their needs? This is akin to me going to a fast food restaurant, when I have 10 minutes to spare, and having the person at the window say “Sir, we know you’d much rather have a juicy steak and some veggies; pull over to the side and we’ll have it out to you in 35 minutes.”

        RS

        • Thanks for the response. So I think what we’re saying is – blog post reading habits are extremely nuanced. I never got into the Pocket thing but I also do things like open a post, read the headline, like what I feel the post is promising me, and then I email it to myself for “later reading” which almost NEVER happens…

          Another personal nuance is that I open a post, read the headline, skim, copy/paste, save, or download the 1 thing I wanted from it, and then I’m out. So while the content length may indicate it should take 8 minutes to read the post. I may get the value out of the content I wanted in 1 minute.

  • Josias Garcia

    VOTE UP if you think listening to an article being read to you would add value and spazzaz to an article.

  • Bottom line, we need to remember this: “Everything has been said before, but it’s never been said by you.” Great article Ash!