As content creators, we freelance writers have a responsibility to not just carefully craft words into content, but also to pay attention to what we write that works, and what falls flat. Whether it is content for a client or for our own websites, if we forget about what we have created, we have no idea how effective our content is, which means we risk wasting our time and our clients’ money by writing articles, ebooks or presentations that don’t make an impact. If, instead, we measure how effective our content is, we can quickly learn what works and what doesn’t, what readers can relate to and what they ignore, and when we pay attention to what we find out, and apply it to future work, we learn to tailor our writing to our audience, and considerably improve its effectiveness.Measure your content to maximise your success!
There are several ways to make sure that you don’t miss out on A Little Bird Told Me.
Find us on Stitcher Smart Radio
And finally, do ‘like’ us on Facebook to be the first to hear our news and to talk with us about what you hear on the podcast!
PW: Hello and welcome to episode 64 of ‘A Little Bird Told Me’, the podcast where two freelance writers tell you all the tricks of the trade we’re here to save you from mighty embarrassment and mortifying mistakes and guide you to the very top of your chosen profession. Freelancing is a funny, old world so make sure you tune into every episode of this podcast. If you go to alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com you can subscribe to ensure that you never miss an episode. We’ve made it really easy to sign up so make sure you subscribe via iTunes RSS or just heart radio and be the first to hear our new words of wisdom every fortnight. On that page you’ll also find links to any websites we mention and also links to mine and Lorrie’s website and social media feeds, so it’s well worth coming along and having a look. You’ll also find a link to our Facebook page and we want you to come and say, “Hello,” on Facebook. I am Philippa Willitts…
LH: …and I’m Lorrie Hartshorn and today we’re going to be looking at something that a lot of people seem to forget and thus fall down on when it comes to content. Now it’s my personal suspicion based on perhaps my own feelings that people deliberately forget to do this because it’s not my favourite task but it’s one that’s super important. Now it’s easy to put your heart and soul into a piece of work and just be so relieved once it’s done and out of your hair and published that you never want to see it or think about it again. Or you might just find that you’re snowed under with other pieces of work and that this task is just one too many on your to do list or so you think but it’s really, really important when you’re a freelance writer to keep an eye on the effectiveness of your content and one way to do this is to actively measuring it’s effectiveness. So that’s what we’re going to be chatting about today.
PW: First of all though we want to send out a massive congratulations to Annie Kontor who’s one of our listeners who completed NaNoWriMo!
PW: Yeah, we said when we did our big episode on NaNoWriMo that we’d do a shout out to any listeners who completed the challenge. So let us know if you are one of them too.
LH: Yes, do come and let us know because we will cheer you on, we will throw confetti bombs and we will be super, super pleased for you.
PW: This is true. And so to the topic at hand, we’re going to be looking at how to measure the effectiveness of your content basically and this is really important because otherwise you might be wasting your time and your energy on potentially pointless tasks. If you’re writing three blog posts a week but you don’t realise that only one of them is getting any clicks and the other two are boring people stupid…
PW: You’re wasting a lot of time every week and energy that you could be putting somewhere else in your business.
LH: And it’s one thing to be wasting time when you’re writing for your own blog and you’re not getting any click throughs. Sure, you know, it’s a complete waste of time and that’s chargeable time when you’re a freelancer but it’s not quite as bad as if you’re writing for an external client. Because if somebody’s come to you thinking that you are the perfect person to write SEO blog posts for them, to stick with the example at hand, and you write blog posts that are getting no social media shares, they are getting no clicks, nobody’s interested, and people are coming to the page and bouncing straight off them, your client will be silly to stick with you as a copywriter. It’s up to you to work with your client to create content that’s worth their while and their customer’s while and their target market’s while.
PW: Definitely and there are so many benefits really. I mean, we could do a whole episode of the benefits of effectively measuring your content marketing because even things like if you’re tracking how people find your website for instance, you might discover things that you would never have realised otherwise but say, for instance, you offer a certain kind of content creation service but then through tracking your stats you discover that lots of people are finding you while looking for something even more specific or something slightly different. Then you can tailor your offerings and create a new page on your site or a new blog post and so you’ve actually got an insight into your potential client’s minds there. If you don’t check your stats you don’t know how people are finding you, you don’t know what people are looking for, you don’t know what’s popular and you’re going to lose out.
LH: Absolutely, because I think you’ve touched on something really interesting there in terms of how people get to a website and the terms that people search for when they find you and the terms that people use to describe your website, all of these things have a bearing and all of these things you can measure using some of the tools that we’re going to look at today.
PW: Yeah, there’s recently… Google has provoked controversy to say the least by limiting, severely limiting the ability of website owners to see what search term has lead to their site. It used to be that you could see everything. If anybody clicked from a search to your site you could see everything that you needed to know but they’ve been limiting and limiting and limiting. So now the number of search terms you can actually see from Google searches is minute and this is obviously you know, causing, people aren’t happy. If you pay for Google clicks you can still see your search terms…
LH: That’s kind of handy.
PW: Yes, so there’s a bit of a motive there but that’s not to say you’ll lose all your search term input data because as long as you’re getting visits from Bing and Yahoo!, you’ll still get an insight and there are other ways as well which – there are plenty of links online if you have a search – but if you’ve noticed recently that the search terms you’re seeing have dropped dramatically that’s why.
LH: You see Philippa is so good with all the tech news.
LH: It’s like a little tech news tracker.
LH: Which is very handy.
PW: Thank you very much.
LH: Yeah but true, if you have a look at some of the factors that Philippa’s just described it will help you to, I think it will help you to position yourself online it lets you see your own website and your own media activity in the context of a wider area and that’s always handy, it’s always handy to know which niche you’ve cornered if you’ve managed to corner one. Which niche you perhaps are trying to edge into but not quite making it and by positioning yourself in a wider context you can start to look at things like that your competitors, what people in the same niche as you are doing really well, what they’re doing not so well, what people in that niche are actually looking for and while you might not have access to the direct incoming data as Pip’s just mentioned you can do your own research, you know.
PW: Oh yeah.
LH: It’s not beyond you to do some research on that so all of the information you get you can certainly go and do some research around that and really use that to shape your own brand.
LH: So basically measuring the effectiveness of your content marketing and your copywriting is, is just so important because if you don’t do that if you don’t measure what’s working well and what’s working not so well there’s no way to build on what you learnt this week, this month or this year as a whole precisely because you won’t have a clue what you actually learnt. So sure you will have picked up some knowledge here and there and you will have grown as a freelance writer and a content marketer hopefully by reading a lot and watching videos and doing online training and things like that and keeping your skills current.
But if you measure your effectiveness systematically and you’ve collected information related to yourself and your content and your client’s content on say, a monthly basis or a weekly basis or even every two months just as often or as regularly as you can it will just give you something to go off when you need to look back over the year because a lot can happen in a year when you look back over the year you’ll be able to see what worked well, what didn’t and really start to pick up on patterns and trends.
If you’re the sort of person that doesn’t measure the effectiveness of their copywriting, their content marketing you’ll end up shooting in the dark when it comes to deciding where your content marketing strategy goes in the future or where your client’s content marketing strategy is going to go in the future. You won’t be able to forecast what you’re going to need to do next because you won’t have a clue what’s happened in the past and not only that being able to show that you’re an effective content marketer also gives you a lot more leverage when it comes to winning new business and commanding higher fees because you can say to people, “Look you’ve hired me in February, the year previously your website traffic was down here, after you hired me you experienced a massive peak in traffic and that continued over the next month. When you didn’t want any content from me in August your website traffic dropped off but when you took me on again in October it shot back up, I’m clearly the right copywriter for you.” I have…
PW: Yeah and that gives you kind of solid evidence doesn’t it? You’re not saying, “Let me write your blog posts because it will be good for you.” You can say, “Let me write your blog posts because you get an increase in traffic of 60% and an increase in conversions of 30%,” and you know it’s, it puts you in a stronger position.
LH: Absolutely I was randomly enough, I was writing about how to write a good press release last night and one of the key factors is including hard stats and hard facts and hard figures and people are just more convinced by things like that. So as Pip says, precisely as Pip says if you can go to somebody and say, “Look these are the figures, these are figures that you can’t argue with this is what I do for your business.” It puts you in a much stronger position because you’re not being subjective anymore, you’re not saying, “I’m really good, people like me,” you’re not being persuasive in that sense you’re being persuasive by laying it on the line for them and saying, “This is my value to you, this is your return on investment.”
PW: Definitely and as Lorrie says that also helps with getting new clients as well. You have to…you wouldn’t be able to give direct stats but you could anonymise things with a new…with a potential new client and say, “Of my three main clients in the last three months I have increased social shares by 80%,” and you know, whatever are your most convincing stats basically.
PW: But if you anonymise them and generalise them. It doesn’t just help with your existing clients it helps you grab new ones as well.
LH: Absolutely, or you can average them out if you’ve got very strong, if you’ve really strong figures across the board you could say, “Look on average my client’s website traffic increased by such and such you know, the click through rate increased by this, the bounce rate decreased by such and such,” you know and you can use that information wherever you like, you can use that in your conversations, you can use it in your email marketing, you can use it in your newsletters, you can use it on your website content.
LH: It’s all very useful information. And there might be occasions too where your clients want you to track the effectiveness of the blogs that you write for them. So you might even end up having content strategy onto your list of service offerings, you know if you have such an understanding of what works and what doesn’t in terms of that client’s blog or that client’s email newsletters or their direct marketing campaigns. You can start to project into the future and decide what would be a good idea for them to tackle next. You can look at industry trends, you can decide where they should position themselves in the next six months for example and that’s a very valuable skill. So learning to measure the effectiveness of your content and of the content that you write for other people really is very worthwhile.
PW: And so when you’re measuring content you can measure these days anything, anything, every aspect of everything, from where site visitors, mouse trails or to which exact colour is the most effective for a link. But the thing is whilst it’s possible to measure every possible data for a solo worker like a freelancer this is unrealistic and that’s generally more suited for big companies with huge budgets. So instead what you need to do is establish for yourself what your most important market is going to be and what will make the biggest difference to your business. Some examples that could make a real difference to you are things like measuring the open rate on your email newsletters. Perhaps testing one subject line against another and seeing which is most effective because the more opens you get on your email newsletter the more effective it will be obviously.
Measuring how many people click different links on your site. If you write a blog post promoting a particular service and you’re linked to that service twice in that blog post. If you can measure which of the two links get the most clicks you will have a better idea of where in the post people are more likely click when you write things like how many people who visit your site go onto contact you, how many of those end up hiring you, where you appear in search results, the keywords, all those kind of things are things that might be useful for a freelancer. It’s up to you to choose your own priorities and they’re going to be different for everybody.
LH: And it’s a good idea as well to make sure that all your content areas say, your newsletter, your website, your emails, your blog are all pulling their weight, perhaps at least once a year I would say give it a good spring clean.
PW: Yeah, if you have an email newsletter but you also have other ways to reaching out to customers then measuring the relative success of them all can mean that if you discover that literally nobody opens your email and newsletter, nobody cares.
LH: Oh dear.
PW: Nobody subscribes and even those that do send it straight to spam then you know that that’s not an effective way of reaching your own clients. So you can put all your energy into your other ways of doing it. Choose your priorities they may change over time and that’s fine, getting a good baseline to start with is the only way to tell if you can improve or not or if you are improving or not. And measuring different things from different areas will give you a wide overview.
LH: Definitely and it’s…you know it’s tough being a freelancer we only have a limited amount of time as anybody does really. I think we can be kind to ourselves here and say I think we juggle a lot of plates and a lot of very different plates. You know we do external work, we do our admin, we do our business developments sales, finances, we’re everything to our own businesses so you don’t have time to work your bum off on your email newsletter and your blog and your website and everything else that you do to try and attract business. So as Pip says it’s good to be able to know what really doesn’t have a chance of working for you and what does because while it’s good to target areas for improvement it’s also good to know which areas are really going well and which areas are returning your investment basically because you don’t have all the time in the world as I say. You can’t spend hours and hours and hours trying to squeeze three followers out of that email newsletter that really is not working for you. Instead it might be well more worth your while in writing another blog post.
PW: Yeah, so we’ve looked at why you might want to track data, and we’ve looked at the kind of data you might want to track so obviously the big question is how to go about measuring your effectiveness. Now this in many ways can be complicated or as simple as you want it to be, often all it takes is a spreadsheet or a paper notebook or a word processor file in which on the left hand side be it in a spreadsheet column or a margin of a piece of paper you write down the things you want to track and then maybe a list of months and so you can say, “I want to know where I appear in the Google search results for the search term ‘freelance writing’,” and so you’ll have that in your left column. And then in January, 1st January, 1st February, 1st March, etc. you just write down or type out your results each month. It can be that simple.
LH: Yeah, I think for people who aren’t naturally statistic savvy and I count myself in your number comrades it really can seem like a daunting task but the good thing about measuring your contents effectiveness is that I know we’re saying this a lot today but as Pip says, like we’re really on the same page with this, even just checking whether your monthly numbers went up or down is better than nothing, it’s much better than nothing.
PW: Yeah, there are also fairly easy tools like ways you can measure your traffic for instance and if you are doing that then something you might want to measure is for instance what time of day new posts are more effective at. So in terms of how to measure that, if you have a spreadsheet with different post, different times of day you just write down literally how many views you got, it can be that easy, at different times of day and then if you notice that your 4pm posts gets loads more than your 9am or your 10pm posts then go with it. So you can just in terms of how to measure write down numbers. There are other things that make it ridiculously easy like if you want, if you’ve put a promotional YouTube video up, it’s so easy to measure the views you got because it just tells you underneath the video. So some things are very simple.
LH: Absolutely and going back to the point that you made about different times of day, that can also be widened out and have a look at different days of the week as well. And what’s nice about things like that is that so many people have trod the path before you, you can easily go on Google and have a look, have a look, have a look at people similar to you, have a look at the copywriting blog because they’ll be a lot of information and a lot of visual information, what we’re talking graphs, pie charts, line charts, whatever showing when people are most likely to click on, on entertainment blog posts or informative blog posts or when people are most likely to be on Twitter and therefore around to see your link and click on that. You don’t have to start from scratch so you can do your research beforehand and think, ‘Okay, well 10am on Wednesday it looks like it’s a good time, I’ll try that and also 4pm on a Friday looks like it’s good so I’ll try those two times.’ You know stand on the shoulders of people who’ve done more than you because that’s why they put the information online it’s so people will read it and find it useful.
PW: Yeah, and as we will go on to talk about shortly there are plenty of tools of around that can help you do this you don’t have to start from scratch anywhere really because there’s always somebody who also want to see stats, who then built a website or a piece of software that could do it easily for them.
LH: Absolutely and you know if you’re looking to check whether the figures on your website or your social media views went up or down check things like website traffic on a week where you don’t post anything on your blog and then check it a week again after regular posts or compare the before or after figures you know from a re-vamp on one of your major web pages because no matter how scary you think statistics are and trust me they are terrifying seeing where the numbers, like the number of visitors, the time they spent, the pages they visited, the links they clicked went up or down that’s within even most people’s reach.
PW: Mm, mm, definitely.
LH: Even we can manage that dissonance, just about.
PW: And so a lot of what we’re talking there is understandable about measuring your digital reach because that is the majority of what most copywriters do now. However you will still do some print type work. With something printed it’s not quite as clear cut you can’t track where somebody’s mouse moved across a page because they’re not using a mouse. And unless you’re going to go install iTrackers on people it’s not going to happen. So what we’re going to look at briefly now is also some of the ways you can measure how effective something that goes out on paper is for you.
LH: Yeah, and no worries we’re not going to be talking about sticking iTrackers on people or chasing people down the street and watching which bit of your leaflet they read first.
PW: That’s probably unethical and it’s certainly bit too energy intensive.
LH: I was going to say forget ethics I’m just tired, it’s cold, it’s dark I’m not running after anyone. So in terms of measuring the effectiveness of your print media and this tends to be particularly advertisement copy, things are as Pip says a little trick here but it is still worth bringing in a bit of digital and a bit of tech to help with matters. So don’t think just because your words ended up getting printed out that you’ve got to start keeping a big paper notebook full of receipts and you’ve got to start tracking people down and using a biro to scribble down on a piece of paper what’s going on. Say you’ve written an advert for a company and it’s gone in the local paper or you’ve drafted them a flyer and that’s been handed out in the local area there are certain ways to deal with the incoming data that will help you to demonstrate that you’re print media is having positive effects.
So firstly you can use a dedicated sub-domain on your website and what I mean by that is that you can designate a certain page for recipients or viewers of your print media to visit so say for example you have a lawnmower sales person who has a leaflet handed out, you can create a page on their website with lawnmower promo as the sub-domain so lawnmowers.com/lawnmowerpromo and pop that on your leaflet so that you know that any clicks to that or the vast majority of clicks to that are going to be generated from the interest in your print media.
Second idea you can use a coupon code, everyone loves a coupon so you can actively track who’s been attracted by your media. So if you say to people come to the website and fill in such and such for access to our special promos or access for our latest information, anybody who enters the coupon code has undoubtedly got it from your print media.
PW: Yeah, there’s…if you offer something special really for using that coupon code it’s going to have a far greater chance of success. If you just say, “Use this coupon code for our information,” then they won’t really have any motivation to do that but if you say, “Use this coupon code for £10 off.”
PW: Or, “Use this coupon code for a free…” what were we doing lawnmowers for a free, I don’t know…”
LH: A mower blades.
LH: Green mower blades.
PW: Then people are far more likely to use it and as long as you have tracked which coupon codes are connected to which leaflet then you’re alright. If they come in with coupon codes and you can’t remember which one went with which then it’s a waste of time. But yes offering some kind of incentive makes it much more likely that somebody will bother finding the coupon code on the piece of paper.
LH: Definitely and sometimes it can be difficult from experience it can be difficult to convince your company client to give sign offs on freebies. So what’s sometimes easier to get a sign off on is giving people a chance to win a freebie but you’re not using giving everybody a discount or a freebie.
PW: Yeah and also something to bear in mind is that you can do that as a test. If you send out three different flyers each with a different coupon code and you find that the vast majority of your orders come from flyer number one then the discount code you’ve offered for that run will cost you some money but from the next run of flyers onwards you just know to print exclusively flyer number one and you don’t necessarily need to offer a discount code then because you’ve already done your testing to see which is the most effective leaflet.
LH: Definitely so there are ways and means. And people as we said previously people will give you a lot more information if you offer them something in a way of an incentive. So never underestimate that option. And the third option in terms of measuring the effectiveness of your print media is simply to ask people where they’ve heard of you, to instil that in people at your client company or in yourself, to instil it as good practice to ask people where they came across you and it’s not so difficult you don’t have to act like it’s a massive survey. You can simply say to people. “Oh thanks very much for getting in touch can I ask where you’ve heard of me?”
PW: Yeah and you know what we’ve been talking about codes and tracking domains and this can just be you know, a really easy alternative to that. Just say, “Did you get our flyer? Was it the red one or the blue one?” You know, “Was it…did you see our ad in the paper? I don’t suppose you remember which paper it was?” You know that’s it problem solved.
LH: That’s it, keep it human you know, and in the next excel file will go a long way in helping you with this. If you have, I have one big excel file and I use it for all sorts. I’ve got lots and lots of different tabs in it, lots of different sheets. And if your phone goes and it’s a new client simply click through to the right sheet, take their details down which is great for future business opportunities anyway because you can always get back in touch with them and say, “Do you remember we were in touch in September, just wondered if there was anything I can help you with now?” which kind of feeds back into Pip’s last podcast episode about boosting your business development. That you can simply take down where they came across you.
PW: Identify initially what the most important stats are that you could gather don’t waste your time tracking everything go for the key things that will match up with what you need to know and in a way that can build your business.
PW: Now we’ve mentioned spreadsheets and even just a big piece of paper to keep track of these things. But also as we mentioned earlier there were some tasks where they are incredibly useful tools that take all the hard work out of it for you. You might want to I don’t know write down every day how many people visited your website. Whereas in fact there are plenty of tools that will just tell you and you can click on, you know you install them and then you click on any day and you can look at a graph over a period of time and actually doing it by hand creates extra work for you. So what we’re going to look at now is some of those tools that take the hard work out of it for you.
Now one that has improved considerably in recent times is if you have a Facebook page because Facebook page analytics used to be quite difficult to access and quite complicated.
LH: Yes, it was quite clunky wasn’t it?
PW: Yeah it’s called ‘Insights’ and ‘Page insights’, and if you go into your Facebook page you can click through to the page insights and see quite easily a lot of information so for instance you might want to see what type…you might be wondering what type of posts are the most effective and whether you know perhaps posting a video gets three times the number of views as posting just a status update or posting a link might get a lot more click throughs than posting an image for instance. You can look at all of this, what you know, you can look at the kind of posts that lead people to unlike your page for instance. If you know somebody just saw your 18th image in a row and hit a wall and left.
You can look at which posts have the most reach, so perhaps have the most shares appear on people’s timelines the most. There is a lot of information and there is now relatively easy it’s quite well presented these days. So looking at our A Little Bird Told Me Facebook page, now I can see that certain posts have much higher engagements than others. If we took even just 20 minutes to properly analyse this we can use that to shape what we did in the future to maximise engagement with the page, so Facebook page insights is well worth a look. On your website itself you should have social sharing buttons so that people can… you want to make it as easy as possible for somebody to share your site or your blog on Twitter, Facebook wherever and if you’re going to install those buttons what is worth doing is making sure that the ones you install incorporate information about the number of clicks they get. So if you use WordPress which I know both of us do, there are a million different social sharing plugins, have a look through and find one that tells you how many times a post has been tweeted, this can tell you a lot.
LH: You got me thinking with what you said about measuring your Facebook page effectiveness. You got me thinking about a recommendation that you gave a couple of weeks back I think, maybe about a month back and that was for ShareGrab.
PW: Oh yes.
LH: ShareGrab listeners, ShareGrab is basically a tool that allows you to emulate the Facebook activity of a successful organisation. So say you have a look at a competitor freelance writer or you have a look at say a copy blogger who obviously do the most amazing content and have super number of click throughs and brilliant engagement and you think, ‘I need some of that because my Facebook page is rubbish’, what ShareGrab will allow you to do is to have a look, it will give you a snapshot of the effectiveness of that Facebook page and allow you to analyse what works and what doesn’t work quite as well and what was successful and what wasn’t and use that kind of information to shape your own Facebook page activity.
PW: Yeah, yeah well remembered.
LH: Well thank you.
PW: Now another really effective thing to measure is how many people are clicking on links. Now there are lots and lots of different URL trackers available. My saver is one called ‘Pretty Link’ where you can create custom URL’s and then the number of times they are used is tracked. And so if for instance we, say Lorrie and I had made some kind of podcast promo that was going out, what I could do is create three different URL’s, one could be Philippawrites.co.uk/podcast, one could be Philippawrites.co.uk/freelancepodcast and one could be /writingpodcast for instance and if during the different promos we use a different one each time what we could look at afterwards is how many clicks each of those got and therefore which was most likely to be the most effective of the three promos. This is really useful. The Pretty Link is also useful because you can create those pretty links which is why it’s called that. So say you have a really long affiliate link that’s just a series of letters and numbers that looks funny and horrible then you can easily and quickly turn that into whatever you want that to be really.
LH: Yeah, visually appealing links is so much more important. I mean look at Google+ and the vanoity URLs at the moment; that’s going down really, really well isn’t it, because instead of a random collection of numbers and letters.
LH: You’ve got something that is just easy to remember, it’s nice to look at.
LH: You can easily see what it says and just type it in and people, this will make a massive, massive difference to your click through rates.
PW: They really held up, held out a long time before giving those. People have been demanding them for years. So we’re…
LH: Have you noticed small print as well?
PW: I’m not sure.
LH: They’ve put in the small print that you don’t own your vanity URL.
PW: They, well you don’t own anything if it’s on a third party site, so. The final tool I want to mention for the time being is one, again one of several that allows you to measure your position in search engines, certain key words. Now there’s a lot trickier these days because searches are personalised a lot so if I search for restaurants chances are Google will give me a good number of restaurants in Sheffield, whereas if Lorrie searched for restaurants it will give her a good number of restaurants in Manchester. So it’s not easy to say these days, “I am number one in the search results for restaurants,” because everybody gets different results based on their location, based on their previous searches, based on the things they search for a lot. However it’s still a good thing to have a general idea of, you know, are you on the first page of Google. And so if you want to see where you’re ranked for you know, for particular key words around what you do, you know, I wouldn’t bother for most people to try and be on page 1 for ‘freelance writer’, for instance.
LH: No, it’s going to take you a while I think.
PW: Incredibly competitive but if you can go more specific perhaps you region or a particular topic you specialise in then it’s good to have a general idea about whether you’re on page 1 of the search result or page 25. You know even though results are personalised these days there are still trends that you want to keep an eye on are you generally going up or down in the rankings. Rankerizer is one of the tools available to help you measure this and what you can do is input a series of key words or key phrases and then choose whether you want it to check Google, Bing or Yahoo or all three and then you just hit run and tells you where your position for each of those, for each of the key words. And it’s good to get a general picture of how you’re doing in terms of your SEO.
LH: That sounds brilliant, very, very handy tool. And as Pip says, it’s good to have a general idea, don’t get obsessed that you know, don’t stay awake at night going, “Ah I was number three and now I’m number four.”
LH: You know because it’s, things change and as Pip says with Google being more and more intuitive nowadays results are personalised so what is number three for you is going to be number four for someone else is going to be number ten for someone else.
LH: You know there are ways and means it’s just good to know so that relative to your own previous results you were doing well. So have you gone up the rankings have you gone down the rankings. Obviously if you’re on paid work 35 for freelance copywriter in Manchester then it’s probably a bit fishy.
LH: But as we say just keep an eye on it. Now one method that I really like, what with me being a stat phobe sometimes as we said Pip and I both use WordPress as our base for our website and I use the WordPress stats plugin and what that does is it adds a nice little page to your dashboard which is your control centre really in WordPress and shows you nice lots of pretty graphs and bar charts and numbers and it highlights the important ones for you, it is so friendly. And it tricked me back in the day when I was new in having a website, it tricked me into thinking that I had a good handle on things. You know it’s handy, it’s really handy because you can see what your best day was for views and where people came from. It will tell you where in the world you are having the most clicks from, it’ll tell you what pages they visited, inbound clicks, outbound clicks, all that kind of jazz. And if you do nothing else then at least get that installed on your WordPress website because it’s a nice, friendly introduction and it just, speaking from my own experience it let me see that alright maybe stats aren’t evil and maybe I can possibly bear to look at some more.
PW: Yeah, when I first set up my website I studiously set up Google analytics because it was what everybody was doing and Google analytics is a kind of thing where you can see how many people visited your site or you can see the most ridiculous detail you can imagine. And Google analytics is quite an imposing, intimidating interface if you don’t know what you’re doing. So I switched to a plugin that sounds very similar to the one that Lorrie’s described it’s called ‘New Stat Press’, and what that gives me is actually the information that I realistically need rather than whether the person visited my site was drinking tea or coffee at the time they were there, which Google analytics is pretty much capable of. New Stat Press yes, it gives me numbers, it gives me referrals which is how people find the site and my favourite bit of it is a little thing called ‘Spy’.
PW: Where you can follow how people navigated your website. So for each visitor it will show you which page they arrived on, which links they then clicked, so which page they went to next.
PW: Which page they went to after that and then which page they left your site from.
LH: You see I might be ready to graduate with that.
PW: Yeah, I quite like that it’s called ‘Spy’, because that is what you’re doing, you are spying and it’s fascinating, it’s a…I could use it for a lot more useful things but as it is it mainly just makes me feel, you know…
LH: Powerful. You might be on my site but I know what you’re doing.
PW: That’s it and so if you want, if you’re using Google analytics and you like it that is great go with it.
LH: It is fab isn’t it?
PW: Oh it is.
LH: It is it’s handy.
PW: It’s so powerful but if you find that you’re avoiding it because it intimidates you it’s not actually the only option.
LH: And it’s not an excuse not to have anything either.
LH: Because as we said all the way back at the start of this, even if you just measure the basics it’s better than nothing it’s so much better than nothing.
PW: And all of these things we’re mentioning we will link to in the show notes so go to alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com for a link to the WP stats plugin that Lorrie’s mentioned to you know, everything that we’re talking about basically. So there are more stats options for your sites than just Google analytics, you may well be relieved to know.
LH: Yes absolutely go for what you can handle, you know as I say when I started out with just a wee tiny blog WP stats was perfect because it wasn’t scary and I don’t even remember downloading it, I didn’t even know what a plugin was at the time, it was years ago. So it’s just a part of it, I was like “Aah look that blog post has so much love,” and I didn’t realise that was measuring the effectiveness. I didn’t realise that’s what it was doing. I was just like, “Aah I have so many clicks, this is brilliant,” but as I’ve gone on obviously I’ve started to realise that I can use the information in a more intuitive way and to build on my own content marketing strategy and as Pip says, you can graduate from tool to tool. And incorporate more information as you are able to handle there’s no point having thousands and thousands and thousands of stats if you don’t know what to do with them or if you don’t have time to do anything with them so just do what you can handle.
PW: Yeah because it’s better, despite what analytic snobs may say, it’s better to have a simple tool that you use than an incredibly complex tool that you get so scared of that you never even look at.
LH: Absolutely, we’re not about being snobs are we, we’re just about improving things in a way that you can manage. Measuring things shouldn’t be a whole new terror and fear and horror to add to your business it should just be something that helps you to stream line your business and make things easier and stop you wasting time. So if you find that you’re spending hours weeping over Google analytics going, “I don’t know what I’m doing,” then don’t do it. Quite simple, so to finish I thought we’ll touch a little bit more on some on the major social media platforms.
Now Google+ has becoming more and more important in terms of SEO but one of the tricky things about Google+ is that it has the same functionality as Facebook in the sense of you can have a profile for an individual or you can set up a page for a company but what a lot of companies are actually doing particularly freelance writers and people similar to that, they are actually just using profiles because you can tailor your output on Google+ so that different post and different updates are only visible to different audiences. So I think a lot of companies, correct me if I’m wrong Pip but a lot of companies are finding that there’s not really much point in having a separate page where they can just tailor their profile output.
PW: Yeah, Google gets determined about pages and then starts limiting access to things and it’s good to get because Google+ interface and permissions and all of that changes so often because they’re trying to optimise it themselves that it can be quite confusing to keep track of what you’re allowed to do on a profile versus a page and you’re right a page, a profile, are generally much easier to manage and so businesses are tending to stick with those.
LH: Absolutely but the thing with having a profile is that you can’t quite measure the return in investment as well as you might be able to from a page. So it’s all very simple it’s definitely worth being on Google+, it’s absolutely worth being on there and it’s worth linking your website to your Google+ account. However the way to measure the effectiveness really would be via other tools so using URL tracker, using, you know, putting outbound links from your Google+ profile to your website and then tracking the inbound links to see what’s come from there.
PW: Exactly, yeah.
LH: Because in terms of tracking things that are based in Google+ I think really the only way you could do that would be to see how many people have added you to circles and how many plus ones you’ve had. So Twitter, Twitter is the one that remains, there are lots and lots of ways to track your activity on Twitter. I use something called ‘Tweepi.com’ and it’s not the most intuitive but it’s just something that I found handy when wanting to build my followers organically because I don’t know people do still do this, they still buy 30,000 Twitter followers.
And it looks so natural, listeners, totally it looks so, so natural you know, when I see somebody who is in the same kind of line of business as me and they’ve Tweeted six times and they have 35,000 followers I hit the spam button, just a slight note of warning there. I will not engage with somebody who has 30,000 followers most of whom are eggs. I just won’t it’s annoying.
So what Tweepi will allow you to do and it’s nothing particularly useful but you can see when people that you’re following have last tweeted so somebody who’s not tweeted for three months you can just get rid of them and just follow somebody who’s more worth your while. It will let you see who’s following you back, it will set, let you see who’s following you but you’re not following, you know sort of allow you to reciprocate; you can emulate the followers and followees of certain people who have influence. Although you do need to do your own research and see who’s doing well on Twitter and who isn’t, it can really allow you to shape your Twitter activity and to position yourself in a particularly useful sphere. And I think one word of warning that I want to give regarding Twitter and I think Pip knows what this is going to be.
PW: Go ahead.
LH: Is tracking your un-followers.
PW: I know what this is going to be.
LH: Now there is a tool, I think, I’m going to check while I’m recording this actually, I think it’s called ‘Un-follower me’, ‘Un-followers.me’, I don’t for the life of me know why people use this, it is beyond me.
PW: There are a few aren’t there that do the same kind of thing?
LH: Yeah, I’ve just ‘Un-followers.me’ into the search bar and the predicted results have come up, “Un-followers tracker Tumblr, un-follower checker, un-follower Instagram and un-follower hater,” and that is exactly what it is actually, you are…oh this thing, listeners if you’ve not come across them it will…
PW: Where have you been?
LH: Well yes, one, where have you been? And two what they do they allow you to see who’s un-followed you say in the last week on Twitter.
PW: And that is fine, that is something you may want to keep an eye on.
LH: That’s fine as long as you’re not obsessive about it.
LH: Indeed, however… what these tools tend to do, I think there must be a check box somewhere that people don’t un-check. What they do they send out automated Tweets saying, “Ice checked how many people have un-followed me this week, it’s ten and I know who they are,” and it’s outrageous, I mean you’re basically telling people that I got un-followed because I was boring and I’m potentially going to threaten those people. It’s just dreadful it’s completely dreadful, you can easily use something like Tweepi to see quietly who un-followed you.
PW: Without the passive aggressive tweeting about it.
LH: So you can easily check who’s un-followed you using tools like Tweepi, you know you can have a subtle look. And if you find that somebody important has un-followed you, say a client or somebody you were hoping was going to become a client, you can maybe subtly Tweet them in a few days, “I just…”
PW: Don’t ever say to them, “I’ve seen you’ve un-followed me, why?”
LH: No, God forbid, no never.
PW: People do.
LH: I know it’s just, oh it breaks my heart every time I see it and it also causes me to un-follow people, I un-follow anybody who has automated ‘I got un-followed’ messages. I do, it’s ridiculous, it’s dreadful, dreadful, dreadful, dreadful. So you can easily track whose un-followed you on Tweepi and what you can do is just re-engage with that person subtle. You know send them something of use. Don’t try and you know, openly get them to re-follow you again but just indicate to them that you’re useful, if it’s worth your while, if it’s not, if it’s just some randomer who’s un-followed you then people get bored they want to know about different things, it may just be that you’re not their cup of tea for now.
PW: Another very useful tool that, well it’s not so much about measuring your efficiency it’s a good way of being more efficient quickly through stats. There’s a tool called ‘Tweriod’ kind of…
LH: They keep pushing these words on.
PW: Yeah, I know it’s pushing it isn’t it? But what this does it’s a very simple tool, you sign in with your Twitter account and it analyses your Tweets and your followers Tweets and simply tells you the best time of day for you to Tweet.
LH: That’s really good.
PW: And in terms of doing it when most of your followers are online and the most responsive and that’s a kind of great use of Twitter stats really. It’s very simple it does just what it says it’s going to do, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles but if you want to know when the most effective time is for Tweeting your latest blog post or your latest opinion, Tweriod is the kind of thing that can help you work that out.
LH: Absolutely and I think to sum up it’s important to say that these tools are the most effective only use them in conjunction with other tools.
PW: So much, I was thinking that when you were talking about using like your URL trackers with Air Google+ the same applies to Twitter, the same applies to Facebook.
LH: Yeah, email marketing as well.
PW: Exactly all of these tools are best used if combined with each other really.
LH: Absolutely and what you need to do is come up with a package of tools really that suits you. So if you find that you use Tweepi and you hate it, don’t use Tweepi. If you find that you go for Pretty Link but you don’t like it, have a look at Bitly or Ow.ly, is it Ow.ly?
PW: Yeah, yeah.
LH: Have a look at those see if that suits your needs. You know have a look at WP stats if that doesn’t work for you have a look at what was yours? Was it News Stats Press?
PW: Stats Press, yeah.
LH: Stats Press there are ways and means and if you build up a suite of effectiveness measuring tools you can start to just integrate that into your daily activity, you can start to really build up a picture of yourself online. And as Pip mentioned earlier there’s no point looking at Google analytics in all its glory if you only need to see a corner of what it does. There’s no point having a look at…it’s the same when we talk about social media isn’t it? There’s point being in Pinterest if you’re not going to update it, there’s no point being on Vimeo if you’re not going to upload anything.
So don’t go and think I need to measure everything, you literally just need to work out where you go and what you do online and offline occasionally and then work out how better to track information and keep in mind why you want to know that information, and how it’s going to be useful to you. Don’t just start collecting facts and figures for the sake of it but find stuff that’s useful to you.
PW: Yeah and if you’re metric measurement routine takes you four hours a week you’re not going to keep it up. So much as we were saying use simple analytics tools if they help, you know if they make it more accessible to you. Similarly don’t set up a procedure that’s so onerous that you’ve not got time to do anything else, be realistic, find out the things you really need to know that will really benefit you.
LH: Now the New Year is coming up fast and we will be doing another podcast episode just as we did last year. I can’t believe it’s a year ago on setting goals and setting yourself targets and objectives and realistic aims for 2014, just to get your business into the swing of things. So this has really been a bit of an introduction to that. If you can get a good handle on how your business is doing and whereabouts you’re positioned online and what you could do better with and what’s going okay, you’ll be in a much, much stronger position when you come to setting your goals for next year.
PW: Absolutely, and so now it is time for the Little Bird recommendations of the week in which Lorrie and I pick something to share that have caught our eye that we think our listeners might enjoy. And so Lorrie what is your recommendation this week?
LH: My recommendation this week is a lovely little tool called ‘Pay with a tweet’, and I was thinking about it because I’ve been re-doing my website but I’m having a big, big overhaul and it just seems like website content is never done doesn’t it?
PW: Yeah I added a few pages a few weeks ago and my plan was to add a few pages a week and it’s, oh it’s such a job.
LH: It is, it’s a huge, huge job and because…
PW: Especially considering we’re writers and this is what we do for a living, it’s surprisingly hard to get it done on your own site.
LH: Oh God yeah, you know if I let my clients know how onerous this has been for me, oh my God I can’t write anymore web content and yet when I do it for other people it’s fine. It’s just I think talking about it yourself is quite hard.
PW: Yes, it is. Like I’m sure if Lorrie and I swopped and I did hers and she did mine we’d get on much better actually.
LH: Absolutely why haven’t we done that?
PW: I don’t know it’s only just occurred to me.
LH: Give us a break, I was sitting there at eleven o’clock last night going, “I must finish this page.”
PW: Yeah, it’s like if you’re at somebody else’s house you don’t mind washing up after a meal but at home it’s a really horrible job.
LH: Yeah, I did that I went to the in-laws the other day and I washed all the dishes then I came home and there were some pans to wash and I was really angry with my husband and he hadn’t done them, I have to wash pans. So when I was busy tootling away on my own website I was starting to think that I wanted to build up my mailing list a little bit more in the coming year and a good way to do that, listeners, is to offer people a freebie.
As we’ve said earlier people love a freebie so it can be a free guide to something, it can be a white paper, it could be a mini e-book, you know something that makes them want to give you their email address. So that’s a really good way to build up your mailing list but then I thought well actually it’s not all about getting people on your mailing list because email marketing is only one side of things and I quite like what’s happening with my social media feeds, I’m doing quite alright with my social media. So it seems sensible to maybe put some eggs in that basket as well which brings me to my recommendation which is ‘Pay with a Tweet’, now what Pay with a Tweet will allow you to do is to give people access to something on your website if they tweet about it.
PW: Ah ha.
LH: Or also if they update it on Facebook for example you can also pay with another social media post. So if people share the link to and the information about the object that they’re wanting to get their hands on they can get access to a download link.
PW: And I believe you can set your own text for what that’s going to say?
LH: You can, they can alter it of course. If you can’t set, you can’t set text that they can’t alter. But you know you can set text that includes SEO content and your, say your Tweeter handle and a link to whatever they were wanting to download from your website.
PW: Yeah or a good hash tag.
LH: Definitely so…
PW: I think like Lorrie said people will be able to alter it but a lot of people won’t bother.
LH: I know.
PW: So it’s worth thinking about crafting that message quite carefully.
LH: Definitely, so yes, once they’ve clicked send on that Tweet it will start the download for them and they will get whatever white paper or guide or report or freebie that you’re offering them and you will have a nice fact social media share.
PW: Which, you know, is great, it’s social proof but it’s also just it expands your reach a bit. If 50 people want to get hold of Lorrie’s white paper and 30 of them Tweet it and 20 of the post it on Facebook then all of their followers and all of their friends, you know, get a glimpse of what Lorrie has got to offer and a number of them will click through and will also go, “Oh I quite fancy reading that,” and will do the same it’s kind of potential for virality isn’t it really?
LH: Absolutely and if you make sure to include your Tweeter handle in the Tweet you’re going to get a notification every time somebody does that and that means you can build up your following, you can start to interact with people who’ve actually come to your website so potentially interested people. You know they’re on your website, they’ve spent enough time on there to be interested enough to download what you have to say, that’s a warm lead.
PW: Oh definitely, definitely, it’s so much easier to interact with somebody who’s actively interested than to build up a cold lead. So I just really liked the idea of ‘Pay with a Tweet’ and although it seems at first okay Tweets maybe not as valuable as somebody’s data, you know, their name, their email address, I do think it can be quite valuable so that is my recommendation this week.
PW: I like it very much.
LH: Thank you I thought you would. So Philippa, Philippa my love, my lamb what is your recommendation this week?
PW: My recommendation this week is a great article about a weird, new little feature that we’re seeing in grammar.
LH: Why do you always find the weird things? You’re like Queen Weird.
PW: This is brilliant, right it’s about…and you’ll recognise this as I say it but it’s about the fact that ‘because’ has become a preposition.
PW: And you will, you might, it might sound like “What?” but you’ll recognise it, people will say something especially on Tweeter, like “Turning off my alarm clock because weekend!” or “I’ve got three jumpers on because winter” and this is catching on I see it more and more and more and I’ve used it myself I have to admit it just seems a little bit quirky and a bit kind of implies a sense of urgency or importance.
LH: Yeah because hipster.
PW: It’s just quite cute and anyway and so this is something that anybody with an interest in language will have noticed once and a while, you know that usage but what this article is just a brilliant and in-depth and long look at why this has happened, how it’s happened the kind of way it’s being used and there’s a…
LH: I love these kinds of cultural linguistic things.
PW: Absolutely and it’s, he has listed a load of Tweets things like, “Not in the UK yet because aaah,” “Falls on bed and cuddles pillows because tired,” and “Guy closes a record hive for 35th time this year because Obama,” and so it’s something…
LH: It doesn’t stop being funny for some reason…
PW: No it doesn’t, that’s it will at some point get tiresome but at this stage it hasn’t. And this is a really nice writer of how it’s working, why, you know why it’s happening, what…the implications are and yeah, it’s…I should give, it’s on a blog called ‘Sentence first’ and Irishman’s blog about the English language. The blog post I got is because it’s become a preposition, because grammar and of course I will link to it in the share notes but if you’re interested in words which you are because you’re listening to this you will want to read this post.
LH: Absolutely I love that.
PW: I Tweeted the guy who wrote and I said something like, “Everybody’s got to read this because awesomeness” and then one of his friends went, replied to me and said, “It’s great that people keep tweeting because traffic,” and then he, the author replied to me and this just went on and on and on it can run and run and run.
LH: Brilliant, no I really like it and I, like I say want to hate it but I can’t.
PW: I know because we know…
LH: Because what?!
PW: Because we know as you know as linguists or people interested in language, that language is constantly changing and evolving. And we also know as writers and proof readers that that can be really annoying. There are things that change in language due to decades of errors that eventually just become assimilated and become correct, even though originally they were errors and this is incredibly frustrating.
LH: Oh yeah the earth was decimated, ooh.
PW: Exactly, so people like Lorrie and myself that is a really annoying thing to come to terms with. However this is another example of grammar constantly changing and evolving and it seems directly informed by the internet as well which makes it doubly interesting in my…
LH: It’s true isn’t it?
PW: …in my geeky brain. But we do, the fact that language is evolving it always does it’s, so it’s doing so now and this is one example of it that, that it’s more interesting than just the…like things like ‘decimated’ like Lorrie says, that gets people very annoyed because it’s used in a way that isn’t what it originally meant. The point that now it’s usage has essentially changed but this is just a bit more quirky and a bit, a bit more, I don’t know…
LH: You know I think it’s interesting I had my dad round for a chat the other day and for some reason we were talking about, oh it was dad jokes of course, of course it was. My dad like most other dad’s in the universe can tell really, really bad jokes and I’m kind of scarily kind of turning into him as I get older. But we were talking about humour and there are certain things that are funny because internet basically.
PW: Oh yeah definitely.
LH: Hash tags there are certain, you know somebody using a self-effacing or witty hash tag. My dad will never understand why that’s funny, memes they are specific…
PW: Oh yes.
LH: …internet humour and then jokes…
PW: Yeah when somebody says, “Ain’t nobody got time for that,” that makes no sense out of Tweeter really.
LH: Absolutely, you know and if people speak in lol caps speak, you know that can be quite funny or people will add like an ironic hash tag onto the end of something then you can “oh lols,” that’s so funny. It would be funny to you because you know the context almost without knowing that you know context. You simply have acclimatised to an online world.
PW: Yeah and I mean on a much more basic level there are people now who will say, “Lol,” instead of laughing, you know and that, I hate that, like if it’s funny either laugh, you know, if it’s funny laugh don’t say, “Lol.” And yeah the thing, yeah means it’s spread outside of the internet like Lorrie says, if we met up and we would laugh at those things but if my mum and Lorrie’s dad were involved they wouldn’t have the first idea what we were laughing at.
LH: No because there are so many references, I mean things ‘like a boss’, I love ‘like a boss’.
PW: She does, she uses it in every email she sends me and that’s not an exaggeration.
LH: Let it be said I do not use it with clients. Honestly hire me and I will write your website copy like a boss, like a boss, like a boss. But I don’t know why I find it funny, I don’t even really know where it’s from but I’ve seen so many uses of it that are so funny and so many stupid pictures of seagulls standing on other seagulls heads captured with ‘Like a boss’, that it’s just embedded in me that this is funny. So it’s really strange isn’t it how language evolves, I really like that recommendation because it’s nice to go back to roots sometimes and get a bit of pleasure in language again.
PW: And you know, it’s one of the reasons we’re writers, it’s because we really like words and we really like the way words are used.
LH: Yeah because it’s a creative job at the end of the day, you know, we can talk all we want about stats and metrics and things but inherently it’s a creative job and you need to stay creative and you need to be able to keep track of what’s going on because as we say we’re mostly digital copy writers and if you can keep your finger on the pulse of what’s funny and what’s current on the net, you can turn it to your advantage because I mean look at the at blog post title, ‘Because has become a preposition because grammar’, that caught your attention immediately.
PW: Yes absolutely and it was…
LH: So just…
PW: …it was incredibly widely said, so it wasn’t just me being geeky this is something people could relate to, you know, languagey people because words and you know if you’re not sure what a preposition is then read it and you’ll find out what a preposition is.
LH: Oh God yeah.
PW: Yeah it’s good because it’s detailed and it’s very geeky grammatical but it is also humorous and something that makes you nod a bit and think I know what he’s talking about.
LH: Perfect recommendation.
PW: Thank you very much. Now if you’d only given access to it by Paying with a Tweet it would have brought both our recommendations together perfectly.
LH: Could you imagine the perfect storm. And so there we are it’s the end of episode 64 of A Little Bird Told Me. Now what we want you to do is head over to alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com and subscribe. We know we say this a lot but it’s because we know you’d be terribly sad if you miss one without realising, it’s for your own good.
LH: Yes we’re saving you from yourself.
LH: Come and have a look at our Facebook page too, we are on there we chat, we talk, we offer advice, we offer support and we confetti bomb people who do well and tell us about it, so come and have a nosey, we’re at Facebook.com/FreelanceWritingPodcast so we’re nice and easy to find, vanity URL for the win because it’s easy to share. So that brings us like a boss very much to the end of a little bird told me, have a wonderful day, thank you so much for listening, I have been Lorrie Hartshorn.
PW: And I have been Philippa Willitts and we will see you next time.