Larry BraunerUnderstanding your blog or website traffic requires more than merely counting your visitors.

You ought to know too where your visitors are coming from and the suitability of each source of traffic, as well as how effectively your website is performing when visitors arrive.

Average time on site and bounce rate are two of the statistics that help you gauge the relevance of your website to your site’s visitors.

Google Analytics Bias

Google Analytics is a popular free tool for monitoring your website traffic that has many great features including advanced visitor segmentation, a favorite of mine.

Sadly, Google Analytics reports bounce rate and time on site statistics that are biased. The Google bounce rate is too high, while the time on site is too low. This problem tends to be especially acute in the case of blogs.

I defined Google bounce rate and discussed the bias in Google Bounce Rate Misleads Bloggers (Oct. ‘08). Please read that introductory article if this subject matter is unfamiliar to you.

Cause of Google Analytics Bias

Google Analytics assumes that a visitor who views only a single page on a site is dissatisfied and leaves immediately, which is often not the case. A visitor can spend time on a single page and leave contented, especially if that page contains a blog post.

However, Google’s assumption was much simpler and more cost effective for Google to implement at the time they made it than an alternative would’ve been. Yet, a change in that one assumption would permit Google Analytics to provide more useful estimates of both bounce rate and time on site.

Better Web Analytics

Technology has advanced since Google formulated its bounce rate. Web analytics service providers now have access to faster servers and greater bandwidth.

Real Time Web AnalyticsIn search of better web analytics, I have tried other service providers.

My favorite is Clicky, an innovative web analytics service that exploits newer technology.

Clicky devised and implemented an approach to estimating bounce rate and time on site that is quite elegant and superior to that which Google implemented in Google Analytics.

The Clicky script installed on each website communicates at pre-assigned intervals with the server. This interaction enables Clicky to estimate time on site, even if the visitor views just a single page. Clicky then makes an arbitrary yet fair assumption that any visitor who was on the website for at least 30 seconds found the site to be relevant.

The difference in methods is striking: My overall Google bounce rate last week was 79% vs. my overall Clicky bounce rate of 26%. Google average time on site was 1:55 vs. Clicky 3:41.

(For statistics buffs out there, the correlation between Google and Clicky bounce rates for the top nine keyword phrases was only 0.2 indicating that data from each is likely to lead us to draw a different set of conclusions.)

Clicky makes comparing keywords and traffic sources cleaner and updates results in as close to real time as I can expect. Clicky offers a choice free or premium service. I started with the free service and later upgraded to the premium one.

No more Google bounce rate or Google time on site for me! ;-)

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Larry BraunerYou may already have a website or a blog, but do you have a Facebook page yet?

If not, you will before long. Nearly everybody will create a Facebook page. I’ll try to paint the big picture for you.

Facebook pages are the public side of Facebook and are fully accessible to search engines. They are free and easy to set up.

Facebook is continually making changes to their pages hoping to enhance their utility and value. In my opinion:

FacebookFacebook pages are part of a grand plan to dominate the Internet to a far greater extent than Google does today.

Once such change, seemingly minor,  is the Facebook page “Like” button that supersedes the  familiar “Become a Fan” button.

Facebook Introduces the Like Button

Facebook fan pages are now simply Facebook pages.

This notice appeared for the first time yesterday when I visited my Facebook page:

Starting today people will be able to connect with your Page by clicking “Like” rather than “Become a Fan.” We hope this action will feel much more lightweight, and that it will increase the number of connections made across the site.

Facebook Page Rationale

Facebook is changing more than just words or buttons.

Coming are Facebook community pages, which are going to be built around concepts rather than personalities or businesses. Facebook pages may also tie in to Wikipedia pages in some way. Will it not make more sense for people to “Like” community pages than to “Become a Fan” of them?

Consider this likely scenario:

Everybody and everything will have a home on Facebook pages making Facebook the largest website hosting service in the world.

Facebook’s Exquisite Revenue Model

All Facebook pages will be sponsored by ads as they are right now. Facebook ads work somewhat like the popular Google Adsense ads except for four key differences:

  1. Facebook inserts Facebook ads at their discretion, not yours
  2. Facebook earns revenue from the ads
  3. Google doesn’t earn any revenue from the ads
  4. You don’t earn any ad revenue either

Of course, Facebook could introduce premium services and, similar to Ning, let you to pay to:

  • remove Facebook ads
  • share in the revenue from ads
  • use your own domain name
  • turn nofollow links into dofollow links
  • rank higher in their search results

Facebook already lets you pay to advertise and find people to “Like” your page.

Integrating Facebook Pages and Profiles

Facebook now also enables you to see which of your Facebook friends (if any, up to a maximum of 200) “Like” a particular Facebook page.

However, Facebook pages will become even more integrated with Facebook profiles and will serve to characterize each Facebook member’s interests and values. Facebook profiles will attract new members to Facebook pages, which in turn will attract others, creating a giant web of page and profile relationships.

Who wouldn’t want to have a presence on such a dynamic and connected Facebook?

Build Up Your Facebook Page

Can Facebook be prevented from dominating the Internet? Unless they commit a major blunder or suffer an extended outage, I doubt it. Consider the following five factors working in Facebook’s favor:

  1. Facebook pages (enhanced and expanded)
  2. An enormous and rapidly growing membership
  3. Facebook Widgets (which extend Facebook’s influence)
  4. Facebook Friend Connect (lets members easily log into other sites)
  5. Facebook search engine ambitions

If you have a Facebook page, I recommend that you build it up. If you don’t have one, create one as soon as possible.

Please “Like” my Facebook page and leave a comment below. ;-)

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Larry BraunerThis is not the first Ning Social Network Controversy and probably not the last one either.

In Ning’s Bubble Bursts: No More Free Networks, Cuts 40% Of Staff on TechCrunch, Jason Rosenthal, the new CEO of Ning, revealed that his company will let go of staff and discontinue hosting free social networking sites –  both in an attempt to bolster Ning’s bottom line.

Ning Social NetworkIn an update on Ning Creators, Mr. Rosenthal wrote that Ning will cater to users of its premium services who “represent over 75% of our traffic,” and that he would announce the details of the changes on May 4.

To address the mounting concerns of Ning’s free site creators, he also wrote,  “We recognize that there are many active Ning Networks for teachers, small non-profits, and individuals, and it’s our goal to have a set of product and pricing options that will make sense for all of them.”

My Take on Ning

I personally have been unhappy and hurt by many changes to the Ning social network in the past half-year or so. Nevertheless, I want to make it clear that I completely support whatever Ning decides to do with its business.

After all, Ning exists to generate a profit and return on investment. If Ning believes that changes — no matter how radical they may be — are required to improve its service and increase its likelihood of success, Ning must effect those changes.

Many Ning social networking sites will close down rather than upgrade. I’ll be sorry to see some of them go.  However, there will inevitably be more broken links than broken hearts, since most free sites with active members will upgrade and pay.

I’ll close some of my own Ning networks that are providing little benefit and open other Ning sites.

Alternatives to Ning

A few good free alternatives exist for Ning site creators who prefer not to upgrade:

  • SocialGo - Says on their website that their free social networking sites are “free forever.” It will take effort to get your network started again, but this looks like the best choice as of now.
  • Facebook - A Facebook group isn’t a bad alternative. You’ll need to change your networking paradigm, but in the end, you may be able to attract far more members from within Facebook.
  • LinkedIn - If your network is business oriented, a group on LinkedIn could make sense too.
  • Ning - Start a group within a premium Ning social network. You already understand the Ning platform. If you can find the right home for your group, it will benefit both you and the creator of that Ning site, a win-win situation for both of you.

Let’s all wait until after May 4 to decide upon a course of action.

Have any thoughts about Ning or a good alternative to Ning you’d like to share? Please leave a comment below.

In any case, please subscribe to my blog and join my Facebook page. :-)

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Larry BraunerIn his video, Darren Rouse, author of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog,  discusses his blog-centric approach to web marketing.

The idea is that social media sites — since they are controlled by their owners, not us — can serve only as outposts, while blogs and websites — since they are owned by us — are secure enough to serve as our permanent home bases.

I cannot stress enough the importance of starting a blog: I’ve listed many reasons for blogging in the Top Reasons Why I Blog and discussed why “there ain’t nothing like a blog” in Why Blogs Make More Sense.

However, despite all the great reasons to have a blog, you might feel that investing in a blog isn’t right for you and your situation.

Going BloglessIn that case, I want to assure you that going blogless is an option. You can accomplish with a standard website most of what you’d hope to accomplish with a blog.

Fortunately, like bathing suits, web marketing isn’t “one size fits all.” You may, however, need to be a bit more creative.

You’ll add content to your website when convenient, link to your new content on social sites, and engage your online community in discussion via those social websites.

You’ll also place website widgets on your website and use those widgets to connect your site to the social web.

Note that much of your website, especially sales pages, can be unsuitable for social media consumption. Do not be too concerned. People will reach those pages through links elsewhere on your site, search engines and whatever advertising you do.

Your site needs to be well optimized for both search engines and humans, i.e., relevant to your target audience and designed with them in mind.

OK. Gotta run. See you at the beach. :-P

Don’t forget to comment, subscribe and join my Facebook page.

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Larry BraunerSocial media critics are quick to point out that social media marketing isn’t really free.

Using social media requires a considerable time investment, typically by people whose time is quite valuable. Once time is factored into the cost of using social media — as it ought to be — not only isn’t it free to use, it’s expensive to use.

The High Cost of Using Digital Media

High Cost of Social MediaTo say that I’m enthusiastic about using  social media for branding, building a web presence, and online social networking would be an understatement. Yet, I do not contest the critics’ claims that social media is expensive. It is costly, and so are website development and search engine optimization.

Nevertheless, if executed properly according to a sound digital media plan, website development, search engine optimization and social media will be worth more than their cost in the long run.

The High Cost of Using Traditional Media

Buy traditional media and you’ll pay to reach your audience. You’ll invest time to develop your ad campaign and than pay for the price of the media on top of that. The more select your audience, the larger your audience, and the more frequently you intend to reach them, the more you’ll have to pay.

Your Giant Interactive Billboard

Last May I wrote The Long Tail and Social Media. The simple idea is that your website and social media content have value to you long after you’ve put them online. Search engines and social media channels provide you with constant exposure 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, like a giant billboard on a super highway.  Your billboard, however, is interactive and could be worth a fortune to you.

Primary and Secondary Target Audience

Your primary target audience consists of your potential customers or people who care very much about your cause. Your secondary target audience is everybody else who appreciates your content or uses your website. They can spread your message or click through your ads.

The way traditional advertising is priced, it probably won’t be feasible to reach out to your secondary audience. The return on investment would be too small. However, digital media, which has little or no incremental cost, enables you to cast a wide net and reach both your primary and secondary target audiences.

Digital Media Replacing Traditional Media

So far I’ve assumed that you have a choice about digital media, but you don’t. Traditional media is declining and is gradually being replaced by its digital counterpart. The question is no longer which but when. When will you jump on the bandwagon?

Please take a minute or two to leave a comment below and to subscribe.

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Larry BraunerTo what extent do you benefit from social bookmarking sites in your social media projects?

Paul Chaney, author of The Digital Handshake, reveals in his recent article, Social bookmarking’s place in the marketing spectrum, that surprisingly few social media marketers understand and use social bookmarking sites.

Social media practitioners seem to be unaware that social bookmarking sites can send traffic and help them make important connections, and they also seem to be unclear about how social bookmarking sites really work.

I myself only dabbled in social bookmarking until recently. I submitted my own articles exclusively to a variety of social bookmarking sites and gained very little benefit from my efforts.

Using Social Bookmarking Sites Effectively

In December, I joined Business Week’s Business Exchange and adopted a very social and spam-free strategy. In 12 Tips for Using Business Week’s Social Bookmarking Site, I detailed the approach that I had developed for using Business Exchange. This approach has since served as a prototype my use of other social bookmarking sites as well.

Thanks to my change of strategy, I now receive nearly 1,000 visits per month to  my blog from social bookmarking sites, and the number of visits keeps growing. I’ve also met some wonderful people.

The following are 10 tips for using social bookmarking sites effectively:

  1. Focus on a small number of social bookmarking sites. Don’t take on more sites than you can easily manage.
  2. Look for social bookmarking sites that are appropriate for your particular niche.
  3. Bookmark only high-quality relevant content that’s genuinely worth sharing with other site members.
  4. Don’t bookmark only your own content, since doing so is spammy.
  5. Always be on the lookout for additional content to share.
  6. Bookmark frequently enough that fellow members can get to know you.
  7. Look for opportunities to engage and help other members both on and off the social bookmarking site.
  8. Abide by the policies and norms specific to each of social bookmarking sites you join. Take the time to learn how to use each site by reading articles and watching what others are doing. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
  9. Help grow each of your favorite social bookmarking sites by inviting your friends and colleagues to become members.
  10. Be patient. Make adjustments as necessary. Rome wasn’t build in a day. (You probably didn’t realize that the Romans even used social bookmarking sites.)

My Favorite Social Bookmarking Sites

I invite you to join the social bookmarking sites where I’m currently active:

  • Business Exchange - As the name implies, this social bookmarking site is business oriented. It attracts high caliber business users and members of the info elite. I believe that site improvements are on the drawing board or underway.
  • StumbleUpon - This site is suitable for all niches. To use it, you need to download and install the StumbleUpon toolbar.
  • Amplify - This site is also for everybody and is a good syndication site too. Download and install the Amplify bookmarklet for easy bookmarking.

I also invite you to subscribe to my blog and to share your thoughts about social bookmarking sites in the comment area below. :-)

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Larry Brauner
Spammers follow the path of least resistance. If you create a new opportunity for spam, spammers will exploit it.

Spammers have noticed that Facebook fan pages are gaining popularity and have started capitalizing on fan page vulnerability.

Facebook Fan Page and Event Page Spam

FacebookTo spam a Facebook fan page is very simple. Spammers add themselves as fans of the Facebook page and then post their spam directly on the fan page wall — hit and run. The spam remains on the page wall until an administrator removes it.

Spammers can also spam the wall of a Facebook fan page discussion tab or an event page.

Other Facebook Spam

Spammers are also posting their links on NetworkedBlogs discussion walls. Fortunately, NetworkedBlogs discussion walls aren’t prominently displayed, and there isn’t much incentive for spammers to post there.

Well meaning Facebook friends frequently sign-up to use silly applications that seem harmless and fun. These applications then spam their Facebook friends’ profile pages.

Sadly, the proliferation of annoying applications has permanently driven many serious networkers off of Facebook in despair.

Top 10 Most Wanted Spammers

I hope that between now and next April 1 we can create a top spammer list and shame spammers into submission. We’ll post the list in post offices and big stores, as well as on web sites and, of course, on Facebook fan pages.

Spamming on Facebook fan pages and elsewhere on Facebook is indeed a real problem. I’m sorry, however, for using a misleading title. Please forgive my once-a-year April Fools prank.  ;-)

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