Friday, January 18, 2008

blogs, web stats, and KPIs

Today, let's look quit being so corny. I suggest we roll up our sleeves and look briefly at blogs, site statistics, and key performance indicators (KPIs). This will be a quick introduction, perfect for new bloggers, to the role and methodology of blog evaluation.

Your happiness with your blog, in spite of anonymous flamers and jealous trolls (who envy you because you have the courage to speak your mind and distribute your radical thoughts all over the world via the internet), is the greatest factor in judging a blog.

But let's go beyond your own satisfaction, and look at how a blog is to be analyzed.

First, your blog must not only please you and your boss (if you're a corporate blogger). It must meet the needs of your audience or customers. If you suspect they would like some sort of video, or at least links to video, on your blog, you had better figure out a way to deliver it.

YouTube and webcams are extremely popular.

People want a human presence on your website, and that probably means photos, audio podcasts, and/or video. Experiment. Fail. Learn. Get smarter and more popular than your competitors by exploring the many options available for blogs and conventional websites today.

Your blog's mission statement should be: to understand and serve the needs of my readers. Period. Oh, well, okay. A little bit of self-absorbed or marketing-oriented blather and parading around...but please, not too much!

Sure, you have to accomplish something for your employer or your own business or whatever. Can't we do this, while keeping audience needs the top priority? You'll have more qualified traffic, more apt to click on relevant ads and actually convert to sales.

With a foundation of (1) blog mission AND (2) audience satisfaction factors...let's proceed right to the heart of blog performance and evaluation.

When you start a new blog, always add tracking and link code for a web stats tool, like SiteMeter, GoStats, and Google Analytics. These tools will give you mission-critical, course-correcting information on how your blog is doing.

Remember though: the #1 criteria of blog evaluation is self-reflexive. How blogging impacts you, your life, your skills in thinking, debating, conflict resolution, writing, and research. That's the main thing, the primary result of blogging.

After that comes the joy of self-expression, a well-turned phrase, a blogocombat triumph, and the acquisition of an online community of shared interests. Still later comes the so-called ROI (Return on Investment), which is really, since blog design, functionality, and hosting can be totally free, your ROT (Return on Time).

Blogs are cheap. Your big, uncomfortable, burdensome investment is the time you spend tweaking, posting, revising, commenting, and moderating your blog. Not to mention reading and posting comments on other blogs, which is the #1 key to generating loyal, relevant traffic to your blog.

What web stats are the most important?

It depends on your goals for the blog, but what I look at are the Top Content, Referring Sites, Locations, and Daily Visitors.

Your blog's key performance indicators (KPI) will be based on the strategy of your blog model and the results you wish to see. A blog is basically a livingroom where you talk to friends about shared interests.

That alone can drive traffic to your associated ecommerce or corporate site, if you link to it.

Blogs can generate good will and enable you to present your company or industry's side of a controversial issue that's making headlines in the news, for example. There are many intangible, unmeasurable, but entirely real and vital benefits of business and personal blogging.

Ads are put on blogs, but there is a danger of appearing to be delivering content just to drive traffic to ads. Too many ads will convey a less professional tone, and to excess will drive people away from a website.

Top Content -- Which posts are most popular with your readers. You might be shocked. Make a sidebar display of Most Popular Posts, linking to your top 10 or 20, and watch those posts skyrocket in traffic. People like seeing what other people thought was good or interesting. Make sure you have permanent, placed ads in those posts, if you "monetize" your blog, which I don't.

Referring Sites ("referrals") -- What websites people came from to land on your blog. Go post comments at those referring blogs, and watch traffic soar from that already hot spot.

Locations -- What countries people live in, who came to your blog. International flavor is easy on the internet. Again, you will probably be shocked at what countries are looking at your blog.

Daily Visitors -- Mine goes up when I post comments at other blogs, and down when I spend too much time on Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku, MySpaceMusic, and other addictive sites.

Another element of analysis is Average Time Spent on your blog. But that must be clearly understood. Please take a moment to read "A Word About Averages".

At first, if you have a lot of posts, people will spend maybe 3 to 6 minutes on your blog, checking out your audio, photos, About Me page, video, previous posts, and reader comments.

But as time goes on, your regular loyal fans will spend less time, bringing down the average, as they simply read today's post, and skip the rest, which is already familiar to them.

To Be Continued.....

Stay tuned! Thanks. Email me any questions you have, or post a comment.

My famous Banana Taco, best of both worlds.

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