The managing partner of a law firm called me and asked my opinion of how his firm’s blog was doing. This struck me as an odd question. After all, wouldn’t he know this better than I? So I put the question back to him.

“How do you think your blog is doing?” I asked.

“I have no idea,” he answered.

“Well, how has the traffic been?” I asked.

“I have no idea,” he answered.

“Has it generated any contacts?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he answered.

“Are you getting any pingbacks?” I asked.

“What’s a pingback?” he answered.

“Are you collecting any data at all?” I asked.

“I have no idea,” he answered.

Here’s the deal: You may not care in the least whether your blog is generating traffic. You may be writing it just for the fun of it. But if marketing is even just a part of the reason you blog, then you should know whether your hard work is delivering any results.

So how do you know that?

Well, if you want to know how something is doing, then you need two types of information. First, you need to know where you’re trying to get to – in other words, you need a goal. Second, you need some way of measuring your progress towards reaching that goal, some form of mileposts.

As for a goal for your blog, you have to decide that yourself – preferably before you ever launch it. Your goal may be to build your reputation within an area of practice. It may be to enhance your firm’s search engine rankings. It may be to directly bring in clients. It may be to draw media interviews. It may be any or all or none of these — plenty of bloggers write just for the satisfaction of it.

But here is the critical part: Once you’ve set a goal for your blog, then you need to measure how well you’re doing at reaching it. You need to identify mileposts and then track your progress.

How do you do that? The best way to start is the free measurement tool, Google Analytics. This is an easy-to-use but extremely sophisticated platform for tracking the effectiveness of a website or blog. All you need to do is install a snippet of tracking code on your blog – help pages walk you through this – and you’re on your way. You will begin to receive rich data about how visitors come to your blog and what they do while they’re there. What are your top traffic sources? Which are your most and least popular posts? Google Analytics tells you.

Oh … and did I mention it is free?

Microsoft’s Bing offers its own set of web analytics tools, also free of charge. One advantage it has over Google Analytics is in measurement of incoming links. Incoming links – which sites and how many sites link to you – is an important measure in how search engines rank your blog. Bing’s analytics show you this in greater detail than does Google Analytics, which shows only recent trackbacks.

Traffic analytics are only one measure of the success of a blog. Depending on your goals, there are other measures you might track. Is your blog moving up in search engine rankings? Are you getting direct contacts from potential clients or referral sources through your blog? Are you receiving more invitations to speak at seminars or business events? Are you getting more calls from the news media to comment as an expert in your area of law? Any of this information can be tracked and, over time, provide a picture of how well your blog is doing.

So if I happen to run into you somewhere, don’t ask me how I think your blog is doing. That’s a question you should be able to answer for yourself.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.