October 10, 2009

7 tips for measuring your blog’s success

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Beth KanterThe success of your blog, or any social media effort, depends on your willingness to solicit feedback and take corrective action when necessary. If you want to have a successful blog that supports your organization’s goals and adds value, improvement should be continuous. You need to pick the right hard data points, or metrics, that will help you harvest insights and improve your blog.

Analyzing your blog content
First, you need to set overall goals for your blog and understand your audience. Next, you need to know the right metrics to use, and employ the proper tools to collect the data. Most important, you need a strategy—either for yourself or for a team—to gather insights from your metrics. Remember, it isn’t about the numbers alone.

Avoid Analytophilia
Alexandra Samuel coined that phrase in a post on social media analytics and metrics about the greatest peril of social media: analytophilia. It’s about obsessing on raw numbers and constantly checking the number of Twitter followers or retweets or Facebook insight clicks. She recommends that you don’t go into your analytics or stats program without composing a specific question first. I’ve been advocating this approach for a long time and offer you a set of data points and questions.

Here are seven tips to help you start measuring social media efforts.

Readership growth

1This means content consumption. There are two different kinds of web viewers: subscribers and visitors. Subscribers have made a commitment to regularly receive (and hopefully read or at least scan) your blog. Visitors are people who occasionally visit your blog. You should pay attention to monthly trends of content consumption over time. This will tell you a lot about your readers’ satisfaction with your content.

  • Hard data points: Look at the feed subscribers trends from Feedburner and unique visitor trends from Google Analytics. Understand how Google Analytics calculates unique visitors and how Feedburner calculates subscribers, but please don’t get so hung up on the geeky part of measurement that you don’t have enough time to gather insights and apply them.
  • Gathering insights: Is the number of visitors and subscribers increasing? If not, why? If yes, why? Think about your publishing frequency, the length of posts and the mix of topics.

I get a notice when someone unsubscribes to my blog. I send them a personal follow-up e-mail asking why. I’ve received excellent feedback from my inquiries about how to improve the blog’s publishing schedule, topics and more.

Reader engagement index

2This looks at how much your readers are interacting with you and your content, as well as how they are sharing your content with others.

  • Hard data points: For this, I use the PostRank tool, which ranks your blog posts with a number from 1 to 10. I pick out all posts that score a perfect 10. The scores are based on analysis of the “5 Cs” of engagement: creating, critiquing, chatting, collecting and clicking. You should understand how this model works, but don’t get distracted by trying to find flaws in how engagement measures are constructed.
  • Gathering insights: What topics do the posts that receive high scores cover? Are these posts longer and more in-depth, or short and focused on one topic? Do they include information from a lot of outside resources? What’s the tone—formal or informal? Do they include tips? What is the quality of the conversation in the comments section? What did you learn from the conversation your readers started? If you have a group blog, are there differences between authors? Why? Did anything surprise you?

I have discovered a number of patterns in my highest ranked posts—for example, length, titles, the number of ideas covered in a post, the tone, style and so forth. This has been the single best source of improving the quality of the content on my blog.

Reader bookmarking

3This measures whether readers are bookmarking your content for later retrieval which provides some indication of how much they value it.

  • Hard data points: You can find out about bookmark saves from PostRank numbers, although the program doesn’t make it efficient to grab data over time. Remember bookmarked items can also positively influence your blog traffic.
  • Gathering insights: What was the topic of the post that was bookmarked? Are the posts focused on providing tips, resource roundups or other formats? Are there patterns? And if so, what are they?

Conversation rate

4Conversation rate refers to the amount of commenting and conversation that is happening on your blog.

  • Hard data points: You can get a list of the most commented on posts from PostRank. If you use WordPress, Joost Blog Metrics will give you a post-to-comment ratio.
  • Gathering insights: What is the style of the writing? Do posts with more questions in the title and questions in the end generate more comments? Did you do any outreach to encourage commenting? Is there a conversation happening between people who comment? What do you do to facilitate it? What’s the quality of the commenting—are you learning? Are the comments positive or negative?

Authority

5This refers the number of links to a post. This metric gives you an indication of the value of the content by showing you how many people are linking to your content. It can also influence traffic.

  • Hard data points: Conduct an analysis of the number of links to a post using Yahoo Site Explorer.
  • Gathering insights: Pull out the top 25 linked posts on your blog. Analyze the types of posts (content and format) that get linked and the impact of that linking in referrals using Google Analytics. Are there any patterns?

Page views

6This is the number of times a page (unit of content) was viewed. I’m not sure how much this will tell you about your content quality, but it could give you some insights about your outreach.

  • Hard data points: You can get these metrics from Google Analytics.
  • Gathering insights: Why are certain blog posts getting higher page views than others? Look at the referral traffic (including which sites visitors to your site click from or what keywords they searched to get to your site or blog). What was your outreach strategy?

Industry index

7This metric involves evaluating your performance in relation to other blogs in your space using the same metrics.

  • Hard data points: I use the List of Change, which indexes several hundred nonprofit blogs across different metrics.
  • Gathering insights: I review other blogs on the list to see if there are ideas that I can incorporate into my own blogging. Where is my blog on the index—high or low? What are the qualities that the top five blogs have in common? How do they compare to my blog?

This may seem like a lot of work, but it takes me about an hour every month to gather up the numbers into a spreadsheet and then set aside some time for reflection on how I can improve my blog. It is an essential part of my blogging process and success.

This article was originally posted at CW Bulletin and Beth’s Blog. Beth Kanter is CEO of Zoetica, a consultancy for nonprofits. See her profile, visit her blog, contact Beth or leave a comment.

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