Why Have A Website?

It may seem like a strange question to come from someone who creates websites, but I believe the question, “Why have a website?” is perhaps the most important are least frequently asked question by people setting up websites. The answer to that question is crucial in understanding what software should be used to support a website, what the website should look like, how it should be promoted, whether or not a website is really needed, and a host of other decisions.

#ff @SMCNewHaven #cttu

@AmyDesmarais @shesosocial @Malafronte @suzicraig @EnzaDandeneau @sbc111 @cdschein @cellularchloe @theMattCrouch @yougottacall

It has been a while since I did a Follow Friday post, but yesterday was a busy social media day, so I thought I would highlight some of the meetings and who I ran into.

The first meeting was Social Media Club, New Haven. @AmyDesmarais of Ripple100 was there, as was Giulia Gambale Gouge of SheSoSocial. We talked a little bit about how the Social Media Club of New Haven could interact with groups like the Connecticut Tweetcrawl and the planning of the Connecticut Podcamp. However, much of the discussion focused on Best Buddies of Connecticut and what the Social Media club could do for them.

I also met Paul Malafronte. Paul does a lot of Joomla work and I do a lot of Drupal work. I’ve been looking for a Joomla expert to handle requests that I sometimes get and cannot handle, and I ended up referring a request I receive to him today.

The second stop of the day was the CT Tweet Crawl. I’ve been to various Tweet Crawls in the past, so it was great to see some old friends. I had a good talk with @SuziCraig about Drupal and Google Maps. @sbc111 also joined in on the discussion. I also spoke a bit with @EnzaDandeneau. Enza is a realtor from Marlborough, where the Tweetup was. She brought in people from the Marlborough Business Association to help them understand how social media could help their businesses. I don’t know how much additional business the Tweet Crawlers brought to the Marlborough Tavern, but there were a bunch of us there for drinks.

I had a few other good discussions, and wanted to particularly shout out to @cdschein @cellularchloe @theMattCrouch @yougottacall. It was a good day for social media networking and I look forward to upcoming Social Media Club of New Haven meetings and CT Tweet Crawls.

#blogchat – A Review

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?

Mobile Media Sharing

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?

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Tapping the Real Power of Google Fiber

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.

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