Taking Advantage of Easy Metrics

photo by austinevan
photo by austinevan

I know this is going to make me sound like a geek, but one of the best parts of my day, running this site among others, is hitting up Google Analytics and other services and doing some good old number crunching.

Why, you ask?

It tells me how I’m doing. Forget the ways to blog – adding images, using all kinds of tricks to improve the blog itself, the posts you write. The real question I’m asking here is, how do you know what worked and what didn’t? My answer is number crunching.

I treat the writing of this blog as a very long-run experiment in advancing my own methods. How I think, how I speak, how I compose my thoughts and communicate with others. A lot of people who run non-journal, professional or semi-professional blogs do the same thing. There’s something to be said for cross-training in this. Much of what I do in my work life is verbal communication, but that’s useless if I can’t be agile in my thinking, and blogging helps me with this.

It’s very simple in sales to any kind to determine what’s working, as long as you’re paying attention. Do an A-B split test on phraseology for a day and see which closes more often. Test out some different facial expressions and see how people respond. Tone of voice. Arrangement of information (cost first, value first and so on). All of these different things you can play with, if you have the opportunity, to see what develops better relationships, communicates your ideas better, and does more for your clients and your business. Being in retail means I get to do this kind of thing on an hourly basis; you may have to spend weeks on it to start getting it right, but that’s a scale of business thing.

How does this relate to analytics? Directly. In sales, you either sell the product or you don’t. On the internet, in social media and especially with websites you control, the metrics are much more diverse, and managing efficiency is a bigger deal. How you go from inefficient splattering to efficient, traffic driving behaviour can either be formulaic, or organic. I’ll give you a few examples of organic.

Let’s say you have an idea for a post. It doesn’t matter what it’s about, just assume you post on your blog, and eventually want to figure out whether something you did worked, grew your cause. Where do you start?

First, Google Analytics. I use it because it’s free, and because it gives me a number of tools to use for valuing a post. Of the many things you can do is look at the traffic n your site for the day you posted. How many visitors did you have? How many page views? What was the average time on the site? If the time on site is anything like the time it takes you to read your post, chances are, most people read the whole thing. That’s a kind of success.

Next, I shorten. URLs tend to be long, so I use Bitly to shorten my links for sharing – but oddly this can also be a tracking tools. Look at this: http://bit.ly/info/6AFliW – This is the Bitly info page for a link to Scobleizer‘s blog. I made this link; notice there are a few clicks from the short link I made. This tells me making this link netted me a bit of value by passing on something I found neat. But also, notice the second number, the one that shows you the total number of bitly clicks for the long page link I referenced. If I were Scoble, I’d be enjoying more than six thousand (6000) clicks to my site from Bitly ALONE. Further down the page, you’ll find a click timeline, referrers listings, even Tweets about that short link. If this isn’t efficiency tracking, I don’t know what is. Making sure you get a short link for your entries gives you an entirely different set of data to work from than your home analytics does. Among other things, having this sort of reactionary dashboard for your posts is another kind of success; just keeping score here brings you closer to winning.

Speaking of tracking efficiency, I tweet. Praise be the Tweet. One of the first things I do when I’m considering a post is spend a little time on Twitter Search, Google, and other places looking for trends, keywords and so on. After the fact, I use Bitly to track reactions and reposts, analytics to track Twitter as a referrer – again, just being in the arena has its gains. One of the things I’ve started doing lately is looking over my bitly info and following everyone who tweets about my stuff. It’s courtesy on one end, and smart on another; if you’re interested in me, I’m probably interested in you.

This is a lot of information, I’ll admit. And I’m a bit of a tracking nerd. However, it boils down to three simple things:

  • Attentiveness is key to conversation. If you’re paying attention to how people are using your things, it enables you to create more of the useful things in the future. Raising the quality of your actions is the goal, all the time.
  • Winners keep score. Simple as that. If you want to be sharing awesome stuff, build on your better work, not your worst. Without knowing what people are liking about your stuff, you’re less likely to produce likeable things.
  • Pro-activity is far better than reactivity. By making sure you keep on top of where your words are travelling, you’re engaging in a way that’s more human and more social than just letting sleepy blogs lie.

The actual, step-by-step process I’m using to improve my sharing is still changing, but since I started using this very basic framework at the beginning of November I’ve seen a rise in my work – and if I’m noticing, I can only hope other people – you, namely – are noticing as well. What do you think? Better still, how do you keep track of what your work does for you?