Recently, someone asked me if the blog traffic he was getting was “normal.” It was a new blog, so he didn’t have any data for comparison or any idea if he was on the right track. That’s like asking if your weight is “normal”: it depends on a slew of factors that are all pretty personal to you. But all the same, it’s a common question for new bloggers, so let’s dive in.

When you have an established blog, it’s easy to use data to compete against yourself. You can simply look at year-over-year results: How are you doing compared to the same period last year? Are you seeing more traffic, more people filling out conversion forms (or buying outright, if that’s an option), more people calling you? If so, you’re improving. Congratulations.

But without that data, it can be easy to fall into some common traps. One of the easiest but most dangerous is to compare traffic and conversion to each previous month. This can be a useful general barometer, but most businesses have some sort of seasonal cycle that can seriously warp results. For instance, we have a food product which is used very heavily in the cold weather months, with lighter usage during the summer. If we measured our traffic on a strictly month-over-month basis, we would think something absolutely catastrophic happened between April and May, when in actuality it’s a natural seasonal shift. Don’t become discouraged because of natural surges and declines in seasonal interest.

So that’s what you shouldn’t do. What should you be doing? First, make sure someone is reading your blog posts. I’m not going to sit here and say, “if your blog isn’t getting at least 100 hits a day right off the bat, you’re failing!” If you make industrial manufacturing equipment, a single sale might make your year, so you need fewer leads. If you sell that food product we mentioned, you need to sell many, many units, so you need more leads. So make sure you’re getting some traffic, using Google Analytics.

Once you’re confident that at least a few people are finding your content, see how they’re finding you. Recent Google algorithm updates make it more difficult to see which search terms people are using to find your site, but you can use Google Analytics’ Landing Pages information to see which page they’re entering on. Are they coming in through individual blog posts, the home page or somewhere else entirely? If it’s a blog post–hurray! You’ve caught the eye of the search engine. But that’s not enough. Use the Bounce Rate analytics information to determine if they’re going to other pages. If so, which ones? More blog posts? Your conversion forms? If no one is digging deeper, it might be a sign that your content isn’t doing its job of getting people to know more and ultimately, to make a purchasing decision.

Ultimately, blogging and content creation is a long game. You’ll have your best data to see if you’re succeeding once you have comparable year-over-year data. But in the meantime, look for leading indicators, make sure you’re getting leads, and above all, be patient. It takes time to grow a blog, but the results are so worth it.