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One Blogging rule you should NEVER break

One Blogging rule you should NEVER break

Time and time again, I get a question in my inbox:

“If I have an error in my post, and I correct it, does it correct in my RSS feed?”

No. It doesn’t. So if you hit that publish button, and realise that you’ve made a mistake, that mistake is already pushed to your RSS feed, which pushes to various readers, like Feedly and Flipboard, and social media channels if you have it set up to auto post your new blog post when you hit publish.

There is one very simple habit which every single blogger should use, and which many are not using.

Preview before publish.

When you’re doing an advertisment to publish in the newspaper, you would not send it ‘as is’ right… you would make certain (or at least I hope you would) that you have no typos, that everything is as near to perfect as possible… Correct? So why is your blog getting neglected?

It’s really easy to quickly push out an article and hit publish, especially if you have a daily blog. Blogging is hard work; you have to think about what to write, then do research, then write, then edit, then start putting together the article with images and other forms of rich media content… it’s a lot. So, after all of that, you’re tired. You just want to hit publish and get it over with. I get that. But by not hitting preview before you publish, by skipping that important step, you can drop the ball after you put in all that work.

After you have put together your article in the editor, with photos and headers, hit preview. It will open a tab with what the article will look like when published.

Nine times out of ten when you’re working with images, you’ll need to resize them to fit the article perfectly. This is key to your formatting.

When you have several headers, you want to make sure they are the right size, and they look nice on the blog.

You wouldn’t want someone to scroll through quickly, and exit because the article wasn’t laid out properly. The content may be great, but if the article isn’t asthetically pleasing, very few people will read it.

So preview before publish.

(Serious) Blogging is so much more than *just* posting articles

(Serious) Blogging is so much more than *just* posting articles

“If you write it, they will come.”

No. They won’t.

Yes, they will.

No. They won’t.

Well, maybe ten years ago.

But, not today.

Blogging is not just about writing a couple articles and calling it a day. You have to research, write, edit, edit, edit, format, insert rich media content, *preview*, then publish. THEN the work really begins.

After you hit that publish button, what do you think happens? Do you think that some random magic blog fairy will tell all her fairy friends and they will shower you with traffic? Maybe in someone’s fantasy world, but not in the real world.

You have to work for your traffic, honey.

You have to publish it on social media networks, you have to email the links to all your friends and ask them to share it with their friends, and so on.

Little by little the traffic will grow, but you have to work hard. Your blog is a brand, and you have to do put in the man hours to make that brand popular, unless you don’t care about your blog, then you can just move along to my next article.

Every day, you have to network a little on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and wherever else you think your traffic lives. If you’re a serious blogger, I would even suggest buying some Google and Facebook ads to generate some traffic, and hopefully, you will be able to keep that traffic.

Then you have newsletters, which are so important now. You have to send consistent newsletters to keep everyone in the loop about your blog’s latest content. And putting together a newsletter takes time and some level of skill, and lots of Youtubing.

You also have to share your evergreen content (the content which is relevent no matter the date it was published). Tools like Buffer come in handy for this because you can buffer that content and then scroll through the list later on and rebuffer.

The great thing about this is that you can do this yourself, for just 15-30 minutes a day. And it’s not hard stuff, it’s hard to remember to do for most of us. People who write creatively are sometimes not the same kinds of people who will remember the somewhat mundane, routine tasks. But once you look at it as a part of your blogging routine, and it’s on the same priority levels as your blog, then you’ll be on the right track. It’s all a part of the wonderful world of blogging 🙂

How to keep a consistent blog schedule

How to keep a consistent blog schedule

Blogging is hard work; but the hardest part of blogging is not the actual writing and research, it’s the time. Keeping to a consistent schedule is hard, and consistency is a very important factor to a successful blog.

I have a system, which on most days helps, but I do falter from time to time; nothing is perfect.

Keep a Notebook

It doesn’t matter where you initially write. You can write directly in WordPress and save as a draft, or you can write in a note taking app, like Evernote, Google Docs, or One Note; it really doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you write somewhere.

Once you start to write, ideas will flow. When I start writing an article, I’ll get about five to eight ideas for other articles, because no one wants to hear me ramble for 2000+ words; so I write it down, and continue from where I left off. This will provide you with more articles to add to your blog schedule.

Determine a Schedule

Then you have to do is determine how often you want to blog. You don’t have to blog every single day, you can have a weekly blog, or a weekday blog, but the important thing is that you determine how often, and then (here’s the key part) you have to stick to it.

This blog has never been able to really stick with a schedule, and that’s 100% my fault for not making it a priority. I’m a serious blogger; I love writing and this is how I get to help people. But sticking to the schedule is the hardest part, and it takes some sacrifice if you’re already pretty busy.

The Editorial Calendar

WordPress has a nifty feature of allowing you to schedule blog posts; which is great if you’re like me, and don’t have time to blog every single day, but you write on weekends. There is a gap in this system, because you have no visual reference as to when your posts are actually scheduled for.

There is a plug-in called WordPress Editorial Calendar and this solves this problem. It gives you a full month where you can see exactly where your posts are scheduled for, and you can drag and drop them to change their order, which is great.

My System

I *try* to have an article published every day. It’s not easy, but I try. I fail, a lot. But I try.

I write in Evernote; and I have about 2000 original blog ideas just waiting to be written, and quite a few are added every day.

I set aside a day on the weekend (either Saturday or Sunday) and dedicate this to writing and other blog maintenance work. Sometimes I write during the week, if I really feel like it.

Then I schedule articles, one a day, for the week, or two, depending on how much I wrote that week.

The editorial calendar really helps in this process, because I can see where I’m missing articles for. And a visual reference is always a lot more serious, for me at least, than a list of scheduled articles.

This is how I get blogging done. It’s a sacrifice I love making, because I love blogging. It’s not a part time hobby, this is a full time career for me (because blogging is so much more than just posting articles). So, good luck with sticking to your schedule!

What methods do you use for blogging? Write to me and let me know!

Google Analytics: Behaviour & Engagement

Google Analytics: Behaviour & Engagement

How many of your users are new? How many are returning? How engaged are they? How many pages deep are they getting? You can get all these statistics in Google Analytics. I’ll help you answer those questions in this article.

New versus Returning Readers

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This feels like an age-old question, and in many ways it is. Shops know their new customers and they know their returning or repeat customers, so why aren’t you looking at yours?

We would have looked at this briefly in the first article on the basics, but this time we’re going to look at it on a deeper level.

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The bounce rate seems to be higher for returning visitors rather than new visitors, however, returning seem to spend more time reading more articles than the new visitors.

Page Depth

Page depth tells you after your user has visited your site, what next they do. Do they leave (which increases the bounce rate) or do they read another article.

Here we can see that most sessions read two articles, but the interesting stat is the last one, 7 sessions read 20+ pages, which means that there are users who just sit and read article after article. Great if you’re content driven!

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Session Duration

This is a more detailed breakdown of your time on site or session duration.

Sadly, 331 sessions lasted less than 10 seconds which is really bad for content. However, there is a bright side, there are over 50 users spending more than 3 minutes on the website, which is not great, but could be worse.

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User Flow

The User Flow allows you to see your traffic more clearly, and you’d be quite surprised by the stats.

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Green indicates traffic coming in, and the red bits are the drop offs. Here you can see how the traffic just whittles down into nothing. Nearly all the traffic which started on an article dropped off, indicating a lack of engagement. Few who started on the home page did go to other pages, but then, they just disappeared.

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All in all…

Users need to be more engaged. The session duration was pretty poor, even though the page depth seemed to be in a better state. There is also a high number of users dropping off after an article. This would indicate that a better content navigation system should be in place. Also, most of the users are new users, and not enough returning. Content topics should be re-evaluted for efficacy.

Why Google Analytics is so Important to your Blog

Why Google Analytics is so Important to your Blog

Do marketing specialists just throw out campaigns willy-nilly without doing any research on the market? No. So why are you spewing out content without looking at the audience you’re capturing? You need to know who is reading your content, because without it, your bounce rate will skyrocket, and your visits will be at an all time low.

Like this:

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People want to read content that’s relevant to them. They want content that speaks to them. If you are reaching readers who are in Canada or the UK but you’re directing your content for readers in the African continent, none of whom are actually reading, then you need to re-evaluate your method of targeting your desired audience, or your content.

Google Analytics will help with your writing

Getting to know who your readers are will help with the type of content you’re putting out there. As said before, if you have readers in one country, but are writing for another country then maybe you should look at writing for content targeted for the country your readers are coming from.

Similarly, if you have a fashion blog, targeting young women between 18 to 25, but your audience is older, then perhaps you should tailor your content for an older audience. Or worse, what if you’re getting more male viewers? Then maybe you should change some of those photos…

So seeing who is reading can help with your content writing and niches.

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Google Analytics can decide how you market your content

If you do not want to change the content strategy of your blog, then Google Analytics can help you target the people you’re interested in reaching.

So you have this fashion blog, and you want to reach young women between 18 and 25, but you’re currently reaching more women over 40, what do you do? You can use Facebook and Google ads quickly reach them, or you can go a step deeper (especially if you don’t have the money) and find the people you want to target and interact with them on social media.

If you determine that your target market is on Pinterest, then by all means, go there, connect with people, share your content with them and ask them to share it with their connections.

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Google Analytics will determine your design

What if you have a great desktop design with no mobile layout, or a not-so-great-for-mobile responsive design, and most of your readers are using mobile devices? You’ve failed them. So, look at your system trends in Google Analytics, and determine how many of your readers are using mobile devices and design your website around that.

Most templates these days come with a decent responsive feature, but sometimes it might not be enough for your readers, especially to encourage more reading to lower your bounce rate; you can consider developing a mobile theme, or even a mobile sub domain (like how Facebook has m.facebook.com) so users from a mobile device will get redirected there.

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Also, the sizes of their screens play a big part in blogging. You may have a 1920×1080 resolution screen, but your readers may have a 1024×768 display. If your design isn’t catering for different screen sizes, then it may be time to get another design which does. This can cause your content to look like a mess, which will only encourage users to skyrocket your bounce rate, instead of reading more.

On the flip side, if your readers have a larger resolution screen than you do, then you should consider a design which supports that, else your blog could look like a thin block on a wide space; not conducive to reading.

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What if I don’t care?

If you have a lifestyle blog, and you don’t care about who reads your stuff, where they are from, how many people read it, if they are using a mobile device or desktop, then by all means, move along and ignore everything you learned in this article.

But if you do care, and you want to know who your readers are, and where they are from and the devices they are using, then look for the other content I have on this website which talks about Google Analytics, and if you have any questions, you can send me a note via the contact form on this website, or on Twitter @desireroberts.

Google Analytics: Desktop & Mobile Stats

Google Analytics: Desktop & Mobile Stats

Knowing what browsers, operating system and service provider your readers use plays a big part in development of your website, and also with tailoring your content to fit their needs.

Like the demographics, this is really easy to find in Google Analytics.

You can get basic highlights right under the highlights on the Audience Overview page, as seen below:

By clicking “view full report” at the bottom right of this table, you will see a detailed breakdown of these stats.

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Devices

This pretty much tells you off the bat that readers are accessing the website from their desktops and laptops rather their mobile devices, which is the opposite of what many “tech gurus” are clamouring about. However, it’s interesting to see that mobile devices have surpassed tablet devices, which is usually the other way around.

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Browsers

Knowing what browsers your readers are using and comparing that to how long they stay on your website could impact the way you design and develop your website.

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Evidently, these readers are using Chrome and Safari. Visitors from Safari seem to have a higher bounce rate than Chrome users, but there is a longer time on site and the highest pages/session for this category, and only 45% of them are new visits. Users with Firefox seem to really enjoy the content, because they have a bounce rate of 0%, but Internet Explorer seems to have a higher number of pages/session even though it has a greater bounce rate than Firefox users.

Android browser seems to not hold the attention of its readers, since they navigate away from the page after reading a post. This may be rectified with an adjustment in the website’s mobile theme, to encourage more exploration on mobile.

Operating System

The operating system you use can determine the kind of content you write if it’s a tech blog, but it has no real effect on fashion blogs. In this case, if this were a tech only blog, I should be writing about more Windows stuff.

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Windows is the most widespread operating system, with Mac and Android trailing behind. What’s interesting is the time and per session for Mac versus those for Windows, even though, the bounce rate is much higher for Mac OS; Mac users seemed to be more interested than Windows users.

Windows phone and Blackberry users also seem to like the content, yielding a 0% bounce rate, and 2-3 pages/session. The time spent on the site is bad though; it looks like they scrolled through pretty quickly. Overall, it seems to be something wrong with mobile, which indicates there may be something wrong with the mobile design.

Screen Resolution

This is such an important factor in design; it’s not even funny how many people are unaware of this. Gone are the days of everyone having a similar resolution screen: the laptop industry sort of killed that out, and now mobile phones come in all sorts of resolutions. There are many different screen resolutions and you have to ensure that your design matches each and every one of them.

Desktop Screen Resolution

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These stats show that users with a 1440×900 resolution spent the most time on the website, and viewed the most number of pages per session, but also yielded one of the highest bounce rates.

Mobile Screen Resolution

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Again, looking at these stats for mobile, you’ll see the time on site is really low, save for one. This indicates an issue in terms of mobile browsing, which can only be fixed with a more aggressive approach to mobile design.

The solution to all this is simple, get a good responsive theme. Once you have this, you most likely won’t need a mobile theme, unless you want a more bare look for your mobile. It’s entirely up to you.

Mobile Devices

This is always an interesting stat to look at; and a scary one since marketers use this to stereotype people by the type of device(s) they own/use.

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Hello iPhone and iPad users! You can clearly see the Android segmentation here, but the interesting thing is the last device, not known for it’s RAM storage, it probably would have lagged a bit if the mobile theme was designed for higher end devices. Again, another thing to look at when you’re looking at design for mobile.

Here is a list of the mobile device brands used by visitors:

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Touchscreen or no?

I like that Google tracks this, because we have a great deal of touchscreen devices now, and this is a great way for a blogger to see how many of his/her users could benefit from gesture features on the website, like a swipe left or right to see previous or next articles.

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Flash and Java Support

There are other little options to view stats in Google Analytics like Flash and Java support, as seen in the screenshots below. This will impact you if you rely on either of these for your website.

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This concludes a look at Google Analytics stats for desktop, laptop and mobile devices.

Let me know your thoughts on Twitter! @desireroberts
Google Analytics: Demographics

Google Analytics: Demographics

You’re probably wondering why demographics metrics are so important. Well, it is, because if your content is being viewed mainly by people in Spain, you may want to have a Spanish translated version of your website.

This is really easy to find in Google Analytics.

You can get basic highlights right under the highlights on the Audience Overview page, as seen below:

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Note: At the bottom of this table on the right is a link called “view full report”. Click this to get a detailed breakdown.

Language

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Language is so important to your website because if you have people coming from other parts of the world reading your blog, then you should offer a translation system on your blog. Here you can see that the majority speak/read/write in US English, and then there are 31 sessions from users who speak Brazilian Portuguese, all of which are new sessions.

Country/Territory

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It’s always a great thing to know what country your traffic from, so you can tailor your content to fit their needs. Remember, your website/blog may be about you, but if you don’t write content for your readers, they will eventually stop visiting. From the above instance, it seems like this website is reaching people from various countries across the world, but Trinidad and Tobago seems to outshine them all by claiming 54% of the sessions.

In the first screenshot, we can see how language affects bounce rates and pages/session. The 31 Brazilian Portuguese users were all new, but they only visited a page or two for an average time of five seconds before leaving. The four Italian folks seemed to have some trouble too, giving a bounce rate of 50%, and a similar pages/session metric. Overall, the higher bounce rates come from the countries who don’t have English as their primary language. This indicates that there may be a need for a global translation system if there isn’t one already installed on the website.

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This screenshot shows that there are many countries which are not being reached at all. The African continent as well as South America and several parts of Europe seem to not be marketed to. Looks like a great way to target some paid traffic.

Google analytics also has the ability to track gender, age and interests, based on the collated data they store on each of us through our searches and internet behaviour. This data can be especially important for blogs who are niched into a gender or age based topic.

Knowing who your visitors are and where they are from could also help you refine and tailor your content to your readers. Imagine if you were a tech blog from the United States and most of your readers were from Japan, and you weren’t tracking where your traffic was coming from; you’d never know that your following probably all speak Japanese, or even know that they might be interested in a particular brand more available in Japan as opposed to those available in the US.

Demographics are a powerful force, but you have to use it. Otherwise it just remains as unused data, which is useless to everyone.

Let me know your thoughts on Twitter! @desireroberts
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