Top 10 Blog Post lists are popping up all over the Internet as
another year comes to an end, as nonprofits, individuals, and
businesses take stock of where they’ve been and plan their
communications strategy for the coming year. But how do you know which of your blog posts for the past year are your “top” content? It's more than a simple matter of counting up the page views...
Three factors come into play, when you start to track down the information on your blog
or website that’s made the greatest impact on your audience: Readers, Reports, and Responses. Yes, the data may take a few hours (or a few days, depending on your website and your ambition) to gather and process, but it's well worth the effort — as we'll see — and a few "New Year’s resolutions" can help to make the traffic
tracking much easier when it comes time for next year's round-up!
Google Analytics or a similar good stats package willl tell you how many people looked at a particular web page — and here’s how to crunch the numbers,
if you’re new to website analytics. Do remember to take into account
the length of time that each post has been published — for the most
accurate reading, you’ll want to calculate the page views per day (or
week, or month) rather than simply looking at the total number. A post
that’s only been online for a few weeks will not have had the same
exposure as an earlier post that’s been up for months, so the total
views for the year will be skewed in favour of the older post.
New Year’s Resolution: Keep a spreadsheet to record, for each
post or page, the number of unique page views per week, through the
coming year. If weekly assessment is more than you can fit into your
schedule, consider doing at least a month-end tally. The shorter the
time period, the more revealing the statistics will be, but either way
you’ll save time on collecting data when the next year-end rolls around.
If a particular post of yours has been cited in a media report about
your nonprofit, or linked to from another blog or website, that’s a key
indicator that the post gained special attention.
Offline media reports about your organization are more likely to
refer to your website in general than one post in particular — if they
mention your online presence at all — but you may be able to gather
from the topic and context which of your posts, if any, attracted the
You can’t read every newspaper and catch every broadcast, of course:
Why not ask your members to keep their eyes and ears open, and let you
know of any media mentions of your organization? People enjoy being
helpful, and challenging your supporters to act as a volunteer
“clipping service” can be an effective way to engage them with your
cause between major events.
Online, you can find most of the incoming links to your website using ‘link:URL’
as your search term in Google or Yahoo! search engines — where URL is
the full web address of the web page you want to check for incoming
links. Other search engines call for a slightly different method, so
check the help documentation for your favorite to see how it’s done.
In fact, it’s not a bad idea to try a few searches on a couple of
different search engines and compare the results, and decide which will
give you the more complete results. (There are many free or low-cost
web tools available that are designed to find inbound links to your
domain, but they seem to vary widely in quality and I’ve yet to find
one that beats a basic Google link search for thoroughness and reliability — your suggestions are more than welcome! )
Obviously, it would be far too time-consuming to do a link search
for every page on your website, especially on a large site. Do try,
however, to check out at least those 25-30 posts that show the most
visitor traffic. Combine page views and links in, and the mass of site
stats will soon sort itself out into a Top 10 list of your most
New Year’s Resolution: Add another column to your stats
spreadsheet, so you can track the incoming links and media mentions as
they happen. You’ll have up-to-date data at your fingertips whenever
you need it, through the coming year — especially useful for making
presentations to your board, when “return on investment” of your
website is on the agenda!
Google analytics can’t tell you about the conversations around your
website — in the comments sections of your blog, in the emails you
receive, and in social media — but that conversation is arguably the
single most important metric for measuring the “success” of a blog post.
When counting comments on your posts, pay attention to the timing as
well as the total numbers. If an older post keeps attracting comments
and generating conversation in social media
even months after its publication date, you can pretty much figure on
(1) that particular page is easy to find — either it’s
performing quite nicely in the search engines, or it has been linked to
by a number of other websites, or both; and/or
(2) your audience is
interested in and actively looking for information on the topic of that
popular post. There are lessons there, and your plans for the coming
year may benefit from a closer look!
New Year’s Resolution: Create a new spreadsheet to keep track
of the responses per week (or month, if you’re short on time) for each
post you publish. Include comments on the post, email responses, and
whatever mentions you may find via social media websites (Google
Alerts, TweetBeep, and other tracking tools can help you there — as can
that “volunteer clipping service” we talked about above).
At the end of each quarter, or more often if possible, sit down for
a few minutes with your blog statistics spreadsheet to see what’s going
Do any patterns emerge?
Look for whether some topics or some types of posts engage your
readers more than the others, and pay close attention to the
conversations around your top posts.
Are there any lingering questions
about your nonprofit that need to be answered? Do your prospective
members have any concerns or confusion about how to join, and why they
should? Are there any accountability issues that could be clarified?
Overall, how well are you telling the story of your cause?
If you keep track of the on-going interaction of readers with your
website, and do a periodic assessment of what the stats are telling
you, it can cuts a good deal of the guesswork from your communications
plan. You’ll have a deeper understanding of exactly what draws your
supporters to engage with your cause, and what they are looking
for in your organization. And when the world throws a curve — like a
dramatic downturn in the economy — who knows? That inside knowledge
might just be the advantage that helps your nonprofit to ride out a
What can we learn from each other?
The tracking of Readers/ Reports/ Responses for your web content is just one suggestion, of course, and I'd love to get your ideas on other ways to pick the "best fo the best" for the year gone by. If your nonprofit blog has posted a Top 10 list for 2008, tell us — how did you go about choosing the posts for your list? Or maybe you don't see any point in the popular Top Blog Post round-ups at all? Whichever side you're on, please weigh in with your comments!