Phillip Smith

The 40 online metrics that you should be tracking

One of the things that I love the circulation-guru Jon Spencer for is his devotion to the Church of Measurement. In the recent post about how publishers can build a Twitter following, Jon raises a number of good points about how organizations can measure the efficacy of their social media efforts (should they want to). But, beyond Twitter, what are the other valuable metrics for publishers to track in the age of the Internet?

I happen to be a bit of a metrics addict myself, so I thought I would build on the idea of circulation metrics and try to introduce the metrics that I encourage the publishers I'm working with to track. There's no magic here: just a list of metrics that have been cobbled together over the years that -- if measured the same way every month -- can provide an organization with the information necessary to make good decisions. 

To be clear: these are not Web site traffic measurements. These are a collection of what I believe are the "Top 5" indicators in a number of categories, including online revenue, list building, online engagement, and online editorial performance. (If you want to find our more about the traditional Web site metrics, I'd suggest this book.)

So, without further introduction, here are "The 40 online metrics that you should be tracking":

  • Subscription metrics
    • No. of paper subs via Web
    • No. of paper free trials via Web
    • No. of digital subs
    • Top Web site referrers for completed orders

  • Shops metrics
    • No. of orders completed
    • Average order value
    • No. of abandoned carts
    • Top Web site referrers for completed orders

  • Donation metrics
    • No. of Donations
    • Avg. donation value
    • No. of abandoned donations
    • Top Web site referrers for completed donations

  • Advertising metrics
    • CPMs sold
    • Avg. value per CPM
    • No. of new advertisers
    • No. of campaigns sold
    • No. of Web sponsorships
    • Avg. Sponsorship value

  • E-mail metrics
    • Subscriptions
    • Unsubscribes
    • Total subscribers
    • Total undeliverable
    • Campaigns sent
    • Average open rate
    • Average click-through rate

  • Social media metrics
    • No. of ShareThis shares
    • Facebook fans
    • Twitter followers
    • Twitter (some other engagement indicator)
    • No. of sites using widgets
    • No. of RSS subscribers
    • Pageviews via Facebook
    • Pageviews via Twitter
    • Pageviews via Wikipedia

  • Online editorial metrics
    • Letters to the Editor
    • Online-only feature content published
    • Blog posts published
    • Reprints / re-posts
    • No. of referals from the MSM
    • Total comments / trackbacks


    (You can also access a constantly updated worksheet for the metrics above here.)

    Ideally, these metrics are tracked every month -- either automatically (usually possible with a bit of programming) or manually (if absolutely necessary, but set aside a day a month to do it) -- and aggregated to create a "metrics dashboard" (aka a big spreadsheet with some charts). I also find it helpful to do the math to compare the current month to the previous month (good for non-seasonal metrics), and the current month to the same month last year (when the data is available), which unveils what trends are going in the right direction and what trends need some attention, or intervention.

    There you have it! I would be totally curious to hear what other online metrics you are tracking on a regular basis. 


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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