One of the advantages of online professional development is how well-suited it is to measurement. You can easily measure things like visitor traffic, search engine positions, followers, like, etc, etc. And while I do think “more data” is generally a good thing, people tend to focus on all the wrong metrics. This is particularly true when it comes to blogging and online social activity generally.
For example, lawyers are always talking about the number of “hits” to their website/blog. And when you actually look at their web analytics, you see that a lot of their traffic is actually them visiting their own site…
Same thing for social media and networking. Folks get obsessed with how many followers they have on Twitter. When you look at their feed, it tends to be auto-fed blog posts. No @replies. No re-tweets. No interaction. And when you look at their followers, they’re primarily marketing accounts, spam accounts, bots, or worse…
So, I’d like to propose some other “stuff” to measure. And I suggest that measuring this “stuff” will give you a much better window into whether your time spent online is actually effective in terms of online professional development.
- Subscribers – How many people are subscribing to your blog? Subscribing to a blog is a much bigger commitment than following a Twitter account. These readers have read your stuff and thought, this is good, I’d like to hear more from this author. They opted-in to receiving your content either in their reader or even in their inbox. That’s a pretty powerful endorsement.
- Comments – Comments were the social web before the social web. They were one of the first ways that we communicated with one another online. Motivating a reader to leave a comment usually means that you’ve engaged that reader. It also means that you’re fostering community and discussion through your writing. Whether a comment agrees, disagrees, compliments or insults you, the fact that someone cared enough to leave a comment means that you’re doing something right. No one commenting on your posts/articles? Be critical of yourself. Ask yourself what you’re doing wrong. Chances are that it’s you, not them.
- Shares – Similar to subscribes, natural social shares are a strong indicator of how your content is being received online. I’m not talking about auto shares, shares by your marketer or artificial shares that you paid for. I’m talking about real people sharing and discussing your content. Whether it’s on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or somewhere else online, whether or not your content is being shares speaks volumes.
- Natural Links – Still the gold standard of online editorial endorsement, natural links to your posts are a powerful indicator of effectiveness. It usually means that you not only connected with a reader, it often means you inspired them to publish something and reference you as a source. Of course, motivating someone to publish and link to your site is challenging. Which is why it has so much value. Which is also why Google’s ultimate quest is to distinguish these natural link endorsements from those that are artificial.
- Discussions – Measuring the number of tweets you send? The number of followers you have? Here’s an idea, measure the number of discussions you have. And measure with whom you’re having these discussions. Marketers? Spammers? Real people in your industry?
Once you switch your focus to these metrics, the next step is figuring out why you’re not getting subscribers, comments, shares and natural links. And this is where the rubber meets the proverbial road. And without getting into all the gory details, I will boil it down to one word:
It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to require hard work. It’s going to require learning. You’re going to make mistakes. But at least you’ll be moving in the right direction. And eventually, you’ll get better at it. And you will start to see some tangible results in terms of building relationships and growing your business.