Analytics PT 2: Sexy Graphs (NSFW!) 3



A marketing meeting collides with No Pants Friday at the office.

Sexy graphs motivate.

Assuming you read (and religiously followed) my first post in this Analytics series, and that the tools are already set up and you were just waiting for more on the how-to, now here it is. Apart from all the great graphs that seem to indicate progress of various kinds, all these numbers can leave a person asking themselves “Okay. Now what?”

To that, I say follow the trends on isolated blog elements, and not the blog as a whole (this is too sloppy to yield meaningful data). Namely, what do the existing trends tell you about the popularity of certain topics, titles, writing approaches, post images, SEO tactics and bookmarking strategies as opposed to others? If your topics or titles don’t connect or engage the viewer to click and see what’s happening, then something is wrong with the presentation on some level. In most cases, there is an audience for nearly every topic, so the key areas to guide you in viewing your site stats should be:

1) Do your titles merit a click?

Example:

You Don’t Know Jack About iPhone 4!

will get WAY more clicks than

A reasonable rundown of iPhone 4 features

and better still…

Why iPhone 4 Is Sexier

Now this one works only if there is some tie-in to the word “sexy”. Failing to provide that tie-in could prove quite angering for a lot of readers who don’t appreciate having their buttons pushed without any payoff. We don’t know why we click on the word sexy, but when we do, we expect some gratification for it (take for example this post!). The same holds true for other words that explain more then describe the topic, like “social media” or “gadgets”.

If people can tell what your post is about from A to Z just by reading the title, that makes you the world’s best summarizer, and the world’s worst headline writer. Headlines are supposed to intrique, tantalize, not summarize in a dumbed-down fashion what merits your unique and expert elaboration. An awesome headline not only tantalizes, but can also sometimes lend an aha moment by the end of the piece. As in, so that’s why you named the piece that!

2) Is your target audience engaged by your writing style?

Consider the audience. I’ve found that most people appreciate short-form in speech, but don’t want to read it in writing. The reason is that we expect written art to come from the page (or the screen), not from people’s mouths during a spoken conversation or a chat. Twitter, since it involves pith to summarize into 100-140 characters what might normally take a lot to explain, is somewhat of a hybrid form of chat, but the rules are different. A blog post, on the other hand, well it’s a time for expressing originality, pith, humor, sincerity, all the things that make you you, in just the right recipe of ingredients. Sometimes, or often, people spice up their personality or simply show the spicier side. This is a good idea when it comes to blogs, but it pays to remember who your audience is. You writing one type of blog does not need to be the same side of you that writes another. There may be completely different concerns and aims.

3) How does image selection affect click through rate (CTR)?

Basic Urchin Stats

Start with these 3 stats

It’s not the image, but its relation to your post that matters most, then the attention-grabbing nature of the image. It’s not enough to merely grab attention and then wander off in a whole new direction in the content of the post.

Do you use the same image for every post, or do you spice it up? There’s no wrong way, so long as it works for your purposes. And if it doesn’t work…maybe it’s your wrong way at work. Cheeky and/or daring normally works best if the aim is to cover technical ground with pizazz. The best post images capture a mood of the post. Moods are as important in the image that represents a post as for the post itself.

Images matter. They say in a glimpse what is impossible to say in 1,000 words. What are your post images telling your readers about you? Think on it before settling. And then look to your analytics to tell you what qualities highly clicked links have in common wherever the visibility of your feed’s thumbnail is involved.

4) Is your consistency helping or hurting you?

Consistency is normally a good thing in blogging, if only because the audience you build knows what your blog is about and what you are like as a person. All that conventional wisdom aside, it’s not a law, and it’s possible to have the wrong kind of consistency.

If your posts all sound the same, or points within a single post sound the same from one to another, this is most likely hurting your engagement with the reader. Remember, you want new readers to constantly be checking out, talking about and subscribing to your blog, not just your friends and colleagues (though they are a part of your core blog posse–a very necessary core following is important to any blog, but you’ve heard that one before by now).

FeedStats Reach Chart

FeedStats Reach Chart

FeedStats won’t come fully into play until later on. When you’ve got more subscribers and readers, however, you can use this to determine how your content gets exposed to new readers via your feed, rather than, say, people who see your tweets about your posts on Twitter. One quick word of advice here, though: make your feedburner feed aggregation-friendly via the setting on your feedburner account. And select excerpts as the preferred mode of display, with the most popular social sharing tools included in the feed. Find ways to

bring that feed to as large a number of popular outlets as possible-NetworkedBlogs, desirable individual topic-focused sites that accept submissions, etc. Aggregation is a form of flattery and a sign of importance of your blog. If it happens that people ping you from their blogs and comment about your blog on Twitter and Facebook, that’s a good thing.

StatCounter And Google Analytics are your best bets for everyday intel on how your self-hosted WP blog is doing in terms of below the radar engagement.

A Screen from Google Analytics

Gauge where your blog is now, vs. your immediate and longterm goals.

What do I mean? I mean below the obvious indicators of say, a pat on the back or a comment on the post. The trick here is to see how many almost engaged visitors you had, for the post/title/approach/topic/image/etc you had one day vs. how many who surfed every page of your site, re-tweeted and just couldn’t stop talking or commenting. Now compare that ratio to other days you feel were more or less successful. Your posts may not be as engaging as you think. They may be less or more so. It makes sense to acknowledge the data. Without data, we’re overcome with subjective factors which have little or no validation.

SEO: One parting word for this post is on SEO. Search engine optimization is, as I told one friend of mine recently, never going to fully go away. Like it or not, social media sharing will never fully eliminate the need and practicality of optimizing for search engines. For reasons of pure simplicity, I recommend using Thesis not only to help with SEO, but with most other aspects of customizing your WordPress blog. I generally assume you are either using Thesis in this part, or enough plugins that will help you to approximate some of the standard components of Thesis.

  1. Optimize the title within reason (include your main keyword or a secondary one, but not to the detriment of the title!). Short and sweet with 1-2 keywords is pretty good!
  2. Write a customized description if the beginning paragraph doesn’t summarize (and it really should never do that in a blog post!)
  3. Indicate the keywords for the sake of various sites and engines that will pull and use them (Google doesn’t use them in SERPs algorithms)
  4. Use the tag cloud or categories in nav menu if it doesn’t get in the way.
  5. Optimize for longevity over short-term gains. Making your posts optimized for engines should always be in the background or invisible, not an obvious attention-attracting feature. One reason for this is style, but the most important reason is what I call Googlevision. Googlevision is the way of looking at content that tells you what the big G would think of it over the course of the next five years. Does it rely too much on tags and superfluous links? Is it over-optimized, or obviously pushing the boundaries. Will this become a thorn in the side of those who have to tighten the controls in coming months and years? Look ahead. Googlevision likes balance and that’s for your benefit as well as for the rest of the users of search engines. Googlevision isn’t just about being considerate to the engine user, it’s about SEO longevity. Balance is always best. Always use your Google goggles.

That’s it for this round. Stay tuned to see how we go into more depth with analytics and the tools you will need to stay on top of for the first several weeks and months of use. By the time I’m done with you, if you had little to no success in using analytics to grow your blog before this series, you should not only be seeing any progress with your own eyes, but understanding more and more of what it all means in terms of direction and fine-tuning, and generally rocking more.


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.leader4hire.net Leader4hire

    I have to agree with the considerations here. All excellent points and guidelines.

    For me specifically on this site I use the SALE SALE SALE graphic on all my sales focused posts for visual feedback on the topic I'm covering. I wouldn't recommend this on a personal blog, but since there is a collection of bloggers on this site, that visual consistency (theoretically) helps people scan the site and identify the sales related posts.

    I personally think your insights on the Google Goggles is at the core of any online writing consideration. The long-term impact of quality content that considers SEO will deliver an ongoing stream of visitors specifically interested in those topics (because they are searching for them and finding you).

    In the meantime, the current site visitors who are not finding you through searches will appreciate the great use of images, headlines and writing style and all those things add up to reasons to retweet, link to, and share with others!

    Great stuff Mark.

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

    Thanks Justin. Context and intention totally matter in bringing the best to a blog, developing purpose and courting the desired audience. I love it when a blog pushes the boundaries in the right way to make a point, gets me to click and rewards me on multiple levels for doing so. And that's exactly what has the potential to stir up the pot.

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