Last night, I stumbled into another #blogchat. This is a chat about blogs that takes place on Twitter. I’ve had mixed feelings about the blogchats, sometimes they seem too focused on the relationship between blogs and marketing and miss many other aspects of what makes blogging wonderful.
The discussion last night focused on metrics. What tools do you use to measure your blog traffic? Which metrics are of the most value? How does this relate to the overall goal of the blog?
There was a lot of interest in Google Analytics. I brought up writing PHP code to customize Google Analytics data, like I did for ecanalytics which I use regularly. I’m also thinking of building a tool that generates a word cloud of search terms. However, most people weren’t all that interested in that aspect of Google Analytics.
One very useful suggestion from the blogchat was to filter out your own IP address when looking at Google Analytics. You can find out more about how to do this on the Google Analytics blog.
There was a good discussion about the value of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) versus customer interaction. Again, this reflects a marketing perspective, but if you change customer to reader, you get a broader idea that still fits. I tweeted, “SEO v Cust interactions: SEO is for getting new readers. Cust interaction is for keeping them”.
As to the bounce rate, I tweeted, “As to bounce rates, I like mine high. It means that ppl are finding what they want w/o having to click on extra pages”. Some of my regular readers will recognize that as a familiar refrain of mine. However, others on the blogchat found this an “interesting perspective”.
People commented that a high bounce rate could also mean “they don't like your site and are outta there!” and another asked “Would you not want reader to stick around for more content?” Again, my thought is coming from the regular reader perspective. My hope is to develop loyal readers that will regularly visit my site. I would prefer to see them exhibit their willingness to stick around by coming back as regular readers and see what is new each day, than by visiting just once and looking around for more content.
Looking at my own analytics, I find that returning visitors have a higher bounce rate and visit fewer pages, as I would suspect, although the difference is smaller than I would have suspected. My returning visitors has remained fairly steady, very slowly inching upward. My new visitors show much more variation.
A final topic was about which sites seem to give the best metrics. Alexa was generally not well regarded. Some asked if it was useful at least for trending analysis. Yet even for that, Alexa seems to change their algorithms enough so that it is not very reliable for trending data. Besides Google Analytics, Quantcast and Compete were listed as the most credible sites for traffic data.
A side discussion also came up about RSS data. If people are reading your content via an RSS feed, it isn’t showing up in a lot of the traffic analysis. Personally, I’m more interested in people reading my content than I am in my own ability to quantify my traffic. Of course, all of this comes back to what are you trying to do with your blog. I am working on improving my writing, sharing my ideas with others, and gaining new perspectives. Keyword analytics can help me to find what others have found interesting. Traffic analysis can help me find other sites where people might be interested in what I’m saying and where I may be interested in what is being said. In addition, I can get a general sense of how things are going.
These goals may be different with some people’s marketing goals. It may overlap with others. The bottom line is to focus on the goal of the blog, and use analytics to see what you can do to better achieve these goals, and not make analytics a goal in and of itself.
So, what do you think? How much do you look at the analytics for your site? Are there things that I should be considering to help me better reach my goals?
Yesterday, both DigitalMediaWire and Digiday:Daily ran stories about NearVerse securing $1 million in seed funding. I had written about NearVerse a few weeks ago so I thought I’d find out what is new.
Really, there wasn’t much news. The company sent out a press release about funding they had received last year. Their iPhone app, which was supposed to be the hot item of SxSW just didn’t get all that much buzz, and most of the people that tested it for me where unimpressed. Yet I still think they may be on to something.
This thought was reinforced as I read through various blog posts about the Nokia N900. Zach Goldberg has been writing some very interesting things about UPnP and the Nokia N900 on his blog, BlueSata. In one post, he wrote about the Sonos multi-room sound system. It is worth noting that the Sonos page talks about being able to control the sound system from an iPhone. By the sounds of Zach’s blog post, you can probably do the same from a Nokia N900 and his UPnP software.
Yet it is the idea of mobile media sharing that gets me. Could some of Zach’s work on UPnP on the N900 be used to facilitate sharing music and other media between N900’s, and perhaps even iPhones and people’s home music systems? Could Zach’s code be used to take the idea of NearVerse’s LoKast to a whole new level?
I don’t know enough about UPnP and it’s hard to tell how Zach’s code might work with my idea. I haven’t managed to get Zach’s code to run on my machine yet, and even if I do, I haven’t found any N900 owners around where I live so I wouldn’t have a great chance to test out some of the ideas.
So, anyone else out there experimenting with UPnP on their cellphones? With LoKast? With other ways of sharing media from mobile devices?
The webpage, Google Fiber for Communities starts off by saying, “Google is planning to launch an experiment that we hope will make Internet access better and faster for everyone.” Almost everyone seems to be focusing on faster and fiber and not on better and communities, and I think they are making a big mistake.
Yes, having fast fiber to the home is a great goal, and while there isn’t a lot of fast fiber to the home in the United States, the idea isn’t really all that new or ground breaking. In 2008, PCWorld ran a story about KDDI offering home gigabit broadband for around $50/month. The United States has significantly lagged in broadband.
Some of this is because there is no very little real competition or innovation in the United States telecommunications industry. Instead, the large telecommunications firms are pretty happy keeping things the way they are, and the barriers to entry are so high that it takes either a really large company or a really innovative idea to break through.
Google is a really large company that, while gigabit broadband is not innovative, their approach for marketing it is. They have announced their intention to launch a product and have asked people to compete to become their customers, and the competition has been fierce.
Potential customers have used social media and earned media to advertise for Google. They have lobbied local governments to encourage Google to offer the product in their locale. I live on the outskirts of New Haven, CT, where community activists are working together with the city government on the New Haven Google Fiber Project. Activists are involved to help spread the word. Small businesses, especially those savvy at marketing online have joined forces to help the project, and the Mayor’s office has taken the lead. There is great energy and community around this project and if New Haven becomes a test bed for Google Fiber, it will do great things for the city.
Looking around the country, there are plenty of other similar efforts. Many cities have Fiber Fan pages on Facebook. Grand Rapids, MI has over thirty four thousand fans. Hunstsville, AL has over ten thousand fans. Fresno, CA has over eight thousand fans. Sarasota, FL has nearly seven thousand fans. Columbia, MO has nearly six thousand fans. Anderson, IN has a very impressive effort going on in their community with over forty-four hundred fans. Memphis has forty three hundred fans, edging out the forty-two hundred fans in Madison, WI. Durham, NC has over twenty six hundred members. Austin, TX has about eight hundred, as does Burlington, VT. At last check, there were over 150 fan pages for Google Fiber on Facebook.
Some community is going to be very happy. Others will be disappointed. I’ve worked on many campaigns that I believed would make our communities and our country greater. Too often, my candidate has lost and the energy and community around the campaign dissipated. While I hope that New Haven gets Google Fiber early on, and Google rapidly expands its fiber offering to many other communities, my greater hope is that the communities remain engaged and active, working together to provide better services and better work environments for the twenty first century.
The first round of applications is due on March 26th. I hope everyone gets good applications in and at the same time find ways of keeping their communities engaged and active.
Today at SxSW, NearVerse is launching their iPhone app, LoKast. The application lets people locally share content from their iPhones, iPod Touches, or iPads. There are plans to go cross platform in the future after some of their other applications get launched.
LoKast looks like a really cool app. In a press release, they about swapping demo CDs or video reels and how with LoKast you can do it easily from your iPhone. It uses a combination of WiFi and Bluetooth so that you can swap content even when the 3G network is swamped. It seems like the great tool for artists touting their wares at SxSW, but it seems like it has a lot of other interesting potentials.
The video that they have produced for the launch makes it look like the tool for parties, or networking events. I could easily see some gathering where everyone is LoKasting their pitches; speed networking or speed dating on iPhone steroids.
Beyond that, I’ve been to movie theatres that share video clips via Bluetooth. I’ve never gotten it to work, but LoKast could end up being a nicer way to do it. For that matter, there are a lot of interesting ways this could be used for other types of marketing; just imagine a local grocery store that LoKasts specials – You could add the Green Giant to your disposal network.
Yet there are other features that don’t get talked about quite as much. For example, they have shared browsing. Instead of trying to get everyone to look over your shoulder as you browse a specific site, with LoKast, it appears as if everyone could pick up your signal and watch the websites you’re visiting on their own iPhones.
The press release says they think LoKast will be this year’s breakout mobile app. We’ll see. It depends on how quickly they can get people load the app and spread the word. I know that if I were at SxSW this year and I was carrying an iPhone, I’d want LoKast on it. Instead, I’ll have to wait until they get it on the Nokia N900 and I can use it at some other venue, like a Podcamp or Falcon Ridge Folk Festival.
It’s five o’clock on a Thursday and the usual crowd is driving to the CT Tweet Crawl. It is a diverse group of people that gather every so often who are united by little more than their common use of Twitter. I’ve been going to Tweet Crawls, Tweetups, and other social media gatherings for years. It used to be much more geeks talking about some wild idea for a new website. The content producers started showing up, the bloggers, podcasters, and videobloggers. Finally, the marketing people caught on with their nice suits and a chance to exchange business cards.
I’m listening to All Things Considered on the radio as I drive up. They are talking about William Faulkner and I think about novel writing. Every year I give National Novel Writing Month a try, and one year I completed the novel, but never got around to editing it.
I’m thinking to myself, “What do I have to say to this upcoming gathering? What do they have to say to me?” I anticipate the first question I will hear from many people, “So, what do you do?” I eat, I drink, I sleep, sometimes I write or manage to find interesting technology projects that pay the bills, but that isn’t concise enough for this crowd and people won’t want to swap cards with me. I could say that I’m quick with a joke, or to light up a smoke but people would then assume that there’s some place that I’d rather be.
Years ago, I spoke with my daughter’s kindergarten class about what I do. It occurred to me that the best way to describe what I do is to say that I “help people tell their stories online.” With this in mind, the words of William Faulkner rattling around in my head and a little Billy Joel somehow slipping in, I decided on my new job description. “I’m an Internet Novelist”.
Yeah, it’s a little different from Bill’s friend the Real Estate Novelist. I’ve had time for a wife, although she may sometimes get frustrated at the amount of time that I am online. So, at the TweetCrawl, I use the phrase. I get polite nods as people seem to get it, exchange business cards and move on. Only one person seems to object. He points out that novels are supposed to be long form fiction. A lot of social media is very short form, and by novel standards, even a long blog post is short form. In addition, social media people are supposed to be writing about what is really going on, not some fiction.
While I’m a big advocate of truth and authenticity online, it seems as if a good social media presence is concerned with the narrative, with taking all the bits and pieces of life and weaving it into an interesting story. Hopefully, the story isn’t fiction, but becomes true in the telling of the story.
So, there you have it. I’ve told my story of being an Internet Novelist, and hopefully telling this story makes it a little bit true. It certainly made the discussions at the CT Tweetup more interesting. On the way home, I listened to Fresh Air as Terry Gross interviewed Loudon Wainwright. He talked some about his father being a journalist for Life magazine and how he had bought into the notion that you need to write a book to be a serious writer. Maybe I’ll end up buying into the same notion, but until then I’ll keep up my various forms of internet writing and hope to weave them into interesting stories.