Larry BraunerYou’re creating content for your blog or website. You can create content haphazardly, or you can laser focus your web content to advance your site in the search engines.

A website consists of one or more web pages. Search engines index web pages individually.

For each keyword phrase that you care about, create a web page on your site dedicated to that keyword phrase alone.

Your Keywords Don’t All Need to be Popular

For example, your company name is probably a low volume search term, but it’s meaningful to you, all the same. It’s you who decides which keyword phrases deserve focus and assign each of those phrases its own page, either a static page or a blog post.

Real Time Web AnalyticsIf your website has been online for a while and you notice from your web analytics that certain pages are already receiving substantial traffic for certain keyword phrases, then those pages are evidently already focused on their associated keywords.

Throughout your site, link occurrences of your keyword phrases to their associated web pages, thereby helping those pages gain authority and climb the ranks of the search engines. When generating external links into your site, make a keyword phrase your anchor text and link to that keyword’s special page.

Edit Previously Published Blog Posts

Don’t hesitate to edit your previously published blog posts. If they’re your pivotal keyword pages, try hard to enhance them. However, review all your pages and update their links in order to sharpen your site’s keyword focus.

Stick with it, since search engine optimization takes time. However, with consistent effort, you’ll dominate the search engines one keyword phrase at a time.

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Larry BraunerIt would be useful if you could know which social media sources, social networking sites and search terms were contributing to your newsletter and blog subscriptions.

You can track newsletter and blog subscriptions to a large extent, although not fully, using web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics or Clicky, my favorites, and a trick or two I’m going to share with you.

Accurate Subscription Tracking is Impossible

I asserted in Twitter Stats Defy Measurement that “everything defies measurement and tracking.” Why should subscriptions be exceptions? :)

I believe that some subscriptions methods, such as blog subscription via the RSS icon in the Firefox location bar, can not be tracked, since that icon is external to your site, and you can only track your site itself, since tracking relies on script placed internally within the site’s web pages.

Fortunately, the practical researchers that we are, we’ll draw conclusions about newsletter and blog subscription from whatever data we’re able to obtain. We can obtain tracking data for some RSS subscriptions and most web form email subscriptions.

How to Track RSS Subscriptions

The following four steps will help you track your RSS subscriptions:

  1. Use Feedburner to “burn” your blog’s RSS feed.
  2. Post Feedburner RSS icons prominently on your blog, so that visitors will find it easy click on those icons instead of their browser’s RSS icon. There’s no need to be subtle about your RSS icons.
  3. Use off-site link clicks to your Feedburner page to segment your subscribers within your web analytics program.
  4. Study the sources and behavior of that segment of subscribers.

It’s possible that some members of this RSS subscriber segment will not follow through with their subscription or that they were already your subscribers but didn’t remember. It’s not worth losing any sleep over it.

How to Track Web Form Email Subscriptions

59th Birthday Party and Promote-Yourself Event on FacebookThis one should be a piece of cake — speaking of which, Tuesday is my birthday and you’re invited to my social networking 59th birthday party on Facebook that runs from the 11th through the 20th.

The key to tracking web-form email subscriptions is to set the subscription thank-you page to a page on your blog that’s used only for this purpose and to segment your email subscribers as a result of their visiting the thank-you page. Some visitors who submit web form fail to confirm their subscriptions. Don’t let this issue ruffle your feathers either.

You can track visitors who do confirm by using a subscription confirmation welcome page on your blog. However, after their original tracking session has timed out, they can no longer be connected to their original tracking source, so you might not be any better off than simply tracking visits to your thank-you page.

I implement both thank-you and welcome pages as part of my sign-up process, not only so that I can keep my options open, but so that I can also bring the subscriber back to my blog twice instead of once.

Additional Remarks

I use Aweber for my email subscriptions, but you can use almost any good email contact service. I recommend that you not use Feedburner for your email subscribers, because Feedburner will not afford you sufficient control over your email list.

I sometimes use Google Analytics to merge the RSS and email subscribers into a single segment, but it can be interesting to study the two groups separately.

Now, one final question: How do you prefer to subscribe to this blog, by RSS or by email? ;-)

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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 BraunerWebsite widgets are commonplace in the world of social media. They tend to make interacting, marketing and web site tracking easier and more fun. Many types of website widgets are currently used on this blog.

However, don’t you ever question how safe website widgets really are? The use of website widgets and banner ads raises online safety and privacy issues for you and your website visitors that are worthy of consideration.

Marketing Experiment Gone Wrong

Marketing Experiment Gone WrongI was experimenting with my website tracking software. I wanted to determine whether it would work on websites not belonging to me. I installed the required tracking code in a blog post on a Ning site and on my Ryze profile.

I very quickly uncovered a major obstacle. The JavaScript, a key element in the tracking code, had been stripped off by each of the social networking sites. All that remained was a link to a very tiny and invisible image hosted by my tracking service.

I decided to continue the test in order to see the outcome. I invited friends to visit the test pages and inspected the resulting traffic data. I saw the IP address, ISP, location, operating system and web browser for each person who had visited the test pages — and all it took was embedding an invisible one pixel by one pixel image on those pages.

Privacy and Security Implications

When you install a banner ad on your blog or other website, and that banner ad is hosted on the advertiser’s server, not yours, you give that advertiser identical information about your visitors as I was able to obtain about mine; your visitors don’t even need to click on the banner ad to make that happen.

Once an advertiser obtains an IP address, they may obtain more sensitive information as well. Some offline merchants sell data about their customers. Why not assume that some online merchants and social networking sites do the same?

They have some amount of personal information matched to an IP address, and may decide to monetize that private data. They might even state that in their privacy policy.

When you install a widget or ad on your site that contains script, the effects are more far reaching. The company that provided you with the widget code can obtain information about the source and actions of each visitor. Scripts can even be malicious, as in the case of poisoned banners. :-(

Your Due Diligence Can Help

You are responsible as a blogger or web site owner to protect the privacy of your visitors as best you can. Use web widgets from reputable sources and banner ads, too. If practical, host the image on your own server, as I myself generally do.

Hopefully, data that reputable third parties obtain from you and your visitors will be used for reasonable purposes, and their widget code will perform as specified. You need to take care that all third party widget code you embed in your site is from a reputable source.

Your turn for questions or comments. ;-)

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Everything defies measurement and tracking. Everything, really.

Try recording your food intake. If you’re an emotional eater, committing your diet to paper ought to make you feel quite uncomfortable. However, even if you eat normally, listing your meals poses the following interesting problem:

Because you’re making a list of your meals and snacks, you’ll tend to make healthier eating choices than you would otherwise make. You may eat less or more than usual. Therefore, the items on your list will not represent your typical food intake. Rather, they’ll be biased.

Tracking the Untrackable

For several years, I worked as a business analyst at IDT Corporation.

One of several areas responsibility at IDT was analyzing advertising tracking data, partly in order to evaluate each advertising purchase, and partly to in order to determine the net value of each customer (after factoring out the cost of acquiring that customer).

Given our level of sophistication, tracking the new customers by marketing channel should have been straightforward. Nevertheless, there was a major problem: Our new customer defied tracking.

A different toll-free telephone number and a different web address was used for each newspaper, magazine, television station, radio station and direct mail piece. When a customer called the toll-free number or visited the web site, we knew how the customer was referred to us.

Well, sort of. The problem was that the customer didn’t always behave as we had hoped.

No matter which phone number or web address the customer was given, that customer sometimes found it more convenient to obtain the phone number by calling Information or going online, and to bypass their assigned web address, going to the company’s main website instead.

We called such a customer “untrackable” and were forced to make the best assumptions we could to deal with the untrackables in our analyses.

Tracking Twitter

I can provide many examples of tracking and measurement difficulties, especially from my years working in marketing research at Eric Marder Associates, but not to bore you too much, I’ll jump now to my discussion of Twitter.

My thoughts on Twitter will apply in varying degrees to Facebook and other social sites as well. I break down the measurement and tracking of Twitter traffic into these eight parts:

  1. You need to realize that much activity on the Internet, and on Twitter specifically is generated by cyber robots or plain bots. They tweet the majority of updates on Twitter, and they account for more than 90% of the traffic that flows through the links in Twitter posts.
  2. While some techies may be very interested in bot activity, most of us are simply interested in counting and tracking human clicks on our links. We need to separate out and count only real clicks by real peeps.
  3. Realize too that most humans access Twitter from desktop and mobile clients, not from the Twitter domain. (The extent to which this is true depends on the particular audience you’re targeting.)
  4. Web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics and Clicky, do exclude bot traffic from their stats. However, they do not know how to break down and allocate the so-called direct traffic coming from users’ desktops and mobile devices. In web analytics, direct traffic is the untrackable element which I discussed above in connection with my work at IDT. Nevertheless, do not rely on the stats from your site’s log. Install and use Google Analytics and Clicky in your blog or website. I use both myself. (For my Wordpress blog, I use the Ultimate Google Analytics plugin, and I installed the Clicky script in a sidebar.)
  5. Web untrackables come to websites in many different ways, such as directly typing a website address, selecting browser bookmarks, using a variety of desktop and mobile clients like TweetDeck, and even clicking on a link in an e-mail program such as Microsoft Outlook. Try and get a sense of where your direct traffic comes from.
  6. Rules of thumb provide no more than ball park estimates, and these crude approximations are often inadequate. Use rules of thumb only as a last resort.
  7. You can substitute tracked links in your tweets, but tracked links generally count bot traffic. However, BudUrl from Live Oak 360 has begun counting only human clicks. Great news! While their links can’t be generated automatically by TweetDeck, if you’re serious about tracking, you’ll put up with the inconvenience. Not every tweet will have a link, and not every link will need to be tracked.
  8. Even if you use BudUrl as I recommend, there’s still one more thing defying measurement, the Twitter user who replaces your link with theirs in order to track their retweet or because they prefer another shortening link. No way around this one! Remember, “Everything defies measurement and tracking.”

I count the comments made on each article. Don’t you defy measurement and tracking. :-P

Share your ideas below in a comment. :-)

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The long tail has recently become a major buzzword both in business and online.

The long tail concept is rather abstract, so it can help to look at concrete examples. Let’s look at examples from my blogging experience.

The Long Tail of the Search

I started publishing Online Social Networking in November 2007, and I installed Google Analytics to monitor, analyze and track traffic to my website.

My blog, as you can probably guess, has been search optimized for the keyword online social networking.

Out of 25,515 visits that were due to search engines, only 1,469 were searches for online social networking. The remaining 24,056 visits were based on 10,769 other search terms. 3,658 of those 10,769 were variants of online networking.

Fewer than 500 of the 3,658 search terms were used to find my site more than one time. These search terms each occurred very infrequently, yet in aggregate they accounted for a great proportion of my visits.

The Long Tail of Social MediaThe long tail of the search refers precisely to this phenomenon.

Most searches are based on all sorts of low frequency keywords. See the diagram to the left in which the yellow region under the curve corresponds to the long tail.

The Long Tail of ROI

I spend several hours writing each post on my blog and another hour or so bookmarking and promoting it. My hope is that people will come read the article and subscribe. Just to keep things simple, consider subscribing to be my return-on-investment.

A couple of hundred people, more or less, will visit within a couple of days to read my piece. Some will comment, and some will subscribe.

As I mentioned above, my blog is search engine optimized. I receive more than 100 visitors daily just from search engines. Over time each individual article on the blog will be read by a handful of search visitors per day. That’s not a large number, but it eventually adds up.

That’s the long tail of ROI: The small number of residual daily visits and subscriptions eventually match or surpass the initial surge of visits and subscriptions when the article is first written and posted.

The Allure of Social Media for Marketing

There are many aspects of social media that are appealing. It’s free. It’s social. It’s far reaching. However, the long tail aspect of social media I’ve described makes it especially attractive to savvy marketers.

Well written and keyword researched content remains online indefinitely and attracts an enormous number of search engine visits over time, a benefit not enjoyed using other media.

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Defining Google Bounce Rate

Web metrics help bloggers and other website owners to analyze and track their site visitors. One of the most popular web metrics is bounce rate.

Google bounce rate is the percentage of visitors viewing only a single page before leaving your site or closing their browser window.

Bounce is thought to be bad and to indicate low interest on the part of your visitors.

According to Google, “a high bounce rate generally indicates that site entrance pages aren’t relevant to your visitors.”

Using Bounce Rate

Bounce rate can measure a site’s relevance, the desire of your visitors to place an order or to obtain additional information.

If you buy Pay Per Click advertising, your bounce rate may be one of the factors that determines the position of your ad relative to other ads.

Bloggers Baffled

Common wisdom dictates that bounce rate should be no more than 40 to 60 percent. Most blogs miss this range.

70 to 85 percent is typical, and bloggers are baffled.

Experts would probably agree that either the blog or the traffic was too unfocused. You will probably not be surprised to learn that I do not concur with the experts.

Blogs Are Different

Blog posts aren’t merely landing pages. Each and every one is a main attraction.

The following examples demonstrate that bounce rate cannot effectively measure your blog’s relevance to visitors.

Consider first your blog’s most loyal subscribers. They come and read your every post.

Let’s suppose that:

  • 10% leave a comment
  • A different 10% click through to a related post

This appears quite healthy to me, yet your bounce rate is 80%.

Now consider your blog’s best search engine visitors. They land on your post and read it with interest.

Let’s suppose that:

  • 5% leave a comment
  • A different 5% subscribe
  • A completely different 10% visit a related post

This seems quite good to me, yet your bounce rate is again 80%.

Visiting a single page, i.e. your post, reading it and moving on is reasonable behavior for a blog visitor. How can we expect the bounce rate to be much lower?

Bounce rate is clearly not as useful a metric for blogs as it is for landing pages.

Gauging Blog Readership

If we cannot adequately assess our readership using bounce rate, what are alternative metrics?

We might instead look at our trend in:

  • Quantity of good comments
  • Size of our subscriber base
  • Amount of direct traffic
  • Number of quality backlinks
  • Google PageRank
  • Yes, even our bounce rate (smile)

Incidentally, the Google Analytics metric “Avg. Time on Site” is equally problematic, since it doesn’t factor into the average visitors who view only a single page.

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