Crazy Egg Danny Brown

Anyone that follows this blog regularly will know there’s a wee bit of a running joke at how often the site design changes.

What started out as a semi-regular update (say, once or twice a year) to keep the look fresh, and the content front and centre, has become almost as regular an occasion as Facebook platform updates messing up everyone’s privacy settings.

Now, while I’m really happy with the current design and the way everything flows, there’s a reason behind the recent design changes, tweaks, and community feedback – simply, data informs our decisions and user experience.

Yes, gut instinct comes into play too, but when it comes to content and how that’s displayed and acted upon, for me data analysis, community feedback and AB testing is key. Here’s why.

The Data of Trends

The world is ever-changing. What we found popular and best practices 10 years ago is nothing like the best practices and popular trends of today. Heck you could halve that timescale at least, and find we move in a constantly-changing cycle of new trends, methodologies and preferences.

This is particularly true when it comes to content.

While there are several areas where the consumption of content has changed in recent years – curation, syndication, and accessibility, for example – perhaps the biggest game changer is how advanced mobile browsing has become. For example, in a study from June this year of U.S. consumer habits:

  • 76% access social networks, with 46% using a mobile browser versus an app;
  • 68% access news sites, with 63% using a mobile browser versus an app;
  • 56% watch video, with 58% preferring to use a mobile browser versus an app;
  • 41% read/access blogs, with a whopping 75% using a mobile browser versus an app.

Make no mistake, mobile is fast becoming the default browsing option for many of the platforms where we create and share content today. If we’re not ready for that, we’ll lose visitors, readers, subscribers and customers.

Web access preferences

From my own analytics, mobile visitors now make up 27% of my audience. If my site wasn’t set up to accommodate these folks, that’s a big potential loss in traffic just waiting to happen.

From that angle, and from the continued advances in the way people consume content on the web, the move to responsive design was key.

The Data of Analytics

I’m a data geek. It’s what got me into marketing to begin with, and it’s what drives me today. By understanding the data we have access to, we can make informed decisions on pretty much everything around us.

When it comes to content, that’s a given – or should be. It’s the one single biggest piece of advice I recommend whenever people are talking about blogging, whether they’re new bloggers-to-be, or existing ones: always be tracking and watching your analytics.

Analytics are key for several reasons:

  • They offer knowledge into how your content is being received and where it’s lacking;
  • They offer information about your visitors and their behaviour on your blog (entry point, pages visited, actions taken, exit points);
  • They offer actionable insights into improving your audience reach, interaction and participation (comments, shares, subscribers, downloads);
  • They offer opportunities to new audiences, based on external discussions (trackbacks, bookmarks, referrals).

Simply put, without analytics, you’re essentially producing content in the dark, whether that be blogging, video production, podcasting, or similar. And if you’re doing that, you’re wasting good resources that could be put to better use elsewhere.

From my own analytics of the first half of this year, the following became clear:

  • While traffic was good, people weren’t staying on site long enough;
  • The entry page was usually the same as the exit one, so people weren’t exploring;
  • My bounce rate (how long people stay on site) was horrendous.

DB JanJun13

Digging deeper into my analytics, especially around the stats highlighted here as concern areas – Pages Visited, Duration of Visit and Bounce Rate – a few things became clear.

  • The incentive to check out other pages wasn’t prominent enough;
  • Certain “drivers of traffic” were doing anything but (more on that shortly);
  • The content wasn’t conducive to long stays and participation.

Clearly things had to change. So they did.

  • I changed to a design that had a sticky navigation menu, where the Page tabs would follow you all the way down the post. This increased additional page clicks;
  • I stopped using Triberr, the content curation / blogger platform;
  • I deliberately changed to longer form content, as opposed to the standard 300-600 word approach.

The results? While it’s just one month’s analysis, they’re encouraging (click to expand).

Dashboard Danny Brown

As you can see, the three key metrics I wanted to improve have done so:

  • Pages per Visit rose from 1.40 to 2.23;
  • Average visit duration rose from 1.09 to 1.37;
  • Bounce rate dropped from 81.45% to 35.68%.

Now, it’s early days, but the signs are good. If I keep tracking where visitors hover their mouse/keypad, and what actions encourage them to stay on-site, I can optimize even further and improve these stats even more.

The Triberr thing? I applaud the guys over there for what they’re trying to do for bloggers, but I’ve been finding – both myself, and with other bloggers I talk to – that Triberr is referring less traffic, and simply adding to social proof.  The number of tweets may be up, but the desired action – traffic to the blog – isn’t.

Indeed, Triberr placed at a lowly #73 for traffic sources, and accounted for a mere 9 visits in the last 30 days.

Triberr Google Analytics

Then again, looking a little bit deeper into one of the larger Tribes I was part of, it perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise that the level of traffic provided by Triberr was so low.

Triberr inactivity

As you can see, the activity within the group is very low, and it almost appears that people have left, or forgotten about the group, or simply don’t share anymore.

Looking at my own Google Analytics, visits from Triberr had a high bounce rate and low site duration time, so by removing that option, it added to the positive impact on these stats.

However, this is my own experience, and I’m sure Triberr woks well for some folks.

The Data of Community

For any content creator, but especially bloggers, the community around the content is hugely important to the success of the blog. Without a community, there’s pretty much nothing there except a part of the web that’s for an audience of one.

From regular readers to occasional commenters, and discussions elsewhere via Twitter discussions, Google+ threads, Facebook wall comments, etc., a community not only helps promote content, but improve its creation as well as its presentation.

This was evident from the excellent feedback and suggestions I received when I implemented my new design last week. After finishing, I dropped an update on my social networks, asking for thoughts, feedback and suggestions – and got great advice.

  • On Google+, marketer and blogger Ana Hoffman mentioned the font size of the headlines looked great on mobile, but looked too big via desktop browsing. After analyzing, I agreed, and dropped the pixel size down a few points. And Ana was right!
  • On Twitter and by email, social strategist Mila Araujo really delivered, with some great advice on dropping the Archives tab for a Topics one (to improve access to content), as well as advising of some areas that weren’t showing up on mobile. This information helped immensely, as did the suggestions to offer a separate tab for each of my books, particularly useful for mobile browsing.

By asking for, and acting upon, the fresh eyes of my community and their suggestions to improve the user experience, I was tapping into a rich source of data that helped improve the presentation of the content here, which should (hopefully) build upon the improvements on how it’s consumed.

Data is Everything and Everything is Data

Like I said at the start of this post, I don’t discount gut instinct at all when it come to making decisions. Some of the best experiences in my life happened because I acted on gut instinct over logical reasoning.

But for content, or for anything that has some form of marketing slant, for me data is everything.

By utilizing the data I had access to – archival analytics, visitor behaviour, trends in browsing, etc – I could immediately see where changes needed to be made. By accessing the experience within the community around this blog, I had even more data points from which to make choices to.

For me, this is invaluable, and can only help us grow, improve, and continue to make the user experience more enjoyable. Which, at the end of the day, is what really matters, no?

image: Marketing Charts

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31 comments
Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Katinokai  Hey there miss, Great to see your good self here! Yeah, the future excites me - seeing how far we've come since social first became mainstream, and what data we now have access to, can only point to an incredibly insightful future.  Having said that, I do worry about where the grey area between what's accessed is crossed, and when acquiring data to help our customers is actually just beneficial to the business accruing the data. Time will tell, I guess. :)

Katinokai
Katinokai

Loved this, Danny.

8 years ago (cue harp for flashback sequence), I was a QA lead in mobile content publishing (video games). When I think of what I've seen since then (the birth of social media - FB was only in it's 2nd year, the 'app' as we know it, huge jumps in device technology, and usability trends in general) it amazes me. 

It is definitely cool how data drives tangible innovation, and in turn how essential it has become to adopt ultra responsive business and marketing models to harness those trends and perpetuate new ones. I often wonder where we are heading, and where we are in the action/reaction cycle. It also makes me wonder what you'll do to your site next. 

Wait...is that harp playing again?

PS. I've subscribed. :) 

Katinokai
Katinokai

Loved this, Danny. 8 years ago (cue harp for flashback sequence), I was a QA lead in mobile content publishing (video games). When I think of what I've seen since then (the birth of social media - FB was only in it's 2nd year, the 'app' as we know it, huge jumps in device technology, and usability trends in general) it amazes me. It is definitely cool how data drives tangible innovation, and in turn how essential it has become to adopt ultra responsive business and marketing models to harness those trends and perpetuate new ones. I often wonder where we are heading, and where we are in the action/reaction cycle. It also makes me wonder what you'll do to your site next. Wait...is that harp playing again? PS. I've subscribed. :)

DannyBrown
DannyBrown

jpippert Yeah, well, you're the Twitter Queen, so.... ;-)

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

I can see how this longer form content is keeping people longer. Wow. this was super helpful. I just upped your average visit duration and pages/visit stats. :) 

There is so much to talk about here, and interestingly enough, like many of other commenters, I'd like to talk about Triberr. I am not getting meaningful interaction or traffic BUT.... I do get a lot of social shares, and my philosophy on that, as a new blog, is it helps me to gain some traction via SEO (social shares) and a right now, all the traffic just helps. So I guess it depends on what everyone's unique situation, and what they are trying to achieve. But I'm curious to know if you think I'm off base in my thinking?

And I think the site looks great. I am all about clean and simple - easy to read and find.   

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

I am still happy with Triberr but it is not what it used to be for me. It is a great reader and tool for introducing me to new blogs but it doesn't send traffic like it used to, not even close.

But some of that is probably tied into there being so many different channels and blogs to compete with.

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR

I get what you're saying about Triberr; absolute. I'm not seeing the amount of traffic or comments from Triberr as I used to; in fact, it's done an incredible job of keeping peeps on its own platform so no one comes to the blog site any more. Now that Triberr is getting into the influence game, as well, it's more dilution of bloggers' original focus.

For me, Triberr remains my Reader; there's nowhere else I can get the variety of bloggers and breadth of content as with Triberr (of course, I'm over-tribed in 27 tribes). 

I am not a reblogger nor am I a Triberr comment user. That's where I draw the line as I am writing my own original content daily and those who use reblogging are eliminating their community. 

So, on to a few things...you get the award. You're a fashionista with this redesign thang. Unreal. Yep, I cannot fathom how you do it and if you're doing it yourself. 

One tip you may consider is that the font in the comment section is huge; have never seen it so large. So glad you're sticking with Livefyre, too!

AmyVernon
AmyVernon

As usual, great stuff. My biggest problem, of course, is that I don't blog enough on my own blog. Which is lame. But a lot of things in here really resonate with me and sort of cement some of the things I've been thinking. On Triberr, for example, I've been reading articles without leaving the site - I click on the headline and the entire post shows up there. So even though I'm vetting posts before sharing, I realize I'm part of the problem and am not providing real value to these bloggers.

I have found tremendous value in Triberr in that there are several bloggers I became acquainted with due to some of the early tribes I was in. I'd like to think that I'd have found them otherwise, but I hadn't to that point, so there's that.

But I see very similar sharing stats in most of the tribes I'm in, and it's rather frustrating. It doesn't have to be share for share, by any means - that defeats the *real* purpose - but to see nothing from others? Harumph.

Anyway, love the new design, even though I'm a little late. 

Mark_Harai
Mark_Harai

This is an action-packed, kick-ass blog post, Danny!

Man, you're like a friggin digital ninja!

Well, I'm slowly lagging behind, but learning some of the invaluable insights in the data/info you point out in this post... It's right at our fingertips if you know how/ where to look :o 

My brain is slowly embracing 1's and 0's...  

HUGE design change - will be taking a look around (and getting some ideas).

It kinda has a 'dojo' feel to it :P

Thanks for sharing these valuable insights, Danny!!!

DannyBrown
DannyBrown

@joecardillo I think that's the first and only time in my life I've been called that. Can I star in the Point Break remake now? :)

Ana | Traffic Generation
Ana | Traffic Generation

I have to take this one bite at a time:

1. The headlines look much more readable; thanks for saving my eyes. lol

2. Triberr: I never expect much traffic from Triberr, but can't discount the "being everywhere" factor, social shares, and how those social shares actually increase my/your traffic from Twitter.

3. I like the Topics idea, but I'd love to see it fixed on the left - people will rarely scroll back up to look for more content, you don't have any related content under your posts, and there aren't too many interlinks in your posts, and unless I want to learn more about you or buy some books (that's what it sounds like anyway), I am out. 

4. Love your love for data! That's precisely why this is my fourth major blog redesign in the past couple of years. :)

danielghebert
danielghebert

Funny that you write this Danny, I just finished writing a report about two hours ago (before I read this) evaluating the performance of our website, and where/how it needs to improve. Used the same data-points as you, and came to similar conclusions.

Interesting to see how dramatic your results are after a month. :)

Danny Brown
Danny Brown moderator

@Katinokai  Hey there miss,

Great to see your good self here! Yeah, the future excites me - seeing how far we've come since social first became mainstream, and what data we now have access to, can only point to an incredibly insightful future. 

Having said that, I do worry about where the grey area between what's accessed is crossed, and when acquiring data to help our customers is actually just beneficial to the business accruing the data. Time will tell, I guess. :)

Danny Brown
Danny Brown moderator

@Lisa Gerber It's one of these questions that seems to elicit solid responses on both sides of the equation, without really giving a definitive Yes or No.

On the one hand, there are some great stats that show social signals do boost SEO. But then you have Google's own Matt Cutts jumping in and saying the correlation between Plus Ones and other social signals isn't necessarily causation for improved SEO.

So, bottom line - who knows? :)  

Though it does make sense that more social proof should equate to more visits, which should equate to more authority, right? Except when you have a poor driver of visits like the experience some folks here have mentioned when it comes to actual traffic from Triberr, versus increased shares but little else.

Hey ho...

Danny Brown
Danny Brown moderator

@Soulati | Hybrid PR Yeah, that was one of the main reasons I dropped out, Jayme - if it's not adding to traffic or interaction, but just making you have to click to be elsewhere to converse, what's the point? Especially when you can already have fantastic conversation on G+ that adds to the SEO factor, and Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/G+ that adds to the social factor? Especially given Livefyre drops in Facebook and Twitter conversations, and Comments Evolved for WordPress ties in the G+ factor. 

Hehe, re. the redesign, yep, did it myself last week, using Genesis/Sixteen Nine combination. I enjoy getting my hands dirty. :)

Hmm, Livefyre comments look same font size as main body text (the usual style I run with) - were you perhaps commenting via mobile and that made them larger?

Danny Brown
Danny Brown moderator

@AmyVernon Yeah, it (Triberr) is one of these strange beasts that's meant to be helping bloggers, but I can't help but feel it's often doing anything but. The lack of click-through, the meaningless social proof, etc. Like I said, I'm sure it works great for some, but for me it was a non-factor so no need to continue in its use.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown moderator

@Mark_Harai Ha, well I did study karate up to my brown belt, mate... ;-)

I think often we think there's so much data, it can scare us off from even starting to look. Think is, you only need to concentrate on the stuff that matters to you, and set these up as the goals you track. Everything else is gravy. :)

Danny Brown
Danny Brown moderator

@Ana | Traffic Generation Hey there miss,

Funnily enough, having the Topics on both sides of the navigation was one of the other suggestions @Milaspage made - so now that there are two smart folks suggesting that, it seems that's a no-brainer. :)

And this is why we're always testing!

Danny Brown
Danny Brown moderator

@danielghebert You know, you could have just pinged me... ;-)

So does that mean you guys are up for a redesign, or simply optimizing certain areas? And yes, while it's early days, the data seems to suggest significant results, so will be interesting to see how my second half of the year compares to the first.

danielghebert
danielghebert

@Danny Brown @danielghebert It could mean several things - there could be a redesign happening, or only optimizing in a few areas we see could improve. The second question is now about resources, budget, and time.

We'll figure out what the best solution is for us :)

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