Dear Brands: You're Looking at the Wrong Influencer Metrics

Aug 9, 2013Blogging & Content

[mashshare]

Dear Brands:

Your metrics don’t matter.

What I’m trying to say is that all that time (and money) you’re using to research where to spend your resources online likely isn’t doing you as much good as you think it is. Your third-party SEO provider or your internal business analyst, marketing department or SEO managers are spending their time scouring the web, looking for the best place to place your link to help improve your search rankings.

Chances are, they’re using the wrong metrics. Here’s the metrics they’re using:

Google PageRank (PR)

A long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away), Google themselves even down-played the importance of PageRank. They actually used to display PR data inside Webmaster Tools, once upon a time. In 2009, they removed it. They’ve slowly been migrating away from this metric – at least in the public eye. Those in the industry that don’t intentionally try to play-up the role of PR often refer to PageRank as “Toolbar PageRank” (TBPR) now. What’s the difference, you ask? TBPR is a snapshot of actual PR at that moment in time. TBPR is only published once every few months where actual PR is constantly changing (in Google’s algorithm). We never know what actual PR is at any given moment; all we know is what it was (TBPR) at the time of publication.

The last publication of TBPR was back in early November, according to SEORoundTable.com.

Alexa Rank

The Alexa ranking of a site is another (more) dubious metric that SEO’s place emphasis on that they really shouldn’t be. The Alexa ranking is far less sophisticated than the Google PR and it’s already been proven that this ranking can be “gamed”. In August of 2012, I wrote a post about the “Darker Side to Blog Traffic Stats“. In it, I exposed some of the “gaming” that goes on amongst some blog owners to intentionally raise their page’s Alexa ranking. This is done by visitors with the Alexa Toolbar visiting the website and spending a certain amount of time on the site and viewing a certain number of pages. The idea is that if a user visits your site with the toolbar, the visit is logged by Alexa and counts toward the reduction of your ranking. Spending more time and viewing more pages is meant to not only simulate “normal” user behavior but also to lower your bounce rate and increase your page views per visit.

Guess what? This works.

Guess what else? Alexa rank doesn’t correlate to traffic – at least not proportionately.

On my personal website Memoirs of a Single Dad, my Alexa ranking has been declining for the past 6 months or so while my traffic has been steady, overall. In January, 2012 it was in the 200k range (world-wide) and I was receiving 300-500 uniques per day. Today, my Alexa ranking is 613k and I am receiving 400-700 uniques per day. I even saw a huge traffic spike late last year where I received 10x the number of visitors I typically experience in a week (due to a post going semi-viral). My Alexa ranking barely moved an inch during that week.

What is the reason for the steady decline? While I don’t have any hard evidence, I stopped commenting on other (mostly mommy) bloggers’ posts as of about June of 2012. Another good explanation of how the ranking works (and can be impacted) can be found here.

Klout & Kred Scores

Klout and Kred are two similar sites that measure an individual’s online credibility by scoring their engagement levels online.

In Kred’s own words:

Kred Story is a visual history of your Social Media Influence. Explore the posts, pictures and links that make you influential. See your full influence story and zoom in on meaningful moments.

It’s a “Pinterest-style” site that attempts to measure influence based on social media sharing statistics. Users are also able to give each other “Kred”, indicating they feel the other user is an authority in a particular topic. This influences the user’s Kred score (presumably) proportionate to the person giving the Kred. Kred’s scoring appears to be on a 0-1000 scoring system where 1000 is the most influential in a given topic area and 0 is no “Kred” at all in that particular topic.

Klout is a similar site which uses similar metrics but appears to be less “fluffy” than Kred. Where Kred displays a pin board style format, Klout has more of a tool feel than social media site. Similar to Kred, Klout users can also “give Klout” to others, indicating they feel the person is an authority in their topic area. Klout has a 0-100 scoring system, where 100 is the “most” influential in a topic.

On the surface, these sites seem great. They use real metrics (social shares) to measure an individual’s online standing. They provide a scale that we can compare scores with other influencers to see where we stack up. In reality, though, they’re flawed systems just like any other created to measure something that’s arguably immeasurable.

Wrapping It All Up

The fact remains that individuals and corporations will continue to use these metrics to measure influence and to continue to base their decisions (and spending) around. Until better systems come along, they’re all we have but they are flawed in their own way. We should keep those flaws in mind when making critical business decisions.

What do you think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please leave a comment below or feel free to contact me with your thoughts.

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