Blog Year in Review: 2008
So I’ve finally had some time to review some of the analytics of this blog from last year. I figured that sharing what I’m reviewing might help some of you think about your own blogging efforts. And I’m also hopeful that I’ll get some suggestions on improvements from all of you. So here’s a year in review for Real Estate Internet Marketing by Union Street Media.
Business Blogging in Context
I started writing in this blog consistently around February of last year. I’d just come back from my first Inman Connect and figured I had some perspectives of value to share. When I’m blogging I’m getting paid, so it’s important for me to be able to articulate the business objectives for blogging to the guys that sign the paycheck. Here’s what they are:
- Blogging is something that we recommend to clients for their own marketing efforts. I wanted to be sure that Union Street Media is walking the talk and actively engaging and utilizing this medium. Even though I had been blogging before doing this blog, this is was a learning objective.
- Our team has a wide variety of skills and experiences to draw upon that we can share with a larger audience. Having an outlet to practice sharing this is an immense opportunity (anyone see Gary Vaynerchuk at this year’s Inman Connect?). This is a staff development objective.
- There are several questions that the sales and support staff get asked on a regular basis. This blog has helped to share knowledge with our clients as well as help prospective clients understand what we offer. This is a support objective.
- By using analytics to see what people find interesting, I’m able to further inform product development decisions and make our core products more interesting/valuable to our customers. This is a business intelligence objective.
- This blog links to other blogs and information sources frequently. This is a conscious decision to help insert our brand/thinking into conversations where we might be relevant. The blog is only a piece of the “participate in the conversation” strategy (along with social network participation, commenting on other blogs, etc). But it’s an important piece. This objective is aimed at increasing brand awareness and exposure.
- If all of the above objectives are being met, then Jonny and Spencer in sales should be having “warmer” conversations with people. This is a sales objective.
If I had to give a narrative version of the bullet list above I’d say something like: We blog to increase client satisfaction to the point where people feel comfortable and happy recommending us as a resource for online marketing in the real estate space and beyond. Without giving away the magic numbers and secret sauce, it’s fair to say that in the past year the Union Street Media blog has accomplished the majority of these goals:
- We can train our clients on successful blogging practices based on our own experience
- Several members of our staff have contributed posts or insights to the blog in the past year
- Existing clients have commented and sent me thank yous for posts that have appeared here
- Several product development ideas have been refined/initiated based on analytics data
- This year at Inman Connect far more people knew who we were than last year (I was a presenter and panelist this year, for example) and we were also given an entrepreneurial award by our local Chamber of Commerce that cited our growing national exposure
- I don’t have hard numbers on blogging influencing sales, but I have often overheard the sales guys referring potential clients to various blog posts during calls
What brought people in last year?
At the end of the day, a blog is just a pile of content; posts and pictures and pages. Which pages landed new visitors? Excluding the home page (which always brings in the most) here is what attracted people to Real Estate Internet Marketing by Union Street Media last year:
- A post I wrote early on that examined changes to Craigslist’s HTML policies and Criagslist user sentiment on those changes.
- An article about tying web analytics to print advertising.
- The Twitter for Business resource.
That Craigslist article was written months ago. But it still gets regular traffic. It’s an example of a content asset: something I wrote once which continues to draw in visitors without me doing anything further. Granted, those visitors aren’t as likely to convert into sales as other visitors. But they do help spread the brand to a relevant audience and provide a ready illustration about content as an asset.
What topics were popular?
I’ve done quite a bit of tinkering with the blog categories this year. But they do vaguely map to a content description that helps me understand what my visitors find broadly interesting. The categories that had the most views were:
Granted, this is swayed somewhat by the number of articles in each category. But it’s still useful information and I can dig deeper if I need to and make a views per post per category table to help level the playing field. I’m probably going to break up the “internet marketing” category this year as well. I mean, everything on this blog should relate to internet marketing, right?
What did people say?
As many of you know, I run a survey on the Union Street Media properties. The survey is provided by the folks at iPerceptions and is called 4q. I don’t separate out the blog from our main real estate web design site (maybe I should, but we need goals for this year right?). But I can look at data for people who indicated that they came to the site to read the blog. I got a lot of comments about what you all found valuable. Things like:
just came upon you as i was visiting other inman connect material. i enjoyed your content and found it valuable. thank you. I found lots of detailed information that will help me upgrade my social media marketing strategy. It always offers helpful information and it’s clear you have a good grasp of your topic. My problem is always finding the time to implement your suggestions!! [note: You can always talk to my friends in the sales department. 😉 ] amalgamates information for me so I do not have to go looking for the latest and greatest…
Looks like we’re doing a pretty good job on this front. Those are some of the many complimentary comments of folks who were able to do what they came to the site to do. But some of people weren’t able to accomplish their task. These people tended to be shy and not give me much feedback. The only one related to the site itself that we got all year was “Couldn’t find it.” It’s true that if you arrive at our main site getting to the blog is a little trickier. I have to confess some evil marketeering here. If someone is on the main site, where I want them looking at ways to hire us or have us build a website… I’d rather they stayed there and picked up the phone. But this coming year, based on this person’s feedback, I’m going to experiment with being a little less evil and A/B test promoting the blog on the main website to see what happens. Using feedback to take action. Yeeha! In raw numbers from the 4q survey, the blog has an 87% satisfaction rate. That’s pretty great with room for improvement. My favorite place to be. Which brings me to….
How do we do better in 2009?
The goals of the blog this year are pretty much the same as they were last year. And there are some changes in store. In particular I’m hoping to feature more voices from the Union Street Media team (do a better job at objective #2). I’m using some of the deeper analytics on content from last year to help set up a more formalized editorial calendar for the coming year as well. But you can help me out, too. If you read this far down the page I’m guessing you care enough about this blog to take part in its direction. Leave a comment to tell us about the best thing we published this year. Or if you’re shy, send us an email. What worked and what didn’t? What topics do you want to know more about? What topics do you want to know less about? I hope you found this little review useful and wish you the best of luck in 2009!