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Are you engaging consumers online? Are you sure?

April 9, 2010

One of the biggest obstacles to today’s web-based marketing efforts isn’t the lack of accurate measurements, rather it is the inability of numeric metrics to give a clear indication of success (or failure).

To many in upper management, when faced with a web campaign’s bewildering deluge of distinct visitor numbers, cost per click rates and apparent traffic trends, most strive to justify the expenditures by seeking a clear-cut, bottom-line return on investment.

While it is true that a thorough and regular analysis of your web site or blog’s traffic statistics can lead to clues about the level of engagement your web fans or readers have with your online presence, there are certainly some intangible metrics that can indicate if you’re on the right page with consumers.

What’s notable about these is that they tend not to have concrete benchmarks for comparisons nor industry standards to compare to. In fact, they’re much more intuitive and organic than simple numbers and measurements.

Comments and feedback
A great indicator of success — and even opportunities for improvement — is the monitoring of conversations online about your product or service, especially when they take place when and where you publish content on relevant topics. A question to ask is, “What sparked the initial comments and compelled the reader to speak up and respond?”

Also watch how active the conversations are surrounding your online content and if the discussions have value and are high quality. Do they stay on-topic and evolve as more and more participate?

And while it is common for conversations to have just a few, frequent and passionate participants, if more and more readers start commenting, you’ve touched a nerve.

Document downloads
If your web site or blog features downloadable documents such as whitepapers, case studies or even the ability to print offline-formatted articles and blog posts, an increase in these indicates interest.

Unfortunately, one issue with offline downloads is that you cannot determine what cause of action happened after the download, which brings to question the need to include some sort of trigger or call to action in your available documents.

Some blogs — and certainly most web sites — miss a great opportunity to measure engagement when they don’t make it easy for readers to subscribe to new updates. Having this feature available and utilized on an increasing basis indicates that readers like your content enough to want more.

In addition, the ability to deliver future content automatically to subscribers via e-mail or another type of feed alleviates the need for fans to find your blog or web site again as well as your need to attract them.

When a reader of your blog or web site’s content or advocate of your product or service likes what they read or experience, they will want to tell others, especially within their networks. And by sharing, these consumers show they value the content you are creating and publishing.

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