Being a guy very interested in web analytics, I made it a point to see the Blog Audience Measurement session here at the Blog Business Summit. The focus is on how we qualify and quantify our efforts blogging or for advertisers sponsoring blogs.
I wasn’t familiar with the two speakers coming into it, which were Andru Edwards and Tris Hussey. They both have a publishing background opposed to a web/blog analytics background, so I thought it’d make for an interesting discussion.
They started out discussing that blogs are tough nuts to crack with analytics because:
- RSS metrics haven’t been figured out yet (I partially disagree, Feedburner does a pretty good job)
- Blog reach goes beyond unique visitors
Then moved on to all the factors that build blog traffic:
- Posting frequency – It matters a lot, they definitely see traffic rise when posting frequency rises.
- Do blogrolls matter? – Andru says yes, Tris doesn’t think so much
- Links out from your blog help. They bring other bloggers to come see the blog linking to them.
- Sourcing other bloggers and referring to their posts. Also brings in aggregators like Techmeme.
Next was what kinds of tools bloggers can use to watch traffic:
- Blog Metric Tools – Some of the server log tools are AWStats, Urchin, Analog, and Clicktracks. They also commented on how hits are generally worthless as a statistic, unless you really are interested in how many files are being requested. Someone mentioned HitTail, which I hadn’t heard of yet and now want to review.
The next topic of discuss was the tools we can use as bloggers to measure our blog’s reach/relevance/popularity:
They did point out that most of these are flawed in their methodoligies in one way or another. Scoble specifically pointed out that he doesn’t like Feedburner because you’re giving up control of your subscribers and your feed to Feedburner, and if they ever went out of business or decided to something weird you could lose all the subscribers to your feed. A valid point, but there are some ways to use Feedburner and also keep control by doing .htaccess redirection.
The summary of this chat was really that there is no silver bullet. There isn’t anything in blog/RSS analytics that tells you everything you need to know and tells it accurately.
An audience member added another point, “I don’t care about how many page views or visitors I really get. I care about getting the right visitors, the influential visitors, or the potential customer visitors. How can I tell who’s who?”
For as far as analytics have come, there’s still a long way to go.