So you’re a blogger! Good for you. You’re successful, and you’re interested in staying that way. Why else would you be here? You probably know your formula already, you know when you’re posting and when it’s effective. You’ve got your theme set up and it looks awesome, your ads are placed in all the best places… But how can you be sure exactly how efficient your posts are?
The dreaded numbers. Analytics.
Numbers can be depressing sometimes. They’re not consistent, they fluctuate, and if you don’t know what to look for, anything but a nice clean hockey-stick shaped graph in your visits and pageviews can look discouraging, or worse, stagnant.
When was the last time you looked up from your subject material to make sure people were reading?
I mean it. Anyone who’s managed to make a name for themselves as a blogger likely stopped paying certain kinds of attention to numbers long ago, because it becomes inherent in what we do. We make sure that, in order to keep up the quality of our writing, we watch the reactions we get from certain pieces, certain subjects and certain approaches, in order that we don’t slip.
But what about those of us who aren’t so good with tracking? When was the last time you looked at the visitors report on Google Analytics, or whichever other package you’re using to listen to your site, and had a small stroke because traffic had dipped for a day or two, just when you thought you were posting your best stuff this month?
Numbers can be the bane of your existence if you let them. Seeing any dips can be very discouraging. But it doesn’t have to be so hard. I’ve spoken before about using some free tools and easy metrics to develop a routine around analytics – especially when you’re just getting your steam going – to figure out where all that traffic is going when the dips appear, and why it’s just not that big a deal.
Do you know where your traffic comes from?
FeedBurner isn’t much on metrics – those subscriber counts and reach numbers can get a bit overly vague, especially to the untrained. But are you making sure you’re making the most of your use of services like this? You could, after all, just leave your feed at your own site, and not route it through a service like FeedBurner. But why wouldn’t you, when its so easy to set up? It can also provide a bit of encouragement when you’re looking at your numbers.
Sometimes page view counts dip. Do you look to other places on those days? FeedBurner, right on its dashboard for your site, has an “Uncommon Uses” button. There aren’t usually any uncommon uses to be had, but this page will show you how many exact accesses of your feed have been made in the day. Often, on days when your page views counts are down, the Feed Uses numbers are up. People are using aggregators or readers like Google Reader of Viigo to access your site. They haven’t abandoned you, trust me! What this means is not down traffic, it usually means down new traffic instead. If that’s the case, you might want to look at how available you’re making yourself outside the echo chamber of your own blog.
Social Media is a time sink, but it has massive value if used with intention.
We can’t all be hyperactive tweeters. But, if we’re careful, we can let Twitter do a lot of work for us. Fully one third of my traffic comes from Twitter referrals, and I usually never tweet about a story more than twice. You don’t want to sound like a douche, right? But every so often, depending what I’m writing about, I’ll see a massive spike in Twitter traffic. What happened? Someone with a bigger following passed on a post. But how do you know when this happens?
Bit.ly is your best friend.
One of the brilliant things about some URL shortening services is that they give you simple, off the cuff metrics to work with. If you tweet a blog post using Bit.ly for example, within seconds you can see how many people have clicked on it, and you’ll see continual running numbers appear as it goes. Bit.ly also aggregates all of the links generated through it, and shows you not only how many people clicked on your link, but also the total clicks, as well as who’s tweeting about that aggregated link! Retweets, new engagements, sporadic short comments – all of which would normally never make it to your blog, show up in near real time on the info pages for your links. All you have to do is go to your account, or add a + to the end of any given bit.ly link to see all the info made public about how that link has performed. If you want a way to get this stuff off to your blog to use as social proof, you can do that too.
Disq.us is your best friend’s wing man.
There isn’t a huge amount of community to be had just around commenting, but Disq.us does this fairly well; in addition to providing a socialized segment for comments (on which more below) Disq.us will aggregate Tweets and other reactions to your posts and drop them into a very nice looking segment below the comments. It separates and gives semantic meaning to comments made about your blog, even providing shortened URLs as cited in these reactions. This is of huge benefit when you’re trying to figure out the path of sharing. Even if you only see one referrer – say Twitter, FriendFeed or Facebook, depending on your chosen venue for the original share – having the reactions cleanly collated has value lots of people miss.
Disq.us also has the side effect of exposing you to others, if you let it.
I’ve been using Disq.us for less than six months on my blog. While it doesn’t do too much for the blog itself – you can style your comments section however you want, and a lot of the things Disq.us does are homogenous – it does provide some interesting long tail benefits. For example, any registered Disq.us user who comments on your site gets a bit more visibility, because their profiles are viewable, comment counts in some cases, and some other contact information. I’ve made a number of good connections with people through their Disq.us profiles, and found a lot of good blogs to read as well. This is beneficial because, as we all know, commenting on others’ blogs builds great community, is good for your link juice, and ensures that you get involved outside your own echo chamber.
Not so threatening, is it?
Socializing your blog is a big deal if you want more traffic. Whether you’re a big name in the self-publishing world, or the tiniest of niche bloggers, traffic is paramount. But in order to make sure you’re focusing your efforts in the right arenas, you have to pay more attention than just looking at pages viewed and revenue earned. It doesn’t just come down to volume. If you really want to make the most of your efforts, learning to make use of small, fast tools to measure efficiency can make a big difference in the impact of every post you publish.
Photo by Ionusho.