It has been almost 10 months now since I have started this blog. It started as means to share my journey and also to keep track of investment data that I generate for my personal investments. May 2009 was the last time I had discussed about traffic for TIPBlog. At that time, the blog was new and hence I presented the most cliché metrics such as number of visits and page views. In today’s post I am reviewing it again, but this time it is in the context of the metrics for social media. I am using frame work presented at Occam Razor by Avinash Kaushik (AK). AK’s reputation is; he is considered as one of the experts in Web Analytics. The essence of AK’s frame work is using trends in six key performances matrices. There is no absolute value which demonstrates success. AK suggests focusing on trends; they should be going in right direction. The six key performance indicators for measuring success of a blog are as follows:
- Raw Author Contribution
- Holistic Audience Trends
- Conversation Rate
- Citations and/or Ripple Index
- Cost of Blogging
- Return on Investment
(1) Raw Author Contribution
If you don’t know this already, the first principle of social media is to give something that is valuable, something that appeals to community. Many of the web metrics fails to measure this first. This metric helps to answer the questions, what have I contributed so far? AK acknowledges (and rightly so) that it is not an indictor of the quality of one’s contribution. However, it acts a foundation where one can at least make a start. When viewed in context of other five matrices, it will provide some clues.
- Total 130 posts in 10 months time, total number of words is 153,127
- No. of posts per month is 13, with average of 1178 words per post.
What is the verdict? I don’t know yet, because I have not identified any goals. The trend suggests I have been consistent in posting the type of articles I would have liked to discuss. I posted my investment philosophy, my investment approach, corresponding stock analysis, educational articles in the context of individual’s investments, proper disclosure, etc. My archive (the drop down list on sidebar) shows I have been consistent in posting with no noticeable long gaps. So that’s the starting foundation. The question is how does it reflect on other matrices?
(2) Holistic Audience Trends
This metrics is an attempt to measure the trend of people coming to read the blog. The focus should be on trends and growth rates (if interested). My view is absolute numbers will vary depending upon the niche. For example, xxx thousand unique visits or xx thousand RSS subscribes may be next to nothing for business portals. But the same number for an individual blogger could be the best of breed. Thus, the actual numbers need to be compared in the context of the objectives, which will vary. The two parameters to measure are:
- Onsite audience trends, i.e. number of visitors and number of unique visitors; and
- Offsite audience trends, i.e. number of RSS feed subscribers.
A growing trend for both of these matrices will show growth of audience. I am using Google Analytics for tracking visitors and FeedBurner for RSS Subscribers.
- Chart 2(a) for on-site audience trends shows the number of unique visitors each month e.g. March 2009 (161 unique visitors), September 2009 (2525 unique visitors). There was a drop in the month of August 2009. I can’t say why, but I can speculate it could be due to the change of domain name. I changed the domain name in mid July from www.theincomeportfolio.com to www.TIPBlog.in. Is that reflected in August? May be or May be not.
- Chart 2(b) for off-site audience shows number of RSS subscribers for last 10 months. e.g. March 2009 (less than 50), mid December 2009 (335). Here also, there is a growing trend.
What is the verdict? The audience average growth rate for each one (on-site and off-site) is more than 25% month-on-month basis. The number I have had at the back of my mind was 10% to 12%. There is no basis, but probably hangover from stock investing. Overall, this is an indicator that audience has increased by more than 25% month-on-month basis in last 10 months. It is difficult to make even 10 people listen to you at our regular work places, while on this blog, close to 23,000 voluntary visits were made (of which 15,000 are unique) to spend few minutes to read what I have to say. I guess that’s what social community is about.
(3) Conversation Rate
In a social media eco-systems blogs are supposed to be a medium of conversation. Therefore, AK suggests measuring the conversation rate. I use wordpress plugin (based on AKs metric) by Joost to measure this metrics.
- Average Conversation Rate = (Number of Reader Comments) / (Number of Posts)
As shown in Chart 3, the conversation rate per post is 2.8. Note: this rate excludes my responses. It only includes user comments. Furthermore, I have contributed 153,127 words in articles, while the blog has received back 25,362 words as comments.
What is the verdict? I started the blog with an assumption that there would be (or should be?) 3 to 5 comments. There is no basis for this number; it was more of a starting point. The conversation rate is only 2.8 comments per post. On this metric, the blog does not seem to do good, or not good as per my expectation. This also seems to be corroborated by the number of words in comments, where I only received approximately 16% [25,362 vs. 153,127] back in comments section.
It shows TIPBlog lacks conversation (an important part of participating in social media).
But wait a minute! What about emails that I receive? As Chart 3 shows, I have 81 (out of 643) emails that I consider part of this conversation metric. Theoretically, any email on this address is blog related. But to be conservative and focus on quality, I picked only 81. This only includes emails that initiated any specific conversation. I excluded all emails that I did not respond to, or the ones that did not result in any conversation, or that was not related to specific blog topics. Each email has multiple numbers of conversations. Each conversation is a comment. There were total of 133 comments (i.e. total 266 conversation divided by 2, to remove my responses). The total number of words in email conversations by users is 15,402.
- Now the conversation rate per post is (366+133)/(130) = 3.8
- The total number of words in user comments (25,362+15,402) = 40,764 i.e. a return of 26% words in comments.
Now when we look at this, it does not seem to be that bad. But it is not something to be proud of! This at least shows that TIPBlog needs something to initiate that conversation, or perhaps the quality of articles needs to be improved. How? Something to think about!
(4) Citations and/or Ripple Index
Think of this metric as a third party report card. The purpose here is to measure conversation outside your blogs. It is related to how folks outside your blog are linking to your blog, and how many times your blog is being referenced. AK suggests using Technorati ranking and look for improving trends. There are some advantages in Technorati ranking such as it only includes blog links (not websites); links expire in six months (so bloggers have to keep generating good quality, rather than basking on old content).
I still do not have a good understanding of Technorati ranking. I have registered TIPBlog in Technorati database, but beyond that there is nothing to report. I do not know how much valid it would be for an Indian Blog. The topics I discuss on my blog are targeted for Indian audience. In addition, the subject of dividend focused investing is also very niche in Indian context. My blog does not cover stock tips or daily market commentary or any other economic news. So even if I make an effort, do I even expect to go anywhere in Technorati rankings? Not knowing something is a bad excuse to skip. May be there is way to measure Technorati ranking for India only blogs. Again something to think about!
I cannot hide under this excuse right? I do need an independent third party report card. So I looked at (1) Google page rank; (2) Alexa ranking; and (3) Indiblogger ranking.
- The google page rank is 3 (increased from PR1 in May 2009). You can see that when I changed the domain name in mid July, the PR dropped to zero for few months. It would be great if I can increase this to PR4 by end of 2010, but realistically, I consider this as a very low probability. Again, something to think about!
- The Alexa ranking trend is also improving. It came down from 2.6M in May 2009 to 617K by November 2009.
- Since TIPBlog is designed to be focusing on Indian audience, I believe Indiblogger ranking makes much more sense. This ranking takes into account Google PR, Alexa rankings, and few other common parameters. However, it normalizes the rankings among India focused blogs that are part of its database. And hence, in my view, comparatively it reflects a better report card for India focused blogs. At present, the Indiblogger ranking is 82. The chart shows how it kept changing over the past few months. Note the dip to 50 when the domain name was changed.
What is the verdict? I did not have any goals, so there is no way to go back and evaluate the progress. Now that I have baseline to start, I should come up with goal for 2010. Something to think about!
(5) Cost of Blogging
So far we have seen how much I have contributed, is anybody reading and listening, and is anybody interested in discussing back with me. The next is to determine how much it costs me to do this. Had you asked me this before reading AK’s framework, I would have said practically nothing. Not anymore.
- Technology cost is related to hosting, domain name, and software. Total cost for using technology is $93.4 (i.e. hosting for 6.95 per month x 12 months, plus $10 for domain registration). Software cost is zero because I use free WordPress platform, free theme, free plugins, and free gmail system. I considered my internal service provider cost, but then it is not applicable. I would have had my ISP even without the blog.
- The associated cost of time I spend on this blog. How would one cost this out? This is a bit of subjective and tricky. But I will try. The blog is based on my investment process and thoughts on investing. All this activity can be classified into two broad groups. One set of activities include studying, reading, and analyzing about anything related to investing. Second set of activities includes drafting, writing, presenting, making images, responding to comments/emails, and maintenance of blog.
- If this blog was not there, I would still be doing the first set of activities. But not the second set of activities. Therefore, for estimating cost, I only considered the time for second set of activities. When I started in March 2009, I use to spend approximately six hours per week for this blog. Now, I spend around eight hours per week. These eight hours comes from other than my regular work schedule. Assuming I did investment consultancy work on part time basis, I am very sure I would be able to generate average Rs. 1000 per hour. That is, Rs 416,000 per year. This would be on one year basis and then averaging backwards. As clients increase, you still do the same amount of work, and you expect your rate of return to increase. So this would be the cost of my time.
- The lost opportunity cost would be something that I enjoy doing, writing and networking!
What is the verdict? I lost Rs 416,000 last year, so I failed, didn’t I? Keeping jokes apart, this would be the way, I would have to think, if I were to go full time blogging. But I am not yet (never say never, right?).
(6) Return on Investment
All of the above is well and good. The ultimate question that I would need to answer is “what is in it for me”, or “what do I get out of it”. You may realize I ask the same question when I am analyzing or buying any given company shares.
AK suggests multiple parameters to determine ROI from the blog. These are Comparative Value (blog is an asset and what’s its comparative value), Direct Value (revenue, profits, referrals, leads, etc that it brings in), Non-Traditional Value (this is for businesses and not personal blogs), and Unquantifiable Value (networking, happiness, more friends, etc).
I am not covering this metric in this discussion. This in itself is a separate post which I will present shortly. Keep an eye on this space for ROI of TIPBlog.
This was perhaps the longest post I have done. What do you folks think? What does it tell you about the TIPBlog? Can we being increasing the conversation rate now?
Few additional aspects that I think I did not cover is google analytics like visitor trending (page views, time on site, bounce rates), and visitor loyalty (recency, length of visit, depth of visit). That will be in separate post too.
[December 31, 2009] I added an article on how to determine ROI
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