I wanted to kick-off the new year by asking a simple question: How our website and blog has made your day better.
There are obviously a few ways in which a popular, populated blog can help a reader. I wanted to ask a few simple questions of my digital publishing platform. The answers would be gleaned from the vast databanks of our friendly neighbourhood oracle, Google Analytics.
Why bother asking questions about your website?
Here are a few questions that might help this digital introspection make sense:
- Would an author write if he did not earn royalties?
- Would a teacher teach if no one attended class?
- Would a blogger blog if no one visited their website?
I have always seen our blog as a creative platform that first and foremost empowers authors. Yes, we need to also earn an income to be able to realise this mission. Too often I share a coffee with those who believe that we should be digital “martyrs”: sharing knowledge online whilst foraging elsewhere for an income.
My answer to the purists? Don’t be a dick.
These questions, or rather their answers, will shed light on our platform’s reach, our marketing-effectiveness as well as who our engaged-audience is. It will mean that we live to blog another day or rather, that we want to.
Here at MYeBook our goal is a simple one, we aim to be the best digital (self)publishing platform on the African continent. To be the best at anything a degree of introspection is required. These questions help the team and I focus on the bigger picture.
What tools are needed?
Before asking these questions you will need to have Google Analytics installed on your website.
No counting Facebook likes or Instagram followers. These superficial numbers matter as much as a democratic election result in most African States. It’s Google Analytics or nothing.
What questions should I be asking about my website?
Your questions are obviously unique to your business.
Here is the leading question that will help clarify what other questions should be asked:
What are my website and business goals?
Here are examples of common website and business goals that will help birth the questions needed to appreciate your online effectiveness:
- To raise awareness.
- To sell professional services.
- To receive feedback.
- To sell products.
- To educate visitors.
For example, the goal of the MYeBook website is twofold:
- To empower and educate authors.
- To provide professional self-publishing services for authors.
Here are the questions specific to my business niche: (They could be for yours too.)
Part 1: About our Audience
- Total number of word-wide website visitors for 2016
- The average age of our website visitors
- The gender split of our website visitors
- The location of our visitors
Part 2: About our Website-Visitor Technology
- What internet browser do my visitors use?
- What devices do my website visitors use?
Part 3: Our Marketing Effectiveness
- How do our website visitors find us online?
- Who is sending the most amount of website visitors our way? (Known as referrals)
- What is our most popular content?
Remember the golden rule here: Every question asked should result in some form of action. No action taken means that the question was not important.
Part 1: Audience
Right, first from our list was the question of who exactly our audience is.
Question 1: What was the total number of world-wide website visitors for 2016.
Answer: The total unique-visitor count for 2016 was 45 220 people.
- What about Sessions and Pageviews, don’t those matter?
One user can view many different website pages. Those numbers – for the purposes of my test – did not really interest me.
One user can also have many different sessions. For example, a person might view your website from their laptop and later from their tablet. These count as the same user but different sessions. Every time a user’s visit ticks over the 30-minute-mark, a new session is created.
- How accurate is the visitor count?
Not 100%. Many of my visit were from automated programs – known as bots or spiders – that crawl through my website for a number of bad reasons. I try my best to filter those results out of my Google Analytics reports, however, some will always get through.
Placing the results in context
So my website received 45 000 – odd visitors from around the world throughout 2016 – So what?
Let’s look at the results from the previous years to shed some light on the latest result:
- 2014 my website visits were 10 814.
- 2015 my website visits were 20 213.
So, I have doubled my website visits each year from 2014-2016 – Sounds better right?
How about phrasing the results like this, I have been able to help educate 45 000 people from around the world. Bam.
With this number I will not only have my target for 2017 set (to double visits again.) I will also have a number ready for those advertisers who love spending money on those websites who can prove audience numbers.
On a sad note
My visits from South Africa were only 11 453 people. This means that roughly only a quarter of my traffic comes from my home country. This is largely attributed to the lack of internet-penetration in our country. It can also be attributed to the lack of awareness of eBooks, reading and self-publishing in general.
As sad as this is, there is a bright side; It feeds into our first goal: Empowering authors to self-publish books.
Question 2: The average age of our website visitors
Answer: The largest single age-group of our website visitors is the 25-34 age group at roughly 30%. The second, third and fourth age-groups all have roughly 20% each.
Interestingly, the two age groups from 55+ both drop to single digits. (This might largely be attributed to our digital-focus on self-publishing.)
Question 3: What is the gender split of our visitors?
Answer: 51% male/ 49% Female
Wait a minute…
Now for those of you who noticed that the total number of males and females did not match my total visits of 45 220 – Well spotted! (You have earned a free cup of coffee from my kitchen.)
I wondered how Google might guess the gender of a visitor. This answer inadvertently answers why the numbers might not balance. It seems that Google through using a mix of various methods is able to accurately guess the gender of the internet denizens.
There are several techniques Google uses to try and figure out your sex:
- Certain users log into either Google or Google-owned services such as YouTube. These services would prompt users to pick a gender.
- For those users who might not be logged into a Google-owned service, Google browses your search history and works out – via it’s algorithms – the typical sex of a person with a similar search-history.
Interesting titbits from the Gender report. (aka Battle of the Sexes!)
- Females are more likely to submit a contact form from my website.
- Males spend longer on my website and visit more pages.
Question 4: The physical location of our visitors
Part One – Word Wide.
Here is an overview of the where most of our website visitors live.
- South Africa = 25%
- US = 24%
- Russia 7%
- UK = 6%
- India = 3%
Context – Otherwise known as “Russia and India, what the hell!?”.
The first two results make perfect sense. The surprising results are Russia in 3rd place and India in 5th place. Here is my take on why:
- Russia happens to be the home of those nasty people creating and controlling those spiders and bots mentioned earlier in the post.
- India happens to be the Walmart of eBooks. They are effectively a country of sweat-shop like conditions where sleazy-salesman will promise you an eBook-conversion services for next to nothing. This means that they are not contributing visitors but are rather sussing out the competition.
So when considering the search results, I remove these two countries from the equation.
Action to take
Here is an example of action taken based on the result from Google Analytics. I can see that Kenya is a country representing the largest African county (outside South Africa) on our website with almost 1000 visitors this year. I might want to write a blog post specially for my friends in Kenya now that I know they are interested in the self-publishing industry. (I would really love to do this, let me know via the comments section!?)
Part Two – Locally
Here is a look at where my South African visitors live.
- Gauteng = 59% = 6681 visitors.
- Western Cape = 24% = 2726 visitors.
- KZN = 10.5% = 1180 visitors.
These numbers are no real surprise. The top economically-active provinces in SA happen to generate the most interest in my self-publishing blog. This means if I wanted to plan a self-publishing roadshow I would know that these three provinces must be visited by our “Book Bus”.
Part 2: Technology
These questions might not seem important, however they play a vital role in ensuring that my visitors are able to see what it is that I am sharing. Perfect information means nothing on a broken blog. web-junkies, this section is for you.
Question 1: What website browsers do visitors to my blog like using?
Answer: Internationally and locally, Chrome wins the battle of the browsers without breaking so much as a sweat with more than 50% of the visits.
- Chrome = 53.5%
- Firefox= 13%
- Safari = 11%
- Internet Explorer = 10%
- Android = 2.5%
- Chrome = 54%
- Safari = 16.5%
- Firefox = 14%
- Internet Explorer = 5%
- Opera Mini = 3%
SA vs the World?
South Africans and international visitors on my blog all share the same overwhelming preference of Google Chrome as their browser of choice. This is great to know when designing the website, I need to make sure that it looks amazing when viewed through the Chrome Browser.
Internet Explorer is still a staple in SA with 10% of our visitors using Microsoft’s default browser. This figure is twice my international average of 5%. Once again we lag behind the trend of moving away from IE.
I also see that visitors using a Mac and the Safari browsers are fairly popular. This means I cannot ignore this browser when testing my website.
Don’t forget – Your business website or blog should be viewed through Chrome, IE and Safari after any major design updates. It might look perfect in Chrome but not function as intended through a different browser.
Question 2: How many of my visits come from devices other than a PC?
- Desktop rules the roost @ 72% of our new users
- Mobile comes in 2nd place @ 24%
- Tablets visits lag behind @ ~4%
I cannot ignore the rise in mobile visits to our blog. Many authors might need to access our blog from their smartphones for various reasons. This is one of the biggest reasons I intent to migrate my platform from the Joomla CMS to a more responsive and blog-friendly WordPress CMS.
How can I aim to help grassroot-level authors if my website does not lend itself to being read from a mobile device?
Part 3: Marketing Effectiveness
Question 1: Where do my ~45 000 visitors come from?
- 61% of visitors found my website through organic search results. (We rank highly in certain search results)
- 16% of visits were direct visits. (Entering our website directly into the browser OR Clicking on links from PDF files etc.)
- 12% of visits came from Social Media. (Our awesome Facebook and LinkedIn groups for authors. Come join us :) )
- 7% is referral traffic. (Other websites that link to ours.)
- Paid search Ads (incl. Display ads) totals ~4%. (We pay Google each month to list our website in certain search results.)
- Most of my contact form submissions come from visitors that found me from a Google-search (59%.)
- Highest Time on Site (2:28 minutes avg) comes from referral traffic.
Avoiding the trap
I see too many people that fall into the trap of focussing on marketing efforts that are yielding poor results. This report is how you know what is working and what isn’t.
I can see from this report that my most valuable visitors come through organic search results. This is a great sign that I should continue writing great-content that will naturally rank high in Google search results. If I instead spent hours focussing on social media when I can see it only delivers 12% of my website visitors, this would be time I would never get back.
The easiest trap to fall into is focussing heavily on social media (or other) marketing-activities that do not deliver quality visits.
Is the 2 hours a day spent posting on photos on Facebook really worth the X website-visits it generated? (No!!)
Question 2: Which websites are sending the most amount of visitors my way? (aka referral traffic)
- SABookSellers.com sent 136 visitors who submitted 7 contact forms.
- BoutiqueBooks.co.za sent 116 visitors who submitted 9 contact forms. (Thanks Jane!)
- PublishersGlobal.com sent 54 visitors who submitted 8 contact forms.
About Website Referrals - Easy SEO for bloggers and business owners
Visitors referred to my website by clicking links online are some of my highest quality visitors. They are the visitors that:
- Spend the longest time on my website.
- Submitted the most contact forms. (One of my website’s goals.)
- View the most pages per visit.
PS – These referring links must come from quality pages in your industry. Pointing visitors to my blog on self-publishing would not help if I placed links on a website that served a different audience.
Getting your website links placed strategically throughout the interweb is one of the funnest and easiest ways to boost the online profile of your blog or website. Otherwise known as “Off-Page-SEO”, it involves connecting in as many ways as possible with similar websites and groups of people that are in your industry.
Here are some great ideas to give your website rankings a boost whilst having large amounts of referral traffic sent to your way. These tips and tricks generated the easiest and most valuable traffic that easily trump my paid-advertising efforts.
Online marketing advice – Tip #1
List your blog or website in as many free business directories as possible.
Do your research here. This means plenty of Googling. Example of business directories in South Africa:
Online marketing advice – Tip #2
Joining local (online) business groups
Join local business groups that share your interest. These group have two benefits that are not always obvious:
- You get to network with awesome people.
- Valuable links from your listing on their website that will raise the value of your website.
Here are two groups I joined that have helped me not only raise the online ranking of my website through high-quality links, but also resulted in extra and paid work! They are not free to join however are toates worthit. (Yeah, that’s right - toates.)
Online marketing advice – Tip #3
Joining and starting conversions in social media groups related to your interests.
These groups of authors found on LinkedIn and Facebook allowed me to drastically increase my blog views when I first started out. Once your blog post is created, share the post in the groups. It is really that simple. Obviously, be open to the criticism you will receive due to poor spelling or unintended spamming. It happens.
Online marketing advice – Tip #4
Keeping your eyes open for valuable online real-estate to pay for adverts.
One of my most valuable refers of high-quality traffic to my website is www.sabooksellers.com. This is no accident, I have spent thousands of Rands paying them to display my adverts. Their audience are my potential clients. This came from spotting the opportunity of a high-value (and busy) website with low advertising rates.
An easy measure of success when paying for advertising space is that the cost of the advert has easily been paid off from the clients that found me through that particlualr paid link.
Question 3: Most popular articles from my website.
Answer: In order from most traffic to least:
- www.myebook.co.za/how-to-make-a-free-3d-cover-image-of-your-book (almost 30% of visits!)
Notice how one post is almost a third of my website’s 45 000 visits? This is important info as it will help you shape future posts.
For those readers who stuck around till the end of this post, I salute you. Often getting tangled within the innards of your business reports on Google Analytics is daunting. Hopefully there are those of you who – like me – love getting your hands dirty!
- These reports provide a “simple” way to measure your blog’s heartbeat.
- They provide a way to help you understand if advertising money is well spent.
- They help you understand which articles might be performing better than others (and why.)
It is becoming less and less likely that as business moves online that these sort of reports can be ignored. Much of the learning material needed for the wet—behind-the-ears business owner is just a Google search away!