We need to apply some science to this!
In our first post on this topic we discussed how typical web metrics like unique visitors and page views get slapped on to every new web based phenomenon to come along like blogs and other social media. We understand this – we do it too! I received a call from my dad, a political blogger, and one of the first things he mentioned to me was how many more unique visitors he’s had in the last month. Hey, we’re not saying to ignore this data but we ARE saying that it’s a poor overall measure of blog value.
We think that general web metrics for blogs are like rating the quality of a fast food restaurant located just off the Interstate based on it’s location and proximity to the Interstate vs. how the food tastes. Yes, part of the value we find in fast food certainly has to do with eating on the go and convenience (they are linked). We can even say that our overall value of a fast food restaurant’s food might be higher or lower based on that one critical aspect of location to Interstates, but if we were to measure the fast food on this merit alone we’d be eating some crappy fast food wouldn’t we? Well, we ARE eating crappy food at fast food restaurants but it would be worse if we failed to use our taste buds as yardsticks!
What’s the value of a blog then? I don’t think we’ve figured it out yet. We’re just starting to scratch the surface. We think then that it would be hard to come up with the right measurements of value (metrics) without a full understanding of what it is we’re trying to measure.
What else can we learn from other Internet parallels?
Let’s stick with Internet marketing since that’s what we know and blogs have a clear marketing linkage to why people are calling for business blog metrics. The first online banner ad for AT&T (above) went up on HotWired in 1994, but it took a decade to get to the primary value of a banner ad. People all but ignored the largest benefit of the banner ad, which is branding, in lieu of a new sexy Internet ad metric called the click-thru. That really damaged our industry. It’s still damaging our industry and wasting our time even though it’s gotten light years better in the last 3 or 4 years. In our history online marketers and publishers alike pulled their hair out trying to define ways to measure the value of an online ad, beyond that of a click-thru, just as we struggle today with the value of a blog. The answer that worked was there all along. In the very earliest research of online ads, the same studies that breathlessly focused on click-thru’s, was the data that showed how immensely powerful banner ads were for branding. We didn’t give it much air time then because it wasn’t as cool or as easily measured as a click-thru. But online advertising’s ability to influence future consumer behavior online and offline branding, IS a key factor in why online advertising revenue has grown so dramatically and why brand marketers focus on the net so much today.
Search engine advertising, which many people are understandably blinded by right now, can’t be understood if you don’t first understand what made people search for a product or service in the first place. The leading search marketers now acknowledge that search campaigns are much more effective when combined with a branding campaign as search captures ony the active searcher. During an employee conference earlier this year the head of Research at Yahoo! even told his advertising sales force that they were throwing away their advertiser’s money if they sold Yahoo! search without a proper complement of online banner ads. This recommendation was based on his actual research on overall search marketing efficacy, not just a tip to Yahoo!’s sales force to increase Yahoo! banner ad revenue.
The click-thru is the easy metric for ads, just as page views and unique visits are for blogs. Are they relevant? Sure, somewhat. We have spent years re-educating people about how online ads work. We could have been smarter about it in the beginning. In the end the behavior that changed this perception was people like us discussing the original and continued research that showed how effective banners ads were for branding and then we just started communicating that value over and over again. As a community we just made it happen. We can learn from our years of wasted time with online ads and the click-thru and apply that hard-earned knowledge to help measure the effect of blogs and other consumer generated and social networking tools.
Stay Tuned for Part III coming tomorrow.