The User Experience Blog
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Blogging for Thought Leadership: Part 2: Learning’s and Next Steps

It has been over six months since we started the Evantage User Experience Blog, and as Mary mentioned in the earlier post, it’s time for us to pa

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use, reflect and evaluate how we have been doing. In this article, I will discuss the challenges we have faced so far and what we learned from them in our efforts to keep the blog going. I will also share the metrics we collected and analyzed to answer the question we started with – Is a User Experience blog an effective medium to promote Thought Leadership?

The User Experience Team at Evantage hopes that our learnings will help other teams think about similar endeavors and that the combined efforts will foster thought leadership in the User Experience domain.

What we learned about starting a corporate blog?

1) You need a team and a blog posting schedule to keep the blog alive.
In a scenario like ours, where all blog authors are working on client projects, it can be difficult to find time to write an article. Having a team of people involved is a great way to share this responsibility. However, one of our earlier learnings was that a verbal understanding of who is writing the blog each week is confusing and easy to forget. To manage this, we created a ‘blog posting’ schedule and integrated it into our resource management process. This helped us balance the task of writing an article with our weekly work plan and increased accountability for posting articles. Additionally, when we come across a scenario where the task of writing an article gets in the way of meeting a deadline, we swap the responsibility with someone who may have a lighter schedule for that week. A big win in many ways.

2) It’s challenging but rewarding to think of new topics.
Thinking of things to write can be difficult. Lori

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once mentioned that after two days of doing usability tests she finds it hard to think of writing an article and prefers to take her dog for a walk. I would probably do the same. However, over time we have all discovered that the process of sharing ideas with our peers has forced us to think much more deeply and consciously about the practice of User Experience Design. It has made us more aware of what our peers are saying, helped us take notice of what they are doing and has gotten us engaged in a more meaningful way.

3) Sustaining blog traffic via Twitter is hard.
Currently, the only way we talk about the blog articles is via Twitter and Facebook. This has helped create spikes in our analytics dashboard, but posed a challenge in maintaining the traffic. In the last few months we have seen a steady stream of visits [image 1] and one of the primary reasons has been Fred’s engagement with the Twitter community. Our *guess* is that some of the spikes are a result of retweets by people with a large number of followers. While it is humbling to see this trend, there is still a fair amount of experimentation we are doing to keep increasing visitors.

google_analytics_jan_sept

Image 1: Visits from Jan 2009 to Sept 2009

  • Some of things we have learned are:
    It helps if team members retweet on different days of the week. Tweeting around 12.00 pm CST is a good time to get the attention of ‘our’ readers in the US, and it helps if you can build a network of friends (followers) who will retweet your articles.
  • Some of the areas we are still exploring are:
    Who is reading our blogs? What are the topics that interest them? What are other ways to share ideas with our peers?

4) Meta-tags do not make Blog articles searchable.
Every once in a while I like to peek into the metrics and see the reach of the articles and results of our experiments. In July 2009, there was a big spike that caused an 83% bounce rate. While it was easy to rationalize this because our visits had increased by 700% that month, I wanted our internal web analytics guru Andrew Janis to provide some additional insights.

The session with Andrew was an eye-opener. Our biggest learning was that only 3.7% of our traffic was coming from search engines, when the industry standard is close viagra sample to 40%. This was a surprise because at our end we were adding the meta-tags and categorizing the articles, just the way we thought we should be doing it. But we learned that that was not enough. After the session with Andrew, we started paying more attention to the keywords for the articles and how we can use them while writing an article, or choosing a title. Even though there has been a slight improvement [Image 2], we are still working on getting better at optimizing the articles for search cymbalta without a prescription engines.

Image 2: Search Engine Traffic

Image 2: Search Engine Traffic

5) Identifying and tracking success measures help keep us focused.
Blogging, Twitter and Thought Leadership combined together are relatively new concepts. As we work on integrating them, we learn new things about them every day. A few weeks back, I was at a conference where I heard that the half life of a tweet is 5 minutes and to get readers to post comments on a blog, you need to post 4 blog articles a day, even if they were short posts. Now, if we were to act on something like that, we would need to stop working on our client projects. Or, if we were to focus on getting 40% of our traffic via search engines, we would need to start tracking key words used in the user experience domain and write articles around them instead of focusing on issues that we think are relevant to our peers. We have realized that defining our success measures and tracking them on a regular basis has helped us keep focused on our objectives.

Here is the list of metrics we are collecting:


Blog Objectives

Success Measures

Metrics

To evaluate whether blogging is an effective medium for promoting thought leadership

o Increase in the number of readers.

o Increase in repeat visitors.

o Increase in engagement by readers (via comments)

o Increase in external links from other user experience blogs/ websites.

o Visits

o Average time spent

o New visitors

o Repeat visitors

o Number of comments

o Quality of comments

o ReTweets on twitter

o References from other sites, (Links, Ping backs, etc)

o Number of posts (per month)

o Effort (man hours) for writing a article (includes peer reviews)

To increase the quantity and quality of creative dialogue among consultants and the user experience community

To evaluate whether the level of effort to adequately maintain and support a blog is worth the benefits that thought leadership brings to our company

The perceived value of promoting thought leadership (based on the metrics), is more than the effort that is put in.

To inspire consultants to take an active role in promoting their practice area

Consultants feel inspired to take a more active role in promoting user experience design.

Qualitative feedback from consultants (blog authors)

Conclusion and next steps:

Now, eight months after we started the blog, we are seeing the data (website traffic and interaction with the readers) we had hoped to see when we first started. At this point we feel positive and encouraged. In the next few months we will be working on:

  1. Optimizing the blog articles for search engines.
  2. Finding new ways to market the blog.
  3. Evaluating the most effective way to tweet articles on Twitter.

We hope that these efforts will

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help us to enrich the intelligent dialog currently taking place in the user experience design community, and aid us in concluding that a corporate blog is an effective medium for thought leadership. As we learn more, we will update this series on “Blogging for Thought Leadership”. Stay tuned.

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2 Responses to “Blogging for Thought Leadership: Part 2: Learning’s and Next Steps”

  1. Hi, Sheetal

    Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s really helpful to other corporate bloggers wrestling with finding the right mix of strategies and tactics to make corporate blogging successful. Given that you have a good start on content (past posts), I think the place where you’ll see the biggest organic growth in readership and traffic is through optimizing the blog and past/future posts for search, strategically blogging for both readers (topics), but doing so with a clear keyword strategy in mind. We’ve seen strong success from doing so. We shared some of the successes and lessons learned in an article earlier this week: http://searchengineland.com/3-lessons-learned-from-successful-corporate-blogging-27700 . Hope it helps.

    All the best,

    Galen

  2. Sheetal Dube says:

    Galen,

    The success you have had with corporate blogging is remarkable. Thanks for sharing the link and reinforcing the importance of having a keyword strategy. We are planning to focus on that. Hopefully, we will experience success similar to yours and post another article on the same :)

    Sheetal