Blog marketing and measurement

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.

  1. 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.”
  1. There probably is a golden ratio of comments to posts. Mine is nearly 1-to-1. 685 posts with 681 comments.
  • Feed subscriptions. How many people have subscribed to the RSS? Tough question to answer if you go by server logs, much simple if you run your feeds through a service such as Feedburner (which I have yet to do on this blog, but have done for Lenovo’s first blog, Design Matters.One of the hardest things to communicate to someone unfamiliar with Blogistan’s ecology is the difference between visits/pageviews — the major metric indicators for traditional web pages and feed subscriptions. Managers aren’t going to be patient with a treatise on RSS. They will ask traditional traffic questions: “How many of the readers are inside of the company and how many are outside?” While some feedreaders — such as Bloglines — will give a subscriber count for a blog, that is the subscriber count among Bloglines readers, not all readers. (This blog has 20 Bloglines subscribers, Design Matters has 6. Boing-Boing has 51,296!) Feedburner solves that and breaks down subs to include Firefox, Google, MyYahoo, etc.
  • Visit Traffic: This is the old Web 1.0 “gross tonnage” stat. Getting a hold of these numbers requires a couple moves. I check two ways — one is through Google Analytics, the other is by downloading my server logs directly from the host. Google Analytics is okay — not great — I think the interface is overrated and burdened by some AJAXy mindtricks, and we use Sitemeter for the Lenovo blog, which is very straightforward and understandable. Lenovo is also an Omniture user, and the newest version of SiteCatalyst (v.13) has some blog tracking tools which I have yet to mess around with. Server logs are fairly boring, but can give some details on what search terms drove people into the blog, what specific domains directly visited, but lack the insights into RSS usage that Feedburner gives. This is a Sitemeter screen:

  • 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.

    Author: David Churbuck

    Cape Codder with an itch to write

    0 thoughts on “Blog marketing and measurement”

    1. I just finished a discussion on this very matter. To me, stats and success in blogs must inevitably come down to the seat of the pants call. Listening to the true traffic gurus leaves my head spinning as they attempt to interpret goat entrails.

      The truth is you can bend the reams of stats to the point that they justify virtually anything.

      With content sites, to my mind, the measure of success often comes down to dollars. Blogs are that perennial horse of a different color. For most the goal is something else, from ego, to creating professional prestige or in some cases to just satisfy the writing monkey on their back. With blogs,at the end of the day, success is what you want it to be.

    2. Well I’m one of 24 firefox live bookmarkers. As a matter of fact I have well over 30 blogs live bookmarked (out of a total 100 sites bookmarked this way, spanning from newspapers to science magazines going through all Yahoo groups I moderate -not the ones I subscribe I already get mail for those). I could probably write a whole article on why RSS feeds are the best thing since candy bars. I probably will (back at my home blog)

      Being the same type of assorted compulsive writer (although lacking your writing skills) I don’t care much about statistics on my blog -partialy a lie, since I do like being read, I don’t care enough to try and drive traffic- but I’m about to try and kick off some experiments to see if they get lucky with traffic.

      Word of mouth is definetely the best way to get a hype around a blog. It’s exponential, if you link me I get part of your readers, then they might link me themselves (if it’s worth it) and so on. Technocraty and the like also drive a fair ammount of traffic, once your linked enough from other places.

      Finaly comments are something I particularly like. I usually try to write leaving open doors to feedback since I’m more than aware that different points of view are the “path to enlightment”.

      I’m eager to find out what you have to say about what your “instincts tells you is cool and uncool in building an audience”.

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    4. David,
      Good to know that we actually have a Design blog for lenovo! I have been wondering about this for a long time, especailly when Dell is moving in (to China) with their Direct2Dell blog. (Just announced Chinese version last week).

      Corp. Blog is really a great 2 ways communication and new age marketing. Let’s hope we can really get some traffic and attention.

      Feel free to contact me if you have more news on this.

      Great work and thanks.