In an earlier article, we talked a bit about tracking results and how those results can help tell you what articles you should be writing about. Another place where analytic tools play a big part in your blogging business is advertising and sponsors. Being able to demonstrate your audience, the type of people in it, and how much time they spend on your site each week can be an important thing for building your site's revenue. There are a couple of tools I am going to go over and some basic tips on how they can help you.
By far probably one of the most used tools out there Google Analytics is pretty simple to install on most platforms and can be up and running in a couple of days. It will track all activity coming into your site and will also let you know how and where they found your site. In addition to this basic functionality, it also has Goals, Segments, and Funnels. These are used to build an inbound marketing campaign and gauge the success of a site as compared to what it was built to do.
Some of the basic goals most sites aim for are things like Making a Booking or Sale, Capturing a Lead, Newsletter Sign-ups, New User Registrations, File Downloads, or Customer Reviews. For this series we will focus on two others, Social Bookmarking/Sharing and Blog Comments. These two goals should be probably on the top of your list. While Newsletter signups are nice, many blogs these days don't use newsletters because of how often the emails end up in the spam folder.
This is relatively simple if you're using a social sharing tool like AddThis or AddToAny, they both have integration options for tracking when a user shares content via your widget on the site. I won't get into the specifics here, but you can read up on it here for AddThis or here for AddToAny. Once the configuration is in place you should then log in and create a goal to reflect this. Having goals allows you to set clear objectives or actions you are trying to get your users to perform while on your site. Crafting the correct goals will help you build an audience, increase inbound traffic, and could help increase revenue from your sponsors.
Much Like Social bookmarking or sharing, comments on your blog posts are evidence of users engaging in your community. The more active they are in commenting on your posts or in your forums, the more likely they will convert into a long time reader and possibly someone who will share your site to friends/family/acquaintances. This is how word of mouth can work for your blog's benefit and help you grow your visitor count. Another goal to aim for is concurrent visitors, meaning that your visitors daily remain within a certain range. This means that you can guarantee a certain amount of exposure to your audience. Just like Sharing, you can create a goal and have google let you know how often users are commenting and when. This can be helpful because you could be online during the peak times to engage with those readers and reinforce the sense of community.
AlchemyAPI is another really powerful tool, but probably not something you have heard before. Its goal is to help analyze content and allow you insight into how visitors will react to it. By knowing this, you can react quickly if there is something negative in the report or plan to release more things that have a positive impact on your blog. Again it takes all of this data from activity on your site, then processes it and returns a pretty simple to read chart that you can use to adjust your content.
Unlike google analytics, there is a limit to your daily usage before you are required to pay for the service. For many starting blogs, this is more than enough for the traffic you see at least until your blog starts becoming profitable. At that point, it is best to upgrade and unlock the full potential of this tool as it will radically improve your results once you learn how to use it properly.
In summary, there are a lot of tools like this that can be used, and if used properly will allow you to generate reports that you can use when you approach businesses to sponsor your site. Remember your blog is a business and it will only grow if you treat it and your customers with knowledge and educate yourself on how it operates.