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How To Measure Blog Value

If wine blogs should not be evaluated on the basis of sales they generate, how should a winery or other prospective advertiser determine which ones to support? The precise answer will vary a bit based on factors related to the winery or advertiser. What is their market position, price point, target demographic, etc. Of course, questions like that are pretty standard to the planning of any promotional program.

That is as it should be. Blogs are not so different from other types of media or promotional opportunities. The key differentiating points are that 1) anybody can publish a blog and 2) they tend to take a more personal approach to their subject matter than would a magazine or newspaper. That being the case, why not apply standard metrics for social media to blogs?

Here is a chart from MarketingSherpa (included here in accordance with their usage polices) that shows how companies and media professionals evaluate various social media outlets. The numbers reflect the percentage of survey respondents who use the associated metric in making their decisions. The survey was conducted by MarketingSherpa.

quantifying-impact-of-social-media

The most frequently considered criteria is “visitors and sources of traffic.” Note that this is not a quantitative metric. The question asked here is not “how much traffic” but rather “whom does this outlet attract and where do they come from.” We tend to focus on numbers and want a lot of viewers. However, if you are selling wine you want your ads to run in front of wine drinkers. No matter how much traffic a blog has, or how rabid it’s fan base, viewers that are not wine-focused, or who are not likely to buy wine in your categories or price points, are of little value to you.

The source of the traffic helps you understand why the readers are there as well. Is the traffic coming as a result of specific and targeted Facebook messages? How many viewers hit the site directly every day? If they are coming from Google, what are the search terms sending them to this site? If you sell California Cabernet and the hottest search terms for the blog relate to Burgundy, you may want to take your samples and dollars elsewhere. Likewise, traffic coming from a geographical area into which you don’t sell does you no good.

That said, numbers are important. 63% of the survey respondents think so anyway. There are a lot of different numbers to look at and each has it’s own value. How many unique visitors does the blog get daily, weekly and monthly? How consistently? How many pages does the average visitor view? Which pages on the site do they view?  (This will tell you what content is most compelling to the readers and where to place your ads.) How long do they spend on the site? (If the average visitor stays less than a minute, it will be hard to reach them with your message.) How many Twitter followers and Facebook fans does the blogger have? What are the demographics of that audience? How many opt-in email subscribers does the blog have?

The next item on the list, quantity of commentary about your product, is very important but often overlooked. Would you rather have a brief mention buried within an article on a blog that has huge traffic or a feature article focused on your product or company on a lesser blog. The answer depends on the viewership, traffic numbers and quality/credibility of the writing. However, in most cases, features will do much more for your brand than a simple line item mention or recommendation.

Quantity of commentary is not just volume though. It is also frequency. Will the blog talk about your product monthly or even weekly? Frequency of exposure is critical to having your message sink in. People need to see a marketing message at least three times before it really starts to sink in. When bloggers become fans the frequency of commentary goes way up.

Of course, a feature article or repeated references about your product may do more harm than good if the message isn’t on point or portrays the product in a negative light. You need to consider the quality of coverage. Bloggers won’t guarantee you positive coverage. That wouldn’t be ethical and you wouldn’t expect it. However, you can look at what they have written in the past. Are their articles factually correct? Do they deliver a clear message? Is their style straightforward or laced with sarcasm? Does the blogger generally like the type of product you offer? Is the blogger credible and well-qualified to review your product or discuss the topics you want to have covered?

Search engine ranking position is important. If someone uses a search engine, such as Google, to look for you or related products, will the blog that has written about you pop in the first couple pages of the search? If not, their coverage will have less impact. Bear in mind though that the search terms should be fairly specific. There are millions of searches every month for “wine” and nearly a million for “Cabernet.” Being ranked highly for that type of search is virtually impossible for a blog. But being ranked highly for “Mythical Vineyard 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon” should be pretty easy if the blogger is doing things properly.

While tracking actual sales isn’t productive, it can make sense to track leads. A lead could consist of any of the following: clicks through to your site, phone calls, emails to you, attendance at your events, or visits to your tasting room prompted by the coverage. You can’t always determine what has generated a lead but, to the extent you can, it’s useful data. There are ways to increase the amount of this data you get including surveys, promotional codes, print-at-home coupons, coded RSVPs, etc.

The last item on the chart that I believe to be really important with regard to blogs is engagement with other bloggers, journalists, etc. As I mentioned above, one review or article may not achieve your goals. You want both volume and frequency. A blogger who is respected by her peers may serve as an opinion leader. They may pick up on her comments about your product and repeat them verbatim or do their own articles. This amplifies your message without much extra effort on your part.

Of course, there are a lot of other considerations. How easy is a particular blogger to work with? Is the overall philosophy of the site compatible with that of your company? Are the ad units available sized and positioned in a way you think to be effective? To what extent are your competitors covered on the site and do you think that’s good or bad?

This article offers more metrics than you will probably use. However, if you just pick two or three of them and apply them well, you will be going a long way toward making better decisions.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

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