Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fun with Google Analytics

You might already be enjoying the information gathering capabilities of Google Analytics, but if you’re not, let me give you a heads up.

Google Analytics (from this point on to be referred to as GA), like many other site tracking programs, allows you to track visitors to your website. The free service also tracks where your visitors come from, how they arrived (referral or direct), and what keywords they may have used to visit your site. You can compare data and track trends as well as integrate Analytics with any AdWords you may have purchased from Google to see how they drive traffic to your site.

You can also waste a lot of time playing with the map function and figuring out where your readers come from. I, for example, have a group of lovely readers from Australia who visit the site regularly (It takes all my willpower to refrain from a wince-worthy “G’day” at this moment), the number of which remained unknown to me until I installed GA on my site.

I know I sound like a commercial, but I’ve had GA on Bookseller Chick for several weeks now and the data I’ve collected is very interesting. The free Bravenet counter you can see at the bottom of the links in the right hand column is something I’ve had since a few months after I started Bookseller Chick, and it only tells me the last ten people to visit, providing very little information beyond that point. GA allows me to see what keywords people have used to visit, how many people are return visitors and how long visitors stay on my site. Andrew Beierle’s guest column has a number of incoming links that continues to bring in traffic and I’ve received many visitors using the keywords “Stephanie Gayle” and “My Summer of Southern Discomfort” (more so than people searching for the keywords “Bookseller Chick”). I can even track how many people have linked to “Online Publicity Kits: Do You Have One?” or have stopped by to visit it. (By the way, if you’re one of those people and you haven’t gone back and read La Gringa’s additional recommendations in the comments, then you should.)

What does this tell me? It lets me know where you are coming from and why. It makes me think that maybe I should invite Stephanie and Andrew back for another round of guest blogging as they seem to be popular.

Finally I can judge interest in different topics without relying on whether or not people comment or ask questions (although please don’t see that as a reason to not comment or ask questions because a girl could always use a little more guidance).

Over the next few weeks I want to focus on ways that you as an established author (or one who has yet to be published) can drive traffic to your site and increase your authority in the eyes of the Google algorithm. Google Analytics and other information gathering programs can help you track this information and see if it is actually affecting your audience’s size.

If you have an alternate program that you like better than GA that is also cost effective (free is very, very nice), let me know and I’ll add the link here along with a description of how to install and what it does. With GA all I had to have was a gmail account and know how to drop a line of code into the Blogger template.

As a promoter of your books, it is important to know what your audience is interested in. Do they keep coming to your site looking for a family tree of your characters that you don’t have? Maybe you should build one. Did you see an increase in traffic due to an interview at website X? Maybe you should make a note to visit them again when the next book is ready to drop.

Knowing your audience allows you to focus your book advertising and marketing that much more. Using an information tracking program like GA allows you to decode the mystery of that process.


Trish Ryan said...

Great post! Hi from Boson :)
I've been a statcounter fan, but GA sounds more fun...

Bruce said...

Thanks for that. I've also used and liked StatCounter. Having moved onto Word Press with my latest blog I'm liking the plugins that are available - nice how the get built into the blog's dashboard.

Stephanie said...

I use GA on my blog. It's very helpful to see what drives traffic to the blog.

Oh, and thanks for making me feel popular!

alvina said...

I've recently discovered GA as well, and like it a lot (although haven't explored too much). Sitemeter is another good free one that shows almost all (or maybe all) of the same info as GA--many of the bloggers I know have been using that for a while (you can see it on the bottom of both mine and the Blue Rose Girls blog).

Anonymous said...

I love GA. It's an eye-opener. I've stopped banner ads (they can really ad up) mostly because GA showed me they were sending me NO traffic at all. You'll see some surprises, as you point out. I look forward to your forthcoming tips, because I know I could be doing more with keywords, etc.

Maya Reynolds said...

I've had StatCounter for well over a year and have really liked it. It's also free or you can upgrade to a paid subscription.

Thanks for the heads up on GA. I'll have to take a look at it.

Ann Aguirre said...

I like GA, but I don't mess with it too much these days.

La Gringa said...

Thanks for the shout out! And thanks for pointing me to Google Analytics -m I am officially obsessed now. Another good site counter for real time stats is sitemeter and it is free. :-)

If you ever want me to answer some qustions for your readers on the marketing or publicity of books, lemme know. Always happy to help new writers find readers. :-)