Session Notes: Understanding Blog Analytics and Measuring Success

My notes from Avinash Kaushik’s awesome BlogWorld session: Understanding Blog Analytics and Measuring Success.

He introduces himself….

I was always a quant geek but I started a blog and it has changed my life. I write about analytics. Starting the blog was revolutionary for me because it introduced me to a new ecosystem. Giving back resonated with me, and a blog is a way to give back. Six months later, a publisher contacted me about writing a book – thanks to my blog. It’s incredible. 100% of the proceeds from my book go to my two favorite charities. $25,000 has been raised for them so far and that is all though the power of blogging.

Getting to the topic…..

You need a different mindset when analyzing blogs, they are a different animal.

In the old days – content was created, distributed & consumed in a very simple straight-line way, and even many websites follow this simple model. All of the information you need to analyze the traffic is in one place and it is very easy (even though many people still don’t do it, it’s easy to do).

In a blog world measuring success is harder.

Example: Amazon. When is a page “done”? The page is living, because people keep adding to it (reviews, ratings etc). Then bloggers post stuff on their own sites as well as on mason. Content creation becomes distributed.

Content consumption – RSS, aggregation, mashups – means people read content in a lot of different ways.

In short – An analytics tool (Google Analytics, etc) on your own website only gives you a slice of the picture, not the whole picture.

There are other tools out there to help measure some of this information. Here are some favorites:
Comment reporting: MeasureMap (closed to new customers currently, damnit)
RSS analysis: FeedBurner
Link analysis: Technorati
Event Logging: for figuring out if your content is being scraped. Unica.

It’s challenging! If anyone says it is easy then they are full of crap.

He will tell us how to measure some attributes but there is no easy solution right now. Someday we’ll have unified tools but we don’t have them yet. The good thing is, we’re the cool people because we are at the cutting edge.

Three areas to focus on; Clickstream, RSS, Citations. Also, TRENDS.

1) Raw Author Contribution.
Uses the Generalstats WordPress plug-in to measure core stats on the blog’s author. He does roughly 9 posts per month, 1600+ words per post. Looks for trends. “Success is not a god-given right.” Quantity is not a measure of quality.

Do you deserve to succeed? Not everyone does. 3x posts per day of crap is still crap.

2) Audience growth: Onsite.
Is anybody listening? Key stats: Visits and Unique Visitors. Look at trends: are the numbers growing? Audience builds over time (at least it should). Look at the number over time (every 4-6 months).

Being on Digg is overrated, because the traffic does not last.

3) Audience growth: Offsite.
People who read via feed readers are more valuable because they have committed to letting you push your content out to them. They really love you. I feel this number is more important for that reason. Again, watch the trends over time.

Next step: aggregating on and offsite readers

Unique Blog Readers = RSS readers + Unique Visitors.

At the end of the day, are you making a dent?

4) Conversation Rate
Blogs are the most social of social animals. He wants to have a conversation. So he measured the conversation rate.

Conversation Rate = # of visitor comments / # of posts

His initial goal was that every post should have an average of 3 comments. Currently he gets an average of 17. Again, the trend is increasing. Interesting this is that there’s more words in the comments than he has actually written for the blog.

Blog is a social environment. Your blog should not be a monologue. That’s why you measure the comments.

5) Citations
He likes Technorati as his reporting tool. “In my space I want to have influence.” Technorati measures the chatter that is going around your blog (number of links), # of unique blogs that have linked to you in the last 6 months (authority), and your dynamic ranking. “For now it’s the best we have.”

He focuses on Authority because it’s the key ranking for the measurement that matters most to him: unique blogs that cite his blog. It’s about expanding the conversation. (It’s also good for SEO).

6) Cost
Nothing in life is free. Including love and blogging. For a blog there are three cost areas: technology (hardware & software & hosting), time (your time has a value), opportunity cost (what else could you be doing with that time?). Compute all three. His net is over $220,000 a year.

7) Benefit (ROI)
Once you have a cost, what’s your benefit? Comparative value. Are you building an asset of value? Are there other direct benefits like getting a new job or a book contract from your blog? Also, advertising revenue.

Other benefits: “Social objects.” New marketing is about creating social objects that create conversation. “Non traditional value.”

“And of course I blog because I love it. It makes me happy, and that is an unquantifiable value.”

Ultimately, your blog’s benefits need to exceed the costs. Especially if you are a business blogger. If your goal is an online diary it might be different.

“If you have a business and not a blog you are committing a crime against humanity” (all laughed)

Last tip: Set some goals. They motivate you. And then once you meet your goals, set some new ones.

Avinash’s Top 3 Measurements
Feed Subscribers
Conversation Rate
Technorati Authority

That’s it!

Q&A Bits

Bounce rate – not really a good metric for blogs because most people will only read your home page and/or your most recent post. (His is 70%) Ditto time on site. They are great for regular websites but not so much for blogs.

Alexa – useless. Especially if your traffic is less than a million a month.

Only 5 to 7% of traffic surfs without cookies. Not really meaningful enough to impact on overall measurements.

World Bank buzz monitor tool – good.

UPDATE 11/19: Avinash has published his own notes on this session, including some of the graphics he used. Don’t miss it.

3 thoughts on “Session Notes: Understanding Blog Analytics and Measuring Success”

  1. I also attended Avinash’s session. What a neat guy, and what an amazing success story. It was a Blogworld highlight for me.

    I specifically attended this session because of a personal experience I’d like to share. When I first started my Direct Marketing Blog (back in May), I found a timely post about building blog traffic, on Avinash’s blog (Occams Razor). I left a comment thanking him for the tips and telling him how my timely they were for me.

    Well, Avinash went the extra mile, and sent me an e-mail with more great info, more tips on how to build a successful blog, including links to other resources. It was so nice of him to take the time to help out a fledgling fellow blogger.

    You know, it is all about karma. He said it in his session, too. If we give of ourselves, good will come back to us.

    Thanks for the excellent summary of this session.

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