This kind of dovetails into the discussion from yesterday about wine bloggers and their evolution, how do you evaluate people within the niche? While I am relating this to wine bloggers this technique can be used in any small niche.
There has been a lot of talk about how to find top blogs within a certain niche, Jason Falls and Marshall Kirkpatrick both have two excellent posts about how to do it using various tools that are out there. Personally I am an Excel guy and like to create my own formula and rating system. Maybe it has to do with my love of baseball cards when I was growing up but I love playing with the numbers. (Yet I never balance my checkbook.)
I can’t share with you the exact sheet and formula that I use because that is technically my client’s property but I can tell you a general idea of what I do. First off, the numbers aren’t exactly the end all and be all as I go through this spreadsheet I also color code it to people that should be considered even if their metrics are a little weaker or people I should check back in on in a few months. Also I would like to say that this process is used more for an underdeveloped niche or evolving niche I wouldn’t apply it to something like tech.
Here is the criteria I use:
Alexa/Compete– Most wine blogs are going to heavily underperform on both of these metrics but I find they still can be useful for painting a general picture of the strength of traffic to their blog. (Yes I realize both of these metrics are flawed for their own reasons.)
Quantcast– I check to see if they have it installed… 97% of the blogs in this niche don’t. If they do I check a box and I consider them a little more serious about their blogging and add points for this. Also I examine their Quantcast stats and adjust their rankings accordingly.
Age of blogs- Point scale created for: under six months, 6mo-1yr, 1yr-2yr, 2yr + With the high turnover on blogs I want to make sure that this person isn’t a flash in the pan or is going to walk away in another week before I ask to send them something or invite them.
Average Number of posts per month- Again I create another value system for this. If someone writes only a handful of times per month are they really going to write about the event or the product? If they only write a handful of times but the posts are just amazing this is something I would highlight.
Outposts- (give a number ranking for this) I check to see what type of audience is connected to the blog via other outposts: twitter, fb, ms, etc. If they have a strong following in these places but weaker blog traffic I still might consider highlighting them. For example someone might dump their feed into the Facebook page and their posts get put there. They could have 3K friends on Facebook that are seeing it but don’t click through to the blog… Things like that need to be considered.
Not factored in but documented:
Google Page Rank- I am a big believer that SEO and social media go hand in hand. If the blog has a good PR usually it is a sign that they have strong links and authority. If they don’t have good metrics but a strong PR I investigate them a little more and their inbound links, maybe they have something else going on that I don’t see. I kind of use it as an alert system to have me review the blog one last time.
Other information on spreadsheet: contact information, niche (wine/food/California/French/NY, etc), type (podcast, blog, video)
Once the formula is plugged in I create four classes to rate the blogger: (the numbers differ by industry, the client, and by the size of the list)
1- Top people I want to establish a great relationship with, subscribe to their blog, comment be active (usually around 5-10 key influencers, more depending on niche)
2- Up and coming people or a step below the top- (20-40 people) these people I want to invite to large events, still would mail them stuff, still want to reach out and create a relationship but I am not going to “stalk them”… Follow them on twitter, interact, message, read things that interest me… But religiously read and interact with on a daily or weekly basis probably not
3- New bloggers or people not very popular- I will pick and choose who to contact out of here based on the highlights. Will ask if they are interested in press release or events in their area. If it is a limited event they wouldn’t be invited, probably wouldn’t ship any product to these people unless directly asked. Lower engagement but if time permits I would do an initial e-mail.
4- Dead blogs, poorly written blogs, established but zero traffic- Usually I won’t engage these blogs but some clients will consider doing a mass message asking if they can pitch them on occasion about news and events… if people respond positively just highlight and send them information to hopefully get links to events or clients. Personally I don’t like to treat people like they are number so I wouldn’t do outreach that way but some clients may initiate that on their own.
There isn’t an ultimate way to do this, you can buy lists, you can do it on your own using different methods. This is a system that I like to use and I think the results it gives me are solid but I wouldn’t say mine is better than anyones I would just say I prefer it. It is a lot more work than some of the other ways suggested but I feel it gives me a lot of information that I can track. (If you revist it every six months you can see where people are trending and who is growing.) I hope that gives people some insight on how I determine the influence of blogs in certain niches.