How to measure, or even IF to measure, what happens on a local website or blog is a much discussed topic among my colleagues at Talk About Local.
Is there any point in analysing the audience behaviours on a website which, by its very nature, is aimed at a very tight-knit group of people? What is the value of having a grip on traffic figures in the case of sites with no ambition to sell advertising or other commercial services?
While I come from a mainstream publishing background where the stats are vitally important in assessing the success and viability of any online initiative, it’s interesting to consider how valuable it is to apply those measures to a community site or neighbourhood blog. Many community publishers operate on the basis of serving a ‘self-fulfilling audience’ i.e. it will grow to a size that is of interest to those who find it useful/existing/interesting etc.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are hyperlocals that are mature in their local markets and looking to be taken seriously by advertisers and it’s widely recognised that there’s a lack of research into audience levels, industry standards and benchmarking in this area – something Nesta’s Destination Local programme is attempting to address.
Personally, I find it useful to analyse the traffic – not simply as a numbers game, but more to spot trends and garner some extra information on what it is users of the site are most interested in so that it can inform the amount of time I spend on one topic above another. Time being my biggest constraint for my hyperlocal publishing activity so, the list below are the measures I use via Google analytics.
I then publish the main findings on the site each month to keep users and contributors up-to-date. Here’s an example of the last one of those updates.
There’s more detail about how to read the analytics on the Google site which is well worth spending some time with so I’ve included links to the relevant pages below.
To drill down – I find these useful as a content creator to respond in terms of both subjects and formats
I’d add these to assess some level of engagement:
Comments to blogs post
In putting this together I wondered if Google Plus should be in here now?
With place-based blogs/sites I personally think counting downstream traffic ie. the place the person clicks onto next is valuable as being able to refer a user onto a local source of information eg. the church services or the chemist rota is a valuable activity in its own right that eventually leads the site to be the first go-to destination and therefore long-term loyalty. This is contrary to any web product builder/editor’s instinct as keeping people on your own site (measured by low bounce rate) is a common measure of success as an industry.
* What do you find the most important measure for your website or blog? Any input on how analytics have helped your hyperlocal very welcome here via the comments below.