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Six Potentially Useful Measures of Your Blog’s Performance (Hint: Comments Vs. Five Others) – No. 3 of 4

Written by Tayo Solagbade

Topics: Writing/Blogging

This is the third post in the series I began on the 6th October 2012. The first post argued that you need to determine if your blog needs comments to succeed – instead of worrying about what others say. Note that I refer specifically to blogging for business purposes, with emphasis on earning income via sales of products and services.

The second post discussed five questions you can ask yourself, to decide if your blog type needs comments to succeed (especially in financial terms). Going by my personal experiences and observations, if you avoid needless sentiment, these questions WILL help you take the right decision.

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Blog Comments Multi-Post Series – Table of Contents

Post 1: Should You Worry About Getting Blog Comments?
Post 2: Deciding If Your Blog Needs Comments To Succeed (5 Questions To Ask Yourself)
Post 3: Hint: Comments Vs. Five Others)

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Why this series? There’s a lot of debate surrounding the value of comments. Many blog owners are not sure what to think or do as a result. This series offers ideas to help interested blog owners decide if their kind of blog needs (or does not need) comments to succeed – and steps to take in either case.

IntroductionWordPress Third Party Plugins

After you’ve decided on whether or not comments can help your blog succeed, you need a reliable means of measuring its "success". In this third post, I review six performance indicators that you can consider.

I love WordPress because of the elaborate array of third party plugins that developers continually create (in free and paid versions), to enhance its features and functions. The six potentially useful performance indicators I will be discussing can be easily monitored using nifty plugins available online from a variety of developers.

You just choose the one that suits your needs best. Be sure to check for compatibility with your WordPress blog version. Also make sure there are reliable reviews/ratings to indicate it delivers what it promises. And that the developer offers active support to address user problems – even if for a fee.

A visit to the WordPress plugins directory will get you started in your search. Note that in using any of the plugins mentioned in this post, you will be acting on your own conviction. Nothing I say here can be taken to be an endorsement or recommendation. Your due diligence is therefore advised and encouraged!

1. Comments

This multi-post series arose from a need to determine if the presence or absence of comments on a blog was a significant indication of performance in any way.

What answers did you settle on for the questions posed in my second post? It they indicate that comments provide a reliable measure of goals attainment for your blog, then you will want to track relevant comments related statistics over time.

For instance, number of comments per post would be a useful stat to track. Measuring the "quality" of comments would also be useful, where relevant. But the question of HOW to measure it would present a bit of a challenge! However, it’s up to you to find a way to do that, or develop relevant alternatives e.g.via a sticky comments plugin.

Plugins exist to record/report total comments and ratings per post, for instance. The more comments (and say the higher the number of facebook likes e.g. via a Facebook comments for wordpress plugin) – by readers – of the posts on your blog, the better the blog would be doing – in theory anyway. However, that could depend on whether you’ve already established that blog comments have a significant impact on your blog’s ability to succeed.

Many plugins exist for managing blog comments. A plugin that reports the Most Commented Posts can be useful to have. So would a Threaded Comments Numbering plugin.

2. Blog Traffic (Incl. Number of Returning Visitors and/or Hits Per Visitor)

Traffic to your blog should also be a useful performance measure. You can track and use it as a guide to decide what content type to produce more or less of, to move faster towards your goal.

Again plugins abound to automatically generate relevant stats for this parameter. The one I use comes pre-installed as a " Statistics" widget by default in WordPress. It displays a report panel on the side banner showing daily, weekly, monthly summaries; total posts and other stats. For now, this plugin serves my purpose. So, I do not see any reason why I should go hunting for any other.

Traffic stats can give you a decent impression of the progress (or otherwise) of your blog. It can also be useful to monitor stats for number of returning visitors which is used by the statistics widget I mentioned above to compute number of hits per visitor in a day, week or month. Returning visitors are a useful measure of your blog’s ability to build a loyal readership. The higher that value is, the better your blog is performing in this regard.

When I started with this new blog back in mid-June, I recall seeing about 50 visits per day – sometimes much less. Now I get as high as 490 to 800 per day.

(This is in spite (or even because?) of distinct Negative SEO activity I recently discovered to be targetted at this domain – more on this in a future post.)

I’ve also noticed that the nmber of views per post fluctuate based on the blog post topics. Indeed, I have found that most of the posts in which I told true stories quite often attract MUCH higher views than all the others.

This trend is replicated on my Public Speaking IDEAS blog – which happens not to be WordPress based. (It was recently the victim of a hacker attack, and I’m now planning to integrate its future content into this SD Nuggets blog, under the already existing "Public Speaking" category. More on that in the near future).

3. Bounce Rate and Number of Views Per Post

It’s great to see traffic. But you need to know what happens AFTER they get to your blog.

The "bounce rate" is a good measure. Estimates I’ve come across suggest that blogs generally have about 75% bounce rate – and that you can aim for 20% reductions by making effort to setup your blog and create content in a way that draws visitors in, so they do not exit from the same page they come in.

One thing on this: I like to drill down and analyze data trends, so as to make better sense of them. The blog type comes to play here again – in a powerful way. A news service blog is likely to maintain fairly high bounce rates even after it puts in measures to increase visitor time spent. And that’s because majority of people can follow a specific news headline, and once they’ve read it may not stay around to see what else there is to offer.

Some would. But a larger majority of web users are "click-happy" and often in a hurry to move on (or back) to others things they had their minds on BEFORE the news item caught their attention.

However, for other blog types, efforts to create interesting content that’s relevant to the post being read by the visitor can produce useful results. This blog for instance has benefitted from my installation of a plugin ( wp-category-posts-list plugin) early this week. That plugin now automatically displays a list of additional posts from the same category as the one being viewed by the visitor. This increases the chances that s/he will get drawn to read MORE of the other posts from the same category.

Over time, this is likely to produce a drop in bounce rate, and an increase in time spent on the blog per visitor.

The need to introduce this feature became apparent when I used hitsniffer. There was a distinct trend in which when I added consecutive posts from the same category, they seemed to get viewed in succession by visitors. On the other hand, when I posted one post per category in succession, visitors tended to leave from the same post that they arrived on.

The value to be had from tracking views per post are obvious. I actually consider this more important as a performance measure than traffic in a way. It tells you WHAT your visitors show a preference for in terms of your post topics, titles or themes.

That makes it easier for you to instantly see where they went in terms of posts viewed. Apart from a general interest in reading "stories" (no surprises there), I have also discovered a distinct interest shown by my visitors in subjects relating to handling clients or dealing with client issues.

I’ll be tracking the bounce rate and number of views per post over the next two weeks to see if there’s a marked improvement.

4. E-mail Subscription Rates and RSS Feed Size

These two parameters have to be monitored together. Again, it depends on your blog type. But generally it helps to provide an email subscription form on your blog. Offer latest update notifications to those who signup. Entice them to give up their email addresses in exchange for some useful gift e.g. an e-book that offers them good value.

NB: I’ve found the MaxBlogPress Optin Form Adder Widget to have amazing integration capabilities on my blog. It directly links a signup form to my website contact form script, while presenting my "offers" on every post/page (based on my specifications) to the visitor. All in pretty HTML format I have control over.

People like to stay in touch with developments on a blog that offers content they find appealing. They want to get more of that content. That will make them look around on your blog for the signup form or RSS feed link. Don’t make those tools hard to find!

You will gain subscribers over time. And you will definitely lose some via attrition. It’s a natural process that will happen – no matter how awesome you are. People will get bored or have a change of preference or interest, and choose to unsubscribe. What is important is that you keep generating new content to attract more subscribers than you lose. That way, your list grows.

And that list CAN be "mined" for useful financial returns later on. As I emphasized in the first post, that is the preferred measure of success I’m looking at in this series (I discuss this along with other ideas, next week, in my fourth and final post).

You need to keep in mind, that some visitors will however prefer to receive your content through the less intrusive RSS feed. As a result they might skip subscribing to your email list. That implies you will not gain access to their email in boxes. But they will receive your blog posts.

Feedburner offers useful variations to their default feed service that allow you to capture email addresses from your feed subscribers. You may wish to check it out.

Whatever happens, your best bet here will be to track stats for both email subscription (using a reliable mailing list management system) and RSS feed size (feedburner automatically generates this value for you).

Important Note: Beware of the danger of focussing on more obvious performance indicators to the exclusion of more subtle, yet equally, if not more powerful ones. I recall reading a list ranking top blogs in which some of those featured tended to have relatively unimpressive Alexa traffic stats .

This grossly understated the huge following they enjoyed in form of hundreds of thousands of RSS feed subscribers (some up to 500k!). Without access to this less obvious but very important latter measure of performance, a casual observer would have concluded those blogs were not doing as well as others boasting more impressive traffic stats (Subscriptions rank greater in terms of potential value compared to traffic).

5. Volume/Type Of Contact Form Enquiries

This can be a useful indicator of sales leads generation by your blog – depending on the content/subject of the enquiries, and of course the sender. But it’s relevance may also depend on what kind of blog you run (see the second post in this series). Sometimes your blog might attract persons offering to sell YOU a product or service, more often than it generates queries from potential buyers! That said, you should explore ways to make more of the latter happen, as often as possible.

One good way would be to include calls to action for as many of your products or services as may be relevant to each post a visitor reads. I have had noticeable jumps in web form enquiries whenever I’ve done this. And it’s a continuous process – with constant testing and tweaking required, until you arrive at an optimal rate of return.

I use the extremely flexible Contact Form 7 and it has served me quite well. It comes with a feature that enables you create fully customized forms, with ability to indentify the page they were submitted from. This guides you to measure the leads generation capacity of the different pages on your blog that you place the form. That way, you know what works and can then work towards getting better results.

Fourth and Final Post: Using Your Blog To Make Money – Little Used Strategies You Can Exploit – Coming on Saturday 27th October 2012

Blog Comments Multi-Post Series – Table of Contents

Post 1: Should You Worry About Getting Blog Comments?
Post 2: Deciding If Your Blog Needs Comments To Succeed (5 Questions To Ask Yourself)
Post 3: Six Potentially Useful Measures of Your Blog’s Performance (Hint: Comments Vs. Five Others)

Post 4(Final): Using Your Blog To Make Money – Little Used Strategies You Can Exploit

TO GET THE NOTIFICATION IN YOUR E-MAIL CLICK HERE TO JOIN MY MAILING LIST (You get multiple gifts – instantly!)

[IMPORTANT: This blog's contents are being updated following the transfer to www.tayosolagbade.com from my former domain - Spontaneousdevelopment.com. As a result, some parts of it may not work properly for now. Quick Tip: If a link contains "spontaneousdevelopment.com", simply change it to "tayosolagbade.com" - and it should work. This applies to article links as well as image links. Work continues to update the links(in over 500 articles). Tayo K. Solagbade.]

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6 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

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Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Deciding If Your Blog Needs Comments To Succeed (5 Questions To Ask Yourself) | SD Nuggets™
  2. Should You Worry About Getting Blog Comments ? | SD Nuggets™

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