Are You Tracking Your Top Blog Posts?

Lori Halley 31 December 2008 3 comments

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!

Readers

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.

Reports

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 reporter’s attention.

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 attention-getting material.

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!

Responses

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 two things:

(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 on.

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 rough year.

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!

Get a Special Report on Simplifying Membership Management

Enter your email and receive this special report in your inbox.
Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Wednesday, 31 December 2008 at 3:11 PM

Get a Special Report on Simplifying Membership Management

Enter your email and receive this special report in your inbox.

Comments

  • Beth Kanter said:

    Wednesday, 31 December 2008 at 11:36 AM

    Great post!  I'm just in the process of doing this now ..

  • Holly said:

    Wednesday, 31 December 2008 at 12:30 PM

    Love this post.  We did this here at NTEN as well.  It was really surprising to us what showed up as most read vs. most commented on.  they weren't always the same.  We started to see some great trends about what inspires passion in people (which we determine by comments) as well as what people are curious about.  

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Wednesday, 31 December 2008 at 7:00 PM

    Beth, looking forward to reading your year-end reflections!

    Holly, yes, the difference between what people simply read (and hopefully absorb) and what moves them to participate in conversation, whether it's to question or to contribute - not only fascinating, but I suspect there's untapped gold in there for nonprofits trying to find a way to connect more closely with their audience: 2009 should be an interesting trip!

Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.

Search: WildApricot.com 

About results ( seconds) Sort by: 
Sorry, an error occured when performing search.