Blogs are not websites.
The old school model of content creation, content consumption and content distribution does not apply to blogs. (Neither do "traditional web analytics" measures.)
- Websites are less important, it is permission marketing now (I'll give you permission and you can talk to me).
- Monologues are over, no more: I'll publish and put it out there and you'll consume and you better not complain!. It is now a dialog.
- There is no such thing are a completed page. Posts and pages are always open and always expanding.
- And my favorite, if you don't cause a "ripple" then do you exist? :)
My presentation at BlogWorld Expo was about measuring success of a blog and I started with setting the context about why blogs are different and why they present a unique measurement challenge. Some of the reasons are mentioned above.
I took the opportunity to outline Six Recommendations for Measuring Success of a Blog. Since it was all a lot of work I thought of also sharing those with you all here, after all the screenshots were done already!
All the metrics and data uses in this presentation were from this blog, so you also get to see the humble accomplishments of 17 months of blogging.
Six Tips For Measuring Success Of Your Blog:
Measure: 1) Raw Author Contribution 2) Holistic Audience Growth 3) Conversation Rate 4) "Citations"? / "Ripple Index"? 5) Cost 6) Benefit / ROI.
Here my measurement recommendations for three blogger persona types…
Let us look at each of the above six dimensions of success in detail.
[My goal is for you not only to understand what to measure, but by the end of this post if you are a Blogger or a Marketer then you'll have lots of tips on how to do this blog "thing" right. This post has many tips / best practices that have worked for me.]
# 1. Raw Author Contribution
Many people jump to measuring visitors or other metrics. My recommendation is first measuring something that will answer this question: "Do you deserve to be successful?"
One way to measure that is to compute…
Raw Author Contribution =
A] Number of Posts / Number of Months Blogging
B] Number of Words In Post / Number of Posts
I use the General Stats plugin for WordPress to measure key stats of my blog.
My Raw Author Contribution is:
A] 137 / 17 = 8
B] 224,365 / 137 = 1,638
On average eight posts per month and 1,638 words per post. Not bad, for me. Yours will depend on your own style.
The important thing it to measure: consistency. I find it builds traffic.
Plugin Tip: If you use WordPress for your blog then go get Joost's Blog Metrics Plugin. It will compute Raw Author Contribution (and Conversation Rate) for you! Thanks Joost!!
Now I'll be the first to admit that this not a measure of quality, we'll do that with 2, 3, and 4. But atleast you'll level set with yourself if you have actually contributed something that will allow you to be a success.
# 2. Holistic Audience Growth
You are talking. Is anyone listening?
The first measure of audience growth is: Onsite Audience Growth.
I use ClickTracks and compute Visitors (Visits) and Unique Visitors.
This past month this blog had 37k Visits from 25k unique visitors.
It is important to measure the trend, numbers in each month by themselves are less interesting.
It is nice to be on the home page of Digg, you can clearly see the two points above when my posts got on the home page of digg. But long term success comes from growing your core audience. You'll notice at both points above there was no impact on next month traffic from being on digg.com.
The second measure of audience growth, especially for blogs, is: "Offsite" Audience Growth aka RSS/Feed Subscribers.
I use FeedBurner, like rest of the world, and track the number of Subscribers.
Occam's Razor, a Web Analytics Blog :), had six thousand subscribers.
I love Subscribers. It is very hard to convert a Visitor into a Subscriber, someone who has now given you permission to push content to them. That extra commitment is worth a lot to me. I would take ten extra feed subscribers over a hundred visitors.
Again, please watch the trend, that line on the top of the picture. A trend up and to the right will be a reflection of you making a dent with your consistent and quality content.
Subscribers & Unique Visitors, two metrics that pass judgment on the growth of your audience.
# 3. Conversation Rate
Blogs are the most social of social mediums. As mentioned in the opening they are dialog and not a monologue.
What is your blog? A dialog or a monologue? Are you creating conversation? Have you created a social environment?
Conversation Rate = Number of Visitor Comments / Number of Posts
Conversation Rate for this blog is: 2,159 / 137 = 15.
You'll note from the picture above that there are a total of 2,540 comments (at the end of Oct). By my counts approximately 15% of the comments are mine, and those don't count. So just to be conservative I have eliminated 20% of the comments (around 500) when I compute Conversation Rate.
I also measure Words In Comments. You'll note above that readers of Occam's Razor have written approximately just as many words via their comments, as I have written in my posts! [Big round of applause to you all!!!]
Blogs are social and you must engage your readers to have a relationship with you, to contribute value to you, to become your evangelists. Involve them.
For me my blog is a social object. A key to having a social object is your ability to create conversation.
# 4. "Citations" / "Ripple Index"
Ok so you are talking, people are listening, and lo and behold they are talking to you on your blog as well. Hurray!!
But in a world of networks and connections what is your impact beyond your immediate blog?
A key validating factor for a blog, any blog, is that other people talk about what you are writing about. They reference back to you (with nice words or scathing critiques!). They link to you.
I call these Citations. People talk about you, discuss you point, throw up on you, praise you. Citations.
To measure Citations I use Technorati rank.
Put simply it is your place in the magnificent blogosphere at any given point compared to the one hundred million blogs that are out there.
To measure success I trend that number over time, if your rank improves that is great.
That is good progress over the last 17 odd months. Even with technorati imperfections (as with cookies in web analytics) if you look at the trend then you should be ok.
Recently though I have rethought what I was trying to measure. It is not so much that I care about "rank", ok at some level I do. I care a lot more about the ability of the blog to create conversation off my blog.
I have been toying with the idea of calling it your Ripple Index – how many blogs, cite you and link back to you over time, and is that number growing.
That drop of water is a blog post, and it causes a ripple. :)
So going forward my recommendation is to measure:
Ripple Index: Number of Unique Blogs that link to your Blog.
For now I recommend also using Technorati to measure this. Simply switch to looking at "Authority" (though I am not enamored by that, so ignore the word and use the data).
I can check links to my blog with Google if I want. I like Technorati more. Two reasons:
1] Technorati will measure other blogs linking to you, and usually not websites, I like that a lot.
2] Your unique blog links on technorati expire every six months. I really like this. You can't be a one hit wonder and have that on your resume forever. Like in Google. In Technorati computation you have to keep producing good quality content and cause "ripples". I like this aggressiveness. Its a incentive to stay on your toes.
Here is how aggressive this metric is, my Ripple Index was 1,078 at the end of Oct. It is 968 today, Nov 17th. Not nice. I have to work harder! :)
I only have one tip in this area: Be remarkable. It is hard but it is the only way.
[Tips from Seth: How to be remarkable]
# 5. Cost
Nothing in life is free. What is the cost to you of creating a great blog?
I recommend measuring three components of cost:
1) Technology (Hardware / Software)
3) Opportunity Cost
Technology: $14.99 per month = $ 179.88 per year plus $10 domain renewal. Total = 189.88.
According to my ever vigilant wife I spend atleast 25 hours on blog related activities (writing posts, editing them, replying to all the emails I get specifically for blog posts). My time is conservatively worth $100 per hour. :) So….
Time: 25 * 4 * 12 * 100 = $120,000 per year.
Next. Especially for Businesses I recommend measuring Opportunity Cost.
If you were not blogging the resources you have put on blogging would probably do something else, something that tentatively be worth money. Opportunity cost. Say they would invent the next great patentable idea. Perhaps you would be less distracted and would have solved the Middle East crisis – potentially worth a lot. Cost that out.
If I apply this to myself: if I were not blogging I could probably do something else that would be paid work. I think for those many hours I could do something part time for a company (say analyze their reports!) and get paid $100,000 a year. So..
Opportunity Cost: $100,000.
For your business the number would be something different, try to put it on paper. See if you are better off investing in blogging (yes!! :) or better off doing something else.
[scratch late night doh! moment]
Total Cost of Blogging = 189.88 + 120,000 + 100,000 = $ 220,189.88.
Hmm….. a minimum cost of 120k, a potential max of 220k! Makes me think of this whole blogging thing in a new light.
[/scratch late night doh! moment]
What is your cost?
I realize you blog because you love. But doesn't hurt to compute cost. :)
# 6. Benefit (ROI: Return on Investment)
For every honest effort, no matter how small or big, there is a benefit, a return on your investment if you will. :)
It is important to compute what the ROI is for you as a result of your blogging efforts. Here are four different types of value to consider (values that add to your bottom line – personal or business):
Quite simply you are working on a blog, personal or business, and if you are decent at it you might end up creating an asset that might be worth something. So compute that.
You can use the toy on the right. It is for fun but illustrates the point. It shows what the worth of this blog is using the same formulation as AOL paid for WebLogs Inc.
I don't think anyone is running to me to hand me that cash, but with your blog you create a asset and it could be worth something. ROI.
You could make money off your blog. People use AdSense or one of the number of services to show ads on their blogs. Or they have a job board. Or ads in their feeds. Or consulting engagements. Or referrals to your business website. Or….
All of these things bring direct value to you, dollars! Compute these.
Seth and Hugh and others have spoken of massive shifts in how the new world does Marketing and PR and Sales and more. About the fundamental shift from companies with mega phones and tv ads losing their grip. It is about the Customer. It is about the Conversation. It is about creating Customer Evangelists. It is about Social Objects.
Your blog facilitates this more than anything else you could do. Any business, big or small, that is not leveraging this medium in a honest attempt to have a new kind of conversation is committing a massive crime.
But if you are then compute the value created. By firing your PR agencies (who are still so lame that they send annoying email blasts to bloggers!). By saving on Super Bowl ads. By moving from White Papers to User Generated Content (Awesome Example: Gmail Behind the Scenes Video).
See the big number? That's your "non-traditional" value!
A couple of weeks back I got this email:
Hi, You don't know me but I've loved your blog entries and your book. I just wanted to write and thank you. Today I was offered a job that I've been aspiring to for some time. Your writings and passion for analytics helped me gain an insight and understanding and in turn helped me secure this job. I just want to say thank you.
That is the complete email.
I wish I could tell you the happiness it brought me. Some stranger I don't know and will probably never met found some value in my blog. It touched my heart.
I blog because it makes me happy. I blog because I cherish the conversation with you all. I can't value it. But I know it is solid ROI. I call this a faith based initiative!
Your blog will provide you some unquantifiable value. Measure it. :)
Ok here is one more "unquantifiable value" for me.
My book, Web Analytics: An Hour A Day, came from this blog. 100% of my proceeds are donated to The Smile Train and Doctors Without Borders. It was released in June and by the end of October the book had sold enough copies for me to be able to divide up $25,000 between those two charities (even though first time authors are paid a very tiny amount of the book's selling price!).
No direct ROI to me. But unquantifiable value to me. From the blog.
I don't have any ads, I don't do PR on behalf of Web Analytics companies, I don't advertise my services or ask for business overtly or covertly. Yet my ROI I think is way over what the cost of my blog is.
A long post that attempts to outline how you can measure success of your blogging efforts, and also hope that you picked up some tips and best practices.
Perhaps it changed your mind about this wonderful world of blogs.
Ok now it's your turn.
Please share your perspectives, critique, additions, subtractions, bouquets and brickbats via comments. Thank you.