How do you measure a blog’s success?

Brazil correspondent Gabriela Zago looks at the variety of metrics for evaluating the popularity of blogs. A Portuguese language version of this is available here.

There are many ways to measure a website’s success. Some use a more quantitative approach, and others are more qualitatively based. You can say a weblog is popular for many reasons, such as:

  • traffic (page views, visits, visitors),
  • discussions (comments, trackbacks, linkbacks),
  • position in search engines (page rank),
  • readership (feed subscriptions, blogroll presence) and
  • reputation (a more subjective approach, based on what people think of a website, and the qualifications of the person that writes for it).

If you obtain all that data and construct rankings based on these different types of information, chances are that not all blogs ranked will appear in the exact same position in each one of the ranks.

And there’s more: you get a high probability of being contested on the method you’ve chosen to rank all the sites. Since no rank is perfect, one partial solution is to analyze how websites behave when evaluating different aspects.

Let’s take Adrian Monck’s Top 10 UK Journalism Blogs based on Google Reader subscriptions. Last year, on November 7th, the ranking appeared as follows:

#

Blog

Google Reader subs

1

Roy Greenslade

194

2

Paul Bradshaw

165

3

Shane Richmond

119

4

Robin Hamman

73

5

Jemima Kiss

66

6

Andrew Grant-Adamson

65

6

Martin Stabe

65

7

Richard Sambrook

61

8

Seamus McCauley

49

9

Simon Waldman

46

As of March 29th, including Adrian Monck’s blog, the results had changed as follows:

Google Reader subscriptions – it includes subscriptions using other Google products, like iGoogle and Orkut

#

Blog

Google Reader subs

1

Paul Bradshaw

441

2

Jemima Kiss

318

3

Roy Greenslade

296

4

Martin Stabe

208

5

Simon Waldman

164

6

Shane Richmond

156

7

Robin Hamman

128

8

Richard Sambrook

107

9

Adrian Monck

86

10

Andrew Grant-Adamson

80

11

Seamus McCauley

79

The same methodology shows a different ranking. Things changed over time? Readership is a fluid concept?

There’s more. If you take these 11 weblogs and rank them based in other factors, the order changes drastically. First, let’s take a look on the ranking based on Bloglines subscriptions (all results based on March 29, 2008, and for a sum of all feed addresses founded for each weblog): subs

Bloglines subscriptions

Bloglines subscriptions

#

Blog

Bloglines subs

1

Robin Hamman

183

2

Simon Waldman

179

3

Roy Greenslade

164

4

Paul Bradshaw

152

5

Seamus McCauley

117

5

Martin Stabe

117

6

Richard Sambrook

113

7

Shane Richmond

79

8

Jemima Kiss

63

9

Andrew Grant-Adamson

44

10

Adrian Monck

27

We can find some problems in measuring feed subscriptions… First, not all feeds results are publicly displayed – if you use FeedBurner, for example, you should opt-in to make them public.

Another problem is that, usually, a weblog has multiple feed addresses. Sometimes they ask readers to subscribe to a particular RSS feed, but other options are presented for those who try to add it directly to feed readers. So, measuring a weblog’s success based on only this information could be tricky…

A similar problem of having multiple feeds arises when we check the ranks for blogs that have changed their address recently. Inlinks are split into more than one address (and this is particularly interesting when the old content is duplicated into both addresses), which leads to a fragmentation of authority and positioning in rankings of all sorts.

However, it is relatively easy to regain popularity, especially if you promote your new address effectively. Technorati authority, for instance, only counts inlinks received within the last 6 months.

Really old inlinks aren’t taken into account when calculating a blog’s authority. The only thing that is lost are the dynamic links (links pointing to blog entries) that are lost. But they are only taken into account for a short time.

If you check onlinejournalismblog.com, onlinejournalismblog.wordpress.com and ojournalism.blogspot.com rankings, for example, you’ll see that the difference in rankings is very large from .com to .wordpress, and ever larger from .wordpress to .blogpost, or .com to .blogspot. It’s hard to imagine they were once the same blog.

And what if we check popularity among search engines? Google PageRank is calculated based on inlinks a webpage receives. For the same 11 blogs, results are as follows:

Google Page Rank

#

Blog

PageRank

1

Roy Greenslade

7*

1

Jemima Kiss

7*

2

Shane Richmond

6*

2

Robin Hamman

6

2

Andrew Grant-Adamson

6

2

Martin Stabe

6

2

Simon Waldman

6

2

Adrian Monck

6

3

Paul Bradshaw

5

3

Richard Sambrook

5

3

Seamus McCauley

5

Does this say much? Does it really matter to have a slightly higher chance to appear first in search engine results?

If we check Alexa rankings, we see something curious:

Alexa Rank

#

Blog

Alexa Rank

1

Roy Greenslade

751*

1

Jemima Kiss

751*

2

Shane Richmond

1,392*

4

Paul Bradshaw

552,667

5

Robin Hamman

764,442

6

Martin Stabe

809,242

7

Seamus McCauley

1,338,910

8

Adrian Monck

1,378,867

9

Richard Sambrook

2,011,427

10

Simon Waldman

3,090,867

11

Andrew Grant-Adamson

6,646,643

Weblogs located at traditional media websites (Like Guardian.co.uk) share the same rank as the root website – that’s why they appear first on the list.

But Technorati authority, for instance, seems to be calculated based on only the blog’s inlinks…

Technorati Authority – based on links from different blogs in the last 6 months

#

Blog

Authority

1

Jemima Kiss

602

2

Roy Greenslade

397

3

Paul Bradshaw

377

4

Shane Richmond

246

5

Robin Hamman

175

6

Adrian Monck

131

7

Martin Stabe

123

8

Richard Sambrook

107

9

Seamus McCauley

104

10

Simon Waldman

67

11

Andrew Grant-Adamson

40

The number of links pointing to a blog can vary a lot, too…

Google Results – links from any web page (which inclues, for example, links in a blogroll – that appears in every page of a blog)

#

Blog

Google Results

1

Roy Greenslade

4,520

2

Jemima Kiss

3,030

3

Martin Stabe

2,300

4

Robin Hamman

1,850

5

Adrian Monck

1,770

6

Paul Bradshaw

1,690

7

Richard Sambrook

1,360

8

Seamus McCauley

937

9

Shane Richmond

863

10

Andrew Grant-Adamson

860

11

Simon Waldman

808


The final list was calculated based on the aforementioned aspects (Bloglines subscriptions, Google Reader subscriptios, PageRank, Alexa Rank, Technorati Authority, Google Results and Google Blogsearch results).

Every time a blog position was #1 in one of those aspects, it got 10 points. 9 points for position #2, 8 points for #3, and so on. The results are a sum of these points. And yes, Guardian and Telegraph blogs have been privileged since their PageRank and Alexa Rank are calculated based on the root site.

#

Blog

“Blog Authority”

1

Roy Greenslade

64*

2

Jemima Kiss

58*

3

Paul Bradshaw

53

4

Robin Hamman

52

5

Martin Stabe

44

6

Shane Richmond

42*

7

Adrian Monck

29

7

Richard Sambrook

29

8

Simon Waldman

28

9

Seamus McCauley

24

10

Andrew Grant-Adamson

13

But why measure website success? The data can be really useful for the site owner, for example, in order to get to know their audience and then be able to create content directed to them.

After all, we’re writing for humans, not for search engines – although some people really invert the sentence and prefer to write for Google, whereas some others do not pay attention at all to their readership and end up talking to nobody.

*Guardian and Telegraph blog rankings include PageRank and Alexa data based on the root site’s popularity rather than the individual blog.

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9 thoughts on “How do you measure a blog’s success?

  1. tiagón

    amazing post! yet these data may be used to check the popularity of a blog, also leaves one thinking if this really possible, and needed🙂

    I greatly encourage you to translate this article to portuguese and publish it in your blog – and I would also recommend sending to WebInsider. brazilian blogosphere surely could learn a thing or two from your research.

    Reply
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