OK, first off I'll say that I am _not_ a "web-guru" or super-savy netphile like some others. Secondly, I also do not presume that The Core Mechanic is a "top blog" for RPG blogging. It is definitely not. I still consider myself to be in the "finding my voice" mode of blogging about this topic as well. All I know is my own blogs (this one and that one), the traffic they get, and how I compare my blog to others. So, my advice or "insights" (in quotes, mind you) may not be helpful to all of you, but it may be something of interest to some of you. Thus, if you care about the traffic your RPG blog may or may not get, then read on.
Where You Stand
Understanding where you blog sits, relative to other RPG blogs, is an important first step to measure your audience and the effectiveness of your 'voice' in blogging. There are, of course, a number of ways to make comparisons, and not all of them give you the same information. I metrics I look at (in order of priority) are
- Feedburner Subscriber Count,
- technorati rating,
- site rankings / blog catalog ratings, and
- Google Analytics benchmarking
Feedburner Subscriber Count
There a couple ways to count this - Feedburner stats being the most common. But many RSS feed aggregators (like Google Feed Reader), keep their own statistics as to how many subscribers a given blog has (I currenty have around 70). This information is not always public either. In terms of my own blog, I usually compare my subscriber count to that of the blogs I read. This usually puts me a the bottom of the list, but its not a competition, is it? For Feedburner, jump over to FeedCompare.com - here's an example of the output for four of the top RPG blogs that use Feedburner (click to make bigger).
FeedCompare is a very handy tool for satisfying your curiosities. But not every blog out there uses Feedburner, or if they do their subscriber stats are set to private making it difficult to figure out. Of course, subscribers are not everything. You may be more interested in how much of an impact your blogging is having on the rest of the community. To address that question, I use Technorati.
"Technorati collects, organizes, and distributes the global online conversation." -- from their website. It is basically a huge blogger network that indexes which blogs link back to which blogs, how many times, and on what topics. The end result is that highly "cited" blogs gain a Technorati authority ranking that is supposed to be a measure of ... well.. your authority on whatever your subject matter happens to be (roleplaying games in this case). The more other blogs link back to your blog, the better your Technorati rating. Also, the bump you get from each link back is a function of the other blog's rating. So, looking at the same blogs from the FeedCompare.com screenshot above, we see their Technorati rating are:
- Dungeonmastering.com; Authority = 79
- Gnomestew.com; Authority = 93
- Musings of a Chatty DM; Authority =106
- Critical Hits; Authority = 77
But the analysis does not have to stop with FeedBurner or Technorati (although this is probably about 75% of the picture). By looking at blog site rankings using a number of different sources, you can improve your outlook on the community even more. Blog rankings sites come in two varieties: those that you sign up for and those that you do not sign up for.
In the first case, you can only assess the "rank" of other blogs based on whether they too subscribe to the same service. This is much like Feedburner, but instead of counting RSS/Atom subscribers these sites usually measure traffic - as in the number of visitors, pageviews, hits, etc that your site enjoys. Since some ranking services require you to actively participate - you are compared to a much smaller pool of blogs and thus your own rank is inflated. For example, in the footer section of my blog there are rankings listed for BlogCatalog (72.9), BlogTopSites (70), and BlogTrackerRank (634). BlogCatalog is somewhat like Technorati, except that it bases its ranking on traffic (not Authority), with a rating of 100 being the best for your genre of blogging. The other two sites are simply ranked traffic meters where a rating of 1 is the best.
The other side of site ranking services use annoymous rankings that do not require your active participation. This includes Google PageRank (I'm at a 2) and other services suchs as Alexa (my rank is #1,121,720.... heh). These services can be a bit depressing - but keep in mind that they are comparing your blog against the rest of the internet.
If you do not use Google Analytics on your own blog, then install it right now. Once it is installed, it is one of the most powerful tools you can use to compare your site against the rest of the community. How? By 'benchmarking' it.
Benchmarking is a report that is built into Google Analytics. As the guru's as Google explain benchmarking:
"Learn how your website's statistics compare against industry verticals. Use benchmarking data to gain broader context for your site and identify additional opportunities to improve your site's metrics."In essence, you can compare your blog to all the other Games-->Roleplaying sites out there that are of a "similar size and depth" to your own. And yes, Google does include a benchmarking category for roleplaying games, which is nice. I've included a screenshot from my own Analytics page for reference.
While I don't think that I've had any big grandious insights in this post - I do hope that this has helped some of the RPG bloggers out there get a handle on where they stand, and how they can measure the effectiveness or impact of their own blog. This of course only really matters if you care about that sort of thing; as there are many excellent blogs out there that are churning out amazing material and it is clear they have no care if anyone is listening. To those bloggers I say "GAME ON!" and I bow to your better egos.
And now for the usual push about the upcoming anthology....
Nominate your favorite blog post from any RPG blog to The 2008 Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs! Also, if you fill out our survey - you can win a free copy of the Anthology! For more information, please visit the Open Game Table working group.