A great question came in from one of our partners:
"I know your research found that organizations didn’t get many comments. But is that the measure of success we should use? Maybe it is, but I’m not sure. We just hired a communications officer (a former health reporter for our local paper) and she’s got us on Facebook and we are about to start blogging (all staff contribute). Obviously I want our blog to be exceptional!"
Thought it was an important question, so I am sharing my answer with all of you too! Here goes...
I definitely think there are better ways to measure blog success than just comments. Comments are really tough to measure, and are just one piece of an engagement calculation.
First, I would start by figuring out what your goals are. Is it to raise awareness about the work of the Foundation? Is it to showcase foundation grantees? Is it to generate a conversation around health related topics? As you can imagine the measurements that will be of value will differ for each of the goals.
Certainly you want to look at comments, but I'm not sure that you can learn a ton from that set of metrics alone unless you end up having a reasonable volume of comments over time. Idealware's blog is a good example of the comment metric, looked at comparatively over time or even between posts, as not being super informative. Recently we put up a post about the top ways to navigate a vendor demo. It got relatively few views, but had 10 comments compared to our most popular post about QR codes that was widely read but had just a few comments. If we were only looking at comments, you would think the vendor demo post reached a substantially larger audience, when in fact the opposite was true.
As a general rule of thumb you should try and measure a few different blog metrics in addition to comment rate. The first would be your readership. You can see how many people are actually looking at the blog in general and then drill down to see how many are looking at individual posts. Looking at overall readership over time will give you a solid sense of overall growth and reach into the world. Looking comparatively at individual posts will help you to hone in on what your readership finds interesting, as well as good days and times to post. Keeping track of RSS subscribers and the growth of that population over time, will also help you get a sense of popularity of your blog and growth of that committed readership over time.
Tracking how often and where your blog is re-posted can also be a very valuable piece of info. Again, this will let you get a sense of both popularity and reach. To do this I would use a listening tool (a simple one would be Google Alerts) to collect mentions of the blog. You can also see how people are getting to your blog in general and to your individual posts, specifically, using a web analytics tool like Google Analytics. This will help you determine who is talking about you and where people are hearing about the blog. If you send out alerts about the blog in newsletters, on Facebook or Twitter, you will be able to see the sources of traffic with a web analytics tool.
Finally, you definitely want to track where people go from the blog, as this is likely part of the goals of having one in the first place- getting people to come to your website and explore (prefeably for a long time and quite extensively). You should look at the rates of clicks on links within the blog as well as where on your website people are going after they come to the blog. If you are aiming to draw people to your fellows program from the blog, seeing how many people go to the fellows page from the blog can help you gauge effectiveness. If you wanted people to sign up for your newsletter, or follow you on Twitter or Facebook, you could track conversions (or at least potential conversions) in this way.
Remember, you don't need to track all of these things, instead, identify the metrics that will inform progress towards your goal and start with them. 2 to 4 metrics should give you a pretty good sense as to where you stand and what you need to do to reach your goals!
How do you measure your blog successes? Help me bulk up this list with your comments!
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