It’s Called Google Analytics for a Reason

This is somewhat of a sequel to my earlier post on Google URL Builder. I’m going to assume from this point forward that you have Google Analytics up and running on your site, you’re using URL Builder to track people coming in from social media, PPC and e-mail campaigns, and now you want to use Analytics to, well, analyze the data coming in. That’s what this article is all about.

Analytics is daunting when you first start it up — there’s a ton of data. We’re going to stay focused in this post, though, and go over a few key sections as they relate to campaigns, referrals and blog traffic.

Finding Your Campaigns

Click Acquisition, then Campaigns.

It's Called Google Analytics for a Reason
Click Acquisition, then Campaigns.

Look for your specific campaign name. Remember, you named this after the specific piece of content you ran with that call to action built in. In this case, let’s click on “tip”, the first in a series of product tips built into an application.

We can see here the source is Product for all, as we ran this same campaign across many different mediums, but the same source — all products. If we ran these same tips on Facebook, we’d see Facebook in the first column.

In the second column is the medium, in this case named after each product. Crunching the numbers here, we can see that the DR product did much better than the others in this campaign. Comparing multiple source / mediums in a single campaign is great for seeing how different types of sources perform in comparison with one another.

It's Called Google Analytics for a Reason
You can see that the different mediums all have the same source.

What do these numbers mean?

Sessions

Sessions are a somewhat new term in analytics that describes a period of time that a user is engaged with your website. Sessions contain pageviews, but also events and e-commerce. In this case, there were 4,098 sessions during the four-month period we’re looking at.

New Sessions

This is the percentage of new users that make up your sessions. A high New Sessions percentage means you’re getting a ton of turnover, with a lot of new people looking at your content, but not a lot of repeat business. A low New Sessions percentage means you’ve got a hardcore base of steady customers, but not a lot of new people coming in. Balance is good here, depending on the source.

New Users

This is the number of new people that showed up during this period — people who have never been to your site as long as Analytics has been tracking it. Businesses like new customers, so a high number here is good.

Bounce Rate

This is a tricky, and frequently misunderstood term. Bounce rate refers to people coming in to your site, spending some time there, and leaving for an external site from there without checking out any other page. Lower is better here, as you want the customer to stay engaged whenever possible. There are many tricks for keeping your customers on your site and clicking around, from using Related Posts plugins on your WordPress blogs, to including calls to action or “carrots” that keep the user engaged and informed.

Keep in mind that if you’re driving traffic to a landing page and you don’t really want them to go anywhere else besides signing up right there, this percentage is going to be high. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, depending on your goals.

Pages / Session

If your bounce rate is nice and low, then your pages / session is going to be higher. This means that people are clicking around and checking out more of the site when they come and visit.

Average Session Duration

Good, quality content will keep the user and potential customer on your site and reading for a long time. If you’re old like me, you remember the “Where’s the Beef?!” Wendy’s commercials. Having a lot of “beef” means that users will spend a lot of time there, and hopefully get into what you want them to get into — a conversion.

The other columns only work if you have e-commerce connected to your Analytics account, and that’s beyond the scope of this article. Let’s check out another part of Analytics instead.

Referrals

Click Referrals, then look for social media. These are the times that people click over to your site when you’re not necessarily using URL Builder (though you should be using it most of the time). Maybe they found the URL in your About section. Maybe they found it from someone else’s Facebook page.

Find the first Facebook link you see, but don’t click on it. Facebook divides traffic into desktop and mobile, and sometimes divides it even further in esoteric ways. This is a good way to see how your total efforts on Facebook are having an effect on site traffic.

It's Called Google Analytics for a Reason
Facebook.com refers to desktop Facebook traffic only.

Comparisons

In the upper right, click the arrow and select Compare To. Select Previous Period to choose the immediately preceding period of the same length, or select Previous Year to do a year-over-year comparison. Select Custom to choose what periods you’re comparing. Then, scroll back down to your social media referral source. In this case, Facebook desktop traffic grew 57% from one four-month period to the next four-month period. That’s outstanding.

It's Called Google Analytics for a Reason
Facebook traffic grew 57% over the period analyzed.

There’s one last part of analytics we’re going to check — how to track your internal content and how it’s doing.

Blog Traffic

  1. Click Behavior
  2. Click Site Content
  3. Click All Pages

In the search box, type blog. This assumes that your blog is at sitename/blog/ — if it’s under /news/, then search accordingly. (If you don’t use a subfolder, skip this step.)

Run the same comparison as before.

You can see how your blog is improving over the same time period, and you can also look at individual posts and see how they’re doing over time. Evergreen posts, especially, can sometimes grow over time and become viral long after the date they were first published. This is a good way to identify those posts that are doing well and optimize them for keywords and SEO so that they do even better.

It's Called Google Analytics for a Reason
See how individual posts perform over long periods of time.

There’s a Lot More

Google Analytics is a bottomless pit of data about your site, its behavior and the behavior of the people that visit it. Explore and find more useful data here, and share that data with clients. Clients like to see numbers going up, and if you’re doing your job, they will — and everyone’s happy!

Content is King

Bottom line — you’re referring people from an e-newsletter or social media or an app to your website. You want users to have a reason to enjoy your site when they get there, stay there, read things, and buy stuff. You get that by having a well-designed site, sure, but also by having quality content. Content that’s relevant, timely, engaging, well written, well-designed (with good images!) and above all, original. Do that, and you’re giving users a great reason to leave their social media caves and check out what you’ve got to offer.

Say No to WordPress Visual Editor: HTML Tricks of the Trade

There are two ways to compose a great blog in WordPress: the amateur way and the professional way. Amateurs copy and paste their blogs directly from Microsoft Word, warts and all, then click Publish and forget about it.

Don’t be that person — be a professional! Here are some terrific basic HTML tricks as they apply to WordPress. These tips will allow you to fine-tune your blog presentation. Ultimately, you want fans, customers and prospective customers to see you’ve put some thought into the design as well as the content.

Before You Begin HTML Coding

First, it’s still a good idea to compose the entire blog, pictures and all, outside of WordPress or any other web environment. That’s because a loss of connection or an errant Back button could cause you to lose your work. Although WordPress is good about autosaving, if you lose Internet before it has a chance, it can’t save. Composing your blog’s content locally is wise, because you’re saving it offline and aren’t dependent on a connection to store the document. I particularly like Notepad++, because it keeps track of tags in HTML, among many other useful features.

Next, log in to your blog’s WordPress account, add a new post, then click the Text tab in the upper right. You’re not going to use the Visual Editor at all. Paste the contents of your blog here.

Say No to WordPress Visual Editor: HTML Tricks of the Trade
Use Text rather than the Visual Editor.
Now, you’re going to make the content look nicer, then add pictures.

Header Tags

You know those headlines that you use to break up sections of content? Surround these headers with the <h3></h3> tag. If you have subheads, use <h4></h4>. Also consider using your blog’s SEO keyword in one or more headers, as this is beneficial for optimization and ranking.

Lists

You should code ordered lists, which start at 1. and continue from there, and unordered lists, which are represented by bullet points. To do this, begin a list with <ol> or <ul> depending on whether the list is ordered or unordered. Then, each list item should be surrounded by a <li></li> tag. After you’re done with the list, close it with </ol> or </ul>. When you view the draft, you’ll see the numbers or bullet points, right where they should be.

Text style

Anything you want to emphasize in text, depending on your client’s style guide, should be surrounded by <b></b> or <i></i>, depending on whether you want to boldface or italicize the text. You can also underline with <u></u>.

There are many other tags usable in WordPress to pretty up content, but header tags, lists and text style will get you 90% of the way there.

Images

Now, images are a bit trickier. If you’d like to get a nice, big image that spans the width of the text without any unnecessary text flowing, indents or extra code, you really should do it yourself instead of using WordPress’s built-in tools.

Upload the image

First, upload the image directly to WordPress by right-clicking Media and opening that into a new tab. Then, click Add New. Click Select Files and find your image, then click Open.

Say No to WordPress Visual Editor: HTML Tricks of the Trade
Open Media in a new tab, then click Add New.

Don’t worry about your image fitting inside the blog dimensions. You’ll be showing it it in a smaller size later, and users will be able to click on it to see the full-size version. This is especially useful for screenshots.

Note the Image Data

Once the image is uploaded, click Edit.

Say No to WordPress Visual Editor: HTML Tricks of the Trade
Upload the image, then click Edit.

See where it says File URL? Copy and paste that bit into Notepad — you’ll need that later. Also, write down the width and height of the image.

Say No to WordPress Visual Editor: HTML Tricks of the Trade
Note the image filename and the width and height.

Next, go back to the tab that has your WordPress blog.

Some Good HTML Image Code

Use this code for your image. (You may want to save it for later. I have an Excel spreadsheet that generates this code with everything pre-filled, which saves a lot of time.)

<center><a href=”URL”> <img src=”URL” alt=”” title=”” width=”X” height=”Y”/></a>
<span style=”font-size: x-small;”> </span></center>

Fill in URL in both spots with the File URL you saved earlier. Put the image width where it says X and the height where it says Y.

See that empty space between span tags? Put your image caption here, and make sure to mention your SEO keyword here. It’ll show up in small text just below your image. Cool, huh?

Put that same image caption in the quotes after title. In the quotes after alt, put the title of your blog post as the alt text. This seems counterintuitive, but SEO experts like you to use your blog title as the alt text for images — it’s a neat trick that gains you favor with Google search results.

What about the Featured Image?

Note that some blogs have a Featured Image feature that will automatically put this image at the top of your blog and as a thumbnail in your blog index. This is good, except the image might not be resized appropriately or might appear cropped into a tiny square. Sometimes, you’ll want to use the Featured Image; sometimes, you’ll want to use the code above. Experiment and see what works for you. (Also, remember that the featured image is only one image; the best blog posts have two or more images.)

Save & Preview

OK. Now that you have all your text, all your HTML tags and your image in the right place with the right code, save a draft and click Preview. (I’m assuming you filled in the title, tags, keywords and everything else, as you did before when you used the Visual Editor.)

If all goes well, you’ll see a beautiful blog like this one. It’s possible you missed a tag — those greater-than and less-than symbols are easy to forget — in which case you’ll have to debug your HTML and find the missing tag.

You’re a Programmer?!

Once it all looks pretty, schedule it or publish it and show the world. Congrats, you’re an HTML programmer — and you have more mastery over your WordPress posts than anyone who relies on Visual Editor. What you see is what you get — if you program it that way.

For further resources on HTML, take a look at the excellent tutorials on W3Schools.

Guest Blogging is Dead, But Your Blog is Still Alive

According to Matt Cutts, the head of the webspam team at Google, guest blogging is dead.

The reason? The practice has become too spammy. That can be debated, but let’s focus on why a brand should blog in the first place. 77% of internet users report reading blogs. Of that sizable herd, 81% of U.S. online consumers find blogs trustworthy and informative. Without making this about statistics, blogs equate to consumer attention and authority for brands.

But let’s be fair. Most brands (especially small businesses) only want to blog about one thing—their products. According to Ignite Spot, 61% of U.S. Consumers have bought something based on blog content. If blogs can generate sales, why talk about anything but products and features? The simple answer is that overly commercial blogs are spammy and boring. The average Internet user is spending 23 hours online per week, allowing them to see much more content than they did even a few years ago. If your blogs look like nothing more than a wordy commercial, they will be just as dead as guest posting.

A New Hope. So just writing about products and promotions is bad. What should you be writing about? Glad you asked. Below are a few suggestion to get you started down the right path:

  • Local events: Blogging about a traditional festival or new fundraiser in your community is great content for a few reasons. First, it establishes you as an information source to your readers, instead of a salesman. Second, it shows potential customers that you care about their local community, and want to share in those experiences. Finally, it helps out other businesses, who will likely return the favor when you have news to share. Local events are a bit of a misnomer if you’re writing for a national brand, but you can always scale up to events like the Big Ten or the Grammys.
  • Employee profiles: Does every customer rave about your hostess? Why not do a profile on her for your blog? This will establish more of a relationship between your customers and employees, and content like this shows your readers that that you care about your staff. Only interview willing employees though. Don’t force anyone to participate if they don’t want to.
  • (Slightly) Controversial Opinions: Perhaps the local neighborhood is getting a chain restaurant in the spot where everyone’s favorite diner used to reside. Feel free to put just a bit of vitriol behind your blog suggesting everyone shop local. You will want to be very careful with this option. As my grandfather always said, avoid talking about religion and politics in public. You want your customers interested and engaged, not pissed off at your personal views.

Hopefully this will add a few options for your new editorial calendar, but keep in mind that the best way to keep your blogs fresh is to keep learning. Experiment with new topics, and keep reading.

What blog topics have you found the most useful for your brand? What failed horribly? Feel free to share below, or find on Twitter.

Grammar: There, Their or They’re?

grammar

It seems like such a simple thing, but there are a plethora of people in the world that just plain hate grammar. The rules are ridiculous, they say—outdated, contradictory and confusing. I’m not going to argue. English is a language based on stealing words from other languages and sort of shoving them into the vocabulary like stacking one more chair onto a crowded moving truck.

I studied English in college. I went as high as you can possibly go in terms of diagramming sentences. I helped other people with their papers. I was the editor of the paper. Let me tell you, some people will think you’re a wizard if you’re good with grammar.

But why do we care? This is a whole new world (cue Aladdin song)—full of Twittering and internet short-hand. Who would worry about proper grammar? Well, your clients, for starters. Even if they are super high-tech masters of the internet (and they’re probably not), they’re going to want their copy (read: content) to look good. That involves proper word use, punctuation and sentence structure. Webpage design and blogging should be where you really try to shine. Make sure you know the difference between “its” and “it’s” (Just in case you were curious: “its” is possessive, while “it’s” is short for “it is”). “Then” and “than” should be monitored closely. “Further” and “farther” are also important, although used less frequently.  And of course, there’s the deadly “there,” “their” and “they’re” (location, possession and contraction, respectively).

None of this is magic, by the way. Doing a Google search will solve most problems. The site Grammar Book is great for your basic needs. For those in a hurry, start following @quickdirtytips or @GrammarMonkeys on Twitter.  Subscribe to a blog like Grammar Gang. So instead of just fixing problems as they come, you can start learning something every day. That is probably the most useful advice I can give you, by the way: learn, don’t fix. If you learn the rules, you don’t have to worry so much about fixing anything.

Speaking of fixing things, if people hate anything more than grammar, it’s proofreading. I cannot tell you the amount of things I’ve proofread before (legally, I shouldn’t even mention some of them). People think that only full-on grammar wizards can proofread anything.  That’s completely untrue. The key to proofreading is a fresh perspective. After you complete your first draft of anything, take a walk. Get a drink. Go to the bathroom. Come back with new eyes. Another trick—if you’re handcuffed to a desk or something—is to read your draft BACKWARDS. What you’re trying to do is trick your brain into thinking it is reading something completely new. Why? Because if you don’t, that lazy, traitorous brain of yours will fill in all the gaps for you, making you skip the mistakes that are actually there.

So, you’ve fixed your mistakes. You Googled how to spell “conscience” correctly (that one is for how you feel morally, not whether you’re still awake while trying to read this). You’ve walked away from the draft, and come back to it to find even more mistakes. You’ve cursed my name a few times. Now you’re ready to post or print it, right? Wrong. Now it’s time to hand it over to someone else. Someone else can be as easy as the guy in your office that is actually a full-on grammar wizard (thank you, thank you), your superior, a friendly English teacher on Facebook, or an actual, honest to goodness proofreader that might want money for their services. Always think about your content before paying anyone. How important is the piece you’re writing? How many people are going to see it, and for how long? Who are they—people on Twitter or your boss’s boss? These are important considerations when handing out money to someone.

Conclusions? Grammar is very important when you are creating copy for websites and blogs—things people are going to be staring at a lot. It’s better to learn about grammar than to just try to fix mistakes on the spot. Remember to always proofread your own drafts—after a break, of course. And after you’ve looked at it once (or twice, or three times…), give your work to someone else to look at. If you follow these steps, I promise other people will start thinking you have magical powers. In my next blog, I’ll be talking about etiquette and yes, grammar, when using social media like Twitter and Instagram.