The Right Metrics for Measuring Audience Growth

When we think of audience growth, we tend to latch on to metrics that we believe will give us a good indication of a website's performance. However, this is typically done without isolating variables, which leaves takeaways hard to find.

I've heard from countless clients that it's great to have data in front of you, but what to do with it escapes them. And that underscores the problems with the concept of data itself. Your data set is not a roadmap, it's a set of gauges. In order to know what you should do with your data, it's important to know what each data point really means and why you're treating it as a key performance indicator (KPI).


I know this sounds obvious, but there are plenty of misunderstandings of common metrics which, unfortunately, lead to focusing on the wrong things. We must learn to interpret our data properly before we can know what decisions to make from it. To do this, we need to realize that all metrics are not the same and some are affected by unforeseen or hidden variables more than others.

Focus on User-Based Metrics

A good majority of the 'standard' metrics are session-based, but a 'session' is the wrong baseline. It's more useful to analyze and track user-based metrics instead because session-based metrics can be somewhat misleading in the context of audience growth. After all, we're trying to measure KPIs that are based on the habits of people (users), not fragments of what they do (sessions).

For example, let's say a single user comes to your site three times today and their visits looked like this:

  • Session #1: Reads one page, leaves.
  • Session #2: Reads two pages, leaves.
  • Session #3: Reads one page, leaves.

The 'Pages per Session' metric for this user would be 1.33, but that doesn't tell the whole story. The 'Pages per User' would be 4.00. The session didn't read the pages, the person did, and they read four.

As a publisher, this is a critical distinction when it comes to measuring engagement and loyalty. It really doesn't matter if a user reads four articles across three sessions (1.33 pages per session) They still read four articles, which is more valuable than a user that reads two articles in one session (2.00 pages per session) and never comes back. In this case, the session-based metric rewards the weaker overall user.

It's also worth noting that in our example above, two of those visits would be counted as bounced sessions, for a bounce rate of 66%. This doesn't paint a useful picture of what makes a valuable consumer of your content. The frequency of visits gets lost in the equation when you take a metric like bounce rate and apply it with a broad brush. By relying on session-based metrics, we're diluting the actionable insights that we can gain from our data. Wherever possible, we should be using our visitors as the starting point instead.

Creating Better KPIs for Audience Growth

Luckily, there's an opportunity to customize metrics within tools like Google Analytics and Google Data Studio so we can drill down to what is actually meaningful for publishers. Here are a few of the metrics we standardize on:

Sessions / User: This metric measures the average number of sessions that each user has in a given time period, and provides a visit frequency metric on a user basis.

Pages / User: This metric measures the average number of pageviews that each user has in a given time period. This can be used in place of 'Pages per Session.'

Time / User: This metric measures the average amount of time spent on your site by each user. This can be used in place of 'Avg. Time on Page' or 'Avg. Session Time,' and provides a more defined view of how long each user is spending on your page/site.

Used together, these custom metrics help define the core behavior of a site's user base. For publishers, 'Pageviews' are largely article views, so these metrics answer three critical questions:

  1. Frequency: How often are users coming to our site?
  2. Depth: How many articles does each user consume?
  3. Duration: How long is each user staying on the site?

By focusing on these three metrics as your KPIs, you're putting audience growth at the forefront of your data analysis efforts and setting yourself up for long-term success.

We Can Grow Together

We have a lot of mantras at RebelMouse. One of them is "Take big data and make it little again." We live close to our clients' insights so we can help them track trends, victories, and even pitfalls. Then, we distill this data to help content creators adjust their digital strategy in a way that actually moves the needle. Our global team is well-versed in every audience-building discipline, and our guidance is backed and tested against mountains of data we've collected over the years. Publishers have enough to juggle in the current digital climate. Let's focus on the right metrics together and cut out the noise. Request a proposal today to get started.

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Use the Order Property feature to set up your content's best flow

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In Layout & Design Tool, there's an Order Property feature within a Posts element that allows you to order the posts on your page by several different categories, including title, recency, and primacy. Here's what the setup looks like:

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Customize which content your users see for free

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You're almost there! Fill out the form below and a Rebel will contact you within one business day.

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Cater to New Users With Silent Login

Bypass the sign in process for special events, contests, and more

Since RebelMouse supports creating online communities, we make it easy for users to sign up for sites on our network using their email address and social profiles. Now, there's a Silent Login element for when you would like one of your users to silently log in to add a post.

The Silent Login element gives new users the ability to sign up for your site without needing to complete the typical email sign-up process. This is ideal for sponsored posts, contests, events, and job postings. For example, if you're running a contest for the best Halloween costume photos, you can use a Silent Login element to create a workflow that allows users to submit their photos for review via Entry Editor without first having to create an account for your site. The experience for non-logged-in users is completely customizable.

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For each update of a production branch, we automatically begin regression tests. After tests are completed, we generate and review reports, and if there are any unexpected changes, we create tickets to revert changes and fix issues.

Here's a rundown of the different kinds of regression tests we perform:

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How to Add a Link to User Names

Use code to link users to their profiles

RebelMouse makes it easy for content creators to build dynamic and engaging communities. Each user can have their own username, permissions, and profile. A user's profile can also be linked to via their username anytime it appears on your site.

There are two ways to add this link:

1. Add the Username as a Link to an <a> Tag

HTML:

<a href="#" id="my_username">PROFILE</a>

JavaScript:

<script type="text/lazy-javascript" priority="10">
var user_data_for_use;
setTimeout(function(){
{{require}}(['settings'], function (settings) {
user_data_for_use=settings;
document.getElementById("my_username").setAttribute("href","/u/"+settings.user_site.name);
});},1000);
</script>

Upon page load, the code above will change the value of the href attribute to href="/u/username_of_user" for any element that uses id="my_username.".

2. Insert the Username as Text Inside a <span> Tag

HTML:

<span id="my_username"></span>

JavaScript:

<script type="text/lazy-javascript" priority="10">
var user_data_for_use;
setTimeout(function(){
{{require}}(['settings'], function (settings) {
user_data_for_use=settings;
document.getElementById("my_username").innerHTML=settings.user_site.name
});},1000);
</script>

Upon page load, the code above will insert the username inside a <span> tag as text by referencing id="my_username."

If you have any questions about this feature, please email support@rebelmouse.com.

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