So you’ve decided you really need to find out more about this whole blog phenomenon to try and decide if your business really needs a blog or not. (Hint: It does.) But you say learning all that new blogging stuff is a bit overwhelming?
How can you make informed decisions when you don’t even understand what those bloggers are talking about?
Well today is a good day for you because we’re here to help at SuccessCREEations. Welcome to Business Blogging 101 where we’ll try to explain some of the basics about blogging so that you can feel more comfortable entering the conversation.
This series is not meant to be the final word on anything, but like those 101 level courses in college we’ll just be introducing the various topics and point you to some additional resources so you can bring yourself up to speed as quickly and painlessly as possible.
So lets get started with today’s lesson!
Measuring Your Blog’s Success
This is the fifth post in our series explaining the basics of business blogging called Business Blogging 101. Please be sure to read through the rest of the posts in the series to gain a better understanding of what business blogging is all about.
How do you tell if your business blog is successful or not?
This is an important question to address because if your business blog is not effectively producing any benefit for your business over time, then it would be a waste of company resources for you to maintain.
The good news is, like most everything dealing with the internet, there is a dizzying array of ways to measure all sorts of aspects of your blog. This measuring is called “blog metrics”. Many of the tools that can do the measuring are available in no cost versions with some companies offering fee versions of their tools with added capability.
The bad news is there is a dizzying array of ways to measure all sort of aspects of your blog… and it can get very confusing.
As an example, Mike Sansone probably thought he was asking a fairly straight forward question when he asked How Do We Measure Blogs? But the discussion that followed created a bit of an EFLAP as several of us weighed in on the subject.
Fortunately you don’t have to have the “perfect” measuring system to know if your blogging is being effective or not. There are some basic principles which, if you keep them in mind, will give you a very good idea how you are doing. And there is often some overlap between the different tools available which makes it easy to mix and match tools (even if it does make it a little more challenging to choose the “best” suite of tools to use.)
Here is a laundry list of some of the basic measurables that I like to keep an eye on.
Visitors – how many people are looking at your blog? What’s the breakdown of first time visitors to repeat visitors? You probably want to have a good mix of both.
Page views – Page views are distinct from number of visitors. Ideally you’d like to see your visitors clicking through multiple pages on your blog because it indicates they see value and aren’t just bouncing out as soon as they get there.
(As an aside you sometimes hear web site folks talk about the number of “hits” on a particular site. You might think that refers to the number of visitors but it doesn’t. It is a bit of a deceptive number that actually refers to the number of files that have been accessed at the web site. A given page of your blog may have dozens, or even hundreds of individual files on it, each file adding to the “hit count”. The number of hits is normally bandied about either out of ignorance or to sound impressive when a site really doesn’t get much traffic.
To give you and idea of the difference in these three numbers, here in the first 90 days that SuccessCREEations has been in existence we’ve had just over 24,000 visitors, over 70,000 page views and 218,780 “hits”. Which number sounds more impressive? Which is more meaningful?)
Comments – Comments are one measure of the conversation that is taking place at your place. It is probably a good idea to keep an eye on which posts get comments and which posts don’t seem go generate any discussion over a period of time. That way you can decide if you need to make any adjustments or not. Keep in mind that as you first start out there will be very few comments as the conversation usually takes some time to develop.
Incoming links from other sites – We mentioned earlier in this series that links are the currency of the blogging world. They have a significant impact on how the various search engines view your site, how much authority they think you have. That is why it is a good idea to be generous to other bloggers with your links (what goes around comes around). Besides linking to things that your readers would find interesting is something they will find valuable.
Don’t worry about your readers clicking on a link and not coming back. If you are writing good sincere stuff in your niche, they’ll be back. And because that other blogger is paying attention to their incoming links, you can be sure they will at least take a peak at what you said about them. They may even find your blog interesting enough for their readers that they link back. But don’t let yourself be bothered if they don’t. Your link generosity will come back to you eventually.
Another reason it is good to pay attention to incoming links is that it is a good indicator of what other folks are saying about you and your business. If they care enough to put a link up to your blog, you probably want to at least take a peak at what they said. Maybe you could even leave a comment about what they wrote.
Which links visitors use to click away from the site – Do your visitors usually leave your site by clicking on one of your links? Or to they tend to leave by hitting the back button on their browser? If your blog is sending a bunch of traffic to one site in particular, you probably want to know about it because the owner of that site is most likely going to notice.
How many feed subscribers – This is one of my favorite numbers to track because these are the folks who thought my writing was good enough they want to be sure they get it every day. These folks are going to be a large portion of your repeat visitors.
There are gobs of other aspects that you can keep track of if you want to. It can be easy to become obsessive/compulsive about checking your stats several times a day. But for most of us there really isn’t any need to be checking our stats more than once a day, or maybe even as infrequently as once a week.
Some Good Tools
Just as there are a ton of different things you can measure, there are also a bunch of different tools you can use to measure with. Here a just a few that I can recommend. (If you have some experience with other tools, please leave a comment to let us know about them.)
StatCounter and SiteMeter – These two tools both have free versions that provide a basic web statistics for numbers of visitors, page views and the like. I started with StatCounter originally and have stuck with them. But from what I can tell SiteMeter offers a very comparable package. Both of these services offer more comprehensive tracking for a fee.
Performancing offers up a one of the best metrics package that is designed specifically for tracking blogs. Unfortunately they say their metrics package may be going away soon because it is too much of a draw on their company resources. We’ll have to see what happens there.
Google Analytics is a free service that is geared more for e-commerce sites than blogs but gives some great information that help bloggers track their sites. It’s a free service, but you do have to have a Gmail account access it.
IceRocket Tracker is another free blog tracking service offered up by IceRocket, a blog search engine. This package is geared specifically towards bloggers and I expect if Performancing discontinues their service IceRocket will see a surge in users.
MyBlogLog is a service that I started using to track which links folks were clicking when they left my site. But it has evolved into a whole community web site that helps bloggers connect with each other. You may notice the Recent Readers section in the right side bar here as well as the pictures that accompany some of the comments. They are both provided by MyBlogLog.
They still track my outgoing links for me, but now the additional features they’ve added in are even more valuable. Not to mention that MBL’s Eric Marcoullier is incredibly helpful. He popped over here when I first installed the Recent Reader widget and had some trouble with it. I put up a little post expressing my frustration and Eric left a couple of comments offering some suggestions which allowed the thing to work just fine. Haven’t had a problem with it since. I can’t help but recommend a company with that kind of responsiveness.
I mentioned FeedBurner when we talked about RSS & Feeds and I won’t rehash everything I said about their service. They do a great job of tracking the info I need about where my feed is going, and how it’s being used.
Technorati is a service that tracks site links. They are currently tracking 60 million blogs. You can open an account at their web site, do a search on your domain name to see who is linking to you. And the best part is you can subscribe to an RSS Feed of that search so that every time someone links to your blog it will automatically find out about it in your feed reader. (Your family members might be really impressed when they link to your blog, don’t tell you about and you show up right after and leave a comment because their link showed up in your feed reader automatically. Especially if they don’t know about Technorati.)
Technorati ranks the blogs they are tracking by the number of inbound links they detect. Their Top 100 list is a who’s who of A-List bloggers. Personally I figure any blog with a ranking number less than 100,000 is pretty stinking impressive as it puts them in the top 1.7% of all blogs currently tracked. SuccessCREEations is currently ranked 119,677 with links from 28 blogs detected (still in the top 2% 🙂 ).
The last service I’ll share with you today is Alexa. Alexa is owned by Amazon.com and instead of measuring links they measure traffic. They also rank websites from number 1 (the most heavily trafficked) on up. There is some discussion about the way they determine their numbers, but suffice it to say any site that has an Alexa ranking of less than 100,000 is getting some respectable traffic. SuccessCREEations current 1 week average ranking is 54,780. 🙂
What does it all mean?
The bottom line is the ultmate measure of whether or not your business blog is successful is whether or not it adds to your bottom line. You can track all the web statistics you want, but if you aren’t attracting more customers, or if you aren’t providing a better customer experience through your blog then you might want to re-evaluate your efforts.
Keep in mind that blogging is a fairly long term marketing approach. Looking for increased sales resulting from blogging after only 30 days is probably not realistic.
Even so, if you’ve been consistently blogging for 6 months or more and none of your current customers are paying attention to or remarking about your blog, and you aren’t seeing any results, then some analysis might be in order to figure out what is going wrong.
Ultimately the biggest benefits your business sees from blogging may not be measurable with numbers. The ability to put your finger on the pulse of your market, establish an honest dialog with your customers, and build a more effective and influential web presence may have a very positive indirect impact on your business.
You just have to keep track of things so that you know where you stand.