Keeping It Real

In my myriad discussions with fellow broadcasters throughout each week, a common preoccupation is statistics and search engine rankings for their websites. I keep telling everybody that neither metric is all that important for a local site, but no one really listens.

Once again, it is convenient and not that inaccurate to turn to radio ratings as a model. In the old days–and every market outside of the top 50 is living in the old days–ratings could be gamed with a variety of tricks to compel diary entries that were favorable to our radio station. But in the new days of the PPM and its new listenership reality, those old tricks are of little to no value; what programmers have reluctantly concluded is that the way to win listeners is to program the best darn radio station in the market.

Similarly, in the old days of the Internet, there was a variety of tricks we could use to compel high rankings in the search engines. As Matt Winn points out in his article earlier in this issue, all of those fancy tricks have gone out the window as Google–which owns almost 90 percent of the search market–has refined its methodology to penalize the gamers and reward those who are sincere in building a darn good website.

Even if the old tricks still worked, they are mostly irrelevant when it comes to local-market websites, especially those run by radio stations. Whereas lots of websites are dependent upon search engine rankings for their traffic flow, radio websites are dependent upon radio promotion.

As I have noted in these pages before, our little radio stations in Southeast Iowa drove over half a million page views on our website each month with one very simple formula: We ran promos on all our stations once an hour, 24/7, non-preemptible. In addition, every news- and sportscast was tagged with the line, “For more details on these and other stories, visit us online, anytime, at radiovillage.com.” We also used our promo positions in our syndicated programming to have the jock or personality promote the website as well. (I will be happy to send you all the promos we ever did for our website; just e-mail me at mitchell@jaymitchell.com.)

Another thing that is basically worthless is web statistics. As I noted as recently as last week, nobody is going to believe the most accurate statistics you have–the actual numbers provided by your web hosting company–because they are provided to you and you alone and they are not subject to third-party verification. There are a number of resources that purport to provide “ratings” of websites, but they are all based on formulas that don’t work outside of large national and international sites. (Basically, in small markets, the sample size is too small to be statistically significant.)

That is only one of the many reasons I recommend that you stay as far away from rankings and metrics as you can when you sell your website to an advertiser. Of course, when asked the direct question, “How many people visit your site?”, you don’t want to be guilty of evasion. A good way to answer the question is by saying something like, “Well, our hosting company tells us we have [number] page views a month, but I don’t even know what that means. What I do know is that the combination of your radio advertising and online advertising can work together to produce even better results for you.”