Interview by Christina Milanowski
I recently had a chance to sit down with Jeff Sauer (@Jeffalytics) to pick his brain aboutall things blogging, Google Analytics and, well, Jeffalytics. We’re so excited he’s on this year’s stellar line-up of Minnesota Blog Conference speakers! Read on to learn more about Jeff and catch him on October 12 in his noon breakout session.
1) Jeff, can you tell me more about your blogging background?
I started blogging as a college student, before I knew what a blog was. As a budding programmer, I created my own content management system for posting stupid thoughts on the Web and named it “random thoughts.” This started in the year 2000 at jeffsauer.com and has continued sporadically ever since. In addition to that site I have created somewhere around 100 WordPress sites for friends, family and clients and taught many others how to get started in blogging. My current focus is on two blogs: 1) Jeffalytics.com, where I share in-depth digital marketing research and case studies, and 2) Jeffsetter.com, where I talk about my travel experiences, how to earn points and miles and how to use points and miles for inexpensive travel. My next goal is to never be involved with another website with the name Jeff in it.
2) What do you plan on divulging in your #MNBlogCon talk about, “Using Google Analytics to become a better blogger?”
Most bloggers are either scared to look at their analytics reports or don’t go beyond looking at the number of visits their site receives. Heck, some bloggers don’t even use Google Analytics to measure what is happening on their site! They are in the minority, as 75 percent of all websites use Google Analytics to track website activity. My talk aims to empower bloggers to dive deep into the robust Web analytics offerings from Google and use this information to become a better blogger. Attendees will gain a better understanding on how they are faring with search engines, what content performs best, and how many people perform positive actions upon visiting their sites (e.g. How often goals are achieved).
I will also share a wealth of resources for making yourself more efficient with Google Analytics, share pro tips that are normally only reserved for advanced users, and give insight into how analytics may play a role in the future success of his or her blog. The key to future success is deeply rooted in your past performance. Using GA to inform future content choices is a key aspect of being a better blogger.
3) Many blog platforms already have analytics built in – what’s the best use of Google Analytics that supplements the most common blog metrics already accessible to them?
Most blog “stats” platforms are focused on page views. I view “stats” as an entirely different level of consciousness as Google Analytics. Stats can be used to build a report, but analytics can be used to tell a story. As bloggers, we surely understand the importance of telling stories, so it is best to ditch the surface level stats programs and move on to something more powerful. The stats built into blog platforms don’t show you the big picture and don’t even come close to allowing you to tell a story. They are focused on the “what,” whereas Google Analytics allows you to understand the “why.”
4) What is a metric from GA that most bloggers and website owner don’t know about, but should?
While there are many metrics in GA that are probably under-utilized by bloggers, I think that the most important thing to configure right away is tracking goals in GA. All bloggers should ask themselves the question “what is the purpose of this website” and then configure goals in Google Analytics to track how often your visitors are achieving that purpose. Once you start tracking goals in Google Analytics, every other report becomes much more useful.
5) What do you think are qualities of a GOOD blog or, conversely, a BAD blog?
A good blog is one that connects with loyal readers and provides a consistently engaging experience to visitors. A beautifully designed blog may not resonate with anyone, whereas the ugliest blog in the world may get hundreds of comments per post. I have found that the most successful blogs are not an island, but rather a participant in a larger ecosystem of like-minded people. Finding a niche is important for blogs and keeping posts on target with that niche are vital to building a loyal following. Sticking to a consistent schedule is also very important. This is the reason why I decided to separate my writing into multiple blogs, so that I can connect with each audience individually. Unfortunately, sometimes that has come at the expense of posting consistently.
6) Based on your background in search marketing at Three Deep Marketing, what do you bloggers need to know about drawing visitors through search engines?
While achieving large amounts of organic search traffic to websites is becoming more difficult as competition heats up and Google updates its algorithm, blogs are very well equipped for future search engine success by nature of what they represent. Blogs naturally produce content that is high quality, user focused and has strong engagement with visitors. Google is looking to connect searchers with the best possible result and well-written blogs with strong social media signals will perform well into the future. Try to write your posts in the language that people use in conversation and you will do increasingly well in keyword searches.
7) Recently there’s been a lot of chatter about what makes a great blog headline or email subject line (e.g. use numbers, personality, action words). What’s your two cents on the topic?
I seem to notice certain elements in blog post headlines that keep on showing up over and over again. List posts are extremely popular, but often over used. Conclusive words (like Ultimate, Complete, Definitive) often make posts sound formidable, but are now becoming a cliché as well. If you write a post that is 1,000 words, it is likely not definitive. That is, unless you are writing about how to tie your shoes. An amazing tool that I have been using lately to generate titles is the content idea generator by Portent out of Seattle. Simply enter your topic and you will receive more thought provoking post titles than you will know what to do with.
8) What was online and marketing like or defined as when you started your business, and what has it morphed into today?
When I first started in the business, the online marketing industry was not even 10 years old. While there were ample opportunities to make money online, there was an inherent immaturity in the industry. That immaturity came from both young entrepreneurs diving into the online world with minimal experience, as well as too little time for the industry to begin to mature.
Today the online marketing industry has just started to get out of adolescence and enter into young adulthood. That means we are becoming more mature every year, but we still have a lot of room to grow. As a business owner, it’s all about bringing our company into maturity by improving our processes for doing work while maintaining flexibility to adjust to an ever-changing world. It is the mature companies that will last the longest in the end.
About the interviewer:
Christina Milanowski is a blogger at MaccaPR and serves as social media director and account supervisor at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency. She serves on the planning committee for #MNBlogCon.