Saturday, March 11, 2006

What's Your K Factor?

How do you measure the effectiveness of your blog? Let me posit that blog effectiveness can be measured by determining how often new visitors surf around your site. That is, how often do they visit one post and become so intrigued that they bother to look at others before they leave?

Among other metrics, blog success can be measured by the number of links to the site and the number of hits on the site. I would suggest that hit count is the more important of the two.

Measuring your success by the number of links you have can be deceiving. As soon as I joined Stop The ACLU, my link count shot up tremendously. However, if you went and examined those blogs linking to me, you would see that I was a single link in a sea of other links. I was indistinguishable from the rest. While I rose in the ecosystem, I did not see commensurate increases in traffic.

More evidence of this came from a recent Carnival of the Cats. I had two entries in it. One was the lead entry in the Carnival and the other as midway down the list of about 100. The first post got 15 times as many hits as the second. Being one link in a mass of links is relatively worthless.

In contrast, I recently received a link in a post from The Anchoress. That link pulled in over 150 hits to my site.

Carnivals and links from the more popular bloggers produce individual spikes in traffic. They are a poor measure of blog success since it doesn’t tell you if anyone liked your blog enough to read more.

Blog traffic can be broken down into

Ambient traffic + temporary traffic.

Ambient traffic is your repeat visitors. A good way to measure this is the number of times the first hit comes to your root site. Of course, this can come from one of the links on a sidebar or from looking at your profile, but this gives you a crude measure of your general popularity.

Temporary traffic are those visitors who come to a specific page from a link at someone else’s site. Again, this could include some of your repeat visitors, but in general it represents people who haven’t seen you before.

Ambient traffic is the key. Temporary traffic requires effort. You write a post and then advertise it as best you can, hoping for a link from someone. Ambient traffic comes by simply posting. Your repeat visitors will come back to see what you said without needing a link from another site. I’ve come up with a metric for how successful you are at converting temporary traffic into ambient traffic. I call it the K Factor. It’s really simple.

K Factor = count of hits to a specific post where the visitor went on to look at more pages / count of hits to a specific post.

From a recent Site Meter report on my own blog, of the last 20 hits I had 13 hits to specific pages. Of those 13, 8 went on to look at more of my blog. My K factor is then 8/13 or 0.62.

The higher your K Factor is, the more people like what you write. In general, if they don’t go on to visit other pages, then you didn’t grab them sufficiently to get them to come back again.

The K Factor can also be broken down by referencing sites. For instance, Hamster Heaven readers are typically just beaming in to look at hamster pictures. I have’t seen them stick around. In fact, in a recent entry about my hamster that I posted on the Hamster Heaven discussion board, I directly asked for comments. They came by, read the post and then went back to the discussion board to leave their comment instead of leaving it on the blog like I asked. Almost none of them stayed to see more of the blog. By contrast, a recent post on Spike Lee got many secondary hits by visitors from The Anchoress.

Analyzing your K Factor can tell you where to do your marketing. Hamster Heaven has been an outstanding source of one-time hits. Each post I link to on their discussion board brings in about 70 hits. That’s great until you realize that the only way to make that part of your recurring traffic is to repeatedly post links on their site. After the Anchoress gave me a link, it got a similar spike in traffic and then I saw a steady and permanent rise in ambient traffic. Both marketing efforts required the same effort. By examining my K Factor, I could see which one to repeat.

If you choose to feature the K Factor on your blog, please include a link to The Scratching Post.

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