Backpackers are adventurous by nature, and while I realize this week's topic of blogging metrics has the potential to put you to sleep like the heat of India's midday sun, bear with me as this information is critical to tracking your travel blog's growth and money-making potential.
Since travel bloggers are inherently on the road as they blog (at least part of the time), we don't have an inordinate amount of time to become compulsive about tracking our site's statistics. As a result, it is best to keep your eye on a handful of the most important blogging metrics.
Number of Monthly Visitors
If you're only going to follow one statistic about your blog, the number of monthly unique visits should be it.
“A unique visitor is a statistic describing a unit of traffic to a Web site, counting each visitor only once in the time frame of the report. This statistic is relevant to site publishers and advertisers as a measure of a site's true audience size.” — Wikipedia
Google Analytics is an industry standard, however there are a plethora of other free tracking programs you can use.
On a daily basis, I reference the stats (post/page views, referrers, links clicked) tracked by WordPress because I was easily able to incorporate them into the admin side of this blog (WordPress.com Stats plugin). When I want to view more detailed data, I fall back on Google Analytics. I also use the latter for the purpose of quoting my traffic to potential advertisers because it is a known and trusted source.
Alexa.com, which is owned by Amazon, tracks web traffic and ranks sites accordingly. It offers quite a bit of clear, easy to read data and demographic information, and allows you to compare sites so you can see how you match up to the competition. The key metric of interest to potential advertisers is the 3-month Traffic Rank. This numerical ranking is used by a variety of internet marketplaces as well, such as Text Link Ads and Review Me.
For example, GoBackpacking's current rank is 261,438 which represents an improvement over 135,420 other sites in the last 3 months. Four months ago, my new blog Medellin Living entered the field with a rank over 10 million. It now ranks 816,948 and continues to improve.
Google Page Rank (PR)
PageRank is a numeric value that represents how important a page is on the web. Google figures that when one page links to another page, it is effectively casting a vote for the other page. The more votes that are cast for a page, the more important the page must be. Also, the importance of the page that is casting the vote determines how important the vote itself is. Google calculates a page's importance from the votes cast for it. How important each vote is is taken into account when a page's PageRank is calculated.
PageRank is Google's way of deciding a page's importance. It matters because it is one of the factors that determines a page's ranking in the search results. It isn't the only factor that Google uses to rank pages, but it is an important one.” —Web Workshop
Your travel blog's page rank will help determine where your pages show up in Google's search results. The scale goes from 0-10, however only the best of the best will reach the 5-7 range, while 8-10 is left for major corporations like Facebook and Yahoo! Google updates its methodology for calculating PR regularly to combat the strategies of bloggers trying to game their system. Google updates the PR of websites every few months.
The higher your site's PR, the more money you can command from potential advertisers. You can check your site's PR from time to time with free online look-up tools which ping Google data centers, or simply install a web browser add-on like Search Status for Firefox.
In the same way Alexa ranks websites based on visitors, Technorati ranks blogs based on the number of links they receive from other blogs. In this way, it measures the popularity of a site in the blogosphere.
Based on my experience, Technorati is less influential than it use to be a few years ago. I haven't checked my ranking in a long time, nor do I feel the need to. But, if it's new to you, be sure to go “claim” your blog and see what's on offer.
Number of RSS and E-mail Subscribers
Perhaps my favorite metric is the number of subscribers to this blog. Feedburner, which is now owned by Google, is the most popular option for syndicating your blog posts. Subscribers are valued for their loyalty to your blog. By agreeing to receive your content, they are potentially offering you their long time support. I've heard from readers who have been with me since early 2007 when I got started, and likewise, I still follow several of the first few travel blogs I ever read.
Don't shortchange yourself when it comes to improving this number. Be sure to give visitors the option to subscribe via e-mail. While blogs have gone mainstream in the last few years, there is still a large segment of the world's web surfing population which does not read and subscribe to them on a regular basis, and will not be familiar with the concept of RSS and its iconical orange button.
Number of Twitter Followers
Twitter followers are going to be less loyal to your blog than RSS and e-mail subscribers, however there is no denying the increasing importance of this new social network.
- Blog Metrics: Six Recommendations For Measuring Your Success
- The 8 Most Important Blog Metrics
- 17 Statistics to Monitor on Your Blog
What other vital statistics would be worth your time to track while traveling?