Blogging for Business: Tracking Success Part 1
And, truthfully, your results are most likely somewhere in between. But how will you know? The majority of bloggers write on a whim, either in full inspirational mode or in a state of panic in reaction to some recent article they read about the need to blog. You're in way better shape than those poor souls.
If you've been following this series, you've planned your blogging out and are putting out regular pieces of content meant to dazzle, entertain and inform your clients. You've done this consistently and thoughtfully. And now, rightly, you are expecting some reward. Good old fashioned R.O.I.
Goals: You Need to Know What to Measure
Many business people who make it this far attempt to judge the success or failure of their blogging campaign on the amount (or lack) of comments. Absolutely, if you've been blogging for a short time and are so awesome that you have created an engaging community of committed readers who comment, you can pat yourself on the back. In fact, heck, go out and buy yourself a drink (or something).
Chances are, though, that if that is your measuring stick, you're a little, well, disappointed.
Measuring your efforts by comments alone is akin to a football team only keeping track of Super Bowl wins. A bit defeatist. And obtuse, too.
Goals: Keep It Simple, Sweetie
On the other hand, some people start measuring everything. They don't know when to stop. The set up their account at Google Analytics (it's easy and you should do this) and then start measuring every single thing they can get their hands on. You can get lost in Google Analytics, starting with simple analytics reports and going more and more obtuse into custom reports that you might even forget what you started with in the first place. And certainly, sometimes there is a place for complicated custom reports from Google Analytics (One of my favorite places to go to for these is a site called Occam's Razor by a lovely person called Avinash Kaushik) but most of the time, for most busy business people who don't have a full-time staff of statisticians, you're going to need to keep things simple.
This is hard, because it means you have to face two things: 1) You need to look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself what you want to achieve from blogging and 2) You're going to have to look yourself in the mirror and talk to yourself when what you have tried doesn't work. You're going to have to face the fact that you are neither the next Tolstoy nor the worst blogger in the world, but somewhere in between, and you are going to have to stay focused, revise your plan and move forward. You will need patience, a great attitude, and a very small ego.
So, let's get started:
Goals: Start with the Basics
Your blog is successful when it does what you want it to do. When it gives you a good return on your investment. So, really, what do you want? I caution you here to use really simple, clear language. Look at this list:
- Do you want people to like you (and your brand)?
- Do you want more money?
- Do you want more respect (a better reputation)?
- Do you want better search engine ranking results for your website?
Do any of these resonate with you? Keep in mind what your goals are, and then plan to put one or two metrics in place that can measure your progress in each of them. Roy McClean has an excellent blog post about website analytics that goes into detail about the three levels of measurement. What separates blogs from websites is that, whereas a business website's function is nearly always to sell something, a blog is the human side of that website. The blog can sell, of course, but like a great in-store sales person, the blog can also be there to give great customer service, chat to the customers & while doing so increase the brand's perceived reputation, make the business more likable, inform customers and entertain them. So measuring a blog is a little different.
You Want to Be Popular
If you want to increase traffic and increase your brand's popularity, you'll want to measure these things:
- Repeat visits
- RSS subscribers (repeat visits and subscribers both measure stickiness and consistency, blog elements that build community over time)
- Referrers from social outposts like Twitter or Digg
You Want More Money
If you want your blog to help you increase revenue, you'll want to measure these things:
- conversion rates
- length of stay
- number of pages viewed and also which pages were viewed after the blog post
- referrers from other sites
You Want Respect and a Better Reputation
If you want your blog to help you increase your brand's reputation and garner more respect, you'll want to measure these things:
You Want Better Search Results
If you want more traffic, and better search results, you'll want to measure these things:
- Total visits
- Percentage of new visits
- Visits from search engines
- Top Landing pages - This will also give you a good idea about helpful keywords.
Depending on the metrics you choose to track and measure, ultimately, you'll be learning more about what works and what doesn't. That leads to the next step in blogging success: revision. Taking the measurements, tracking them over time, looking for solid information that can give you clues about what works and what doesn't. Don't ignore measurement, but don't fall in love with measurement for measurement's sake, either. Diligently write down your data each week in your editorial calendar, and then, once a month, with an impassionate eye, see what that data tells you about your efforts. Next week, we'll learn a bit more about each metric and also what you should do with the data you've got.