Cybersecurity and Your Website (Our Responsibilities, and Yours)

Cybersecurity and Your Website (Our Responsibilities, and Yours)

cybersecurity, cyber security, SSL, HTTPS, malware protection

With a greater reliance on using technology to manage our personal information, there is a greater emphasis on cybersecurity for protecting that information. It seems like reports of large-scale breaches come out every few news cycles. Some of the big ones, just this year, include the likes of Verizon, Equifax, Yahoo!, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Even Chipotle fell victim to a hack.

It’s enough to make even the most confident people feel vulnerable.

And if you have an online presence you’re trying to develop through your website, email, and/or social media, then you need to be extra careful. No matter how big or how small, your digital presence could easily become a target.

Search engines and web browsers are even getting more into the security game. Site security and encryption is now a ranking factor for search engines. And browsers are starting to kick out “Not Secure” warnings on websites without an SSL certificate.

Why Being Proactive About Cybersecurity is Important

One of the bigger security concerns has to do with protecting your website from malware and phishing. Poor website security leads to cracks for malicious users who get in and leave things like viruses and other malicious tools. Sometimes these activities can even lead to using your site (even unbeknownst to you) for phishing activity to capture sensitive information. A hack on your website can damage your reputation with your visitors, search engines, and other web services.

Another major area of concern has to do with protecting your email from hacks. A hacked email account can expose more of your personal information contained in various emails. It can also result in someone using your account to send out malicious spam emails. Those emails are often used for phishing purposes or delivering viruses to unsuspecting recipients. A compromised email account could be dangerous for you and for many others.

A third, and potentially greater, area of concern has to do with protecting your other personal information and accounts. Chances are, the password you use for your website and email accounts are the same or very similar to the passwords you use for other online accounts. If a hacker can figure out your email password, and see that you do your online banking at a certain bank, then they may have everything they need to log into your bank account. Basically, getting into one of your accounts may provide easy access to everything else you do. And that could be bad news for you.

What We Do For You To Maintain Website Security

Maintenance is everything. One of the reasons our BASIC (and higher) Hosting plans are so popular is because the maintenance we do keeps websites running smooth and secure. We run WordPress, theme, and plugin updates on each site several times throughout the week. And we perform database cleanup and optimization. Many of the updates include regular bug fixes and security patches.

Server-level security monitoring. Our data center team monitors potential issues 24/7/365. Aside from maintaining server uptime, we constantly monitor any malicious activity. If/when something is spotted, we take corrective action almost immediately. This level of monitoring minimizes the impact in the event a user account gets compromised.

Site-level security monitoring. Also as part of our BASIC (and higher) Hosting, we monitor potential in-site security issues. Using tools like Wordfence Security, we regularly scan for any malicious and unusual files on the website. We take immediate corrective action and remove any potential threat we find.

Security-Related Services You Should Consider

Domain name privacy. Most people don’t realize that your ownership information on your domain name registration is public. That means anyone can look up a website owner’s name, address, and phone number. That is unless you have Domain Privacy on your domain name. It’s well worth the $7.99/yr cost to hide your personal registration information. This not only limits the volume of spam coming your way, but it also limits the amount of information people can find on you.

domain privacy, cybersecurity, website security

SSL certificates. Security certificates encrypt information when passed between visitors and your website. Without this kind of encryption, even simple contact form information can be intercepted and read by people with malicious intent. Visitors can have confidence that their personal information is safe on a website when they see the HTTPS (the “s” for secure) and the green padlock in their browser address bar. A basic SSL Certificate can be purchased for as little as $27/yr, and is even included in some hosting plans.

Your Responsibility for Protecting Your Website

Change your password regularly. The more often you can change your passwords, the better. Ideally, you should change them (at least) every 60-90 days. If a password does get compromised, then it won’t be effective for very long. But if you use the same passwords for everything for years, then it opens you up to other attacks. Getting comfortable with a password is one of the worst things you can do.

Use strong password formats. The best format for a strong password is a random string of unrelated letters, numbers, and characters. But that doesn’t usually help your ability to remember your password. Alternatively, you can try using a combination of two unrelated words, a number, and throw in a special character or two. Your goal is to provide as much of an unknown scramble as possible.

Use different passwords for your various accounts. Do you use the same password for everything? If so, then one compromised password means that you’ve opened the door to all of your accounts. At minimum use different passwords for the accounts you most need to protect (like your banking, etc).

Final Thoughts…

Website security is bigger than just keeping hackers out of your website. You need a cybersecurity plan to protect your website, email, and all of your other online accounts. Taking a few simple steps and having the right tools in place can protect you and your website visitors from all kinds of malicious activity. And you will be able to sleep well at night not worrying about all of the latest cybersecurity craziness in the news.

Dan is the creative and technical genius behind Fistbump Media. His uncanny wisdom and online prowess is the stuff of legend. When he’s not leading incredible growth around here, he’s loving on his wife of 19+ years, and five kids (two biological, three adopted).

How To Make Money With a Blog: 5 Tips to Turning a Profit

How To Make Money With a Blog: 5 Tips to Turning a Profit

make money with a blog, how to monetize a wordpress blog

Anyone can start a blog, but most don’t make money from blogging. In fact, many people don’t realize it’s possible to make money with a blog.

Before you can think about making money, you need to focus on writing useful content. Until you do this, you cannot move forward and bring in even a little extra income. It’s your content that keeps people coming back.

Your blog must also have followers, as they are the ones who will help bring money in. You can start with only a handful of followers. But monetizing a blog is a numbers game. The more followers you can gather, the more likely you are to increase your earnings.

Suggested Resource: Learn how to build a strategy that reaches the audience you want in 31 Days to #BlogAwesomeness.

Once you’ve done these things it’s time to begin monetizing your blog. Here are five ways you can start creating income with your blog right now.

Advertising On Your Blog

In the past, companies would advertise where their target audience spends their time. Often, that would be in magazines, newspapers, or on TV. Today, it’s much easier to reach a target audience by advertising on websites where they spend time. Through better targeting, companies generate more leads and boost conversion rates. Thus advertisers are willing to pay the site owner to help share their message.

Suggested Resources:

Hosting Events

You can host an event (online or in-person) and charge attendees for participation. This trend isn’t very common among bloggers yet. But it is gaining popularity as writers see how much income they can generate by putting together events for their readers. For example, a blog dedicated to scrapbooking can organize a scrap-a-thon or a class.

Suggested Resources:

Develop and Sell Products

Bloggers often have a marketable skill set they can share with others. After all, that’s why you write and share with the world, right? You already offer basic information about these skills through your blog. Once you’ve established yourself as an expert, you can develop and sell products on more advanced topics. Also, you can create new (exclusive) material to sell. A blog written by someone who loves to crochet could teach the basic crochet skills at no charge. As followers become more proficient, they can buy advanced classes or unique patterns.

Digital materials fall under this category and remain in high demand. You can sell an e-course, an ebook, or anther kind of digital download. Podcasts are another option to consider. Many are free, but you can also create premium content to sell. Think outside the box and offer something others in the industry aren’t. Bloggers who do so will find their following expands and they generate more income as a result.

Suggested Resources:

Affiliate Marketing

A large majority of bloggers turn to affiliate programs to generate income. This involves linking to a product that is being sold on another site. When a visitor clicks on this link and purchases the product, you earn a commission. The site providing the commission supplies you with a unique affiliate code to track sales. Some sites offer a commission if the person clicking the link purchases anything on their site, as opposed to only the advertised item.

Suggested Resources:

Outside Engagements

With an established blog following, you might find that your opportunities will expand. If you position yourself appropriately, you may be offered public speaking gigs. Or you might receive a request to consult on a project. Teaching opportunities also have arisen for some bloggers. These are only a few examples of how you can generate income through outside engagements.

Suggested Resources:

Blogging is fun for many individuals as share their thoughts and feelings with friends. Others blog to share the special knowledge they have with others and have a great opportunity to make some money. For those who fall into the second category, there are many ways to achieve this goal. With the right combination of methods, anyone can make money and turn their hobby into a full-time job.

Start with one method, become confident and add a second. If something doesn’t work, drop it and move on to the next. There is no one combination that works for all. Making money with a blog won’t happen overnight. Stick with it and you’ll find your hard work will pay off in the end. The solid foundation you created before you attempt to make money with a blog helps to ensure your success.

Dan is the creative and technical genius behind Fistbump Media. His uncanny wisdom and online prowess is the stuff of legend. When he’s not leading incredible growth around here, he’s loving on his wife of 19+ years, and five kids (two biological, three adopted).

6 steps to growing your platform with self-publishing

6 steps to growing your platform with self-publishing

self-publishing-1024x1024Thirty-nine. Treinta y nueve. Trente-neuf. Thelathini na tisa.

No matter how you say it, that was the number. After months of hard work and promotion, my first month of sales on my first self-published book netted me the whopping sales total of 39 copies. I wanted to give up. But I believed in the story too much. And I’m glad I didn’t quit. That little book has now reached over 13,000 people and has been #1 on Amazon’s best-seller list for books in Christian Evangelism (multiple times). Better yet, it’s helped me grow my platform and reach many new readers who I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with several authors and dozens of self-publishing projects in recent years. One particular client has about a dozen books released, and some do really well, while others flop. The crazy thing is when we think we hit on an idea that will really resonate with readers, often they flop. Meanwhile, other less scintillating e-books quietly bring in the sales, anchoring an impressive library of content.

I think where some aspiring writers fall short is by giving up too easily or not thinking enough about long-term strategy when it comes to publishing. Here’s the thing…

With that in mind, here are a few pointers which may help you maximize the reach of your message, and build your platform to share whatever it is God puts on your heart next.

(1) growing your e-mail list

Especially with a first-time author project, I usually recommend launching the book in Kindle and PDF format. We get it out there on Amazon to start selling, but the big strategic move is leveraging the project to build a mailing list. Offering the free download get’s people on your list so you can continue to share through your blog what God is putting on your heart.

More importantly, it gives you the chance to continue to market your stuff down the road. You may reach out later to tell them about special Kindle promos, the project becoming available in other formats, additional study and small group resources, and new projects you’re launching.

The ROI of email is typically higher than any other platform, so using the project to get emails should be at the foundation of your long-term publishing strategy.

(2) using the free download to promote paid sales

One of the differences between PDF and other formats of the book is that the PDF should clearly inform the reader that it’s also available on Amazon. PDF is a great way give them the content, but it’s not as convenient to read, especially on mobile devices. So letting the reader know the book is available in a more friendly format (along with the link to go purchase it) is a simple way to drive sales. Many readers will register to download the free version, start reading it, and then when they decide they like it, they’ll go buy it in the more convenient format.

(3) switching to kdp select

Whenever I do the free download, I usually do it for a limited time. The length of time depends on how well it’s driving email subscribers for you. Then at some point, you’ll want to pull it down and switch to a Kindle-only strategy for the e-book. Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) has a program called KDP Select. The idea is that when you enroll your book into KDP Select, you are committing to at least 90 days of it being exclusive (in electronic format) to Amazon.

In return, you’ll get some sweet benefits. One is that it can be made available to Amazon Prime members in the lending library. They get it for “free” as part of their membership, but the author still gets paid a cut of the fund Amazon dedicates to participating books. Sometimes, you even get paid more than the sales price of the book!

Then there’s also the opportunity to stimulate sales with a discounted or free promotion.

(4) using free kindle downloads to increase paid sales

One of the most important factors of success on Amazon is understanding the Amazon ecosystem. You can certainly promote your stuff to the people who already follow you, but your goal is to gain some new audience by getting your work in front of people who don’t know you. There are some key triggers in Amazon that will lead to your book being found. One is the reviews, especially by those with a “verified purchase”. The other is getting into the “customers who bought this also bought” rotation for other books.

The KDP Select program allows you to offer 5 days of free download every 90 day enrollment period. You should use every single one in every single enrollment period!

The math is simple. The more people who get the book in their hands (with a verified purchase), the more likely you are to get reviews on the book. Additionally, when an Amazon customer gets your book for free, they’re still “buying” it. Their purchase price was $0.00, but they still bought the book, which makes it part of their purchase history, which means it’ll build up sales to become part of that “customers who bought this” rotation for other books those readers have purchased.

I regularly see that when we’re not doing free promos, paid sales dip. And when we do the promos, paid sales rise.

(5) never stop selling it

This one is tricky, but it gets down to this question… How much do you believe in the message God has put on your heart? If the answer is “a lot,” then you won’t give up on it. And selling doesn’t have to be an annoying thing. Often it can be done simply by talking about milestones. I’ll share on social media when one of my books hits the top of a sales chart, or when I get a review that fires me up…

I’ve just seen too many examples of books going completely against the traditional sales spike in the first 60-90 days from launch to think that we should stop telling a certain story after sales settle. In fact, I’ve seen sales rise substantially after 6 months or a year on the market. But it won’t rise if you give up on it.

(6) never stop creating new content

If you’re a writer, then chances are you’re not going to be done writing after you got that one project out. In fact, you probably can’t imagine NOT writing. So keep it up! Keep working on new projects. This is another simple math deal. The more publishing projects you have out there, then more potential “entry points” you have for someone to discover your writing, and to connect with everything else you do. Some will hit big, and some won’t. So just keep moving forward with this as part of your regular writing strategy.

Set a goal for yourself. Maybe it’s one new e-book every 3-6 months. Just set a schedule and commit to it, just like you do with your other (daily?) blogging.

last thought…

Here’s the key to all of this. Too often writers look at getting something published as an end goal. We work to get published so that one day we can make money from our craft. Wrong. We write because we have something to communicate, we have a story to tell. And self-publishing is one of the tools that can be used to help you do that. It also happens to be one that could generate income. More importantly, it’s a tool you can use to share ideas and whatever God puts on your heart. If you approach self-publishing with a solid strategy to guide you, then you can substantially expand the reach of your voice.

 

Note: This post was originally published on the Allume Blog.

Dan is the creative and technical genius behind Fistbump Media. His uncanny wisdom and online prowess is the stuff of legend. When he’s not leading incredible growth around here, he’s loving on his wife of 19+ years, and five kids (two biological, three adopted).

have i told you about my love–hate relationship with facebook?

have i told you about my love–hate relationship with facebook?

I want to quit.

That’s how I feel about Facebook, every day of my life. I don’t know if I can take another algorithm change. And it seems like the wounds from the last one haven’t even healed yet when another comes along and rips in even more. Sometimes I don’t think I’ll ever recover, and walking away seems to be the best option.

But then I look at the data.

Facebook is one of the top drivers of traffic to my websites, second only to Google. And the quality of the traffic coming from Facebook has been much more engaged than other sources, making it probably the single most valuable referrer of people checking out my work.

So are all the headaches worth it? Well, it depends.

I read somewhere recently that all the algorithm changes aren’t a reason to jump ship right away, that is unless your strategy is a shallow one. The article pointed out that the opportunity is still great for smart marketers.

Challenge accepted.

Here’s the deal…

It’s not about tricking the system or developing elaborate systems to make it do what you want.

facebook, social media tips

The first thing you need to understand

Facebook is about people. It sounds simple, but we quickly forget as we try to focus on numbers for reach, likes, shares, and comments. When we post something, we want it to be seen by as many people as possible. But the second we start thinking about numbers, we start to lose sight of people.

Many feel like Facebook’s attempts to limit the visibility of brand page content is merely an attempt to force people to pay for views. While there may be an element of truth to that, think about what your news feed would look like if brands weren’t limited in any way. It would be overflowing with “commercials” from brands trying to get you to buy something. And I don’t know anyone who gets on Facebook to sort through a steady stream of advertising hell. And Facebook is more likely to keep people on the platform when it can keep the focus on people.

People.

That’s what we want to see when we sign onto Facebook. So next time you sign in and can see your in-laws’ awesome vacation photos, thank Facebook for changing their algorithms. Okay, so maybe that wasn’t the best example, but I’m sure you get what I mean. #fistbump

Personal Profiles vs. Brand Page (Which is right for me?)

No lie. This is one of the most frequently asked questions I get when I talk to people about social media. With all of the talk about Facebook pushing down the reach of pages (unless you pay-to-play), it’s difficult to see a brand page adding value. At the same time, many book publishers look for fan page numbers as evidence of an author’s platform. Ultimately, a brand page can add value… as long as you understand it’s strengths and limitations. But the greatest traction you get on Facebook will come when you post to your personal profile.

I recently did an informal study of engagement on some brand pages. One of the pages I looked at is an author page belonging to a popular New York Times Best Seller. Averaging 1,383 likes per post, there’s enough engagement to make the best of us covet our neighbor’s social media platform. But then consider that this person’s page has over 146,000 followers. The average engagement rate turns out to be only 0.9% of the total fan base. And that’s actually a good rate of engagement!

Remember, the platform is about people. So any successful strategy should be centered on how you use your personal profile to get the better reach.

In another informal study, I’ve posted new content to my brand pages and watched the rate of engagement for the first few hours. Often my efforts make me feel like I’m watching the proverbial pot of water waiting to boil. But after a period of low organic engagement on the page post, I’ll share the post from the page onto my personal profile. Usually within minutes I see 5-10 times the engagement. The point is that IF you decide to use a brand page, it’s re-sharing your content to your personal profile that will drive the greatest organic reach. And if you can get a few other people to share it as well, then your organic reach expands exponentially.

I think it speaks volumes that Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, doesn’t post to a brand page. Instead, he allows people to subscribe to his personal profile (where he has over 27 million followers), and posts everything there (some posts only to friends, and others to the public for all followers). #justsayin

Tools to help you maximize your impact

I always, always, always advise people to follow the data. Don’t base decisions for how to manage your Facebook presence on emotion, feelings, what someone said works for them, and what some “guru” said you should do. Even if it worked for someone else, it doesn’t mean that it’ll work for you.

One of the strengths of brand pages is the Insights tool. It’ll give you a wealth of information about your audience, and how they’re engaging (or not engaging) with your content. You can even find out when your fans are online (which should give you a good idea of when to post). So it’s a good idea to review your page Insights on a regular basis (maybe once every week or two), and ask yourself how you think you need to revise your strategy based on what you’re seeing there.

Unfortunately, personal profiles don’t have the same Insights tools. That’s why I like to use a tool like Buffer to post content that I want to measure. Buffer uses special tracking measures that give us better insight into what’s working and what’s not. In addition to that, it makes it easy to schedule content for specific and/or set times which help you take advantage of waves and cycles of visibility.

Last thought…

Facebook presents us with a tremendous opportunity to engage and connect with people, and to share ideas. And when it comes to building your brand on Facebook, you should stop thinking like a brand, and focus on thinking like a person.

 

Note: This post was originally published on the Allume Blog.

Dan is the creative and technical genius behind Fistbump Media. His uncanny wisdom and online prowess is the stuff of legend. When he’s not leading incredible growth around here, he’s loving on his wife of 19+ years, and five kids (two biological, three adopted).

the single most important metric for website success

the single most important metric for website success

website success, average time on pageEveryone wants to know what blogging and website success looks like. The list of measurements most people look to contain the usual suspects… page views, social media likes/shares, number of followers on social media, and number of subscribers. Understandably, those metrics are simple numbers which show how visible your content is.

But, one number is likely a better gauge of success than any of the others most think about. Work on this one measurement, and you’ll launch your blog to new levels. What metric is it?

Time on page.

This one measurement can tell you more about the behavior of your readers than anything else. Think about it. You write a 600 word post that gets 100 page views, and it gets an average time on page of 30 seconds. Since the average adult reads approximately 250-300 words per minute, then that means most people hitting your post aren’t reading very much of it. That realization can hurt when you know you’ve poured out your heart and soul to write something you think is amazing.

On the other hand, imagine the same post had an average time on page of 1:30 or more. Some readers lose interest and drop, but this would definitely indicate that what you wrote is resonating more with your readers.

Why is this important?

Two reasons, really. First, time on page speaks to the quality of your content. Increase this metric, and you’re probably getting at a more engaged, connected reader. Second, it’s a metric that Facebook (and Google) is looking at in their algorithms to determine which link posts get pushed up/down in people’s news feeds (and search results). It’s a way for them to battle click-bait links, and push up good quality content.

Here are a few tips on how you can improve your time on page:

(1) write great titles

Your first, and most important task is to write great titles. The reader should be able to look at the title of the post, and anticipate what they’ll find when they click-through to read it. It also helps if the title contains some sort of emotional connection or value statement. What will they get out of reading your post? Not only does this help get them to click-through in the first place, but it also sets proper expectations. If they know what they’ll be getting, then they’re much more likely to stay on the post long enough to actually get it.

(2) write an amazing first paragraph

Once you have them on the post, then it’s the first paragraph which will set the tone for everything else. Your opening statement should hook the reader and give them even more reason to keep reading. If the title left any question on how long they should stick around, then the first paragraph should solidify that buy-in. Don’t feel like you have to give everything away up front. But sell your big idea right away, and make sure the reader knows what’s in it for them.

(3) improve the graphic appeal of the post (and whole website)

Using strong images has proven to increase the reader’s time on page. Think about the images your add to your blog post like adding art to the wall in a museum or art gallery. Good art will cause someone to stop, and spend time just looking deeply into to piece. They’ll analyze the colors and different parts in the work. They’ll try to figure out what it means, and what message it sends. If a picture is like a thousand words, then try using one that will get them to spend the time on your page equivalent to how long it would take them to read a thousand words. In addition to strong post images, there’s much to be said for keeping the overall visual appeal of your site clean too. Having a cluttered sidebar (or two) can create visual noise for readers, and cause them to disengage with the content.

(4) use embedded video

Having a video embedded in your post is not only a great way to bring in a different style of communication alongside your writing, it’s also a great way to easily boost the time on page. Even adding a one-minute video could quickly double the average time on page. But don’t just add any video. Make sure it’s relevant and engaging. Having a five-minute video on the page doesn’t add as much value if people are only watching the first 30 seconds. So filter this in the same way you would any other content. Make sure the reader has enough buy-in to stick through the whole video.

(5) make it easy to read

Lots of really long paragraphs can tire your reader and cause them to lose interest. One of the best things you can do is offer regular visual breaks and work on making the content easily scannable. Breaks can be created by using images or header tagged breaks. In fact, getting some of your desired keywords into H2 (or Heading 2) format can be good for your SEO. These breaks makes the content which follows them easier to read because it’s a smaller piece of content to consume, which increases the likelihood they will continue to work through it. This is particularly effective with long-form content.

last thought…

As you look at your average time on page metrics (or any others), it’s important to have benchmarks. One trap to avoid when benchmarking is comparing yourself to others or a magical standard published by some social media “guru”. The best numbers to measure yourself against are your own. I’m not going to tell you that ___ number of minutes on the page is what you should target. Instead, figure out where you are now, and simply try to improve that by 10%. When you reach that number, then try to improve by another 10%. Keep pushing yourself for a personal best, and make whatever adjustments are needed in order to get you to the next level. That’s when you’ll start to realize the greatest success with your website.

 

Note: This post was originally published on the Allume Blog.

Dan is the creative and technical genius behind Fistbump Media. His uncanny wisdom and online prowess is the stuff of legend. When he’s not leading incredible growth around here, he’s loving on his wife of 19+ years, and five kids (two biological, three adopted).

Understanding Blog Analytics (or, how to get #allthefeels with your blog)

Understanding Blog Analytics (or, how to get #allthefeels with your blog)

blog analyticsI never make a design decision with my sites based on feelings. Everything I do follows what my blog analytics tell me to do.

Don’t get me wrong. I often covet cool design and/or functionality on other websites. But the truth is that I, like many other bloggers, have spent far too much time spinning my wheels chasing #allthefeels for my sites. I only end up frustrated because I’m not seeing the results I was hoping for. Like most of us, if I’m going to spend my time pouring myself into something, then I want to see the benefits coming from it.

Here’s another scenario. We usually ask a series of questions to help us understand what people envision for their site when we start a new project.

One of the questions we ask is, “Are there other websites you’ve seen that you particularly like for style and/or structure?” Many of the responses to that question point to one particular website (I won’t mention the writer’s name here).

The design of the site is attractive. Yet, it breaks many of the rules I would suggest for someone who is trying to get noticed. She can get away with that because she already is noticed. So trying to replicate her site is likely to leave many people not seeing the same results.

I’m not saying that we can’t model styles and designs we like. In fact, I still suggest looking for those samples to help with the design. But great site design needs to have a strategy and use techniques that will drive results. Here are a few areas where you should spend some time to ensure you’re building a site that works for you

Keyword Focus

This is one of the most fundamental things that I see people struggle with on their blogs. They need to find the right focus. When people visit your website, it needs to be clear what you’re about. Here’s a simple test you can do right now. Show your site to someone who hasn’t seen it before, and ask them to tell you what they think it’s about. This can often be eye-opening for writers. It helps them see how their site may or may not send a certain message.

One step you should take is to ask yourself what you want your site to be about. If you have to explain to me in one word (or two, or three), what would it be? And that key idea should be the central focus of everything you do on the website. Your design, your content, other things you promote… everything should center around that main idea.

It can also helpful to run your main ideas through a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner or Keyword Tool. This will help you to see how people are actually searching for those ideas. Often what we think people should be searching for does not match what they actually search for. Understanding how people search for the ideas you want to write about can guide you into building a strong foundation to help you get found.

Google Analytics 101

Yeah, I know. This part is always voted most likely to freak people out. I’ll admit, digging into website stats can get pretty crazy. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming, and there are a few basics that you’ll want to know. And statistics aren’t always about just how many “hits” you got on your site today. There is some valuable information in there that can help you improve what you’re doing.

Here’s a quick explanation of a few key analytics, and what they mean to you:

  • Total Visitors (Users) – This represents the total number of actual people who visited your website over the specified period of time. Your goal should be to see this number increasing over time. If it’s not moving, then you’re not growing. This number isn’t as important from day to day, but you’ll want to track this over time. Extend the date range to display the past six months, and then toggle to view the numbers by month (rather than by day). If there’s not growth, then you may want to consider some changes. Think through your sharing strategy or your email opt-in strategy (which we’ll look at in a moment).
  • Pageviews – This is the number of pages viewed, regardless of how many visitors. If I visit your site and look at three different pages/posts, then I count as one visitor/user and three page views. Comparing page views to dates that you published new posts can tell you a little about which posts are resonating with readers. If you change how you share your posts, then this could show you the impact of those changes.
  • Pages per Session – This is an average of all how many pages views happen among all visitors. Continuing my example, if I visited three pages, and another visitor only visited one, then that’s four page views for two visitors, or 2.0 pages/session. For sites that have steps people need to go through, this number is important because it shows engagement. But for blogs, your main goal may be to get people to visit each blog post when you publish a new one. So a lower number isn’t bad. But if you have other things you’re wanting people to connect to, then watch this number to see the engagement level. And if it’s not happening, then take a look at how people should be taking that next step.
  • Average Session Duration – This number shows you how long on average people hang around on your website. You don’t need a 10-minute average here to be successful. Most people read at a pace of around 250 words-per-minute. At that pace, it would take two minutes to read a 500-word blog post. If your average session duration is more like 30 seconds, then that’s an indicator that you’re not keeping their attention for long. You may have some people spending five minutes on the site, while others only spend 10 seconds and bounce. If this is the case, take a look at how you structure your blog posts. Are they engaging enough, especially in the beginning of the post? Try some different approaches with your writing to hook them better to see if you can impact the average session duration.
  • Bounce Rate – This is another one that depends on your objectives. A “bounce” happens when someone visits one page and leaves. If your goal is to get someone to read a blog post, and they do, but then leave the site right away, then you accomplished your goal, right? So a high bounce rate may be okay, especially if your average session duration is where it needs to be. But a high bounce rate and a low session duration can mean that you have some work to do to make the site (and/or your blog posts) more sticky.

Email Subscriber Metrics

If you want to grow your audience, then you’ll want to grow your email subscriber list. Nothing is as effective as email when it comes to getting readers to return to your site when you publish new content. I may follow your stuff on Facebook, but if I’m not active on Facebook on a day you publish a new post, then I may miss it. If I’m subscribed to your list, then I’ll have the new post in my inbox waiting for me when I’m ready.

Here are a few metrics you should be looking at with your email subscribers:

  • Opt-In Rate – A great tool for email subscription opt-in on your website will tell you what percentage of visits result in a subscription to your list. If this number is too low, then consider trying some things new to encourage people to subscribe. I encourage people to try different things for their opt-ins. I’ve seen people switch to a different offer only to see the rate drop to one-fifth of what it was before.
  • Open Rate – This shows you what percentage of people opened the email. The biggest driver for the open rate is the subject line of the email. If you’re set up so that the subject line of the email is the title of the blog post, then you may want to try different title formats for your blog posts.
  • Click Rate – This number shows you what percentage of people clicked on a link in the email. Again, this may not need to be a big number if you’re not driving people to something specific. If you’re delivering the full blog post (not just a summary), then opening the email counts as a page view, and a click may not be necessary.

A Final Thought

Having at least a baseline understanding of these blog analytics can help you build a strong strategy (and design) for your blog. Don’t build someone else’s website. That strategy can leave you frustrated. Build yours on a foundation that gets you results (and #allthefeels).

And when you’re measuring these numbers, don’t ask, “What should my ____ be?” Don’t compare yourself to others. Compare to yourself. Get a starting baseline for where you’re at with your numbers. Then figure out which are most important for you to improve. Then focus on improving the numbers in those areas.

#fistbump

P.S. This post was inspired by some of the conversations we’ve been having in our new e-course, 31 Days to #BlogAwesomeness.

Dan is the creative and technical genius behind Fistbump Media. His uncanny wisdom and online prowess is the stuff of legend. When he’s not leading incredible growth around here, he’s loving on his wife of 19+ years, and five kids (two biological, three adopted).

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