7 Free Tools for Tracking Blog Post Performance
Hey, there. Trey here, again. Given that so many of you have some kind of website or blog yourself, I figured I’d share some of the tools I’ve come across for keeping up with individual posts' performances. It’s incredibly useful information if you’re considering starting or building a sponsorship program or if you're just looking to grow your blog and want to see which posts perform the best. But it’s also just kind of fun to see the numbers—if you're into, like, counting and stuff.
For those of you working for or running a small business, you've probably noticed there is no shortage of figuring it out as you go. Actually, I think that’s probably true of any size company. I always think a company’s infrastructure must be so advanced and thorough, until I start working there. It’s actually kind of relieving to realize, “Oh, you’re all just doing your best here too? Cool, I can do that.”
The point is, when E+E wanted me to reshape and rebuild their sponsorship program, the first thing I needed was numbers, but the structure in place was pretty limited. They already had Google Analytics, which I’ll talk a little about below, but it wasn’t giving them a clear view of individual post pageviews, and tracking clicks felt incredibly tedious.
The only view of social activity we had was BlogLovin likes and checking the live feed of pins coming from our site. And to be clear, that pin feed doesn’t tell us how many pins or anything, so we were just guessing based on how dense it would get with one post or another.
So I researched (googled) and researched (more googling + a few clueless emails) for anything I could find that would help us keep track more accurately. Here are some of my favorite free tools:
SOCIAL MEDIA SHARES
Anymore, without some sort of social media activity around your post, it’s unlikely it’ll see much long-term attention. So here are some tools to keep an eye on:
• Pin Count: We’re very much a Pinterest blog, so this is an especially important number for us. If you drop your link into this tool, it’ll tell you how many pins (including repins) your post got. This was the first social counting tool we found.
• ShareTally: This is my current favorite tool, as it aggregates and totals all the shares (including Pinterest) from 21 social networks and gives you a top-level view of the activity on each network. If you drag their “Tally it!” button into your toolbar, you can just click it, and it will run the query on whichever page you’re currently on.
• SharedCount: Like ShareTally, it aggregates shares across multiple social networks, though it only tracks 6 vs. 21. But to be fair, it tracks the 6 most used. The one benefit this tool has over ShareTally is its API. So you can add a share counter on your blog using data this site pulls, BUT they charge for that functionality.
• AddThis: Unlike the rest, this won’t simply let you input a link and output social totals for you. It’s a tool you can add to your site to track your social activity. We use AddThis for the social counters you see at the bottom of each post. It has some pretty narrow free options that make it possible to add a share total to the bottom of your posts. The catch is that you have to use their designs, unless you’ve got someone very code savvy. And the most useful tools they offer require that you purchase a pro package.
TRACKING INDIVIDUAL POST PAGEVIEWS
If you’ve got any kind of site, chances are your backend has some sort of built-in tool to track total pageviews for your site, maybe a little more. And hopefully you’ve installed Google Analytics (super free and super awesome) to dive even deeper. But the catch with most popular blog formats (no jumps) is that you can’t really get an accurate count of pageviews for an individual post. While Google Analytics will let you see how many pageviews a specific URL is getting, readers can see your post a few ways: homepage, page 2/page 3/etc., and the individual URL itself. And there’s no easy way to add all that together, UNLESS you use a tracking pixel.
• WebBeak: From my searching, this is the only tool I’d recommend, because everything else I found was either miserably complicated or charging way too much. And for its base functionality, WebBeak is completely free (they have more in-depth reporting for a small fee). So here’s how it works:
1. You click “Create Tracker” and go through the prompts until it gives you your tracking pixel link, which is just an image link, but that image is only a 1x1 transparent pixel.
(link looks like: http://webbeak.com/ppe289pl)
2. You just need a little html here to code it as an image:
3. Then, drop that code into the bottom of your post in the HTML view.
4. Once your post is published, every time that 1x1 pixel loads, it counts one view. So ultimately, every time your post loads, it starts counting—giving you pageviews for your individual posts. You can track those results by dropping your WebBeak link into the "Track Results" section of the site.
If you’re working with sponsors at all, they always want to know how many clicks they’ve gotten from working with you. There are a lot of ways you can pull this off, and Google Analytics has a built-in system for it, but it can get a little complicated if all you’re looking for is the total number of clicks. The easiest way to get that information in my opinion is using the link shortening services:
• goo.gl: This is Google’s link shortener, and it’s what we use any time we need a tracking link in a pinch. It tells you exactly how many clicks the link got and where in the world the clicks are coming from.
• bitly: You’ve no doubt heard of bitly, as their links are everywhere. They also happen to have a pretty robust amount of data on the links you create, a little more socially in depth than goo.gl. Which you use really just depends on how much information you need.
Welp, that was a whole lot of words next to each other. Sorry to anyone with absolutely no interest in blog metrics who I just bored into a coma, so here's an old picture from my phone, because lol.
Anyway, those are some of our go-to free tools for tracking our blog posts. Like I said, even if you aren't necessarily looking to start an ad program or anything, it's still fun to see how those numbers play out. I get into more specifics about starting a sponsorship program (pricing, etc.) in our Blog Life course if you're more interested in that side of it.
Of course, if you've got any questions about the tools above, let me know, and I'll try to answer to the best of my understanding. -Trey
Credits // Author and Pug Photography: Trey George, Other Photography: Elsie Larson