202.577.3350 will@willmarlow.com

Clocks

You should never use a new feature just because it’s awesome.  This is because “awesome” isn’t awesome unless it advances your goals.

My blogging platform (Posterous) added a new feature recently: this feature allows you to add “page breaks” into your blog posts, so that if someone is visiting your blog homepage, they would get to read perhaps the first paragraph, and then they would need to click “read more” to get the rest.  Most people think that this feature is nice because it allows you to fit more content on your blog homepage, but the point of it is actually very different.  If people can read your entire blog post (or, in fact, multiple blog posts if they scroll down the page) without clicking on anything, their entire visit on your website would be registered as “0.0 seconds,” because analytic software always measures time on a website by subtracting the time stamp on page one from the time stamp on page two.  If there is no page two, your metrics look really boring because the visit will show up as zero seconds in duration, despite the fact that it could have lasted for 30 minutes.  Combine this with the fact that blogs typically don’t require lots of clicking, and you get really boring data on blog traffic.

I doubt I’ll use this feature, because even though it helps optimize your blog for analyzing traffic, it de-optimizes your blog for delivering content.  (This is because people frequently read blog posts by scanning them, and it may be a tidbit in the last paragraph of a blog post that convinces them to become a subscriber.)   I care about delivering content, not analyzing time stamps.  The features you choose to add on your website or blog should always be determined by your goals, and nothing else. 

Will Marlow co-founded AlumniFidelity to help his clients reposition their fundraising to benefit from Web2.0 technology and marketing techniques. He’s working with clients such as UVA, the College of William & Mary, the University of Oklahoma, Bowling Green State University, Randolph Macon College, and he loves nothing better than a thorny marketing challenge.  Email him at will@alumnifidelity.com.