PostRank for the rest of us.

Mel, the very helpful community manager at PostRank has pulled together all the Tots100 feeds into a list, which I linked to today on Twitter.

Following LOTS of questions about what this list is, why people are higher or lower or where they expect to be, and that sort of thing, I’ve been asked to a brief primer. This is just a quick post (school run in 5 minutes!) but it might explain what that list is, and why I think it's the best thing ever.

Q: What is it?
A: PostRank is a service that monitors blog feeds for something called ‘engagement’. Briefly, this is geek-speak for how involved your audience is with your blog – do they comment, do they share links to your content on Twitter or Facebook, do they submit your posts to social bookmarking sites like Digg or Del.ici.ous.

Q: Who cares about engagement?
A: Basically, PostRank sells a premium version of its data to people like PR agencies, marketers and online companies. They’re the sort of people that don’t just want to know whether lots of people read a blog; they want to know whether those people are MOVED enough to interact with the content in some way. A blog that has higher levels of interaction is generally seen as more valuable, or successful than one which doesn’t.

Q: Do I need to sign up?
A: No. PostRank automatically adds new blogs to its service as it finds them. a few blogs in the Tots100 were missing, but Mel from the company has now added all of the necessary feeds for the index to PostRank. Signing up, creating a profile, following people is only necessary if you want to use PostRank to analyse blog feeds or buy PostRank services. Otherwise, don’t worry about it. If you're not in the Tots100, you can submit a URL without signing up to the service – just enter the URL of your blog and if you get a "not found" message, there's a box to say "Tell us about this URL".

Q: How are those scores calculated?

A: PostRank looks at every blog individually. It will look at your posts each week and consider, relative to your blog as a whole, how engaged was your audience this week. It then assigns each post a score from 0 to 10. So if your blog typically gets one or two comments per post, but you post something this week that gets 40 comments and 6 Twitter mentions, there’s a good chance that post would score 10 points. If it’s an average post, it might score 5 points.

Q: How come I scored 1st/10th/50th?

A: The crucial difference is that the ‘thematic’ score you get in PostRank doesn’t compare your blog to anyone else’s. It’s just saying, compared to your blog’s average performance, this is how a particular post did, or how your blog did over a week.

So, let’s imagine Blog #1 scored an average 10 this week for his blog posts while Blog #2 scored an average of 7. This doesn’t mean Blog 1 is more engaging than Blog 2. It just means that, relative to each of their blogs’ typical performance, Blog 1 was more engaging than usual when compared to Blog 2. It’s a relative, not an absolute value.

Q: How is this different to the Tots100?

A: The Tots100 uses lots of different metrics to arrive at a score for each blog. That’s because engagement is just one part of the story – we also look at the number of  subscribers and links to a blog, for example, which aren’t measured by services like PostRank.

We do use PostRank as one of the metrics but we don’t use the relative, thematic scores as that would be largely meaningless for our purposes. We use the absolute values that underline each score. So we can use PostRank to say, “Okay, Tim scored 10 for this post, but what does that 10 mean? How many mentions did the post actually get? How many Tweets?” We then add up all the absolute points for each post over the month and average them to give a score that can be fairly compared between blogs.

Q: So does PostRank matter?

It doesn't matter. For the vast majority of bloggers, no blog stats truly 'matter'. But if you're interesting in maximising your audience or audience participation, it's always useful to understand what content really strikes a chord with your readers. With PostRank you can easily see by looking at scores, which posts are most likely to resonate. But also, if you can see you are getting all your engagement points from Twitter but nothing from Facebook, is there a way to make it easier for people to share your content on Facebook? Do you need to make it easier for people to add content to Digg? Is your engagement generally increasing or decreasing over time?

This is information that many, many bloggers won’t care about – and there’s no particular reason to worry. But if you are looking to monetise a blog (and Lord knows, there’s nothing wrong with that even if we are officially no longer in a recession) then understanding your audience better is generally a good thing.

Hope that helps!

About 

Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

10 Comments

  1. The Mad House
    26th January 2010 / 3:30 pm

    Oh thank you very much, you are a star

  2. Melanie Baker
    26th January 2010 / 3:49 pm

    An excellent primer. I do appreciate it when other people help me educate. Thanks! 🙂 (And, as always, if people are still confused or concerned, feel free to give me a holler: melanie@postrank.com.)
    A handful of clarifications:
    – Not all types of engagement are equal. E.g. writing this comment shows more engagement (work, interest) on my part than if I just retweeted it (which I’ll also do in a moment). As such, different engagement metrics are weighted in terms of how much work or interest they indicate on the reader’s part. As Sally noted, you can see over time if your posts tend to get a lot of tweets (and thus that’s the source of most of your engagement points), but not many Delicious bookmarks, etc.
    – We don’t mechanically or automatically add sites to our system. We can add them manually like anyone else, but we don’t have spiders crawling the internet or anything. All our sites are user-added — people wanting to check out their own blog stats or other people’s, etc. Much higher quality content that way (think we’re over 1 million feeds now).
    – Also without signing up you can check out more in-depth analytics for your site for the last 30 days here: https://analytics.postrank.com/tour (that’s a free snapshot of the paid service that Sally also mentioned).
    – If, when you submit a URL on postrank.com, you get a message that we haven’t seen it before, you don’t have to do anything else to submit it. By the time you see that message we’re already adding it to the system and gathering its posts and engagement metrics. Check back in a few minutes and that data should start showing up.
    – PostRank scores are not literally number of engagement points (i.e. this post got 4.2 points, or 10.0 points). Each engagement metric is worth a certain number of points, which are tallied up and correspond to the PostRank 1-10 scoring scale.
    – My name is actually Melle. 😉

  3. 26th January 2010 / 7:26 pm

    Thanks Sally, very useful! Mich x

  4. Chic Mama
    26th January 2010 / 9:17 pm

    Wow and that’s a quick post before the school run…very impressive ;0) I was watching the tweets about this all afternoon and know that I couldn’t take the stress of it all. I was getting worried for everyone but I think everyone’s happy now? :0)

  5. 26th January 2010 / 10:04 pm

    @MadHouse – no worries, do email me about the Technorati thing, if I can help, I’m happy to.
    @Melanie – Thanks Melle!
    @Michell/Muddling – you’re welcome.
    @ChicMama – touch typing. Sadly, way more useful than my degree, post-graduate diploma or anything else I learned at uni 😉

  6. 26th January 2010 / 11:41 pm

    Ahh and there was me thinking it meant I was twelfth in the world for awesome bloggyness.
    Can I pretend it still means that?
    Thanks Stats Queen – you rock x

  7. 27th January 2010 / 12:12 am

    We can TOTALLY pretend it still means that. You’re Top 10 in my book, anyway xx

  8. 31st January 2010 / 7:05 pm

    I’ve only just found your site, and this is really interesting.
    Being a sarcastic misery, I’d be fascinated to see if positive blogs get more engagement, because people who read snarky ones just can’t be bothered.

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