Apr
17

Making a difference–analytics?

Filed Under (program evaluation) by Molly on 17-04-2014 and tagged , , , , ,

A reader commented that I need to be attending to my analytics not just reading my comments. Hmmm…

My question is: what do analytics tell me about making a difference–by providing an educational forum that changes people am I making a difference? Keep in mind that I am an evaluator and that the root for the word evaluation is “value”. So I wonder, do the analytics tell me about the merit, worth, value of this educational intervention?

What will the analytics really tell me about the readers? What will the comments tell me that the analytics don’t? Will the analytics tell me what difference this blog has made in the readers. Will analytics tell me about intention to change? How will analytics help me write posts to which more people will respond; make me more of an authority in my posting?

I DO NOT KNOW.

If someone, any one out in cyber space knows the answers (readers?), I’d love to hear from you. I blog weekly; sometimes more than weekly (like this week because, although I had the post written, I didn’t get it posted before I left the office so I posted it when I came back). I check my blog regularly for comments. I approve those which provide thoughtful meaningful responses for other readers as well as for me.

Another reader suggests that I look at the number of readers who have established an RSS feed or established a subscription. Hmmm…Not sure what that will tell me. I’ll talk to the IT folks for an answer to that question.

I would certainly appreciate any thoughts from readers.

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7 Comments Already, Leave Yours Too

Chris Lysy on 18 April, 2014 at 12:01 pm #
    

Analytics answer very few of your questions and I think lots of people put too much stock in pageviews. But what they do well is give you context.

Without analytics you don’t know if a single comment is 1 out of 10 or 1 out of 10,000. Are you writing content that elicits a reaction from 10 percent of your readers or .01 percent of your readers?

Have you identified your target audience? How many people are in that audience? How much of that audience are you potentially reaching?

If you only care about reaching one person, and you learn through an email that you reached one person, is that enough?


Ann K. Emery on 18 April, 2014 at 12:45 pm #
    

I monitor my blog’s analytics very closely to learn the following:

– Where are my readers coming from? Were they referred from another site that linked to my content? Twitter? Was I mentioned in a LinkedIn discussion? This tells me how my ideas are spreading as they’re picked up and referenced by others.

– Who’s talking about my work–novice vs. experienced evaluators, nonprofit staff, foundation leaders, the blogging community, the Excel trainers community, the dataviz community?

– Which posts are most popular, and which tags/content categories are most popular? Posts that offer hands-on tips (e.g., dataviz tutorials, free downloads, video demonstrations) are the most well-received on my site.

– What time of day is best to post? Saturdays and Sundays are worthless. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are overcrowded with tons of publishing from other bloggers.

– Who is subscribing? Folks with .edu, .org, or .gov email addresses? I’m pleasantly surprised when .edu and .gov people subscribe because my content is geared towards nonprofits and evaluators.

– Am I regularly attracting new subscribers? If I notice a lag in new subscribers, my content probably isn’t as interesting as it once was.

– Who’s reaching out more deeply (kudos via email, consulting opportunities, invitations for speaking) and where did they learn of my work?

– Where do the readers live? My Excel posts are popular with the international community (mostly people I haven’t met personally) and my research/eval posts are popular with friends and colleagues I know personally (like former coworkers or people I’ve talked to at conferences).

I monitor blog stats through WordPress’ Jetpack and through Google Analytics. WordPress’ built-in stats give me a quick overview on a day-to-day basis, and then I dig into Google Analytics about once a month.

I use all this information to try and continually “up” my game – to produce content that’s interesting and useful to the specific communities I’m trying to reach.

Hope this helps!


Susan Kistler on 22 April, 2014 at 4:27 am #
    

I agree with Chris, the value of analytics is often overstated. I also agree with Chris that there is indeed value though.

Here are a few other things that analytics may be able to tell you (or at least provide insight rather than absolute answers):

1. Where are my readers from? You are blogging from Oregon State U. Is there any assumption that your readers are from Oregon? Do you want to know if you have a national or international scope? Analytics can help.

2. Did something that you did in another context impact your blog’s readership? Perhaps you submitted a guest post to another blog (we’re always looking for great content at aea365), when it went live did the traffic to your blog increase? Did your number of subscribers increase? Similarly, perhaps your blog was mentioned in another context, did you see increased traffic coming from that other source? I always think of Michael Patton’s Theory of Action – the first step in terms of getting people to value your blog’s content is to know that it exists and it can be valuable to know how people are getting to your blog.

3. Analytics can tell you a bit about what content is most read, which does not necessarily mean is most valuable. A great article with niche content may change the life of one person and be deemed a complete success. However, I do find it valuable to look at what generates the most readership and clickthroughs so I have an idea if what I’m writing is resonating with a broad audience (and that sometimes is the goal). One strategy is to try to vary blog content between niche and broader topics.

Always appreciatively,

Susan


Jawad Zaib on 26 April, 2014 at 4:05 am #
    

Every person have their own view about analytics, maybe you are not reading the comment of that person from his point of view, to me analytics is a great help, it will teach you many things about your audience and blog. But as i said earlier for most people things don’t work the same way, the way other people are benefiting it from.


Joseph L on 28 April, 2014 at 6:08 am #
    

I think the answer to your questions depends on your goals.
if you are the type who is more preoccupied in the number of people interested in your content I think it will be better for you to follow closely the analytics, if not, if you are the type who just wants to present something good and to say what he wants to say despite the number of people who like it then I think the comments are more useful for you


Ravi Jayagopal on 29 April, 2014 at 2:47 am #
    

Depends on what kind of analytics we’re talking about. The very basic info you can get from something like traffic analytics – eg., Google Analytics – is you get an idea about how many visitors are arriving at your site, how long they’re staying (time on site), are they reading just that one page that they arrived at and then leaving (bounce rate), or are they visiting other pages (means good nav and interesting footer for your blog posts, etc).

The other part of analytics is “interest”. You can’t judge this by counting visits or bounce rate or number of pages visited per visit, etc. This is something judged by comments (I see that I’m the second person commenting here) and “engagement” with your viewers.

I like what you did here – you asked a question, which led me to write this. So ask more questions, ask what your readers want, engage them more, ask them to “like” your content, etc.

And when you ask for comments and likes, you’ll see that you get a lot more compared to not asking and just expecting your readers to do it themselves.

Hope this makes sense.


englem on 6 May, 2014 at 9:46 am #
    

I have a lot to learn…I would argue that blogs are outreach and not engagement; that blogs can possibly be engagement if comments are forthcoming. How did you find this site? I ask questions which do not yield comments; you responded to a question–What prompted you to comment? I appreciate your feed back.


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