My Bouncing Baby Benchmarks

My measures of success are a little different than most blogs. Though I like traffic and subscribers, at least a little, at this point my priorities are more towards personal connection, enjoying writing and the occasional nerd post. I’m all about the personal value judgment.

I did promise some statly benchmarks, so here they be. Get ready for a journey into Elizabeth brain gently seasoned with stats.

Traffic

Benchmark: I want some. LOL.

Specifically, I want enough to tell what you like and how what I am doing is working. Other than that, I’d rather have a life than put my all into growing quickly. If this blog was all I did, or if there were two of me, I’d be doing whatever it takes to post something substantive five or six times a week for the first few months.

I started this blog not expecting much traffic, and not intending to chase traffic for a while. I, errr, Stumbled into traffic and then I wanted it and watched for it in spite of myself. I started out at absolute zero in late November, and gradually built to about 100 uniques a day by about the end of the second week of February. The third week in February I hit a wall, desperately needing time to myself, posting here only once. Ironically, that week’s post, Creative Blogging: Plans Versus Experience, is still getting a trickle of traffic from Stumble. Nice. I want that, too.

By March 1st I was up to 1,000 uniques a week, and then I needed a break again. No matter how hard I want to push myself here, I also I need to feel free to pull away now and again to, well, incubate elsewhere.

Right now I’m at 250-350 uniques a week, and I try not to worry about traffic, though I check it every day and I’d like it not to go away, please!

For the next few weeks, my goal is to average four posts a week, two of which I have a strong personal connection to, because I want what that kind of productivity does to my readership interaction.

Creative pressure is one nice side effect of a traffic goal. How goals work out depends on what you want, and how you’re wired. I am learning that, for me, writing with a sense of personal connection requires incubation time. When I’m on a roll I’m the ever-ready blogger, and when I need incubation time that’s all there is to it.

Writing for SEO is more straightforward, more of a get it, got it, good: know the audience; pick and research the topic; check the terms; outline the article; check the facts; write the article; re-check the terms. If I were here to to build traffic and sell widgets, I’d map out a framework of SEO-oriented posts and sparingly sprinkle in spirit-connection posts as needed to keep myself sparky and readers entertained.

Bounce Rate

Benchmark: LOL. Don’t tempt me to say anything sparky about the term “bounce rate.”

Are you beginning to see that most of my benchmarks for AbleReach consist of my own engagement?

My bounce rate is ginormous and becoming ginormouser – now up to 83%, after a low of 39% in January. I expected a high bounce rate, because social me has gone after Social Media traffic. Actually seeing it in my stats has been a heart-stopper.

When my traffic was at its highest, my bounce rate was 39% – not nearly as terrible as 83%. My theory as to why is that once Social Media users come to a site they are going to be hungry for more, especially more that is new. So far, it looks like when I have more than one fresh post that Social Media users like, my bounce rate for that day can shoot right down to about 40%. I think that this is helped by adding forward/backwards links between older and newer posts.

It is important to remember that Social Media traffic does not behave like search traffic: Social Media users are grazers, not concrete searchers.

Returning searchers may be coming to a site for the keywords, independent of any loyalty to a site. Returning searchers may be information driven, looking for search terms that they know are covered on a particular site.

My belief is that though Social Media users are attracted by titles and pictures and what their contacts have bookmarked, returning social media “grazers” are more likely to be fans of the specific site. They need to be attracted – a little different from information driven users. We’ll see how that plays out.

Feed Subscribers

I have two personal benchmarks for RSS subscribers:

  1. More, please
  2. Enough subscribers to give me insight on what motivates clicking through to my site. I find motivation to click to be verrry engaging.

My subscription number is a little higher when I have built anticipation of what will be appearing next, and it goes down noticeably when I post less than two or three times a week. I’m learning that I should not promise ahead. Creativity flows, but not necessarily as projected. The best possible situation is to have some “get em, got em, good” SEO-type posts written ahead. I’m not there, yet – LOL – and, until I am, there will be fewer promises.

The momentum needed to build an RSS subscriber base can be grueling. Anyone who calls blogging “passive income” has not done it for real.

Clicks are cool. Feedburner’s graph of RSS users’ clicks back to my site shows a dramatic increase that seems to be paralleling my dramatic bounce rate, click-through volume going as high as 80% of my total subscriber number. This fascinates me, especially since I offer full text feeds. RSS subscribers already have the full text, so why are they coming to http://ablereach.com? What should I be looking at?

Time on Site

Time on site is my favorite statistic. I have no benchy mark for TOS because I can never get enough. TOS can be…. heartwarming, in an admittedly nerdy way. Is “heartwarming” a benchmark?

For instance, my favorite TOS numbers come from my WordPress tutorial pages. It’s very rewarding to look for what pages have the highest TOS and see that users have spent 8-14 minutes looking at a sidebar tutorial. I imagine that they are working through my tutorial, with their WordPress install open in another tab.

My average TOS is just under a minute, with about 1.36 pages per visit, more TOS for returning visitors and less for first-timers. Most posts are too long to read in under a minute.

I have a few theories for the low Time On Site. RSS readers who click through may have already read the page. Sphinn traffic, I am convinced, either doesn’t read or has already read a post elsewhere in feeds or through other social media. Social Media traffic in general can be made up of skimmers who stay just long enough to decide if they wanted to be there at all. When my SM traffic is high, TOS is really, really low. Most of my new visitors are from Social Media. New visitor TOS is averaging about .26 minutes, whereas returning visitors, including SM, average about two minutes.

Though my TOS goals are strictly feelgood, my version of feelgood always wanders over into user experience. For instance, I wonder if my SM TOS will increase if I start adding images to break up the page a bit: would that help skimmers read? So many things to experiment with, so little time.

Comments

Got ‘em and love ‘em, and am always pleasantly surprised.

For a newer blog, comments are like a magical life force. Once in a while I even get personal emails. I especially like getting personal emails on slow traffic days, because they remind me to have faith that my invisible friends are reading and enjoying their feeds.

I enjoy the give and take of comments. Here, I’d like to encourage lower traffic bloggers who want more comments to do three things:

  1. Directly ask friends for feedback – email, chat, telephone, whatever it takes to reach out and touch someone
  2. Be available for the same for them
  3. Leave meaningful comments on other blogs
  4. Link to those you admire
  5. Link to friends and fans
  6. Enjoy the process

Conversion

For this site, now, my definition of conversion is when readers are motivated to do more than read what is in front of them. For instance:

  • RSS subscribers clicking through to the site
  • Readers leaving comments
  • Readers who Stumble, Sphinn or bookmark

Keeping an eye on what seems to be causing these three things will continue to give me ideas about how to get more of them, as outlined in various sections above. Though my priorities are a little different, I still can use what benchmarks are reported for similar sites to give a heads-up on where I may have problems. IMHO “problem” is another word for “unmet potential.”

Four months into this blog, having identified these three things as “conversions” gives me a frame of reference for measuring success, and that’s what benchmarks are for.

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