Welcome back to Blogiversity! I hope that you’ve had some time in the last few days to take a moment to reflect on last week’s message and have managed to refine – or to have started the process of refining – what exactly your blog is all about. Remember that you don’t need to have a perfect pitch on day 1 – or even on day 1500 – as long as you are constantly refining, updating and challenging it. You will get there, even though some days it probably doesn’t feel like it will. We’re going to be putting up some tools very shortly specifically designed to help you continue to figure out what your vision looks like.
This whole month is about continuing to work on your vision for your blog, but today I’m going to take a slightly different approach to defining your audience – looking at who your audience already is. If you’re a brand spanking new blogger, don’t worry, the information below will still prove useful as it will introduce you to several analytic tools you can use once your blog is up and running, and will give you some food for thought as you continue the work of narrowing down your focus.
So. How do you figure out who exactly is going to be interested in what you have to say? Looking at analytics, or data captured by your blog about your readers, will not only help you if you’re struggling with your blog focus, but will also help you countless ways as you continue through Blogiversity and with your blog in the years to come. Analytics not only let us know who already reads our blog, how they got there, what they like to read while they’re there, how long they stayed on the blog and what they might have clicked on when they were there, but the information can be used and permutated into countless benefits for your blog in the future. How? Here are 4-5 ways off the top of my head – and don’t worry… They’re all covered in upcoming sections of the course!
- You can take your traffic and visitor numbers and leverage them in your media kit to get sponsors and advertisers interested in working with you. Companies and blog networks are always interested in certain specific numbers from a traffic and advertising perspective that you should know off the top of your head
- You can see if your readers check out your blog on their desktops or smartphones and create an experience specific to that. Maybe 80% of your readers are reading your blog on their phones – and if so, do you have a mobile-friendly theme or site?
- You can see if your readers are coming from your hometown, or if they’re coming from across the world. With that, you might change the types of affiliate links you use to get better returns on your profitability. If you’re only posting links from www.store.usa.com which doesn’t ship beyond American borders and your readers are all outside the US, you’re not going to make much money
- You can determine what your most popular content is and realize that, for example, your recipe posts get shared 6x more than your fashion posts. This can lead to more defining questions: is this because you have better pictures on your recipes? Is this because your readers come to you for recipes rather than fashion? Do you have better text or copy on your recipes?
As I hope you can see from above, analytics are a key tool that you can use in your quest to grow your blog and something that every blogger needs to know about. The rest of today’s course is going to focus on two areas that are key to Analytics at this point, and we’ll get into the more sophisticated side as the course goes on. Today, we’re going to focus on how analytics can help you better define your niche through a series of examples and we’ll also look at some of the Analytics tools that we have used that you can incorporate into your site or social media work.
First, let’s look at some of the Analytics tools that are out there – and note that these are just the tip of the tip of the tip of the iceberg in the world of blogging analytics!
Analytics for Bloggers : The Tools
The universally most popular Analytics tool for bloggers is the ubiquitous Google Analytics. Through a simple installation of a code on your blog, you will be granted free access to a treasure trove of information about everything you could ever possibly want to see about your blog – with one exception. Because it’s free and so easy to use, it’s a tool that we highly recommend that everyone use – it’s one of the main sites we visit and spend time analysing for our blogs.
What’s great about Google Analytics is that it will give you a clear picture of very detailed information about your readers. You can drill down your readership to their hometowns while also checking out how long they spent on their device at your site. If you’re worried about privacy, the amount of information that you can access on a reader is as limited as the individual’s browser properties, and it’s very difficult to track down a specific individual’s details. The most useful thing I have discovered through some of our Analytics on Effervescence Group blogs has actually been the demographic breakdowns (that is, the age of our readers) as well as their country, gender and income levels. It has led me to be able to say to companies and brands looking to work with us on a specific site that, for example, our WWKD blog is a perfect area for them to advertise on if they are looking for women, aged 18-34 with over $50,000 in annual income in the United States, Canada and Australia. While we have many readers outside of those characteristics, that segment is the most populous that visits our site which is of great interest to advertisers. Google Analytics lets you drill down to that level of detail that can help define your blog. The downside I’ve found is that the use of Google Analytics could be a whole course on its own. Google has many introductory courses available that you can take, and there are also several helpful “getting started” tutorials I’ve found helpful over the years.
- The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics
- Google Analytics Academy by Google
- How to get started with Google Analytics
- How to Install Google Analytics (video)
Another powerful tool is one specific to users who have blogs powered by WordPress. We will talk about the pros and cons of different site architectures in the future, but for now, suffice it to say that if you have WordPress, you should absolutely have a very important plugin called Jetpack installed, and once that’s installed, it’s Analytics feature activated. Jetpack is nowhere near as detailed in the available information as Google Analytics – but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how easy it is when you login to the front page of your blog to quickly get a glimpse of if your traffic is up or down and the most popular posts and keywords on your site for the last few days. It’s also incredibly easy to install – and free!
- Jetpack for WordPress Basics
- How to install Jetpack
- Viewing and Understanding your Stats and Analytics on WordPress with Jetpack
Some of the other tools you may want to consider from an Analytics perspective are leveraging some of the analytical features that exist within your social media profiles. We’ll again talk more about social media in a later module, but there are very powerful analytics features now built in to business accounts on Instagram, for example, that will give you a sense of your engagement and demographics of your followers. We were shocked to learn, for example, that we have a significant number of Instagram followers on one of our social media accounts from the Middle East, an area which does not show up as heavily in our blog analytics. It means we have a whole new set of readers in the Middle East who aren’t engaging with our blog – and a whole new opportunity for us that we uncovered because of these powerful analytics.
Let’s move on now to one of the key parts of why bloggers care about analytics. The part that helps us better know our readers and be better able to target content to them.
Analytics for Bloggers: The Strategy
I’m going to take a step back and tell you a story about how I learned about the power of knowing your target market. One of the most influential leaders I have ever worked with was a woman very early in my career. My colleagues and I were discussing our department’s marketing strategy one day, debating who exactly was our ideal client and why they would want to deal with us in order to best teach our sales and service people to accommodate that need. I noticed that during the conversation, the woman leader I refer to started drift off; reading e-mails on her Blackberry (I’ve just dated myself, haven’t I?) and absentmindedly listening to our conversation as we tried to narrow down our ideal client to no avail. We had no idea what we were doing.
Finally she spoke up, and asked me to go stand up at the whiteboard in the room. When I got there, she asked me to think right then and there of a store that I liked to shop at. My first reaction was “Nordstrom” (For the record, it still is), so she nodded and I wrote it on the board. “What exactly is it about Nordstrom that you like?” was her next question, whereby I answered that I liked the service. I again was asked to write those on the board. Next up she continued with asking if I thought Nordstrom was a good store for people who made $10,000 or less a year. My “no” led to the next question of “What would be the amount of money you think someone would need to make in order to be able to buy a healthy amount of things at Nordstrom”. I can’t remember the exact number I guessed, but I took the pen and wrote it on the board. Questions continued for another few minutes before she asked me to sit down.
The room sat in silence as she stood up and shared with us that I had just taken the time to define what I thought Nordstrom’s target client could be. It would be a woman, looking for good service from a store she frequented, with over $50,000 a year in income. The rest of the questions and discussions about this “woman” afterwards allowed us to infer that we thought she lived in a big city, probably didn’t have kids (but that wasn’t a no-go), she was interested in technology and was probably between the ages of 18-35. Surprise! Our first target profile. We then took the rest of the meeting to talk about the specific customer who would best benefit from our company’s services and offerings and had a profile done up in no time.
With the analytics that you’ll get from your blog, you’ll already be starting to see the information that poor people like me had to do in reverse. You’ll be able to figure out that your customer/reader is already known to you… Through your analytics. I took it a step further on the blog, narrowing down exactly to the detail who we wanted to target, and then giving her name. When I write content, I write for that target reader and that target reader alone. If you’re like me, you might find it helps when you’re crafting content to think that you’re writing to one specific person rather than the vague and generic internet.
Analytics for Bloggers: An Example
I’m going to show you the analytics of a small blog client of ours, just starting out, who was kind enough to let me share their information. Here, for example, is a snapshot of their overall traffic. You can see that they have had 524 users who have stayed on their page for an average of 40 seconds during their visit in the last 7 days. They also get heaviest traffic on Sundays, and lowest on Fridays.
Next, we can peek at how they acquire users. They get just about 40% of their traffic from “social” category, meaning from a social media site. You can even drill down to more detail by clicking on different tabs – and in this blog’s stats, you can see that almost all their “social” hits come from one site – Pinterest (and a few were from WWKD, we linked to one of their articles!)
Next, you can see their top visitor countries. Almost all of their traffic is from the US, who also stayed on the page the longest.
And finally we’ll share some of their demographics. The top image shows that their audience is 83% female (which surprised us, as we thought it would be 100%!) and 36% were women 25-34.
So with this information, what recommendations would you make to this blogger with respect to helping them define their vision and message, and craft a target reader? The way I read the analytics, I could see their target reader as being a busy mom (remember, #1 demographic was females 25-34, largely a “mom” demographic) who had some time on Sunday afternoons after the kids’ soccer games to check out a few things online. Their reader is American, and she is very visual (remember, #1 country was the US and Pinterest being the #1 source of referrals leads us to assume there are good images). This particular client called their target reader Samantha (Sam, for short) and after we dug around in the analytics even more we wrote a whole backstory for Sam. While I won’t share all her target reader secrets, I can share this photo, it’s the one we assigned to Sam. Sam’s so busy reading her blog on her phone that she almost forgot to turn around for the photo.
I should point out that some of the discerning students might wonder how/why I pulled data for this week if it’s a client that I’ve been working with for awhile. I used data pulled live this week, but the client’s fundamental numbers and demographics have not changed since we first consulted with her back in July. She’s seen a 150% increase in stats in the last 2 months since determining her target reader and is on track for further growth as she continues to perfect it.
Here is a small highlight of the e-mail feedback I gave to that client based on just the small snippet of data that I shared with you above:
- You get extremely high traffic on Sundays, so we’d recommend that you schedule at least some new content to go live that day. It could be a recap of your weekly posts, or even a new post. This is when you’re getting the most eyeballs on your site. Take advantage of the fact that your target market isn’t working on Sundays and is able to read your content!
- Similarly, you’re getting almost all your traffic right now from Pinterest. You should continue to pin your content – especially on Sundays. Use a Pinterest scheduler if you need to, but make sure that you’re continuing the work of getting images in your posts that are engaging and impactful.
- Your main readers are 25-34, but you also cover a whole broad spectrum in between. What about the 17% of men who come to your site? This wide of a range of demographics leads me to think that your message is still too broad.
- Your target reader is almost certainly American. Make sure you’re using American spelling, affiliate links and references where possible.
Now this is an individualized feedback survey I gave them (and if some doesn’t make sense, it’s because it’s heavily edited to only include the data I show above) but you can get a sense of the types of questions and thoughts you can generate from your Analytics.
And now… It’s your turn! What will your Analytics show??
Homework & Next Week
Stay tuned for next week, our last week on branding and messaging as we work on how to perfect that vision you’ve now spent so long thinking about. For next week, it would be GREAT if you can have:
- Your target reader
- A story about your target reader
- Your vision
- Where you want to be
- Why you are a blogger
If you have those things ready, it will make the perfecting your message workshop so much easier. See you then!