As part of the recruiting blog swap we’re guest authors this week on John Sumser’s acclaimed site. Although not proper protocol, since John’s site doesn’t have blog comments or trackback functionality, we are posting our contribution to Blog Swap on our site as well.
The last time we got involved in a conversation with John it was indirectly through the trouble he stirred up with Heather Hamilton from Microsoft on the subject of blog metrics. We disagreed with John’s methods more than his message, although we agreed wholeheartedly with Heather that it’s impossible to fully measure a blog’s value by metrics alone. In thinking more on this topic since that time I think we’ve refined our position and we figured that this was a perfect venue to re-engage in that conversation with John’s readers, and the man himself:
PAGE VIEWS, UNIQUE VISITS, NUMBER OF NEW HIRES GENERATED DIRECTLY FROM YOUR BLOG
Many of us continue to struggle to explain in measurable terms the business value of our blogs. The legions of companies starting blogs to market their jobs and companies to talented candidates are no exception. Having spent our careers in sales and marketing you’d think we were a huge proponent of metrics…and we are, but not of the blogging metrics we’ve seen used to date. At least not the typical ones we’ve all pulled out of you know where for lack of a more intelligent solution. Metrics, just for the sake of metrics, are stupid. We think the time to get these measures of value right, is right now and that we need to stop accepting poor representations of value – kind of a ‘Just say no!’ to irrelevant metrics campaign.
Where do we start with creating meaningful new ways to value blogs? Good metrics for measuring a blog’s ROI have been elusive because we don’t yet understand all the reasons why blogs are working. We ‘get it’ to some extent in our gut, we feel it, but the value of a blog is still an intangible that is hard for us to define. Let’s throw out the typical online yardsticks and start with good old-fashioned research, testing and validation from an unbiased source to determine exactly how blogs influence us. If we focus on trying to better understand why blogs connect with people, won’t the metrics that we use to measure a blog’s value become self-evident?
I was reminded of the continued use of meaningless online metrics in another area recently – online ad impressions (impression = the amount of times an ad is viewed). I was talking with a good friend who took over my job managing the ad network for a major U.S. news publisher with forty web properties, who told me that these forty sites are currently pumping out about one billion ad impressions per month. If you compare this number to how many banner ad impressions MySpace serves in a single day, it is mind-boggling. MySpace hits a billion ads served by about, oh let’s say 5:38AM of any given DAY; equaling the ads served that a major, forty-site publisher serves in an entire MONTH. According to Nielsen/Netratings, one of every ten ads viewed online in October 2005 was viewed on MySpace. Their numbers are so different that it reminded me of the gross irrelevancy of the metric ‘ad impressions’.
As an online publisher when we run out of ad inventory and are in need of more ‘impressions’ – we can just stack more ads on a page or just segment existing content and force users to click and load more pages in order to get at the content. Bad user experience. The good publishers (then and now) create engaging new content and tools, forge new partnerships and actually market their product – the result being more traffic and greater product value (which in turn creates more ad inventory). You’d think the method described above where we force users to click thru to more pages with no added value went out with the first dot-com bust. But there’s still strong evidence of using this tactic – case in point, MySpace. Mike Davidson, CEO of the user-generated news site – Newsvine, wrote about the effect on total page views and revenue for MySpace if they were to undergo a site redesign to make their site more user friendly:
“Here’s a sobering thought: If the operators of MySpace cleaned up the site and followed modern interface and web application principles tomorrow, here’s what the graph would look like: picture of graph [picture can be found here]. That’s right. I hold that at least 2/3rds of page views would disappear.”
But what about the metric that we’re all ultimately judged by – the Big Kahuna of all metrics – money? MySpace will have revenue of about $200 million this year, according to estimates by Richard Greenfield of Pali Capital, a brokerage firm in New York. This is around the same online revenue of that major news publisher we used to work for. Interesting eh?
Back in 2002 we went through just the kind of re-design for that news network we worked at that Mike Davidson talks about with MySpace. And guess what? We changed our page and ad layout significantly (navigation as well) – reducing the number of ads served per page by 40-50%! Did banner revenue drop? Not a lick – because the junk ads being served on that inventory were either completely unsold or were remnant ads valued in the pennies – just like MySpace. The real value of MySpace is the audience, and the potential influence on their thinking and behavior – not the page views, or number of ad impressions. Valuing MySpace based on their $200 million in ad revenue and directly linking that to page views going away is akin to valuing blogs based on page views. Rupert Murdoch (NewsCorp) certainly didn’t have MySpace’s current online revenue in mind when he paid $580 million to acquire MySpace, he was thinking about the value of the young and influential audience he would gain access to and what they meant to his companies future. Put a metric on that one! He did some would say by paying $580 million for them but I bet if you asked Murdoch in ten years about this acquisition he’d admit that he got a bargain. Have the MySpace execs figured out how to monetize that audience yet? Not yet, but when (not if) they figure that out – WOW! Same for blogs – we think that when we figure out how to capture their value (beyond what we intuitively sense) we’ll all say WOW.
Want to read more about why blogs are a new animal whose value defies simple web metrics, especially for recruitment marketing? Head over to our next post (if you dare) and read the next rant in this series.
Update: August 1, 2006
Since our recent round of blog metrics stories that we kicked off on July 12th there have been some new posts in the recruiting blogosphere by Gretchen and Zoe from JobSyntax (“The Metrics, They Are a Changing” on Recruiting.com here) and then more recently Jim Durbin penned his response “Recruiting Metrics? Pah.” over at Stlrecruiting.com here. Take a look at their posts for some fresh and tasty perspectives and remember there’s three more stories in our series as well. Here’s the next in line on EXCELER8ion. 😉