Last week, there was a useful exchange on the NTEN Affinity group for Nonprofit Bloggers around the question "What metrics do you use to measure success for your blog?"
The question awoke my inner research geek (a long time ago I worked as a research analyst and focus group moderator). That geek has been sleeping for at least 15 years and when it opened it eyes it found a whole new world. It goes into the topic of social networking analysis ...huh? Yet another paradigm shift, emerging field, and something else to research.
So, let's start with the familiar before we depart into the twilght zone ... the listserv question was focused on blog metrics and primarily as traffic and driving traffic! There were some good points made about the need for context (outcomes and audience), some assumptions made about bloger RSS reader behaviors, and a very short list of tools.
Are blog metrics all about traffic?
" ... traffic is an important metric to evaluate a blog. After all, if no one is reading the blog, there isn't much point to writing it. I've found traffic largely comes from search and RSS subscriptions."
What about out-bound and in-bound links? What rankings and influence? I'm remembering something that I heard Robert Scobel say at last year's Global s Summit in London. "A blogger's influence should not be measured by in-bound links (like technorati), but out-bound links.
Well, we're gonna have to think about other types of metrics, particularly for awareness raising and blog fundraising. How do we think about those? How to we identify and analyze them? How to we interpret them and put them to use to plan and improve our campaigns? How do we collect and crunch them?
In the category of learning and forgetting - always remember metrics alone are not very meaningful -- they need to be put into some context. Context to me means outcomes, intent, and audience. No matter what type of metrics you trying to figure out ... that's a universal metric standard.
Going on with the traffic metaphor, there was a comment that building traffic takes time, "particularly from RSS subscribers who must be convinced that the blog is worth investing the time to read and therefore subscribe." This comment got me thinking RSS subscription behavior and will do a seperate post on this.
There was a brief list of metrics generated:
- Avoid "raw numbers" per month of readers
- Review repeat versus unique visitors to get a sense of how loyal your readers are
- A question about whether or not to use the "donate" link in every blog post
The next issue raised, "How do you know how many people are reading/subscribing to your blog?" generated a short list of blog and weblog stat programs and some other measures:
- Google Analytics
- Subscribers in Bloglines or via feedburner (Does anyone know how I can get a total number of subscribers that is accurate with several different feeds?)
In addition, I also look at the Technorati ratings, but with a huge a grain of salt (thanks to my smart blogher friend, Amy Gahran. Most recently, I found a research geek's guilty pleasure list: "Buzz-Monitoring and Tracking" which should prove to be a whole new sandbox to play around in.
Underneath the Internet advertising economy is a key metric that dictates how properties are valued and how online media is bought and sold - the page view. While it's not the only way to measure the health of a site (time spent and unique users are among the others), it's still very popular. Unfortunately, the trusty page view is on life support and I give it four years to live.
And while he is talking primiarily about commercial sites and metrics to determine ad dollars, he goes on to tell us more about why the pageview is dead:
The page view does not offer a suitable way to measure the next generation of web sites. These sites will be built with Ajax, Flash and other interactive technologies that allow the user to conduct affairs all within a single web page - like Gmail or the Google Reader. This eliminates the need to click from one page to another. The widgetization of the web will only accelerate this.
Okay, so that's the bleeding edge .... blog metrics and beyond. What about web site metrics? I just noticed on the NTEN site a great post about a pointer to survey that is collecting information about web site benchmarks (slightly broader than metrics) ... benchmarks are about web site use, staffing dedicated to web sites, the tools used, budgets, growth projections, and how these areas are affected by the type/size of the nonprofit.