This guest post is by Kevin Muldoon of WordPress Mods.
One of the biggest mistakes new bloggers and webmasters make is to check traffic stats and affiliate reports too often—often enough for it to stop them doing real work on their projects. That being said, it is still important to check stats from time to time.
A quick review once a week, and a slightly longer recap once a month, is more than sufficient for most bloggers (affiliate marketers will obviously check stats much more because of how closely their income is tied to converting campaigns). It’s very important to check your blog’s progress, particularly within the first year or two of its life. Tracking important metrics can not only show you how your blog is progressing, it can also highlight what needs to be addressed in order for your site to grow.
Tracking can also be a fantastic motivational device. By tracking your site correctly and setting achievable goals, you can spur yourself to work harder and make things happen.
Everyone uses different scripts and services to track traffic. Here, I’ll show you the metrics I track for a blog I’m developing, and how BuySellAds indirectly helps me achieve my goals.
What to track
The BuySellAds ad network lists the following information for websites that sell banners ads through them:
- Alexa Rank
- Compete Score
- number of Delicious bookmarks
- number of Yahoo inbound links
- number of RSS subscribers
- Twitter followers
- Facebook Fans
- Page Rank.
It is possible to add your blog to the BuySellAds network without adding any banner zones to your pages; if you do, you can automatically track these metrics with ease.
These stats are useful for two reasons. Firstly, by keeping note of your own score on a regular basis (e.g. via a spreadsheet), you can see the progress your site is making over time and predict future growth.
Secondly, by tracking metrics which are publicly listed in a directory, you can quickly and fairly accurately compare your blog to hundreds of competitors within your niche.
The BuySellAds metrics can be divided into three types:
- Traffic metrics: Alexa Rank and Compete Score
- Search engine and social media presence: number of Delicious bookmarks, number of Yahoo inbound links, and Page Rank.
- Followers: RSS Subscribers, Twitter followers and Facebook Fans.
It’s really up to you which metrics you track for your site. For example, if you are actively trying to increase the number of inbound links then you would track your Yahoo inbound links score.
I like Alexa and Compete to give me an external view on how my traffic is growing. Their figures can be quite erratic and unrealistic for low-traffic websites, however these are reliable metrics for established blogs. RSS subscribers is a metric which I also like to track. Like any metric, it’s not 100% accurate, however it’s one of the best ways of seeing how popular your blog is and how fast it is growing.
I don’t feel so strongly about some other metrics, though—search engine presence, for example. I do try and make sure that my blog design is SEO friendly, and link internally and externally frequently, however I strongly believe that for most bloggers it takes care of itself. That is, if traffic and readership grows, and you continue to write good content, your inbound links will increase. This is also true for social media bookmarks. Every single post on high-traffic blogs gets shared, dugg, retweeted, and stumbled; therefore it’s not something I believe you need to actively check (I know social media junkies will disagree with me on this, though).
I have, however, come to the conclusion that while I may value some metrics more than others, it’s worth tracking everything, as over time these values may prove incredibly useful and highlight areas which need to be addressed.
Another metric which I always track for myself is the number of daily uniques. For this I use Google Analytics and Webalizer (a traffic script which most hosting packages offer).
Once you have decided on what you are going to track every week or month, you should create a spreadsheet to store all this info. Spreadsheets are better than simply noting details down, as you can compare figures from month to month more easily, and you can import the data into charts for further analysis.
How I use BuySellAds advertisers to set my goals
You can of course track all of the metrics mentioned above without using BuySellAds (though adding your site to the directory will save you some hassle). What their marketplace does give you, though, is access to a lot of useful information on other blogs and websites within your niche. Not only can you easily view any website’s traffic, social media, and SEO presence, you can also see exactly how much they are making.
The BuySellAds marketplace has websites from a number of different niches including automotive, business, gaming, and travel. A high percentage of publishers are from the design and development niche, however everyone should be able to find at least a few websites within their own niche.
If you look at their advertising information page or a website you will see a description of the site, some traffic stats, and information about where you can advertise.
Above is a screenshot from the AngryBirdsNest information page. The page confirms that the site has two ad zones: a 260 x 125-pixel banner area on the right-hand side of the page, and a 75 x 75-pixel banner area to the right of that.
The 260 x 125-pixel banner costs $300 for 30 days whereas the 75 x 75-pixel banner costs $50 for 30 days. There are six slots available for the larger banner area and seven slots available for the smaller one. All advertising inventory has been sold; therefore the ad zones bring in $1,800 and $350 respectively for a total of $2,150 per month. BuySellAds takes a cut of 25% of any advertisements sold, so we know that the owners of AngryBirdsNest make $1,612.5 every month through the two banner positions on their sidebar.
This information is incredibly useful. For every website listed on BuySellAds you can find out the approximate traffic levels and the money generated from ad zones (though most sites generate income from other sources too). If you also track your own traffic levels regularly you are in a great position to work how much money your blog could potentially earn once it reaches a certain point.
Bear in mind, though, that websites with similar traffic levels cannot always charge the same rates, so reaching a certain traffic level isn’t a guarantee that you will make a given amount of money. The more sites in your niche there are on BuySellAds, the more accurate your estimate is likely to be.
For example, let’s say you start a brand new blog and want to get a rough idea of the sort of income you can expect in the future. You could track competitors through a number of metrics, but the most reliable is number of impressions. If you looked at 30 websites within your niche and noted their monthly impressions and the money they earn through BuySellAds (using the method I noted above), you may find:
- Those with an 50,000 impressions earn around $100 per month.
- Those with an 250,000 impressions earn around $800 per month.
- Those with an 1,000,000 impressions earn around $5,000 per month.
Once again, I remind you that stats from one source only tell you one part of the story, so it’s important to look at each website individually and see why some sites are selling ads and others aren’t.
Monitor your progress
It’s very difficult to gauge when your blog will start making good money, particularly if it’s in a niche you don’t have experience with. We should all be setting goals and tracking our blogs’ growth over time. What the BuySellAds marketplace does is give us an idea of the right time to start selling ads, and an indication of how much we could potentially earn at certain levels (BuySellAds could obviously be substituted with any ad network that displays ads and confirms the rates publishers are being paid).
It isn’t 100% accurate, but it’s a great way of monitoring your blog’s progress and I believe anyone who is still developing their blog will find this useful. It gives you a a tangible target that you can aim towards, which should inspire you and keep you focused on what you need to do to make your blog a success.