A rulerI had a client ask me recently about what metrics existed for blogs. I hadn’t really thought about that topic as it relates to weblogs before, so I had to do a bit of research on the subject. As a former Director of Marketing and a confirmed chart junkie, the idea intrigued me considerably. After digging into though, I quickly came to the conclusion that metrics and blogs don’t mix well.

Creating metrics for a blog is a really tough problem. In fact, I haven’t found anyone that has found a clear cut solution regardless of what side of the fence you happen to be on. Fence? Yes, there are two sides to this issue. Some feel that trying to measure the success of a blog can’t be done and that it’s futile to attempt to do so. The other side believe that without metrics, there can be no real understanding of a blog’s success. As the weblog “scale|free” put it, “I think measurement is essential, otherwise all you’ve got is a warm fuzzy story that may actually be completely incorrect.”

Personally, I belive trying to develop metrics is a a waste of time. Blogging is about creating a relationships. Relationships with customers, clients, future, clients, peers etc. I think there are some ways to measure POPULARITY, but it’s very hard to create metrics on a relationship. For example, how do you measure how “successful” someone’s marriage is?

In my opinion, the first question that has to be answered is what do you mean by success? If you’re trying to develop metrics to track the ROI, then you’re in for a world of hurt. I can’t find any tangible metrics for measure ROI. However, if you belive that popularity make a blog successful, then I think that there are some ways to measure the popularity of a site and thus, determine how “successful” a blog is.

Charlene Li had an e-mail conversation with Robert Scoble on this very subject and they came up with three measurements:

  1. How many inbound links there are. That shows how many people find you interesting enough to link to. Use Technorati.
  2. How much raw traffic each site is sending. For instance, when Joel Spolsky linked to me he sent me about 12,000 visitors off of one link. Slashdot usually sends 15,000 to 100,000, depending on the sensationalism of the headline. Mainstream press? When Dave Winer was linked to by an article on MSN’s home page he got 200,000 visitors from one link.
  3. Anecdotal influence measures. For that you have to go to conferences and talk to people. Collect business cards. Etc.

In my opinion, all of these measurement are more of popularity and influence than on ROI. I think these are good measurements and valid tools, but I don’t know that they address the typical metrics that marketing aficionados look for.

The only other items that I could add to the list mentioned above is as follows:

  1. Overall Traffic – How much traffic is a blog generating? If it’s part of a larger site, then track how much traffic is going to the blog versus the rest of the site.
  2. Comment and Trackbacks – This is a tough one, because lack of feedback doesn’t mean that a blog isn’t popular. Yet if you look at the cream of the crop blogs, you’ll find that they do generate a lot of comments. Trackbacks are also plentiful as other blogs continue the discussion.
  3. RSS Feeds – You can’t get accurate numbers in terms of subscribers per se, although Bloglines and del.icio.us do have tracking tools within their services, but you can see how many hits the feed(s) are getting to give you a ball park number.

Recommended Reading
There is no one answer and certainly my opinion can be just as wrong as the next person. So my recommendation is to read what other people have written to form your own opinion based on your frame of reference. Here’s a short list of good articles on the subject:

» What makes a successful blog? (Part 1)
» What makes a successful blog? (Part 2)
» Scoble On Metrics: [link 1] [link 2]
» Counterpoints To The Whole Issue Of Metrics: [link 1] [link 2]
» Best Practices For Blogging