The number one question I have to answer at work is “How did THAT person get HERE?” That’s not as existential as it sounds–it really is my job to understand and predict what draws people to certain online locations and how they connect. Thanks to Blaugust (and MMOGames), I’m enjoying a jump in site visitor count for the first time in a couple of months. In fact, my number of readers in the USA has increased to the point that they almost overtake my number of readers in Brazil.
Blogging happens for many reasons: sharing information, finding like-minded humans, ranting…at some point, we expect (or hope) others will read our words. That’s why we’re on the Internet and not keeping diaries, though a few bloggers keep the majority of their posting 100% private. Whatever drives the bloggage, the same tools I use for work in ecommerce and videogames can be applied to blogging and should be part of any bloggers bag of tricks.
Tools to track your progress
(warning, I don’t own these links, use all the internet at your own risk)
Most marketing and PR focuses on how many influencers (voices with a multitude of listeners) you reach for maximum k-factor. Every website needs Google Analytics or an equivalent method of tracking statistics such as UMV (unique monthly visitors) if only to gauge why your site was overloaded one day and how the infrastructure of your site should change. You may also want those statistics if you ever decide to allow advertising and want to be pickier about who buys ad space, or when trying to lure juicier interviews and game demo codes. If you straight-up want to track the IP address of every visitor to your site, Statcounter is a good alternate tool to keep records–but be warned it rather freaks people out to visit a site that keeps individual information on that level.
Community work like I do depends on the personal connections you (or your work and by extension, you) make more than the spread you have. It’s the flipside of marketing, the “what do I do once the message is out there?” In an informal or emerging community, a central website for discussion may not even exist. If you want to know who is talking about you or simply want to get in on the discussions you may have sparked, your first tool is a Google search. Alternately, set up a Google Alert around your blog name, website, or the name you go by online. Publicly-searchable social media is handy as well, but often difficult to sort through without having a hashtag or key term prepared.
Many sites aggregate social media search results but charge an arm and a leg to do so. Social Mention gives a limited version of this for free, hitting sites like YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, and FriendFeed (a social aggregator site) in real-time.
My chief free tool for searching discussions is Backlink Watch (a backlink is a website link coming to your site). If you’re focusing on SEO (search engine optimization) and marketing, learn to analyze your backlinks for unique referring domains (the domain where the backlink is posted), the Google PageRank (named for Google co-founder Larry Page, not a “webpage”) of the linking site, the relevancy of the content from the linked page to yours, and the anchor text used. From a discussion standpoint, seeing the URLs linking to you and the anchor text used when they link are most handy when choosing what pages to track down.
Success for me (that’s another topic) is seeing people talking about my articles, papers, tweets, or other content. These simple and free tools let me monitor when my words or products reach someone so I can follow through, meet new people, and learn new (to me) ideas.