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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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Why RebelMouse Is the Best Content Marketing Platform

RebelMouse is a unique platform and company. The company was founded on the vision that media companies would need an always-modern solution to thrive in the new connected internet, and that brands would have to behave like new media companies and use the same platforms.

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Stay on Top of Actionable Insights With RebelMouse’s Third-Party Analytics Integrations Dashboard

Leverage a data-backed content strategy

The amount of work that goes into creating quality content is half the battle. For publishers, an effective content strategy must be backed by data. Still, distributive publishing brings with it plenty of insights to keep track of, and sometimes key metrics can get lost in the day-to-day workflow.

On the RebelCMS, we have a dedicated dashboard to make it super easy to integrate third-party analytics scripts into your site. This way you can keep an eye on how your articles are performing and easily adjust your strategy accordingly.

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Optimize Your Editorial Workflow With Post Status Options

Use five different post status selections to streamline the path to publish

By using our post status functionality, you can effortlessly optimize your editorial workflow to assign a different status to each stage of a post draft before it's published.

There are five statuses a post can have:

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New JavaScript Element in Layout & Design Tool

At RebelMouse, we're constantly iterating on our platform to maximize the performance of our websites in order to keep up with the latest standards from Google's PageSpeed Insights tool.

One of the biggest problems with web performance is how the lazy loading of elements is implemented. On RebelMouse, we already have out-of-the-box capabilities that allow you to lazy-load assets, but if you have JavaScript from ads running on your site, Google's PageSpeed Insights tool will still penalize you for them if they're not being deferred off-screen properly.

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View Your Add Media Bar Results in Full-Screen Mode

Browse dynamic assets to enhance every article

In RebelMouse's Entry Editor, there's always an opportunity to add dynamic media to your article using our Add Media Bar. Now, you can browse all the options within the Add Media Bar, including YouTube, Facebook, and GIPHY, in full-screen mode.

To pull up the Add Media Bar, click the ⨁ icon next to your cursor on the left-hand side of the screen. Then, to activate full-screen mode, click the Expand icon on the right-hand side:

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How to Use Google Search Console’s Removals Tool

Quickly remove articles from search or see why a URL was pulled from search

Google recently released a new version of its Removals tool that temporarily blocks URLs from showing up in search results. The tool also shows which content is no longer being displayed due to either being outdated or because it was filtered out by SafeSearch, a Google feature that removes offensive content.

The new tool can be helpful if you want to quickly remove an article from showing up in search or to find information on why your content was removed from search by third-party requests.

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How to Use Override Tags for Headlines + Subheadlines

Customize your preferences easily in our Layout & Design Tool

Site design should be agile, which means it's important to be able to make quick style changes that keep your content cohesive and organized. To make this even easier, there's now the ability to override the tags of your headlines and subheadlines for each article using our Layout & Design tool.

You can make these headline and subheadline changes using a Posts element. Here's a screencast of how this works:

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The Override default Headline Tag can be set to values <h1> through <h6>. The Override default Subheadline Tag can be set to values <h1> through <h6>, <p>, and <div>.

The new headline and subheadline overrides also work with AMP. If you have any questions about this new feature, email support@rebelmouse.com or contact your account manager today.

How to Enable Primary Tag Tracking in Google Analytics

Track your top-performing topics

On RebelMouse, we give you the ability to use as many tags as needed on every article to help keep you organized. But there's also an option to assign one primary tag to a post. A primary tag is built on the same principle as a primary section. One tag lets you assign higher importance to certain pieces of content when processing and organizing your posts.

There is also a primary tag dimension built into our RebelCMS which can be enabled for tracking in Google Analytics.

Why Track Primary Tags?

Tracking primary tags through Google Analytics allows you to track the performance of specific tags, which is helpful if you want to see what kinds of topics are performing well or underperforming on your site.

Once enabled in Google Analytics, you can see the performance of a specific primary tag, such as its pageviews, users, and more:

Then, in Google Data Studio, we can gather the data on your primary tags together to see your top-performing tags and gain insights into how they're performing.

How to Track Primary Tags in Google Analytics

To track your primary tags in Google Analytics, click on the Admin panel in your account. Then, select Custom Definitions.

Next, click Custom Dimensions.

After that, click on the red + New Custom Dimension button.

Fill in the name as Primary Tag, and set the Scope to Hit. Click the blue Create button.

That is all you need to do to set up tracking for your primary tags. Once completed, our team has to link a primary tag custom dimension on our back end. Please contact support@rebelmouse.com or datastudio@rebelmouse.com to finalize this step. Happy tracking!

New: Elasticsearch in the Posts Dashboard

Easily search to find any post on your site

For publishers, content is often your most valuable asset. That's why it's important to take care of your article library as it grows and discovers new life over and over again. Now, we've made it easier to find your posts with our new Elasticsearch functionality.

You can now search for every article ever created on your site using your Posts Dashboard. First, click the Filters icon in the top right-hand corner to pull up the search navigation:

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