Analyzing your Web site statistics to grow your readership and your platform (Part 2 of 2)
ONLINE COLUMN: Web Savvy
Published: June 17, 2008
|Your Web site statistics can tell you what your visitors want to read about and what content will bring them back. When I speak to writers' groups, bloggers frequently complain no one is reading what they write. Considering there are millions of blogs, that's often the case. But with diligence, you can build a readership and sometimes, if you write something unique about a hot topic, you'll hit the ball out of the park and see record numbers.|
Most stat trackers yield a goldmine of information. Popular trackers like Site Meter and StatCounter, as well as trackers supplied by your Web host, often summarize referrers, top keywords, popular queries and even the type of browser your visitors use most often.
That last item brings to mind the value of using more than one browser to view your own site. I use both Internet Explorer and Firefox. Firefox can be downloaded free from Mozilla. You'll be surprised at the different ways your page appears. Most of my visitors use IE, but Firefox is also very popular. So I always check my pages in both to make sure graphics aren't corrupted and the spacing around graphics and text comes across in a visually pleasing manner. It's always useful to view your content through your visitors' eyes.
Knowing your referrers-the site or page that referred your visitors to your URL-also helps. It's smart to know what your readers like but it is also smart to know what other Web sites found valuable enough to suggest your URL to their own visitors. I usually try to thank the referrer if possible, by referencing a link back. Even if your site is mentioned in a negative manner, you will still get the "link love." For example, I wrote a blog post about a political matter here in Florida where I live. Another blogger who obviously disagreed with me referenced my post. That blogger may have not intended any link love, but it came to me all the same.
If your tracker gives you a popular keywords summary, that will definitely be an asset. This information tells you what word or words a potential visitor entered in a search engine, in effect telling you the topic(s) your visitors may be interested in. This can often be comic. A couple months ago, there were reports of UFOs in our area. So I did a brief story; a repackage, really, of various news reports. The numbers were astounding-the public is definitely interested in that topic. So I did a longer post and included a recollection about a story I did years ago for a major daily, an interview with a fellow who claimed he'd been abducted by aliens. What led to the original newspaper story was the guy's credibility-he passed lie detector tests administered by a national publication. What led to my recent longer story: he recanted years after the fact. Hundreds of visitors read that story and it is still going strong as I write this column.
Keywords for the search results that led visitors to me included UFOs, ET, aliens and extra-terrestrials. Many bloggers load up a post with keywords. You don't have to do that. What's important is using keywords at the beginning and end of your post that reflect what a reader might enter into a search engine to find your content.
Ideally, you want content to be as evergreen as possible. As you build a solid base of content, you'll be amazed at stories that continue to draw readers even after the initial news factor decreases. A story I wrote about an amoeba that thrives in warm climates in freshwater ponds and lakes continues to draw solid numbers of visitors 9 months after I posted it. I write updates from time to time, not only for business purposes, but in hopes of spreading the word about an illness that kills children in our country every year.
There are also external tools for making decisions about your content. Google Zeitgeist and Yahoo! Buzz both list popular search terms so you can see what people on the Web want to read about. Key to this process is avoiding being a repackager-someone who basically does what wire services often do. A wire service gleans information from newspapers around the world, summarizing popular stories in a brief synopsis-type article. Many bloggers do the same. You can't build a steady readership if you simply re-spin what's already been spun. I apply my own technique. If I cover a story that's popular, I use the gist of the original news story as a springboard. Then I either get quotes from individual experts or I do a little research and put a twist on the story-the way I wrote my popular UFO piece. This technique often places my content in the top search returns for a given subject.
You can also use a simple method to see who is sending you readers. Enter this (without the italics) in a search engine: link: your URL. You'll get results on the sites linking directly to your own. I use Google for such searches, but there's a new search engine, Mahalo, that is sending me many readers.
Every now and then you may be horrified or amused at the way people find your site. I did a story about the Carolina wren. One visitor found my story by searching Do Carolina wrens make good pets. I would have loved to know who the visitor was so I could respond. In a word, no. Other comical searches include fat Americans and a guy in Arizona took be aliens.
Using information from your stat trackers can help you draw visitors and come up with content that transforms them into regulars. Those are the things a blogger's dreams are made of.
Tracking your website statistics: Who visits your website and how do you bring them back (Part 1 of 2)-Web Savvy at The Writer
--June 24, 2008
In our next Web Savvy, author Carol O'Dell shares tips about tools and techniques for working the Web to promote a book and build a national platform. O'Dell, author of Mothering Mother (Kunati) has been interviewed on major networks like CNN and Fox News.