Thursday, May 28, 2009

Why is tracking your blog a good idea?

Since this blog is titled The Quilted Librarian, I do feel obliged to leave the quilting world occasionally and veer into the realm of media, information, and librarianship and this is one of those times. For about a month now, I've been tracking my blog with a free service offered by Ice, a search engine and social networking site like Google or Yahoo. Besides being really fascinating, this data can help you to improve your blog and increase the size of your audience.

This is the menu of statistical options the blog tracker offers. Ranking doesn't really interest me so I tend not to pay much attention to Rank Analysis. Visitor Tracking, on the other hand, I find very informative and I will amplify on this and the remaining options below. Segment Analysis shows you how your readers are finding you and where they live. Content Analysis lets you see exactly which posts your readers are looking at. Technical Analysis shows you what operating systems and browsers your readers are using. For those of you who are selling product, a deep analysis of which browsers and search engines your customers are using would be profitable, but it's not something I will take time with here.

Visitor Tracking
Hits and Visits are the raw number of people who load your blog's page and spend time there (that's essentially how they distinguish between the two terms). Above is a chart of my hits and visits for the last 30 days. The peaks and valleys can provide me with some very useful information. First, there are lots more hits on the weekends than during the week. This makes sense because people have more time to spend at the computer on the weekend if they work all week. Now, look at the big spike on May 9th. This happened after I posted a link to a new blog post on the Quiltart listserv AND it was a weekend.

Also under this option is a tab for Last Visits. Not only can you see time, date and country location, but also which specific post was read and how the reader came to your blog (direct or through a bookmark, as a result of a search, through a webring, etc.) Conclusions: make an effort to create interesting posts on the weekends and post links to new blog posts on listservs and other social networking media like Facebook and Twitter to increase your traffic.

Segment Analysis

The first tab under this option is called Referrers and is extremely important. This is the heart of how people find your blog. Since we can't stand out on the Information Super Highway and yell, "Look at my blog!" we must rely on the cyber version of "word of mouth"--referrers. A quick look at the pie chart shows that most of my readers now are coming to me directly. I'm guessing that RSS feeds like Google Reader account for most of this. The second largest referrer is Blogger, the web-hosting service I use. This is where that information that you put into your profile when you sign up with a web-hosting service becomes important. Some of that information is used to enable people to find blogs that might interest them. Don't hurry through this step. Being thorough and providing good information will reap benefits down the line. (Remember, you can always go back and edit your profile.) Google search is my third best referrer. Here's where tags or labels and the titling of posts enter the story. Search engines look for words and phrases so provide labels and tags and title your posts. I can't tell you how many blogs I look at each day in Google Reader that say "(title unknown)". These folks are missing readers by not titling. The fourth referrer is which is a webring. A webring is a collection of websites on a certain topic that have been placed in a circular construction. I belong to several webrings for quilters, embellishers, crazy quilters, art quilters, etc. Buttons for my webrings are found down the right side of the blog. Joining a webring is a great way to pick up new readers. The fifth referrer is parkcitygirl's blog. You may remember that several weeks ago, Amy had an amazingly successful Blogger's Quilt Festival and I am still getting lots of readers from the links on her blog. It's very important to acknowledge other bloggers by linking to their blogs and specific posts. Helping each other is a good thing for the quilting blogosphere. Think link.

The Keywords tab shows you what words or phrases from you blog were listed in search engine hits. Again, this is why tagging, labeling, and titling your posts is so important. For example, I've written about our local Farmers' Curb Market several times and now on a Google search of "Greensboro Farmers' Curb Market " my blog post is the sixth hit. The final tab, Geolocation, shows in which countries your readers live. It's good to remember that the Internet is global and so is your readership.

Content Analysis
This pie chart shows which posts have been the most popular by their url (which stands for "uniform resource locator" or the site's web address). Again TITLING a post creates a unique, searchable url and makes it possible for you to receive more specific feedback from the blog tracker. (Without a title, the search engine will just pick up the first four or five words of your post to form the url.) The second tab shows the same information, but by the post title. (Hopefully, I've made my point.)

A few words about backlinks...
The final feature of blog tracker that I like is that it lets you check for backlinks--that is people who have put a link to your blog on their site. While not as thorough as the function in Google Reader, it's still catches lots of backlinks and it's good Netiquette (that's Internet etiquette) to acknowledge a backlink with a shoutout to the blogger who linked to you.

Many thanks to the good folks at Ice Rocket for this great FREE tool. Hopefully, my enthusiasm will rub off and you will sign up and track your own blog. Let me know what your thoughts are about this. I don't want to go too techno geek on you here, but I love learning new things and then sharing them.


Dolores said...

Thanks for the info. Interesting.

Rosa-Munda said...

Hi Dana,
Very many thanks for taking the trouble to give us this useful information! I have been blogging since January only so I am just picking this up through trial and error. I have a similar(?) tracker on my blog but I haven't used all the functions for it yet (partly as there is not enough raw data in it). The tip about good blogs for weekend traffic was a useful one which I hadn't made the connection with! I've joined a number of web-rings which have certainly made a difference. Its fascinating to see what subjects people are interested in - which are not necessarily the ones which required the most effort! My biggest hit was the day I handed my blog over to my husband to write about HIS sailing weekend!! This was also a weekend.
Thank you once again. Ros

Jean Baardsen said...

Thanks so much for doing this. I've printed your post and will read it more carefully. I had given up on the idea of drawing people to my blog, but this will give me reason to try again. Can this be used for a website as well, or only a blog? Guess I should join Twitter too. Of course, being another librarian, this appeals to me too!

quiltcat said...

Hi Dana. Thank you for the thorough information!

The other side of the coin is, if you think you've created your blog fairly anonymously, or are visiting someone's blog anonymously, you are most likely sorely mistaken! My eyes were opened to this when i was visiting someone else's blog who has a "traffic tracker"-type of widget on her site, and it displays where posters are visiting from. "Eeep," i thought, "there i am!" Or actually, an approximation of me...not quite geographically correct, maybe it's where my ISP was at the moment, but still...

I'm still a beginning blogger and am not terribly interested in driving traffic to my blog, but i do love it when people visit! And i'm geeky enough to find this level of traffic analysis very interesting just for itself.

SewMamaLady said...

This is really interesting. I'm checking it out. Thanks for sharing!

~ Phyllis ~ said...

I find this very interesting. I have a tracker on my blog. Google Analytics. I love to see who visits, where they come from, the referral sites. One thing I find interesting is that you said that you have more blog traffic on the weekend. My blog is the other way around. I have more visitors during the week. It's pretty quiet on the weekend.
Have a good week. Thanks for sharing.

Willow said...

One can always count on a media person to come through with the good stuff! Thanks Dana!

A Spoonful Of Sugar said...

Interesting and informative post! I get alot of that info from my sitemeter but it looks like Ice Rocket aos provides some great stats.