If you are a fellow writer with a website, this post should interest you. If you're not, then you'll nod your head and think, "Uh, huh...she's a geek alright." Either way, I'm okay with presenting a topic I feel is important for anyone with a website.The point of having a website is having visitors. Period. If you don't have any clue about the number, frequency, or origin of your visitors, you have no way to assess how you are doing. Any good businessperson will tell you that there is a return on investment (ROI) in any effort you put forth with time or money.
With the creation of any website or blog, you should have a method to monitor the activity. Blogger and WordPress (two very popular bogging platforms) both have built-in reports to show you a basic level of insight. So, if you use either of those, you should check out the stats. I maintain several websites. I use Google Analytics to monitor traffic and interaction on all of them. Google Analytics is a comprehensive tool that requires you insert HTML code into the website for tracking.
I am going to point out only one report of many that I can get from Google Analytics and why it's important. I can tell you about my traffic sources on brindaberry.com. For the month of September, I had traffic referred to me from 61 sources. I can tell you if someone clicked on my name/link from another website. I know if my postings on Facebook or Twitter are working to send traffic my way. Why is this important? Well, I want to know how people find me. I can tell if something worked. I've inserted a partial view of the report with only the top ten referrers (see below). There are many variables to consider in just this one piece of information, but I'm going to focus on traffic source.
Partial view of a 3-page report from Google Analytics
Did I do anything new in September? Yes. I inserted a Networked Blogs widget mid-month. There were 4 visits to my blog content because of this widget. I'm currently participating in the Platform Building Campaign. You can see in the report below that it's #3 (rachaelharrie.blogspot.com / referral) and #8 (linkytools.com / referral) in sending traffic to my site. It's great to know that people doing the campaign are visiting me.
You see the t.co referrer in the report? Twitter tells us that, "Twitter uses the t.co domain as part of a service to protect users from harmful activity, to provide value for the developer ecosystem, and as a quality signal for surfacing relevant, interesting Tweets." Twitter shortened my link to a blog post with this service tied to the Tweet button below each post.When a Twitter user clicks on the t.co link to read my post, I know it. So I have Twitter hits in two ways. (1) Someone recommended me with the tweet button and a Twitter user clicked on it and (2) my Feedburner account sends a tweet when I publish a new post. Someone on Twitter found me by clicking on that tweet.
I don't look at stats everyday. I don't stand on the scales in the bathroom and weigh myself daily either. (Maybe I should.) These things take time and a comprehensive view over a period of a month or year works best. I can tell you the best posting days, most popular blog topics, search terms people use, and other information. Speaking of monitoring topics, another author on the web, Tam Linsey, mentioned on an email loop that she is monitoring the popular subjects on her blog. The most popular topic was NOT writing; it was a post on making pickles. Other popular topics told her much about the readers finding her on the web. This common interest by readers might bring in people who want to read her fiction. Wow. Her monitoring is going to pay off if she adjusts her blogging topics to please.
The main point of this discussion is to tell to be aware of your traffic. If you are an author with a website or blog, take a few minutes to think with your business hat on instead of the writer one. It doesn't have to be complicated. Google Analytics is a robust tool that I use for only the most basic information. In any case, I think I've learned a lot about my web presence by using it. Are you using something to gage your website ROI?