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Anything That Can Be Measured, Can Be Improved

by SMD 


One of the things I love about a business on the web is the stats! In my last business, making picture frames, you had to actually ask people questions – very inefficient, to find out what was really going on in your business, but on the web, virtually everything is measured!

So as part of ProBlogger’s 31 Days to Building a Better Blog series, I thought I would contribute my favorite method of improving my website: on the bottom line. What follows is a list of tools and stats that I use to try and get into the heads and hearts of my site’s visitors, because as K says you have to know your target audience to be successful.

AdSense Channels: Set up channels for each ad block position on your site, okay that’s an obvious one, but then test within each position. Currently on the big block to the top right of this story I have six different ads running [each on its own channel]. Three different styles and three different link colors. They display randomly and after a month or so I will have a very good idea of which gets the highest click through rate. Then I’ll split the result into 6 more subtle choices and do it again.

Resist the urge to make conclusions based on small samplings of data. It’s easy to get a spike in results on the second day and redo your entire site based on a statistical anomaly.

Web Stats: Get some good server stats. Two popular ones are Statcounter [I use it] and Sitemeter. Statcounter give me the following information:

  • Popular Pages – tells me which stories are the most interesting to my readers.
  • Came From – tells me how people are arriving at my site. Did someone link to a story of mine? Am I getting search engine traffic for a particular keyword?
  • Search Engine - which search engines are giving you the most traffic? Figure out why and you’ll be learning the subtleties of SEO.
  • Visitor Paths – if you click here you’ll see a graphic of the last person on this site. Notice that they came from an MSN search for ‘smart money’ and they clicked on nearly every link on my Top 10 Stories section. I just added that section to allow people to find what I considered the better stories…so it looks like that is working. Increased page views = greater chance of conversion through an ad click.
  • System Stats – I recently learned that ~30 percent of my visitors were using monitors set to 800×600 resolution, for fun I set the resolution on my screen down to that size and discovered that my site looked like crap! So I fixed it to be at least readable for folks with that size screen.
  • Location – If all your readers are from a particular area of the world, you may want to increase the amount of related content.

Raw Server Stats: These are the stats directly from your web server. They tell you valuable information like which search engine spiders are visiting your site and how often. If the googlebot hasn’t been for a visit for a couple weeks, you’d better find out why. Also, I like to check in here for error codes: any 404 errors could be dead links or someone is linking to a page that you have moved or renamed [not a good idea]. Look for trends in page views as a measure that you are increasingly communicating with your audience.

Feed Stats: I use Feedburner to measure the number of subscribers to my RSS feed and which application or site they are subscribing from. Another nice stat from Feedburner is the ability to track click-throughs from your feed to your site. Over time you can gain valuable information about which article topics are intriguing enough to entice someone to want to see what else your site has to offer. Feedburner also has advanced stats for a fee.

If you are using your raw feed I’d recommend switching over to feedburner to get this valuable information.

Your Keyword Position: Both GoogleRankings and Digital Point offer services where you can enter your page’s [always optimize by page not for your home page] URL and then a keyword that you are targeting. You can watch your page’s ranking for a particular keyword over time as you tweak your search engine optimization techniques. It takes a few weeks to see the results of each tweak so don’t expect over-night results, but both allow a charting over time so you can watch your progress. Remember to only do one thing at a time, so you’ll know what works if you see a large jump in your results.

Link Popularity: This one is mostly for entertainment purposes but you can go to Marketleap’s link popularity checker and see how many backlinks you have in MSN, Google,  Yahoo and Hotbot. What is fun is you can enter another site and get a comparison. I’m only 381,000 links behind Problogger.net :(

Exit Clicks: Here’s a new stats service that I’ve been trying. It’s called MyBlogLog Stats [affiliate link - but there is a free version too] and it tracks exit clicks from your site. The link someone clicks on to leave your site. In combination with the path stats from above you can get a pretty good indication of the experience people are having on your site. Since I moved my books off of the front page and onto their own Reading List page, I’ve had quite an increase in clicks on the books. In general, each page should have a single purpose. Another thing I’ve learned from these stats is that a lot of people exit pages from links left in story comments. Good to know.

I use all these stats and probably more that I’ve missed, to gain as much information as I can about what is working and what isn’t on my site. By first getting to know your visitors and then delivering more of what they are requesting [reflected in the stats] you can grow you business and maximize the returns on your efforts.

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Comments

10 Responses to “Anything That Can Be Measured, Can Be Improved”

  1. Hock on June 13th, 2007 6:31 am

    Great tips! One question… how do you get your Adsense to rotate randomly with different link colors?

  2. Jon on June 13th, 2007 6:31 am

    In response to the question of how to rotate ad colors. You have to use something called a server site script. This link on my name or here [ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2005/07/18/optimizing-adsense-for-your-blog ] is a script for php blogs like WordPress. I use asp.net but the logic and technique is the same.

  3. Hock on June 13th, 2007 6:32 am

    Jon, do you know if anyone has asked Google if modifying the code is okay? I know the TOS says you can’t ‘change’ the code. This was commented on the link you gave but I didn’t see any concrete answers there.

  4. Jon on June 13th, 2007 6:32 am

    Hock, The reason why the technique illustrated is not breaking the TOS is too technical to explain here, but if you are worried about that then go and create 6 different complete adblocks and use the random number script to insert the entire code block rather than just changing the color and channel [that's what I did].

  5. WealthyWeb on June 13th, 2007 6:33 am

    Objectivity. It’s why I love the web. Anything can be measured, thus easily projected. I love it. You can have as many variables as you want, and manipulate them until the cows come home.

  6. K on June 13th, 2007 6:33 am

    Hey, man, thanks for the shout out! It gives me a warm fuzzy when I hear the bloggers I read read my blog too. I enjoy your site, Jon! One of those blogs I read everyday.

  7. Jon on June 13th, 2007 6:33 am

    Thanks K. I enjoy your site a lot.

  8. Larydag on June 13th, 2007 6:33 am

    These tips are great. I really like Marketleap’s link popularity checker. It is a good benchmark to really understand how my site is doing compared to the other big boys. I’m looking forward to more tips that you can offer.

  9. Paul on June 13th, 2007 6:34 am

    I like webstats, too; and I love these suggestions. My tip would be to not discount OFFLINE activities as a way to grow your online business. The growth of http://www.wcrt.org has been due almost exclusively to our in-person meetings, and attending every single event we can get to– it’s the Woody Allen approach: 80% of our success is just showing up. Paul Strauss President, WCRT, Inc. http://www.wcrt.org

  10. Webtraffic on June 13th, 2007 6:34 am

    This is an awesome article. I learned a lot of great tips and pointers. Thanks for the information!!

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