I’ve never been so crass as to blog about this blog’s Technorati rank, nor do I obsess about what my server logs are telling me or Google Analytics for that matter. To be frank, there’s a lot of things I could be doing better to build audience, or at least track what audience I have, but since this is a personal affair designed to cure my ongoing case of cacoethes scribendi (yes, I studied Latin), I haven’t focused on audience development.
I do have a corporate blogging project under management, and that does deserve some serious audience development. It softlaunched back in the late spring, with utterly no fanfare, as I wanted to let it simmer for a while and get the bloggers contributing to it comfortable with the ineffable customs of Blogistan before really seeking some traffic. This post is an attempt to come to terms with what constitutes blog “success” and then share some of the tricks I’ve picked up from reading the masters and from messing around with blogs since 2002 when I launched my first one on Blogger.
While a personal blogger — which I am under this umbrella — may not give a rat’s ass about traffic, it’s still nice to know that you aren’t talking to yourself like a psychotic in the median strip of Park Avenue shouting at skyscrapers with a Bible in hand. So what are the indications of life on a blog? How does one declare success on a corporate or commercial blog? After the jump I get into it.
- Comments are King. One’s first comment is a rush, sort of a minor miracle. This spurs one to wonder: “How in the world did this stranger find me?” In the case of this blog, it was my old Forbes.com buddy, Om Malik, who posted back in the fall of 2004 that I was blogging about the New England tech sector (how boring). That drove some eyeballs in my direction and some comments followed, including one from a long haul trucker who disagreed vehemently with my musings on free municipal wi-fi. But I digress. Comments are not a statistical indicator of a blog’s relevance or ranking according to the most important blog search engine, Technorati. This is a good thing. If comment counts did matter then I would be approving each and every piece of comment spam I receive and you would be reading a lot of Chinese character spam and porno come-ons. Valid comments and trackbacks are the most valid measure of engagement. Look at Mark Cuban’s blog where the guy routinely gets over a hundred comments to his posts. I don’t get anything near that number here. I think my single post record is 15 or so, but it stings when asked directly: “How many comments do you get?” My answer — “Not enough.”
- There probably is a golden ratio of comments to posts. Mine is nearly 1-to-1. 685 posts with 681 comments.
And this is Google Analytics:
4. Technorati: Okay, what is Technorati good for? Well, I think it is the most useful blogging tool in my arsenal, primarily because it helps me track inbound links, which in some ways is more interesting to me than any other indication of attention and interest. Technorati, like Google, looks at “link love” as a measure of relevance and authority. This goes back to the old academic journal methodology of assigning weight to a specific scientific paper based on the number of times it is cited by other papers (See Battelle’s book, Search, for a detailed explanation.) Linkage is to blogs what page rank is to an HTML page. This blog is ranked 40,822 due to the 176 links from 65 blogs. This is a relative ranking, no absolute, so I can’t go around telling people I am a specific number, only a specific rank. Some bloggers make a big deal out of their rankings. It was fascinating to watch Stowe Boyd juice up his ranking when he relaunched his blog /Message. Guy Kawasaki also soared into the top 100 in an extraordinary short period of time, an indication of his evangelical marketing brilliance. If you want rank, then you want links. Don’t get me started on links. I don’t ask for em, if they happen, then they happen and when they do it is a good thing to track them down to see why.
[update: Chris Murray, a very smart coder and sysadmin, has some thoughts on blog analytics here.]
Okay, that’s enough for now. Next time, I’ll talk about marketing for traffic and what my instincts tells me is cool and uncool in building an audience. I will not blog about how to blog. Tedious in my opinion and the online incestous equivalent of tossing the empty garbage bag box into the last garbage bag.