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April 18, 2008

Measuring Social-Media Optimization

If you’re participating in social media, you’re going to want to know how it’s working. But before you even begin to measure your success, you need to know what you’re measuring it against. Define concrete goals for your efforts. Those might be to increase your web-site traffic by a certain amount each month, to increase conversion values, or some other goal. Whatever those goals are, use them as a guide as you’re planning your social-media marketing efforts.

Once you’ve decided what you want from social-media optimization, you can measure the results that you’re gaining from your efforts. The most obvious indicator is web-site traffic. If your traffic begins to climb, it’s a pretty good bet that your social-media efforts are working.

But if you don’t want to rely solely on site traffic as in indication of your success, there are several other elements you can look to in the effort to determine how successful your social-media efforts are.

There are many good web analytics packages that will track what the most popular content on your site is. I think that Google Analytics is one of the best analytics solutions out there, and as its free, its well worth a look at. With this software you can see where your site visitors are coming from and how long they’re spending on your page. This information will help you determine which of your content is most successful and who is sending the most traffic to your blog, so that you can capitalize on that.

Next, you can monitor the number of visitors who are actually interacting with your content by checking your guest book, forums, or comment capabilities. Guest books aren’t nearly as popular as they once were, but if you’re participating in a social network and you don’t have forums or comment capabilities on your blog, you’re missing a large part of the value of social media.

Also pay attention to how often you’re added to social booking sites. Sites like del.icio.us and StumbledUpon are a couple of the social bookmarking sites that can help boost your site traffic. The easiest way to monitor your site in social bookmarking networks is to create an account with them and then use the account to search for your URLs. In other words, who is actually adding your site/article/blog posts to sites.

Measure how many readers are actually subscribing to your RSS feeds. The number of subscribers you have on your RSS feeds will be a good indicator of how well you’re doing in your SMO efforts. The more subscribers you have, the more popular your site is.

Another way to measure your success with social bookmarking is to watch who is linking to you. If you have a good analytics program, it will probably provide you with a report that shows where incoming links originated. If your analytics program doesn’t provide this information, you can figure out who’s linking to you using that old standby, a web search. To find out who is linking to your site use the following search string, replacing your website with the actual URL of the pages you want to
track: link:http://www.yourwebsite.com.

One last way to monitor your success in the social-media space is to monitor how many people are connected to you. In MySpace and FaceBook, that might mean how many friends you have. In LinkedIn, it would be how many colleagues you are connected to, and on Digg the measurement you’re looking for is the number of times your content is tagged.

All of these are indications that you’re being followed by someone. And the more people with whom you can build a relationship, obviously the better your success will be. And that’s probably the most important rule of all to remember about social-media networking and social-media optimization: build the relationship first and the rest falls into place.

Guest post by Andy MacDonald, author of The SEO & Marketing Tips for Webmasters Blog.

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