Analytics: The discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data.
Google Analytics is a funny thing. On one hand, it’s a powerful (free!) tool that offers you seemingly limitless data about your blog. One the other hand, it has the potential to be a huge distraction and an emotional roller coaster, as your mood directly reflects the ups and downs of your blog’s traffic.
If you’re new to blogging I recommend that one of the first things you do is install Google Analytics so it can start collecting data right away. After that, however, I’d do whatever you can to check it as little as possible for the first year of blogging.
I’m finding that checking my traffic stats is becoming something of an addiction and is distracting me from doing the right work. I’ve decided to take a 30-Day Challenge to refrain from checking my traffic stats.
As I said before, Google Analytics is an incredible tool. But if you’re using it to just “check your stats,” which in turn distracts you from doing “real work,” then the tool is hurting you more than it’s helping you.
After a year of intentional, focused blogging you’ll have developed your blog to a point where you can start to think about using the “ninja” level (i.e. advanced) tools available in Google Analytics, like A/B testing your important pages or setting up goals for your blog.
Until then, however, I’d recommend you stop frequently checking your blog’s stats. Beth did this and had great results (**high five** Beth!).
Instead of checking in on your Google Analytics you should start checking in on a different type of analytics: user controlled analytics.
This type of analytics is less about “discovery and communication” and more about “meaningful patterns.” More specifically, it’s about meaningful patterns that you can control.
Here are three important user controlled analytics to track in your first year of blogging:
1. Posting Consistency
Posting consistency is exactly what it sounds like. How consistent are you with posting new (high quality) content to your blog?
This is the most challenging data point for me. I can understand conceptually how posting consistency benefits a blog. I’ve witnessed it with Pinch of Yum as Lindsay has posted 3–4 times a week for over four years. Each one of those posts was a building block in the slow (but steady) construction of a successful blog.
I can’t, however, speak first-hand about how I’ve personally done this. The benefit of the Food Blogger Pro blog is that I now have the opportunity to practice what I preach instead of preach what Lindsay has practiced.
Daily page views are important, but a more important data point to track is the consistency in which you post to your blog.
2. Amount Invested in Knowledge
Amount invested in knowledge is the number, in time and money, that you spend each month acquiring knowledge.
I don’t have any official stats, but I would be willing to bet that most people (other than college students) spend more on their car in an average month than they do on their brain.
Crazy to think about, isn’t it?
Investing in knowledge is priority number one for bloggers. Why? Because if you want to become a professional blogger than you’re wanting to become a knowledge worker.
Knowledge workers are workers whose main capital is knowledge. Typical examples may include software engineers, doctors, architects, engineers, scientists, public accountants, lawyers, teachers, and bloggers, because they “think for a living.” – Wikipedia
Okay, so I added the bold part, but it fits in perfectly, doesn’t it?
The point is this:
As a blogger, your main capital is knowledge.
And, like any other business, without new inventory coming in (i.e. knowledge) then you don’t have any inventory to send out. Which is why the amount (of time and money) you invest in acquiring knowledge is an important data point for you to track.
The good news is that I’m not talking about going back to school and getting a degree. I’m talking about a focused, intentional 20–30 minutes a day, everyday, spent acquiring knowledge.
I’m also not talking about spending thousands of dollars on expensive courses. I’m talking about $20 for a book here or $25 for a membership subscription there.
If you’re a food blogger this could mean reading through Amazon’s list of best selling cookbooks. If you’re writing an eBook it could mean watching 2–3 videos a day in the Creating an eBook series on FBP. If you’re wanting to build your YouTube audience it it could mean signing up with Lynda.com for a month and watching the tutorials about video production and YouTube publishing.
3. Creator Ratio
Here’s how the Creator Ratio works:
You take the amount of time you spend on social media in a given day and divide it by the amount of time that you spend creating content in a day.
Time on Social Media / Time Creating Content
Did you spend an hour on social media and two hours creating content? Then your Creator Ratio 1/2. Your number should always be less than one. The smaller it is the better.
If you have a high Creator Ratio (anything above one) then you’re probably a Digital Sharecropper. This is bad.
What is Digital Sharecropping? It’s best described by Sonia Simone of Copy Blogger in her post Digital Sharecropping: The Most Dangerous Threat to Your Online Marketing.
…anyone can create content on sites like Facebook, but that content effectively belongs to Facebook. The more content we create for free, the more valuable Facebook becomes. We do the work, they reap the profit.
The term sharecropping refers to the farming practices common after the U.S. Civil War, but it’s essentially the same thing as feudalism. A big landholder allows individual farmers to work their land, and takes most of the profits generated from the crops.
The landlord has all the control. If he decides to get rid of you, you lose your livelihood. If he decides to raise his fees, you go a little hungrier. You do all the work and the landlord gets most of the profit, leaving you a pittance to eke out a living on.
Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn… These are all landlords. You want to build on your own land, not theirs.
Is social media important? Absolute. If used right it has the potential to be one of the primary drivers of traffic to your blog.
But it also has the potential to be a waste of time (think: Digg, MySpace, and some would argue Facebook now that they’ve changed their ranking algorithm for pages).
Use the Creator Ratio as a data point to make sure that you’re never spending more time increasing the value of other people’s land when you could be developing your own.
How about you?
Which one of these three types of “analytics” do you need to focus on the most? Anything you’d add to the list?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.