Analytics: How to Spin a Blog Into Gold 13


Golden blogger

Many came. Many saw. Many conquered…the internet, html, css, Dreamweaver, FTP and then, eventually, hosted WordPress CMS, only to turn around and lose interest when the traffic never arrived or they couldn’t figure out how to make money while retaining a site they could care about. Decent content was there in many such cases, the product was in place, but the sales never came. Why? Well, probably, a lack of analytics to gauge the failures and micro-successes percolating just below the conversion line. Okay. Confused?

It all started in November 2005 with Google Analytics for most no-budget startups and cheapskate entrepreneurs. I should know. I was one of them.

The first users were allowed in via a kind of invitation-only lottery, to test the waters on server requirements, much like Google tested out Gmail and Wave. Remember that? You had to know an invited user to get more invites.

In August 2006, the full roll-out of open access to Analytics was unleashed. Now there was a way to measure site performance in closer detail and tie it together with the other emerging Google site tools. It also formed an alternative to the previous “Urchin on Demand” tool (which Google Analytics was actually based upon).

Google Analytics (or “GA”, for the tongue-weary), allows for some of the powerful traffic analysis that some of the bigger early paid platforms like Omniture’s SiteCatalyst allow, but without the ferocious real-time reporting and scalable functionality at scalable (or no) cost. Eventually they provided paid upgrades for organizations that desired to build on their previous GA  experience (the very smart reason it was free at the lower operational level in the first place). The result? A lot of companies currently use the Google option for tracking goals and measuring successful online campaigns and initiatives.

There is a learning curve with GA, and it isn’t the end-all solution for metrics in its free incarnation, but it has more than enough tools for most new site owners to get them to the next level (or even the next three), in tandem with the keyword tracking tool and all the other free tools available, much of which Google also provides.

The good news for cheapskate or flat broke website owners is that, in this one case, you probably really are doing it wrong if you aren’t getting easy actionable metrics out of your hosted WordPress blog. That’s because the big G’s Analytics can help you to do things like measure A/B testing on multiple calls to action and to refine existing sales funnels that don’t yet convert, or to create them where they don’t yet exist (got your attention now?). So even if your content is pretty good, Analytics allows for discovery about, and fine-tuning on, what’s not working about that very decent content.

Let’s be honest: going nowhere with a site you care about is a let down and a morale-killer. It becomes an emotional drain just to see a site that isn’t going anywhere and that yeilds no answers as to why. With the right combination of tools and just a little guidance and patience, however, you can quickly locate the tools you need to connect the dots in a sustainable way weekly, or even daily once you have your mojo back.

This series will help answer questions like “what topics and writing styles bring buying traffic?” and “what makes people sign up for my newsletter?” or even “what causes visitors and subscribers to want to buy my book?” And if you still have the blues from a site that is flagging behind in traffic and desired actions, at least you have a view on how your experiments failed and a data set history demonstrating how and why. And that, my friends, spells h-o-p-e. So now, to brass tax…

Gauging content (such as blog posts and articles) is about performance. What posts created the actions you wanted–or at least breached the surface? What do those posts have in common with each other? How do they differ from the non-performing posts? Failures are every bit as useful as successes. Without both, you’d have a lopsided picture that leaves you clueless as to what happened or how to control or build on it. Even a site with all failures still provides a useful, dynamic data sets that helps the user to distinguish and learn from the disparity between the greater and lesser failures. This is important for any marketing agency, for example, managing a client-site’s success. There’s no reason why you can’t learn the same skills an expensive agency would employ, but for your own low-budget website.

Now, I know how it feels when you’re down. You don’t want to take a step further when you’ve already proved to yourself that you can’t seem to make the targeted traffic arrive–much less the sales. You can barely raise the morale to lift a finger to help yourself while languishing in a slump. That’s why I’ll be providing this series of posts and the initial breadcrumbs below to help get you well on your way to those results. Hey, it’s like Christmas in June!

And just remember, it takes a good week (minimum) to get even a starting glimpse into what works and why. If testing blog posts, the following tools are going to get you into the driver’s seat fast. Take them and go with the force. I’ll be back next week to take you to the promised land of how to make these tools do your bidding and raise ROI–or maybe we should just say, “raise traffic and conversions”, since you’re able to use these tips without spending a single dime). :D

    NINE 100% FREE Essential Measurement Tools:

  1. Google Analytics (you don’t need to spend anything on AdWords to use and benefit from Analytics!)
  2. Create your FREE Google Sitemap (allows you to see how Google sees your site!)
  3. Now set it up in the WebmasterTools area of your Google account
  4. Feedburner (not using feedburner? Then you’re missing out on lots of value-added functionality!)
  5. Feed Stats plugin (TIP: save time by searching for this and any other plugin by name on the Plugins menu of  your hosted WP admin console–Did you remember to update to the latest version?)
  6. StartCounter Stats (The best free/scalable WP admin stats solution I’ve seen yet. For installation, see above tip…)
  7. Google Keyword Traffic Estimator (locate keyword ideas based on traffic without messing with your adwords account)
  8. Google Keyword Discovery Tool (gives more freedom and allows you to build a theoretical AdWords campaign at the same time–see our AdWords University for help there.)
  9. HubSpot’s Website Grader (a basic SEO-inclusive overview. Bonus: this tool includes Hubspot’s BlogGrader by default.)

Set them all up now, and then by the posting of my next follow-up post in this series on Monday (June 28th), you’ll be ready to take your blog to the next level. That post will cover what kinds of questions to ask yourself once you have a solid first week of data in place, how to fine-tune the tools, and rock a little harder, so be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already.


About Mark Brimm

Mark Brimm is President of 123interface.com, the Founder of Marcana.com, and runs a personal blog on social media, marketing and entrepreneurship at MarkBrimm.com. He also runs a blog on SEO & SEM at SEMinsider.com.

  • http://www.marcana.com Mark Brimm

    Good stuff, Mark. I’m looking forward to following along with this series as it unfolds. I think we could all use a little help in this area!

    • http://www.marcana.com Mark Brimm

      Thanks for the comment, Ron. Welcome to Twitter, and to the blog. Hope you get something good out of this.

  • http://www.marcana.com Mark Brimm

    Thanks for the comment, Ron. Welcome to Twitter, and to the blog. Hope you get something good out of this.

  • http://twitter.com/dianadriscoll Diana Driscoll

    Mark, as always, you share generously. And as one of those 'cheapskate entrepreneurs', I will hang on every word that you say! It will be great to have some tools to help with results, rather than just using GA as an ego-boost (guilty!).

    I for one ALWAYS appreciate the breadcrumbs, Mark!

    I look forward to us all evolving beyond the “ROI” question, and learn a better nomenclature for success with SM. Was it Eric Qualman who said, “The ROI of your business in SM is that you will still be in business in 5 years”?

    As always, Mark, a great post – I can hardly wait for the next one!
    Diana

  • http://www.markbrimm.com Mark Brimm

    Thoughtful feedback, Diana. Much appreciated! You've touched on some useful areas there.

    ROI has been posited in a short-sighted manner in the past. I hope this series can shed a little bit of light on how targeted followers and support end up creating ROI behind the scenes via social media, as well.

    Thanks for the support!

  • Wreichard

    It will be fun after a few of these for people to look back and see just how much you've given them in this post. Someone who does his or her homework from this is going to be well on the way. World-class, Mark. Very much looking forward to more of these.

  • http://www.markbrimm.com Mark Brimm

    Thanks Will.

    As Seth Godin says, “we [them] to lead”. No one can lead if they have lost confidence.

    Lots of good people with good ideas give up too soon due to a misunderstanding of where they actually are and what is really working, vs what isn't. I don't think analytics are supposed to replace passion, but they are irreplaceable useful measure of it for any blog. The only thing that separates those with great ideas that give up after no visible support, and those who find their stride eventually, seems to have to do with the way they look at analytics. Few blogs will magically take off and seem to be supported through thick and thin. Many expect not to engage with their readers, or don't realize that they even have readers, or where they come from, or what they secretly come for.

    Hopefully this will give a lot of people with good ideas and energy the patience, confidence and long-range insights to persist and meet the needs of the best possible audience for their own blogs. I guess we'll see.

    Thanks again.

  • http://www.markbrimm.com Mark Brimm

    TEST…

  • http://www.markbrimm.com Mark Brimm

    Disqus comments working again…

  • http://www.marcana.com Mark Brimm

    Okay, now I know there are problems with Disqus I didn’t test out before. Let me know if you discover any with your tests, as well. May be looking for another system. soon.

  • http://twitter.com/thestartupguru The Startup Guru

    Great piece. I need to pay closer attention to analytics. Well done.

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  • Anonymous

    Very useful #Analytics article here. Sorry I missed this one….!!