Are You Measuring the ROI from Your Blog & Content Strategy?

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By Ritu Sharma, CEO, Social Media for Nonprofits

This is part five of a five-part series on how you can build a strong cause (brand) presence through blogging. We’ll talk about getting started, blogging platforms, idea generation, and distribution channels in the series to help you get started with blogging.

As our “Blogging for Nonprofits” series wraps up, it’s time to talk about how you’ll measure your blog’s success. There are many factors to consider, and you want to have an understanding of everything so can course correct as you move forward with your nonprofit’s blog. Blogging for Nonprofits-Measurement &

In his piece “How to Match 10 Key Success Metrics to Your Blogging Strategy,” Jay Baer explains that the metrics you choose to measure depend on your goals; that’s something a lot of people don’t solidify before starting to blog – why they’re doing it.

Baer breaks blogging goals into three categories:

Blogging for content puts the emphasis on search engine optimization (SEO), using high-quality content strategically to drive traffic to your organization’s website.

Metrics to track – total visits, percentage of new visits, search engine referrals

Blogging for commerce is designed to send blog visitors to external pages/sites where they can shop or request services or – in our sector’s case – donate.

Metrics to track – length of stay, number of pages viewed, referrals from other sites

Blogging for community is about interacting with blog visitors, building up a loyal following that spreads the word about your blog.

Metrics to track – repeat visits, RSS subscribers, comments, social referrals

If you’re looking at these three goals thinking, “I want to do ALL of that,” it’s OK. We in the nonprofit sector do need to approach blogging from all three perspectives, and it’s certainly possible (and more than okay) to work on them at once, or to shift emphasis when necessary – i.e., focusing more on the commerce side when it’s fundraising time.

There’s another way to look at this, and that’s the way Brad Smith at Codeless Interactive does. According to Smith in “5 Metrics to Measure Your Blogging Success,” what you want to measure falls into four categories: Attention (visits, traffic sources), Interest (bounce rate, pages/visit), Trust (conversions to subscribers), and Sales – which is what you get out of everything else working well together.

Let’s break down the metrics by metric to get a deeper understanding of how each functions:

Visits – As Brad Smith says, “Remember that the first step is all about getting attention and awareness.” Generating traffic means providing thoughtful, audience-appropriate content, and promoting it via every social channel, from email to Facebook, to get both new and repeat visitors. Smith talks more about attracting followers here.

Traffic sources – In addition to knowing how many people are visiting, you want to know where they’re coming from, i.e., how they’re finding you.

Some come to your site because they’re already regular visitors – if you see those numbers changing, examine what you’re doing differently that might be turning them off.

Others find you via social platform referral – clicking on your link from Facebook or Twitter. If you’re not seeing enough of that, look at how you’re promoting your blog socially. Asking a leading question your blog will answer is a good approach.

Some will find you via search engine referral, which is where SEO comes into play. Using keywords in your blogs – as naturally and strategically as possible – will help if you’re not seeing what you want here.

You can divide traffic into further categories to measure as well.

Pages per visit – The goal is two pages per visit, or more. This tells you people are interested in what you have to say, which happens when you provide thought-provoking content, with unique angles.

Bounce rate – This tells you who’s not sticking around to read your blog (clicking away after 10 seconds), or to further explore your site after reading your blog post (they found what they were looking for, and that’s all they were after).

You want your bounce rate in the optimal “below 65%” zone Smith suggests. Cultivating social relationships helps, since bounce rates from social sites tend to be lower – because people are already engaged with your cause.

A tip: Use deep linking to encourage further site exploration. This means linking to other posts or pages on your site that expound on your current post. But don’t force it – if the link doesn’t fit organically into the current piece, it’ll turn off readers and work against you.

Conversions – There are two things to consider here: subscribers and donors. Donors, of course, are the ultimate goal – they are (to nonprofits) the “sales” that Brad Smith talks about as his fourth category. The final perfect result. But as important – as far as metrics to track – are subscribers. Remind readers to subscribe in your calls to action.

A Word About SEM/SEO

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a marketing approach that includes paid reach tactics like pay-per-click (PPC) and SEO under its umbrella. It’s important to note SEO and SEM are not the same thing, and each offers something different to your blog’s promotional efforts.

Here’s what Nicole Rende at Hubspot has to say on the subject:

“As an Inbound Marketer, I would argue that organic SEO is the best approach, but … true SEM cannot succeed without the use of organic SEO. Additionally, there are many situations where PPC (a component of SEM) makes more sense than SEO. For example, if you are first launching a site and you want immediate visibility … When it comes to choosing the best tactic, it is important to evaluate your specific needs, but be sure to fully understand the differences and how you will maintain your efforts.”

Additional Metrics

Aside from tracking the metrics above via your web- or blog-hosting dashboard, you’ll want to track sharing, comments, likes/favorites, and retweets on Facebook pages and Twitter, etc.

There are also nonprofit-specific qualitative metrics that won’t show up in your hosting dashboard, but will still tell you you’re doing something right:

Newsletter signups – People clicking from your blog page to your home or contact page and signing up for your newsletter should inspire a little happy dance – and it’s good for your pages-per-visit measurement as well

Speaking opportunities – According to Gerry Moran at MarketingThink, one of the signs of success is being deemed a thought leader; who better to book to speak at events?

Media interviews – These requests are more proof of successful thought leadership and a clear indication your digital footprint is increasing

Invitations to write or guest blog – When your content is great and your presence expands, others will naturally want a little of what you’ve got to help shine the light in their direction 

The Next Level

Once you’ve got your blog running consistently, getting the results and numbers you want, you can go deeper using these next-level metrics/tools:

Page rank – Alexa compares your website to other websites over a 3-month period to determine your global ranking using an “estimated average of daily unique visitors and its estimated number of pageviews over the past 3 months.” COST: Free 7-day trial, then $9.99 to $799 a month.

Page authority – This is “Moz’s calculated metric for how well a given webpage is likely to rank in Google.com’s search results.” Use Open Site Explorer to measure this, or the MozBar – Moz’s free SEO toolbar, which is an excellent way to see where this data comes from. COST: For Pro, $99 to $599 a month.

Klout score – Klout measures “the ratio of reactions you generate compared to the amount of content you share,” using a complicated algorithm to assign a score between 1 and 100. Basically the Klout score identifies you as an influencer – and people want to interact with influencers. But you can become one even without the score. COST: Contact Klout for info.

Google Analytics – Google Analytics can help you measure so many things it can be overwhelming, but KissMetrics has compiled a list of “50 Resources for Getting the Most Out of Google Analytics.” That should help. COST: Free.

Shares – A little less head-spinny are sharing widgets, which when added to your blog will tell you how many people shared your post to which social networks. There are plenty to choose from like ShareThis (free), AddThis (free to $99/year), and more on this list of the “Best Free Social Media Sharing Widgets.

At the end of the day, “Blogging success is a slow march, not a mad dash.” These wise words of Jay Baer’s should serve as a comforting reminder that you don’t have to understand every nuance of these metrics immediately.

But you do have to remember that a blog is essentially a social network – your organization’s own little social network – and needs to be nurtured as such if you want engagement.

It requires thoughtful strategy about content, tone, and promotion – via your other social channels especially. It won’t simply live its own – any more than your website will. But with a little care, and some metrics to help keep you on track, you’ll be a nonprofit blogging influencer in no time.

What has been something surprising you learned from the Blogging for Nonprofits series? What wasn’t covered that you wanted to know?

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