November 2007

27 Nov 2007 01:06 am

pollen Let's take a break from Web Analytics for a week and talk about something I love. Blogging!

In Oct 2006, after six months of blogging, I felt confident enough to publish Ten Blogging Tips From A Novice Blogger.

But my last post (Blog Analytics: Measuring Blog Success) brought so many emails about what works and what does not, when it comes to blogs and blogging, that I thought now might be a good time to publish a second edition of Blogging Tips.

The purpose of this post is simple: Share my lessons from approximately a year and half of blogging.

What, in my humble experience, works, what does not, and what is completely wrong!

And remember that I am still a novice at this.


If are trying to create a blog that will create your unique brand, build an audience over time and create a voice for yourself then here are my recommendations:

# 10: Names, URL's, Looks, Your Pictures Don't Matter

# 9: Join BAGoT: Bloggers Against Globs of Text

# 8: Go for 6th grade level

# 7: Length and Frequency: Yours to define and control

# 6: StumbleUpon, Twitter, Google (SEO) matter, Digg matters less

# 5: Read spectacular blogs, find inspiration

# 4: Become very good (top 25% in the world) at two things

# 3: Don't be a jerk / jerkess

# 2: Cultivate your audience: Create a dialog, respect their intelligence

# 1: Be remarkable

Want more? Let's get into the nitty gritty…..

# 10: Names, URL's, looks, your pictures don't matter

I have to admit I obsessed about the right theme (look and feel) to pick, agonized about whether to have a picture or not and what the URL should be etc.

In hindsight nothing mattered.

The URL of this blog is the hardest thing to remember, that does not seem to matter.

It is not the prettiest blog in the world, that does not seem to matter.

I am a introvert, I don't like my pictures any where (sadly I can't control this!). But everyone says pictures are a must on blog. This blog does not have one, and won't. That does not seem to have mattered.

Have a clean blog with least distractions and focus on providing value. You'll be huge.

# 9: Join BAGoT : Bloggers Against Globs of Text

Readability matters.


From day one I have tried not to write long globs of text because I never read them. I just assumed you would not either.

I write short paragraphs (and if you notice over time the paragraphs are getting shorter!).

I use pictures, lots, to make points, or to represent key thoughts / ideas. It takes and additional two to three times the effort to find the perfect picture than to actually write the post itself.

It seems to work.

Break the monotony of your posts, give a burst of color, pictures, tables, graphs, powerpoint, slides, whatever else you can think of. Use bullets, blockquotes, font styles, indentations and whatever else it takes.

It takes effort to do all that, but trust me if you do then it shows that you care, that you'll go the extra mile for your readers.

Remember: If they read then they will understand, if they understand it then they will talk about it, if they talk about it then others will find it.

# 8: Go for 6th grade level

I write about a complex topic. Most people would rather get a painful tattoo than read about metrics or statistical significance or multivariate anything or correlations or advanced segmentation or…. you catch my drift.

Yet over time this blog's audience keeps increasing, and only approximately 30% of it is "analysts" (I am including anyone who touches numbers as a part of their day).

My secret?

I try hard to write about very complex topics in and extremely easy to understand language, and target the broadest possible audience.

I target sixth grade level. A very famous author gave me that advice, and I have stuck to it.

readability level

My hope is that anyone can come to the blog with even the most basic education (higher than sixth grade of course!) and get large chunks of what I am trying to say. Hopefully they learn something.

I think it is working.

Recently I started letting Website Grader have a go at the site, it scan's your website and tells you what grade level you write at. It will give your a decent read of what level you write at, if you don't trust it, use your mom. :)

The picture above is my report today (Nov 24th).

This tip is not for everyone, you can write at any grade level about Paris Hilton and people will understand it. For all other topics go for sixth grade level.

Remember: I am not suggesting you talk down to your readers or at them. Just that you present your wonderful thoughts in a way the broadest possible audience can understand.

# 7: Length and Frequency: Yours to define and control

There is a myth that you have to write every day. And you must write short posts else your fickle busy-with-better-things-to-do audience will abandon you by the side of the road.

Both not true.

I have always written long posts. Unfortunately they have tended to get longer over time. (I blame short paragraphs and the pictures!!!). Yet wonderful souls who read and subscribe to this blog continue to amuse me by reading it and they keep coming back. Yes, yes I track all that! :)

I also don't write every day. Over time the posts per month have actually gone down. It used to be 8 to 9 a month and now it is 5-6 a month.

frequency and length

So ignore the "best practice" of frequent short posts. Create your own rhythm.

Focus on telling a tight story, don't ramble (I have not totally come to grips with this one), focus on providing value. Don't worry about length waaay too much. Certainly avoid a PhD thesis. :)

I do want to pass on one tip: Pattern your audience.

If possible write at regular intervals. Almost always I'll post on Sunday night (Monday AM in Europe), and if I write two then Wednesday night (Thursday in EU).

If you pattern your Visitors then they'll know when to check in for new posts (if they are not Feed Subscribers). It is disappointing for them to come & see nothing new.

I am not sure who gave me this tip but I am thankful to them and I am positive it works.

# 6: StumbleUpon, Twitter, Google (SEO) matter, Digg matters less

Everyone is obsessed with getting on the home page of Digg or Techmeme. It can be a good thing. But in my humble experience the rewards are not worth the obsession. [Both Digg and Techmeme are great websites and my comment here is specific their application in terms of building audience.]

You can get ten thousand people visit your website in 24 hours (especially with Digg, less with Techmeme). But it is unlikely that you'll miraculously have ten thousand more visitors going forward.

Growing your visitor base is hard, short cuts will get you visitors but they are unlikely to stick around. You'll have to build your base one visitor at a time.

While those two are at best a nice to have, my lesson has been that these three are quite golden: StumbleUpon, Google and Twitter .

digg techmeme google twitter stumbleupon

I still have no idea how to get StumbleUpon'ed, but it has been in the top three referrers for this blog for some time. The nice thing about StumbleUpon is that you can count on it to provide a gradual lift in your traffic over a few days, and if you write good stuff then you get StumbleUpon'ed often which means there is a nice lift in your overall numbers over time.

[Let me take this chance to thank everyone who submits my posts to StumbleUpon! I am deeply appreciative.]

Google SEO accounts for the highest amount of traffic I get. Approximately 34% of the site traffic. These are people looking for something specific and then finding you. If you are ranked well for the keywords in your area of expertise then you can't ask for anything else.

I don't do hard core crazy SEO (to my detriment sometimes).

But I find it a tad bit irritating when every third word on many blogs is Bolded or H1 or links (even where links are not necessary) or the same keywords are repeated over and over again. You'll lose me, and I am sure others can see through all that.

Do standard SEO for your blog: write nice content, have a blog that is indexable and you'll be fine. I sound like Matt Cutts!

I have recently discovered Twitter is a great referrer. People who read this blog "tweet" about my posts and I find that brings relevant visitors that subscribe to the feeds. Nice.

Take away: Find sources of relevant traffic, not just traffic.

It bears repeating : There are not short cuts to building an audience. It is hard work. Work hard.

# 5: Read spectacular blogs, find inspiration

I am sure like me that you have all 79 blogs in your space in your feed reader. Devouring the latest from all of them is a daily, if not hourly, ritual.

I find that one can get carried away with this and you start to live in a world surrounded by mirrors. It can become myopic and sometimes, well often, you might lose perspective.

I know that sounds silly, but I have seen it happen so often.

My solution is to read other blogs, lots of 'em. Blogs that are not in my area of expertise. I find that it both breaks some of the loss of perspective and, for me, provides inspiration.

I read Seth Godin for that reason. I am constantly humbled by his brilliant posts, and inspired to constantly do better. It is a bonus that I feel I can stay informed biscuitsnoisette www.chocolateandzucchini.comabout the cutting edge thinking on what Marketing is / should be.

I read Clotilde Dusoulier's blog, Chocolate & Zucchini, for that same reason. I am smitten by her pretty creations and her personality that comes through clearly on her blog.

Now here is the surprising thing, I can't cook to save my life and I am a Vegetarian which means I can't eat or imagine the taste of most of the stuff she writes about. Nonetheless… I feel inspired.

Do that. Find inspiration. Outside your own little or big ecosystem. It will be a blessing.

# 4: Become very good (top 25% in the world) at two things

This one comes courtesy of the eclectic Mr. Scott Adams (from the Dilbert Blog). This excellent post: Career Advice. Here's the relevant excerpt…

If you want an average successful life, it doesn't take much planning. Just stay out of trouble, go to school, and apply for jobs you might like. But if you want something extraordinary, you have two paths:

1. Become the best at one specific thing.
2. Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.

The first strategy is difficult to the point of near impossibility. Few people will ever play in the NBA or make a platinum album. I don’t recommend anyone even try.

The second strategy is fairly easy. Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort.

Mr. Adams advices two or more things, my humble opinion is try for a couple things and get very good at them. That's my plan.

dilbert scott adamsStay focused on your blog.

There are now in excess of 100 million blogs in the world. It is harder with each day to stand out being a generalist or being widely dispersed all day.

You are probably fantastic at a couple of things, blog about those. Stay focused in that ecosystem.

You will stand out because you are writing about what makes you unique. Secondly when people want someone who is a unique voice in one of those two things they'll know where to find you.

# 3: Don't be a jerk / jerkess

This is the only one that makes a repeat appearance from my original ten blogging tips. I feel it is that important.

I very strongly believe that one should not be a jerk. Overtly or covertly. Leave your personal attacks and vendettas for other places.

One: It is not nice. Two: It is really not nice. Three: Almost always you look like a jerk, and most people don't like jerks.

And don't think that you can hide it – if you are a blogger you will write a lot and that makes you very transparent, no matter how hard your spin it all.

respectI was reminded of this by a surprising source: Mark Cuban. Surprisingly only because Mark is not known for mincing his words, his actions are widely covered. But in his closing keynote at BlogWorld Mark's advice was: Don't be a jerk (I am paraphrasing here).

His reasons were that over time you come to regret it, and everything is a permanent record on the internet. You can delete a post but it is still in the feeds. If that is somehow solved it is still in the Internet Archives.

My children will have access to everything I ever write. They might even read it. I don't ever want them to think their dad was a jerk. Besides it can be bad for business. Your future bosses will read your blog. Your business partners and clients will read it too.

An example: A Web Analytics consulting company lost a $45,000 contract because their leader wrote a vindictive post. I know this because he/she wrote about me and the CEO of the client company wrote to me to tell me that. The disagreement was secondarily about the content, it was primarily "I don't want to work with people like him/her".

Remember: Disagree. Put forth your opinion. Take a radical point of view. Travel the road less walked on. But do so with dignity and respect.

# 2: Cultivate your audience: Create a dialog, respect their intelligence

You want an audience? You'll have to create a dialog.

When people ask questions in your posts, do your best to answer them in a timely fashion. [Though replying to every comment with "thanks for the comment and agreeing with me" can be counter productive.] Trust your blog readers to have the intelligence to know which commentators are agreeing with you.

If people blog about your posts then comment, if you can add to the conversation (even if the Author disagrees with you). It shows your ability to listen, and remember others are reading that as well.

I also email every single person who writes a comment on my blog. I try not to just say thanks for your comment. Rather I try to read about the person's point and respond back with my thought on it. It shows you care about the them.

For every comment on the post I get three comments via email. So if I get 30 comments then I'll get an additional 90 emails (!). I reply to all of them, no matter how open ended they are ("Avinash could you please tell me how to do offline tracking" !:).

I try to create a dialog so blog readers know that they can talk on the blog or off the blog. They then take my posts more seriously. Because I talk, then they talk and I'll listen.


Finally no one became bankrupt by respecting the intelligence of their audience. In all dimensions. In what you say. In how you say it. In what you write and how you listen.

Remember: Intelligence attracts intelligence.

# 1: Be remarkable

With all the noises out there yours needs to stand out. Is it remarkable?

Remarkable as in unique, valuable, insightful, different, wonderful, passionate, and as in "eat like a bird, poop like a elephant".

But also Remarkable as Seth Godin had recently defined it (this post: How to be remarkable).

Remarkable as in being noticed, being worth of a remark, as in "let's give 'em something to talk about", being the first, the best, the really trying hard and then waking up in the morning and trying some more.

Being remarkable will make you a X…..

the best rise to the top

and the rest of us will be Y's.

100 million plus blogs. Be you. Be remarkable. x is will be the outcome.

Good luck, may the force be with you!

Ok now it's your turn.

What have your learned from your days / weeks / months / years of blogging? What am I missing? Did anything above connect with you? Did anything upset you? Was any of this helpful?

Please share your perspectives, critique, additions, subtractions, bouquets and brickbats via comments. Thank you.

[Like this post? For more posts like this please click here, if it might be of interest please check out my book: Web Analytics: An Hour A Day.]

19 Nov 2007 01:32 am

one two three four five six Blogs are not websites.

The old school model of content creation, content consumption and content distribution does not apply to blogs. (Neither do "traditional web analytics" measures.)

For example:

  • Websites are less important, it is permission marketing now (I'll give you permission and you can talk to me).

  • Monologues are over, no more: I'll publish and put it out there and you'll consume and you better not complain!. It is now a dialog.

  • There is no such thing are a completed page. Posts and pages are always open and always expanding.

  • And my favorite, if you don't cause a "ripple" then do you exist? :)

My presentation at BlogWorld Expo was about measuring success of a blog and I started with setting the context about why blogs are different and why they present a unique measurement challenge. Some of the reasons are mentioned above.

I took the opportunity to outline Six Recommendations for Measuring Success of a Blog. Since it was all a lot of work I thought of also sharing those with you all here, after all the screenshots were done already!

blogworld understanding analytics avinash kaushik

All the metrics and data uses in this presentation were from this blog, so you also get to see the humble accomplishments of 17 months of blogging.

Six Tips For Measuring Success Of Your Blog:

Measure: 1) Raw Author Contribution 2) Holistic Audience Growth 3) Conversation Rate 4) "Citations"? / "Ripple Index"? 5) Cost 6) Benefit / ROI.

Here my measurement recommendations for three blogger persona types…

blog success metrics

Let us look at each of the above six dimensions of success in detail.

[My goal is for you not only to understand what to measure, but by the end of this post if you are a Blogger or a Marketer then you'll have lots of tips on how to do this blog "thing" right. This post has many tips / best practices that have worked for me.]

# 1. Raw Author Contribution

Many people jump to measuring visitors or other metrics. My recommendation is first measuring something that will answer this question: "Do you deserve to be successful?"

One way to measure that is to compute…

Raw Author Contribution =

A] Number of Posts / Number of Months Blogging
B] Number of Words In Post / Number of Posts

I use the General Stats plugin for WordPress to measure key stats of my blog.

occams razor blog stats

My Raw Author Contribution is:

A] 137 / 17 = 8
B] 224,365 / 137 = 1,638

On average eight posts per month and 1,638 words per post. Not bad, for me. Yours will depend on your own style.

Quick Tip:

    The important thing it to measure: consistency. I find it builds traffic.

    Plugin Tip: If you use WordPress for your blog then go get Joost's Blog Metrics Plugin. It will compute Raw Author Contribution (and Conversation Rate) for you! Thanks Joost!!

Now I'll be the first to admit that this not a measure of quality, we'll do that with 2, 3, and 4. But atleast you'll level set with yourself if you have actually contributed something that will allow you to be a success.

# 2. Holistic Audience Growth

You are talking. Is anyone listening?

The first measure of audience growth is: Onsite Audience Growth.

Use your standard web analytics tool to measure this. Google Analytics, Omniture, WebTrends, Visual Sciences, IndexTools, NetInsights, or your other favorites.

I use ClickTracks and compute Visitors (Visits) and Unique Visitors.

occams razor blog onsite audience metrics

This past month this blog had 37k Visits from 25k unique visitors.

Quick Tips:

It is important to measure the trend, numbers in each month by themselves are less interesting.

It is nice to be on the home page of Digg, you can clearly see the two points above when my posts got on the home page of digg. But long term success comes from growing your core audience. You'll notice at both points above there was no impact on next month traffic from being on

The second measure of audience growth, especially for blogs, is: "Offsite" Audience Growth aka RSS/Feed Subscribers.

I use FeedBurner, like rest of the world, and track the number of Subscribers.

occams razor blog offsite audience metrics

Occam's Razor, a Web Analytics Blog :), had six thousand subscribers.

Quick Tips:

I love Subscribers. It is very hard to convert a Visitor into a Subscriber, someone who has now given you permission to push content to them. That extra commitment is worth a lot to me. I would take ten extra feed subscribers over a hundred visitors.

Again, please watch the trend, that line on the top of the picture. A trend up and to the right will be a reflection of you making a dent with your consistent and quality content.

Subscribers & Unique Visitors, two metrics that pass judgment on the growth of your audience.

# 3. Conversation Rate

Blogs are the most social of social mediums. As mentioned in the opening they are dialog and not a monologue.

What is your blog? A dialog or a monologue? Are you creating conversation? Have you created a social environment?

Measure that.

Conversation Rate = Number of Visitor Comments / Number of Posts

occams razor blog stats

Conversation Rate for this blog is: 2,159 / 137 = 15.

You'll note from the picture above that there are a total of 2,540 comments (at the end of Oct). By my counts approximately 15% of the comments are mine, and those don't count. So just to be conservative I have eliminated 20% of the comments (around 500) when I compute Conversation Rate.

I also measure Words In Comments. You'll note above that readers of Occam's Razor have written approximately just as many words via their comments, as I have written in my posts! [Big round of applause to you all!!!]

Quick Tips:

Blogs are social and you must engage your readers to have a relationship with you, to contribute value to you, to become your evangelists. Involve them.

For me my blog is a social object. A key to having a social object is your ability to create conversation.

# 4. "Citations" / "Ripple Index"

Ok so you are talking, people are listening, and lo and behold they are talking to you on your blog as well. Hurray!!

But in a world of networks and connections what is your impact beyond your immediate blog?

A key validating factor for a blog, any blog, is that other people talk about what you are writing about. They reference back to you (with nice words or scathing critiques!). They link to you.

I call these Citations. People talk about you, discuss you point, throw up on you, praise you. Citations.

To measure Citations I use Technorati rank.

Put simply it is your place in the magnificent blogosphere at any given point compared to the one hundred million blogs that are out there.

To measure success I trend that number over time, if your rank improves that is great.

occams razor blog technorati rank trend

That is good progress over the last 17 odd months. Even with technorati imperfections (as with cookies in web analytics) if you look at the trend then you should be ok.

Recently though I have rethought what I was trying to measure. It is not so much that I care about "rank", ok at some level I do. I care a lot more about the ability of the blog to create conversation off my blog.

I have been toying with the idea of calling it your Ripple Index – how many blogs, cite you and link back to you over time, and is that number growing.

water drop causing a ripple

That drop of water is a blog post, and it causes a ripple. :)

So going forward my recommendation is to measure:

Ripple Index: Number of Unique Blogs that link to your Blog.

occams razor blog technorati rank citations

For now I recommend also using Technorati to measure this. Simply switch to looking at "Authority" (though I am not enamored by that, so ignore the word and use the data).

I can check links to my blog with Google if I want. I like Technorati more. Two reasons:

1] Technorati will measure other blogs linking to you, and usually not websites, I like that a lot.

2] Your unique blog links on technorati expire every six months. I really like this. You can't be a one hit wonder and have that on your resume forever. Like in Google. In Technorati computation you have to keep producing good quality content and cause "ripples". I like this aggressiveness. Its a incentive to stay on your toes.

Here is how aggressive this metric is, my Ripple Index was 1,078 at the end of Oct. It is 968 today, Nov 17th. Not nice. I have to work harder! :)

Quick Tips:

I only have one tip in this area: Be remarkable. It is hard but it is the only way.
[Tips from Seth: How to be remarkable]

# 5. Cost

Nothing in life is free. What is the cost to you of creating a great blog?

I recommend measuring three components of cost:

1) Technology (Hardware / Software)
2) Time
3) Opportunity Cost

For me technology costs are only hosting costs and the cost of domain renewal. All software I use (WordPress, BlogDesk, etc) are free to me. So…

costTechnology: $14.99 per month = $ 179.88 per year plus $10 domain renewal. Total = 189.88.

According to my ever vigilant wife I spend atleast 25 hours on blog related activities (writing posts, editing them, replying to all the emails I get specifically for blog posts). My time is conservatively worth $100 per hour. :) So….

Time: 25 * 4 * 12 * 100 = $120,000 per year.

Next. Especially for Businesses I recommend measuring Opportunity Cost.

If you were not blogging the resources you have put on blogging would probably do something else, something that tentatively be worth money. Opportunity cost. Say they would invent the next great patentable idea. Perhaps you would be less distracted and would have solved the Middle East crisis – potentially worth a lot. Cost that out.

If I apply this to myself: if I were not blogging I could probably do something else that would be paid work. I think for those many hours I could do something part time for a company (say analyze their reports!) and get paid $100,000 a year. So..

Opportunity Cost: $100,000.

For your business the number would be something different, try to put it on paper. See if you are better off investing in blogging (yes!! :) or better off doing something else.

[scratch late night doh! moment]
Total Cost of Blogging = 189.88 + 120,000 + 100,000 = $ 220,189.88.

Hmm….. a minimum cost of 120k, a potential max of 220k! Makes me think of this whole blogging thing in a new light.
[/scratch late night doh! moment]

What is your cost?

I realize you blog because you love. But doesn't hurt to compute cost. :)

# 6. Benefit (ROI: Return on Investment)

For every honest effort, no matter how small or big, there is a benefit, a return on your investment if you will. :)

It is important to compute what the ROI is for you as a result of your blogging efforts. Here are four different types of value to consider (values that add to your bottom line – personal or business):

occams razor blog worthComparative Value:

    Quite simply you are working on a blog, personal or business, and if you are decent at it you might end up creating an asset that might be worth something. So compute that.

    You can use the toy on the right. It is for fun but illustrates the point. It shows what the worth of this blog is using the same formulation as AOL paid for WebLogs Inc.

    I don't think anyone is running to me to hand me that cash, but with your blog you create a asset and it could be worth something. ROI.

Direct Value:

    You could make money off your blog. People use AdSense or one of the number of services to show ads on their blogs. Or they have a job board. Or ads in their feeds. Or consulting engagements. Or referrals to your business website. Or….

    All of these things bring direct value to you, dollars! Compute these.

"Non-Traditional" Value:

    Seth and Hugh and others have spoken of massive shifts in how the new world does Marketing and PR and Sales and more. About the fundamental shift from companies with mega phones and tv ads losing their grip. It is about the Customer. It is about the Conversation. It is about creating Customer Evangelists. It is about Social Objects.

    Your blog facilitates this more than anything else you could do. Any business, big or small, that is not leveraging this medium in a honest attempt to have a new kind of conversation is committing a massive crime.

    But if you are then compute the value created. By firing your PR agencies (who are still so lame that they send annoying email blasts to bloggers!). By saving on Super Bowl ads. By moving from White Papers to User Generated Content (Awesome Example: Gmail Behind the Scenes Video).

    See the big number? That's your "non-traditional" value!

Unquantifiable Value:

    A couple of weeks back I got this email:

    Hi, You don't know me but I've loved your blog entries and your book. I just wanted to write and thank you. Today I was offered a job that I've been aspiring to for some time. Your writings and passion for analytics helped me gain an insight and understanding and in turn helped me secure this job. I just want to say thank you.

    That is the complete email.

    I wish I could tell you the happiness it brought me. Some stranger I don't know and will probably never met found some value in my blog. It touched my heart.

    Unquantifiable value.

    I blog because it makes me happy. I blog because I cherish the conversation with you all. I can't value it. But I know it is solid ROI. I call this a faith based initiative!

    Your blog will provide you some unquantifiable value. Measure it. :)

    Ok here is one more "unquantifiable value" for me.

    My book, Web Analytics: An Hour A Day, came from this blog. 100% of my proceeds are donated to The Smile Train and Doctors Without Borders. It was released in June and by the end of October the book had sold enough copies for me to be able to divide up $25,000 between those two charities (even though first time authors are paid a very tiny amount of the book's selling price!).

    No direct ROI to me. But unquantifiable value to me. From the blog.

    I don't have any ads, I don't do PR on behalf of Web Analytics companies, I don't advertise my services or ask for business overtly or covertly. Yet my ROI I think is way over what the cost of my blog is.

That's it.

A long post that attempts to outline how you can measure success of your blogging efforts, and also hope that you picked up some tips and best practices.

Perhaps it changed your mind about this wonderful world of blogs.

Ok now it's your turn.

Please share your perspectives, critique, additions, subtractions, bouquets and brickbats via comments. Thank you.

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