How do you measure success?
So you want to measure the success or popularity of your blog do you? My pal Jeff Quipp was thinking out loud again a while ago about this very concept; Measuring Blog Popularity. In the post he outlined some possible measurement tools (sources) and asked for some thoughts from everyone. Once I began to craft a comment I found that it was running away from me early on. And so I shall continue the Canadian connection posting handball habit that my fellow Canuck and I began last year on a few occasions. My beer to his pizza... let's look at benchmarking a blog.
I think the first thing one needs to address is that trying to use analytics to measure engagement will get you no end of grief from many in the analytics sector and with good reason. They are not readily measurable and quantifiable and this can mean some fuzzy data at best. It is a grey area which gives us some insight into other angles of perception more than hard and fast numbers or primary indicators. Branding activities are rarely best served by metrics.
To Each His Own
For me, right away, I felt that each of the proposed metrics have a different valuation in various markets. That is to say that Comments on a Blog might be more important in a demographic where interaction is a large influencer. This would also be true with value of other aspects such as inbound links in the over-all scheme of things. In the case of a seasoned blog over a newer entry into the game, backlinks may be a primary indicator whereas an older blog with a robust link profile may not value this as much. Each factor has unique dependencies that would dictate the ultimate starting valuations. There is no hard and fast rule set that I was able to see. So lets just play with some generalizations to get the juices flowing
In the world of conversions you have a simple concept of Primary and Secondary conversion targets. Primary being the core action (purchase, download) and Secondary actions (such as newsletter sign up, contact for information request). I thought this would be the easiest starting point to further the discussion. We can look at the various metrics aligned with our goals in the light of which are more important than others in a hypothetical situation;
Also for the sake of the discussion well say it is a new blog in the clothing market; supporting a small clothing manufacturer/retailer. The goal is to valuate different potential factors that could be analyzed.
Scenario; A New Blog in the Retail Fashion world - the following could be looked at for analysis;
Comments on the Blog it is barely a primary factor, but one none the less in this scenario. Considering the need for such a Blog to begin a dialogue to ultimately create a relationship, enticing engagement could be important. Being able to use the company blog as part of the CRM package also leverages the same space.
# Inbound Links new Blog that needs to start developing a link profile. Consideration should be taken when crafting Blog post titles and find topical hot spots. Link bait is also a great SMM cross-over.
Votes in Appropriate Social Media (Digg, Reddit, Niche, Vertical, etc.) important as it not only begins to establish a presence but also goes hand in hand with the above link building activities. As a new blog the need for links is accented by the SMM campaign.
Buzz Factor I think there also needs to be some factors to gauge web world activity. One can look at Technorati or a mix of Google Blog Search activity and other chatter that shows the trends towards those that are active in their space ( broken down to the target market).
Post UVs (unique visitors) I say this because early on trying to establish contact and create early evangelists is key. Since we are going to be active in Social Media (primary) and Social Networking (secondary) there is going to be some lowered expectations for over-all engagement and rates. Once the blog is older and has a more established SEO profile, this will change. Under this plan, while important, it could be considered a secondary concern for the moment.
Stumbles were more interested in direct sales or leads. Used as a secondary factor for part of the branding activities. Not considered a primary target demographic. As part of the over-all branding package it most certainly should be established, I have simply yet to see it as a primary over-all focus.
Del.icio.us Saves the tech heavy user base is not a close enough demographic to be considered a viable primary indicator. Likely this would be more of a fringe Buzz monitor tool on a given SMM campaign.
Increase in RSS Subscribers once more the key targets here are sales and sales leads. This is an obvious secondary consideration although I know there are bloggers everywhere that are having a coronary to such heresy. I didnt give it the boot from the list, I merely moved it down here
. there has to be some defining lines and these are the ones I have drawn, (see how inexact the science of measuring engagement is?)
All Warm and Fuzzy
In the end I believe it is really a situational endeavour and each Blog will have its own goals and thus its own primary and secondary benchmarks. You would also find that over time as the goals change, so must the factors one considers as an important metric. It should be noted that I would be hesitant to use such methodology as a hard and fast measurement as much as merely some insight into the life cycle of the Blog in question. You may be blogging for income or merely as an additional layer of a corporate identity, the actual purpose being served by the blog would dictate the ultimate valuations you put on the various metrics involved in such a benchmarking activity.
This is certainly an interesting topic and if you have any other ideas of ways that one can go about establishing measurements for the life cycle of a blog, feel free to post them.