How to Measure Blogger Performance and Pay Them

Key metrics to use for paying your business bloggers

hiring freelance blog writers
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Think of your website or blog (same thing) as opening a storefront. You want to hire a freelance blogger that's like a manager, not just a counter clerk. Your Web team fulfills several positions:

  • writer
  • community manager
  • salesperson
  • customer service agent
  • online marketer

Like my partner Will Chen, editor of the personal finance site WiseBread.com, likes to say:

"You want to hire a blogger, not just a writer. There's a big difference."

See Also: How to Completely Outsource All of Your Social Media Marketing

Basing Compensation on Performance Metrics

When you use performance metrics to pay your blogger, you're incentivizing them to grow your blog, not just churn out posts.

There is no one-size-fits-all blogger compensation model. As you think about these blog metrics and how you can pay blogger, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Align performance bonuses with your business goals. If you don't care about getting lots of commenters, you don't have to pay a bonus based on that metric.
  2. Keep payment structure as simple as possible. This will seem like contradictory advice after I mention over a dozen metrics below. You don't have to (and probably shouldn't) use every metric mentioned here. Pick the ones that are important to you. Keep your blogger compensation fairly simple so they know what to expect.
  3. Use maximum caps on the performance bonuses for cost control.

    3 Types of Blog Performance Metrics

    I'll present three major types of metrics you can use to measure the performance of a blog (and blogger), explain what each type of statistic tells you about performance, and show how you can use these metrics to pay your bloggers.

    1. Base pay: Consistency metric
    2. Bonus: Internal metrics
    1. Bonus: External metrics

    Base pay: Consistency metric

    You can also call these the "post count" or "word count" metrics. These metrics track the baseline responsibilities of your blogger. They ensure that your blog has a consistent publishing schedule.

    Consistency is especially important to a business blog. When readers (potential customers) know what to expect from your blog, they're more likely to come back tomorrow.

    What you're counting:

    • number of posts per week
    • minimum (and/or maximum) post lengths

    If you have no idea where to start, use the following numbers as a guide. Adjust them up and down based on your specific business goals and your budget.

    How Much to Pay for a Blog Post

    • $5 - $10 per 100 words. So a mid-length blog post of about 300 words is worth about $30. A long, in-depth article (usually around 1,000 words or so) is worth approximately $100. You can find cheaper rates, but you won't be happy with the quality.
    • Aim for 1,000 words per week. That's the equivalent of 3-4 shorter blog posts or 1-2 longer articles.

    Again, these numbers are just starting points. There are no hard and fast rules in terms of pay or weekly word counts that will make your blog a success.

    Quick tips about the consistency metrics:

    • Pay per-post, not per-word. It's a lot easier to manage that way. So your contract might require something like "3 blog posts of at least 300-words a week for $30 per post".

    See Also: 3 Easy Ways to Make Money with a Blog

    2. Bonus #1: Internal metrics

    Internal metrics are the ones that determine how well your blog is doing on its own.

    Paying a bonus based on these metrics incentivizes your blogger to build a better blog, not just chase word counts.

    Internal blog metrics to measure:

    • number of new comments
    • number of new feed or email subscribers
    • sales directly generated by the blog

    You can use the following numbers as a starting guide for offering a bonus:

    • Comments bonus: $1 per new comment is a good rate. Obviously that shouldn't include the blogger's own comments. If you have a WordPress blog, you can use the GeneralStats plugin to quickly count comments.
    • Subscribers bonus: Subscribers are more important than commenters. Subscribers are giving you permission to push your marketing message to their feed reader or email inbox. $2-3 per new subscriber is a good starting rate.
      • RSS Feed tool: FeedBurner is the best service for tracking the number of RSS feed subscribers you have.
      • Email newsletter services: AWeber and ConstantContact are two of the best email newsletter services available.
    • Sales commission: A commission for any sales directly generated by the blog is probably the best way to incentivize a business blogger. And it directly aligns with your business goals. If you already have an affiliate program, make your blogger an affiliate so they can earn sales commissions.

      3. Bonus #2: External metrics

      These external metrics measure the success of your blog compared to the rest of the Web. By offering performance bonsues based on these metrics, you're encouraging your Web team to market your blog to niche neighbors and the Web at large.

      What to measure:

      • page views, unique views
      • search referrals
      • inbound links

      Content publishers like About.com make money by selling advertising based on the number of page views the site gets. So as an About.com guide, I get paid based on page views.

      For a small business that does not depend on page views, it makes more sense to pay based on unique views or unique visitors. You care more about the number of unique people your blog/website is reaching. Use a Web analytics service like Google Analytics (free but very powerful) to measure the unique visits to your site. A bonus of $0.25 - $0.50 per unique visit is reasonable -- it's less than the comments bonus, but not so low it doesn't matter. You can either set it to the absolute unique visits count, or based on an increase from the previous month.

      Search referrals are a great way to measure the success of your blog. However, because it might take a few months for actions to turn into search engine referrals, it's not a good metric to use to pay for blogger performance.

      Instead of directly paying for search referrals, paying based on the number of new inbound links is a good proxy. Generally, more inbound links will turn into more search referrals. Technorati is a good tool for measuring the inbound links to your blog.

      What makes Technorati unique is that it only measures inbound links from the last 90 days. This forces your blogger to continually build inbound links and not just stop after a good month. I like paying $0.25 to $1 for each month-to-month increase in inbound links.

      There's a ton of info in this article, and I realize it can be very confusing for a small business owner trying to create a reasonable compensation model for their bloggers. Email me at onlinebusiness@aboutguide.com if you have any questions about this topic or anything else related to your online business.