How to Diagnose and Maintain the Health of a SaaS Blog

All content marketers seem to believe that their site is underperforming. There’s an underlying sense of anxiety about never having enough traffic. At the same time, no one seems to know how much traffic is enough either. “I feel like this isn’t good enough, but I don’t really know” is no way to run a content marketing operation.

After reviewing Google Analytics for several dozen high-profile SaaS blogs, we can assure you that most sites are neither underperforming or overperforming. To help ease the anxiety of “never enough traffic,” we’re sharing a few ways that you can diagnose the health of your own traffic. The numbers provided are not perfect benchmarks—we did not analyze millions of data points to refine them. Rather, they are expert observations from a group of people tasked with helping B2B SaaS companies grow their organic presences.

Whether you choose the methods below or some other approach, analyze your content with a nuanced perspective. Out-of-the-box analytics never tell the full story, so it’s up to you to wrangle the data and build your own narrative.

Analyze Your Month-Over-Month Organic Traffic Growth

Month-over-month organic growth is a really important number that Google Analytics doesn’t tell you, at least not by default. Every SaaS blog should be increasing organic traffic to its content each month. To really clarify this number: we look at the month-over-month increase (or decrease) in organic search traffic to content.

This number is important because it’s a leading indicator for a number of other healthy metrics. Sites with steadily growing organic traffic also tend to have lower bounce rates, more pages/visit and have an easier time ranking new content. If your organic traffic is not growing, you almost certainly will have trouble improving other key metrics.

This is a very specific number that requires a little digging to find. In Google Analytics:

  • Click on “Acquisition” → “All Traffic” → “Channels” → “Organic Search.”
  • Change the date range so that you can view at least 12 months of data. Make sure you are looking at traffic on a monthly basis.
  • Select “Landing Page” as your primary dimension.
  • Use the search bar to filter out non-content. (Most people can do this by typing “/blog” into the search bar.)
  • Save this view as a report for future use.

Now, we’re going to pull each month’s organic user count into a spreadsheet. Then, we’ll use a simple formula to calculate the change each month. (That formula is: [current month - previous month]/[current month]).

MonthOrganic Blog VisitorsPercent Change
Jun 20184,688n/a
Jul 20186,67942.47%
Aug 20189,37940.43%
Sep 20188,961-4.46%
Oct 201810,64018.74%
Nov 201812,31915.78%
Dec 201813,72711.43%
Jan 201919,23440.12%
Feb 201919,7412.64%
Mar 201923,54319.26%
Apr 201924,9616.02%
May 201930,83023.51%
Average MoM Growth19.63%

This is real data Rev’s blog—Rev is an excellent transcription service—and it shows really impressive growth over the past 12 months. As you can see, growth fluctuates. Much like investing, you can’t worry about the day-to-day changes in your numbers. Measuring this way helps you take a long view of your progress and makes it easy to how far you’ve come over the last year or more.

19.63% average MoM growth is on the highest end of the spectrum. Here are some guidelines for choosing your own MoM growth number:

  • 2-5%: For a well established SaaS blog—meaning a blog with 100,000+ pageviews/month, this is a steady rate that will still yield meaningful traffic increases.
  • 5-10%: This is about average for a mid-size SaaS blog—i.e. a blog with 50,000 to 100,000 pageviews/month.
  • 10-20%: This is excellent growth. Smaller blogs—those with less than 50,000 pageviews/month—should pursue a number in this range. It likely won’t last forever, but ride the train as long as you can.
  • 20%+: This is really impressive. It’ll get your blog to 100,000 monthly pageviews quickly, but it likely won’t sustain for much longer.

Because this number is not easy to track in Google Analytics, we recommend tracking it in Google Sheets. Here’s a template you can use to track your own data.

Track Your “Organic Share”

Organic share is not a metric you’ll find mentioned on any other content marketing blogs—that’s because we made it up. Organic share is the percentage of total site traffic that comes from organic search. We prefer to measure it annually.

Here’s how you find it:

  • In Google Analytics, navigate to “Acquisition” → “All Traffic.”
  • If you are running any paid campaigns, filter that traffic out since it will water down the organic share number.
  • Set the date range for the last full year of traffic data, i.e. January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018. The percentage of organic traffic shown here is your organic share for 2018. Repeat for as many years as possible.

Organic share is hugely important because increasing it is the only way to grow a large SaaS blog (without spending a fortune on paid traffic). We measure it annually to smooth out the natural fluctuations in search traffic. We recommend putting the data in a spreadsheet so that you can easily visualize how it’s changed over time.

Here’s an example of organic share growth over time. AdEspresso’s growth has been very impressive. Traffic grew 10x in three years thanks to a laser focus on growing organic traffic.

The first thing nearly all SaaS blogs should do is aim for 50% organic share. Keep in mind that we measure organic share across the entire site, not just content. It’s likely that content will be the main driver of traffic growth, but that should lift the organic presence of the homepage and product/feature pages. If you aren’t at 50% yet, that’s your next goal.

In order to scale—and we mean really scale, like 250,000 monthly pageviews and beyond—you will need to increase organic share. Search traffic scales in a way that social, email, paid and referral traffic simply can’t. Large SaaS sites all rely on this same mechanism for growth.

We’ve recently launched a free tool called Revive. It connects to your Google Analytics and finds posts that are decaying. These are perfect candidates for refreshing. You can learn more and try it out here.

Keep an Eye Out for Content Decay

If you could X-ray your Google Analytics, you’d see layers of content. Some URLs would be trending up, while others trend down. Cumulative traffic is growing, but if you look very closely, you’ll see that growth is slowed significantly by the decay of older content. Traffic growth, whether you realize it or not, is two steps forward, one step back.

This is nearly impossible to quantify in Google Analytics, so it’s rarely discussed among content marketers. The formula for traffic growth is as follows:

(For a detailed understanding of this kind of analysis, we highly recommend Tribe Capital’s recent post, A Quantitative Approach to Product Market Fit.)

To see if your content is decaying, follow these steps:

  • Click on “Acquisition” → “All Traffic” → “Channels” → “Organic Search.”
  • Change the date range so that you can view at least 12 months of data. Make sure you are looking at traffic on a monthly basis.
  • Select “Landing Page” as your primary dimension.
  • Use the search bar to filter out non-content. (Most people can do this by typing “/blog” into the search bar.)
  • Click individual URLs to see how they are trending over the last 12 months. Healthy posts are stable or trending upward. If you see posts that are trending downward, plan to refresh them as soon as possible.

We are working on a way to quantify content decay. It’ll be a number similar to negative churn—expressed as a percentage each month with the goal of adding more traffic than you’ve lost. We’ll post an update when we have that formula ready.

Want to try out our new tool?

We encourage you to check out our new (and free!) tool called Revive. It plugs into your Google Analytics and tells you which posts are decaying. Interested in trying it out? Check it out here.

You may notice that the three things we suggest measuring closely all relate to organic traffic. We just can't emphasize it enough: organic search is the best way to grow a SaaS blog and the only way to scale to 100,000 monthly pageviews and beyond.