I sat down this weekend and said to myself: “Self, where will Redhead Writing go in 2010?” After we crossed Tahiti off the list, the more important question came to mind: “How will I know when we get to where we’re going?” Since there’s no GPS for blogging to get you from where you are to where you want to be, the best I figured I could do is put together a set of metrics as a move-forward tactic for Redhead Writing. Hell, I do it for my clients. Time to sack-up and start doing it for myself.
Metric 1: Blog Subscribers
Subscribers come in two formats and a few iterations: email and RSS feed. RSS feed can be broken down further into Google Reader subscribers (easily tracked), other readers and pure RSS feed. You need to monitor all three of these to establish move-forward metrics for measuring blog growth and success.
Email subscribers: I burn my feed with Feedburner. It has a robust set of marketing and subscription tools and also tracks email subscribers to your blog for you. To view this information, just go to Publicize/Email Subscriptions and scroll down until you see View Subscriber Details. They even let you export your subscriber list as a .csv file. Booyah.
Google Reader subscribers: Just go to Google Reader and click the “Add a Subscription” button in the top left corner. Enter the name of your blog (or anyone’s for that matter) and you’ll see how many people subscribe to your blog via Google Reader. Note that this number does NOT include other reader types. As everything Google, it’s an island. I have boatloads more RSS subscribers than Google Reader subscribers and I have to track each independently.
RSS subscribers: Since I use Feedburner to administer my RSS feed, I can just log into Feedburner and check my growth stats regularly. Doing this monthly (along with the other tracking above) will keep me apprised of what’s hot, what sucks and what I should emulate moving forward.
Metric 2: Tease and Tweet
It’s not dirty, so stop it. If you have a blog and you’re not using Twitter…umm…what? I’m not even going to discuss it. You need to track a few things to measure blogging success: teaser headlines and retweets.
Teaser Headlines: How do you lead in a link to a blog post? People are curious by nature but they want to be enticed to click on something. That’s where headlines come in. I track not only the headlines I attach to a link but the blog link itself. I will generally tweet a blog post morning and afternoon during prime reading times and use a different headline each time. Make yourself a spreadsheet to track your headlines and be sure to use a trackable URL shortening service like bit.ly for all links to your own domain. (Why you shouldn’t use Ow.ly for links to your domain….)
Retweets: If you’re running a self-hosted WordPress installation, there are many plugins out there that will track your retweets. I personally use Digg Digg, and you’ll see the Digg and Tweet icons at the top of this post underneath my SocioFluid social bookmarking bar. You can encourage people to retweet directly from the post, or if they retweet through Twitter, the plugin will pick up those pings and add them to your count. Go through your posts on a monthly basis and see what’s hot. Your URL shortening service will also help you track most clicked and shared content through the system’s built-in analytics.
Metric 3: Google Analytics and Lijit
If you don’t have Google Analytics installed for your blog, get thee to Google and get that shit taken care of, yo? There’s a simple WordPress plugin for Google Analytics. Just set up your GA account and plug in your tracking code – and in BAM! You’re tracking stats Emeril-style. I use GA in conjunction with Lijit. WTF is Lijit? One of the coolest tracking tools EVAH. It enables a high-powered search function on your site. Your blog visitors can search your site, your social content and your network’s content for awesome results. It doesn’t replace GA but is a dandy compliment to GA’s stats. Need more info? Well, first of all – it’s FREE. Download and plugin. Secondly, give @tarable a follow on Twitter (one of my lovely co-presenters at the upcoming Chicks Who Click Denver event this coming weekend, 1/23). She’ll be happy to hook you up with answers and the people who can help you make your blog more “Lijit.”
Metric 4: Data, Data, Data
Why do you have a blog if you’re not tracking this stuff? Set goals. I want X number of subscribers by X date. I want to send out email communications X times per year. I will tweet content X times per day. I will bookmark all posts with X social bookmarking services. I track ALL of this information for my clients and yet – I have been lax in doing it for my own business. Well, no more. All of this data is mine for the asking. It takes 1 hour per month to gather your stats, so don’t you owe yourself an hour to grow your reach, audience and brand affinity? Tracking is as simple as an Excel/Numbers spreadsheet. Personally, I’m delighted I am weaning myself off of the hateful Microsoft products since I now own a Mac (applause, please). But I digress. Track your shit, just don’t track it in the house. Wipe those shoes and keep your blog clean, organized and growing.
The bottom line: you can’t track your blog’s success by just looking at Google Analytics or Subscribers. If you see one, you’re missing the other. Never forget that your online community, while seemingly united, is actually highly fragmented. Everyone has their own preferred method of content delivery. You may have 500 RSS subscribers who never EVER click through to your site per month because they’re getting you in their feed or reader. Now the key is: how do you get people to click through and visit your site if they get content in your reader? Tune in Friday, my pets. Tune in Friday.