Over at RLHB, my friend Kevin O’Keefe writes that Traffic is not the measure of a law blog’s influence.
I have a lot of respect for Kevin. He’s taught a lot of lawyers how to blog, and more importantly, how to blog better. But, to me, his post is a little too dismissive of traffic.
There’s no doubt that a lot of lawyers have the wrong idea about blogging. These folks see blogging like commercial fishing. They think that blog posts are like a big fishing net. They correlate the number of posts that they can get indexed in Google with the size of their net. So they churn out tons of really crappy posts. In fact, calling them “posts” is really a misnomer. They’re really just words on a page. Sometimes full sentences, sometimes not.
They think traffic is the holy grail of successful blogging. Even worse, some of them think rankings are the holy grail. Of course, neither of these, by themselves, has really anything to do with influence, building trust or developing relationships.
My guess is that Kevin talks with these types a lot. They’re constantly looking for something to measure. They want to see hockey stick traffic growth. They spot-check their rankings. They’re looking for ways to calculate the return on their blogging investment.
And Kevin tries to tell them:
Knowing that blogging is about engaging others, the key to growing influence is not traffic, it’s about engaging the right people. Traffic, and even fame, may come from engagement. But they are by-products of engagement, not the primary goal.
Want to increase the influence of your blog and your influence as a lawyer through blogging? Listen to what thought leaders and influencers are saying online. Engage reporters, leading bloggers, and association leaders through your blog by referencing what they are saying and providing your insight and commentary as a follow on. You’ll be seen by these folks and many will begin to follow you — so long as you’re sincere in bringing value to the conversation and not looking to garner attention.
And I agree. If you want something to measure, try these.
So, there’s no argument from me that your purpose for blogging should not be traffic. However, there’s simply no denying that traffic is a metric. It’s just that you should keep traffic generated from blogging in perspective.
Let’s look at this another way.
I used to coach football. And I think most of us would agree that strength and speed matter in football. So, we would encourage players to hit the weight room and attend sprint training sessions. And we’d measure things like bench press and 40-yard dash times. And it should come as no surprise that players who had better scores in these areas, tended to perform better on the football field. At least sometimes.
But we all know that football games aren’t won and lost by bench press numbers and 40-yard dash times. And in fact, there are numerous examples of slower, weaker players being extremely successful on the field. But that doesn’t mean that players shouldn’t work to get stronger and faster. It’s just that getting stronger and faster doesn’t necessarily mean success.
And it’s similarly true for blogging and traffic. You shouldn’t blog solely to get more traffic. And you shouldn’t stop blogging if you aren’t getting more traffic. However, if one of your purposes for blogging is to “engage the right people,” then even traffic has some meaning.
Yes, Traffic. But meaningful traffic.
So, you should measure traffic. But more importantly, you should measure meaningful traffic. Lawyers send me “traffic reports” to analyze all of the time. They’re usually top-level visitor traffic from all sources reports. The problem is that measuring traffic this way is really meaningless.
How much meaning does traffic from Uzbekistan have to you? How valuable is search traffic that comes from queries totally unrelated to you and topics related to your practice?
Measuring your top-line overall traffic isn’t going to tell you much. But what about traffic from people who are subscribed to receive your posts via email or rss reader? What about search traffic for searches on you name? Or the name of your blog? Or “your name’s blog?” These are people that are looking for you. And this traffic can be a decent indicator of how your posts are resonating with people.
What about referral traffic? If you’re leaving thoughtful comments on other blogs, you shouldn’t be surprised to see people clicking-through from those other blogs to read more about you. If your posts are being well-received, you shouldn’t be surprised that others are citing and linking to them. Which means that some of the visitors to those sites will click-through to your blog, increasing referral traffic.
I’ve already given you some ideas for other blog metrics that you might want to measure, so I won’t repeat those here. However, I encourage you to shift your concept of effective blogging.
Instead of hyper-focusing on how many hits you’re getting, your rankings, how many keywords to use in post titles, how long your posts should be and how often you should be posting, hyper-focus on writing to motivate your readers to take action.
Maybe you want to motivate them to share your posts. Maybe you want to motivate them to cite your posts. Maybe you want to motivate them sign-up to receive more posts from you.
Provide ways for your readers to give you feedback. Maybe it’s through comments. Maybe it’s through email. Maybe it’s through social media.
Listen to what your readers are telling you. Let that help guide your writing.