The Truth About Your Blog Stats

If you’re new to Google Analytics or confused about how to use it effectively to help grow your business then chances are know your blog statsyou (and your pocket perhaps) may benefit greatly from understanding fully what the numbers really mean and how to use the tools to help you gather intelligent info about what is making or breaking your website.

When I first took a look at my numbers utilizing the Google Analytics tool, I was completely perplexed.  Yet, the information offered some mystery that I knew I had to further evaluate.

Statistics…What???

I don’t know how but by some miraculous reason I managed to ace my Statistics 101 class in college.  However, the numbers I was looking at behind my website just seemed like a whole different animal. And if you are anything like me, I couldn’t scream help fast enough before my eyes started rolling back into my head and I was overwhelmed with trying to make sense of the seemingly important data that was flashing right before my eyes.

Thankfully, I have a great mentor who not only offered some guidance but also has a Blog Statistics Workshop replay that helps break down the numbers into edible pieces. This allowed me to understand what it all meant in order to work efficiently on getting more traffic.

It is true for many of us who run businesses online that our Google Analytics tool is the go to place for reference in order to see what our website traffic looks like.

But when you get there, wouldn’t you want to know what the numbers really mean? Why they’re so important? And what that information tells you about the health of your site?

In Know Your Blog Stats,  Kelly discusses the significance of  this information and what it tells you about your readers.  If you think you already have what you need, take a look at this article I read in Inc magazine where it describes how you may actually know less than they think about your website’s analytics.  

Billions Are Connected

There are billions of Internet users across all continents around the world. I think it comes to no surprise that the number keeps growing by the day. This means that as time goes on, there will be more businesses competing with each other online and more people available who can potentially be your customers.

Many people have come to rely on the Internet as a referential point in making a decision about something.

Think about it. How many times a day do you “Google” something, look something up for a review or attempt to make a decision about a fancy restaurant you’ve never been to without first searching for it online?

Because of the prospective of reaching an extraordinary amount of people online, businesses have vested interest in developing solid marketing strategies that are competitive in nature and produce the desired results

How do businesses produce results?

By learning about what is working in their business and doing more of it while identifying what is not working in order to trash it or tweak it as deemed necessary.

What can you do to figure out if your blogging is working? [Read more…]

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Sparkplugging Podcast Episode #107: Making Affiliate Offers To Your List

Free access to Season One of the Sparkplugging Podcast has expired.  You can purchase the full set of Recordings and Transcripts here.

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It’s the seventh episode of our Sparkplugging Podcast and we’re moving on with our List Building topic.

You’ll be hearing from me, Kelly McCausey, and my Round Table of Super Friends:

round-table

Affiliate Marketing is a great way to test out topics and products with your list to see what sort of things they’ll be interested in buying.

Nicole points out that when you make an affiliate offer, your list gets a chance to ‘vote’ with their checkbook.  It’s the most valuable feedback you can get.

Susanne encourages you to protect your list and make offers that tie in with the sort of content they’re used to getting from you.

I loved how Nicole points out that she shares things with her list that she believes they’ll enjoy whether there’s an affiliate program or not.  It’s all about delivering value first.

I asked the Round Table good questions like, ‘How often should you remind your list about an offer?’

When you’re done listening to this, you’re going to be inspired to give affiliate marketing a fresh effort in your business.

Meet the Round Table in Atlanta this August!

The NAMS Workshop is coming up August 9, 10 & 11 in Atlanta and as David mentioned in this episode, you can break up your Ticket purchase into four payments.  Check it out here.

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I Heart AWeber.comNeed to start building your list? We recommend Aweber!

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Make Beautiful Optin Images with Box Shot King:

See Kelly demonstrate BoxShot King here.

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The Converting Visitors to Revenue Interview Series :: Rosalind Gardner, Net Profits Today

Converting Visitors to RevenueThis installment in the Converting Visitors to Revenue Interview Series is a true honor, as I am super-pleased to present the queen of affiliate marketing herself, Rosalind Gardner of NetProfitsToday and she also writes a column for Revenue Magazine.

When I first started building my online business, her Super Affiliate Handbook was my startup bible. To this day it remains one of my most highly recommended affiliate marketing learning resources, because Rosalind is so honest, down to earth, and is vigilant about making sure she helps people run an ethical and profitable affiliate marketing business. Honestly, she is one marketer that I am just dying to meet in person someday.

Rosalind, you have been affiliate marketing for a long time, and the internet has changed pretty drastically in that time. How have your conversions changed over the years, and what is the most important lesson you have learned in that time about getting things to convert and keeping them converting for longer periods of time?

In industry terms, it has been a long time indeed. I celebrated my 10th anniversary on January 1st of this year and because it’s been so much fun and so lucrative, that I have every intention of doing another ten. :-)

As for my conversion rates, they have actually improved over the years as I’ve learned more and more about the business world in general and marketing in particular.

I think the ‘most important lesson’ about achieving higher than average conversion rates is that it is a lesson most of us learned at our mother’s knee — and that’s just to be honest.

It really is that simple.

I like to connect with my site visitors and newsletter readers on a highly personal level and share the ‘honest goods’ with them about products and services that are relevant to their interests. I say exactly what I think about whether a product is incredibly useful or downright junk… and often use highly emotional language to convey my like or intense dismay, i.e. “It’s Crap! Crap! Crap!

Because many affiliate marketers are unilaterally positive in their product assessments, the result is that many of my long-term loyal readers report that they will not buy a product until they have read my review.

Increasing conversions over the long term is therefore about building long term relationships through honesty and trust. The spin-off benefit of this approach is that I never have trouble sleeping at night. :-)

When you launch a promotion, new product or service now, what are some of the things you do every single time to ensure that your chances of getting the sales are the highest possible?

I don’t really have a formula – although perhaps I should!

However, I would say that the one element that remains consistent from promotion to promotion is having first-hand experience with the product.

When I haven’t had access to the product but still feel that it’s worthy of promotion, I tell my readers that I haven’t personally used the product and will justify the mention with a quote and link to my trusted source of information.

For example, just as I was looking for a new camcorder, I learned about the Flip Ultra through one of Shawn Collins’ posts in which he included a sample video from his camcorder. I knew I needed one and blogged my excitement about having discovered and ordered the little gem on my Roamsters.com travel blog.

Although this approach may result in sales for the original reviewer, it effectively increases the ‘trust factor’ which is again my primary m.o.

If you were a blogger with an excellently written article/review with affiliate links in the post, how would you go about promoting that post?

There are so many different ways to promote your entire blog or individual posts, but I usually stick to those that I find least time-consuming, including having a list of recent entries in my sidebar and producing a weekly digest of posts for newsletter subscribers who are not subscribed to my blog’s feed.

If a subject continues to be raised over a period of time, I’ll often refer and link back to the original post from new entries. And on rare occasions, I’ll link back to the post from a comment that I may post to another webmaster’s blog.

More from this series:

Jim Kukral, The Daily Flip

Darren Rowse, ProBlogger

If you would like to request that I interview a particular person for this series, or want to be interviewed yourself, please email me with the details such as name, URL, and why you think this person (or you) would make a good addition to this series on Converting Visitors to Revenue.

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PepperJam Launches New User-Centric Transparent Affiliate Network

I’m so excited for my friends over at Pepperjam! Today they are announcing the launch of their new transparent affiliate network, Pepperjam Network.

What is a transparent affiliate network? Well, with the other affiliate networks, it is difficult for publishers to work directly with affiliate merchants, and it is difficult for advertisers to get access too affiliate data and communicate effectively with publishers. PepperJam’s new network offers live chatting for affiliates and advertisers, as well as improved technology and tracking over their competition.

The founder of PepperJam is Kris Jones, who built his empire as an affiliate marketer. He knows all sides of this business, at times bringing in 7 figures a MONTH from affiliate marketing. Kris and I met last year at Elite Retreat, and his presentation was one of the best of the conference.

They are also launching this network with some impressive brands, including Blockbuster, Jelly Belly, AeroGrow, Oscar de la Renta, BabyPhat, Rocawear, and even SEOmoz.

By the way, joining the Pepperjam Network is free, just like any other affiliate network. So go and join right now and find some great new products to promote on your site. If you want to learn more about affiliate marketing, check out some of my favorite posts on the subject:

How Do You Make Money from a Blog? Affiliate Advertising for Bloggers

Ask eMom :: What is the Best Way to Start a Home Business Online?

Affiliate Marketing Lessons Learned from Merchant Mistakes

Home Businesses that Work :: Affiliate Marketing

Evolution

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How Do You Make Money from a Blog? Affiliate Advertising for Bloggers

This article is Part II of a series on How to Make Money from a Blog. The first article was How Do You Make Money from a Blog? A Beginner’s Guide to Internet Advertising.

Last week I talked about the different internet advertising models for making money from a blog: Affiliate Advertising, CPC Advertising and CPM Advertising. Let’s dive a little deeper into the details of affiliate advertising for bloggers.

Although you can put affiliate ads on your blog from day one, there are a few things that you need in order to make money from affiliate ads:

  1. You need an audience (site traffic) that is interested in a specific topic
  2. You need to select the right affiliate offer for site visitors
  3. You need to present an affiliate ad in a way that compels your visitor to click on it
  4. You need a tracking system in place to understand and analyze what converts into a sale with a merchant and what doesn’t

Step 1 :: Building a Targeted Audience

Although this is critical to the success of affiliate advertising, this basic step is important for all money-making strategies (and not just for blogging). You must have a specialized niche and topic for your blog that will draw a unique audience to your site.

This doesn’t mean that you can only write about one thing. Even though this is a home business blog, we’ve even gotten away with writing about Harry Potter, social networking for babies, and Nelson Mandela without ever straying off-topic – as long as you find a way to make a topic relevant to your audience, you can make it work (and never get bored writing!).

For more on building targeted traffic read:

An Introduction to Social Media Strategy and Socially Driven Content

My 8 Hours As A Blogging Socialite

Do You Have a Seasonal Search Engine Optimization Strategy?

Step 2 :: Selecting and Promoting the Right Affiliate Offers

I wish I had a magic one-size-fits-all answer as to how to know what is a great affiliate offer that will convert into a sale. But the only way to figure this out with your blog and your audience is to test, test, test. When I first started out, I thought that mail order home office products & furniture would be a natural fit with the site readers – I never made a penny off of the hours of work I put into building that dang affiliate store.

On the flip side, I also never would have thought that a measly $3 commission would ever add up to much. But I have found that this free local advertising listing offer from MerchantCircle.com has been a consistent revenue performer for all of my blogs for many months in a row, adding up nicely over the long haul.

For more on getting the right affiliate offer in front of the right visitor:

Affiliate Marketing Lessons Learned from Merchant Mistakes

How I Grew My Blogging Profits While My Traffic Numbers Went Down

Step 3 :: Ad Placement and Choosing the Right Ad Creative

While it is fairly easy to slap some banner code into your template, it’s not so easy to have that convert into an affiliate commission for your pocketbook.

Although I do have banner ads on my site, honestly the best way to get an affiliate ad to convert into a sale is within the text of your post. It’s especially important to “pre-sell” your reader on the product or service you are promoting. Reviews, testimonials, or how-to articles have been the best performing ways to promote affiliate offers. An example would be the recommended resources in Top 10 Internet Home Business Ideas You Can Start and Run in Your Underwear.

Generally speaking, text ads perform better than banner ads. But banners can and do work well, depending on your niche (the more tech-savvy your audience, the less likely they will click on a banner ad).

Other ways to promote affiliate ads, in order of best to worst performance:

  1. Place a text ad within a post, but separate from the content such as this:
    Placing text ads within a post is a great way to draw attention and clicks
  2. Place an ad between a post and your comment box. (Actually, I prefer to put Google AdSense ads here because the click-through justifies it).
  3. Place an ad in one of these areas recommended by the Google AdSense heat map (the darker orange is the preferred placement spots):
    Use Google’s placement suggestions for better banner advertising performance
    (Thanks to Beau for the reminder that Google has a different recommendation for blogs!)

For more on ad placement and advertising strategy:

Monetize Your Blog Like an A-Lister

Step 4 :: Track and Analyze!!!

The most valuable things I have gotten from blogging for a year and a half have come from the mistakes I have made. As I could see what didn’t work over time, I was able to adjust and change things to find out what did work.

As you build traffic, you can start analyzing the sources and understand what is the best place to promote your revenue-generating content. Social media traffic is fantastic for readership, page views, and SEO, yet is terrible for affiliate marketing.

Most affiliate networks will give you great stats in regards to how well your ads convert (from views –> to clicks –> to sales). Commission Junction gets my top award for the best analytics, which also offer trend graphs so that you can see your clicks, impressions, earnings, etc. over time.

For more on using analytics to optimize your affiliate advertising:

Increase Your Blog Revenue with Analytics :: Part I

Increase Your Blog Revenue with Analytics :: Part II

Recommended Resources

If you really want to learn affiliate marketing, there are two products that I recommend extremely highly – and put out by people who have made lots more money than I have at it. If you put into practice what these people teach, I guarantee you will make your money back and then some:

The Super Affiliate Handbook by Rosalind Gardner

I can’t recommend this book more highly. Rosalind lives her mission to help other affiliate marketers succeed, she’s one marketer you can trust for great advice and her book really delivers what it promises.

Affiliate Classroom

For a more hands-on learning experience, try the Affiliate Classroom. They have a full resource site, tutorials, case studies and an active community of affiliate marketers. And considering you can try it for $1 for the first two weeks, you really have no excuse to not give them a go. :D

Related Reads

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How Do You Make Money from a Blog? A Beginner’s Guide to Internet Advertising

This is the first post in a series on How to Make Money from a Blog. The second article is How Do You Make Money from a Blog? Affiliate Advertising for Bloggers.

Most of the regular readers of this site know quite a bit about making money from a blog – some of them more than I do. But when I talk to people outside of the blogosphere, the most common question I am asked is, “I don’t understand how you make money at blogging, how do you do it?”.

The short answer is: Advertising.

The long answer is: There are so many kinds of internet advertising and different programs & networks that a person new to blogging or web publishing can get rapidly overwhelmed with the idea of learning more about it.

A Breakdown of Major Internet Advertising Models for Blogs

Most advertising options open to publishers (bloggers) fall into three main categories:

Affiliate Advertising

These are text links and/or banners you add to your site, which pay the publisher if a sale is made on the merchant’s site.

Pro’s:
Even the newest of websites can get accepted into most affiliate programs run by merchants.

If an affiliate ad is targeted well to the site visitor’s interests, affiliate advertising can pay quite well.

Con’s:
It might take you a while to figure out how to target ads well. Until then, you will be basically running someone else’s ads for free.

You can’t control a shopper’s experience on someone else’s site, so you could work hard to send well-targeted visitors to a merchant’s site, only to have the sale fall through due to any number of ecommerce missteps they could make along the way.

Best resources to get affiliate advertising on your blog:

CPC (Cost Per Click) Advertising

These are text links and/or banners you add to your site, which pay the publisher if a site visitor clicks on the ad.

Pro’s
CPC ads provide a bit more consistent income than affiliate ads.

You are paid simply for the fact that you sent a visitor to a merchant, whether or not the merchant makes any money.

Con’s
AdSense is the leading CPC advertiser, and ad-blindness is only getting worse.

Despite promises of AdSense riches, a very high percentage of publishers never make enough money from AdSense to justify a continuation of displaying their ads.

Best resources to get CPC advertising on your blog:

CPM (Cost Per Impression) or CPT (Cost Per Term) Advertising

These are banners you add to your site, which pay the publisher for every time the ad is viewed on a page, or for a set period of time (i.e., per month).

Pro’s
These ads are the most profitable, because the publisher will get paid as long as they continue to display the ads.

These ads provide the most reliable and stable income; nearly all major internet destination sites make their money from CPM advertising.

Con’s
You have to have a fairly established site and following in order to be an attractive option for advertisers. Benchmarks usually start around 500 unique visitors a day or 25K page views a month.

Most merchants won’t even look at a site under 1 million page views a month, which is quite out of the range of most blogs (including this one!).

Best resources to get CPM or CPT advertising on your blog:

Next week, we’ll start to discuss how to use these different advertising methods effectively on your blog. For now, I’ll leave you with a short list of commonly used internet advertising terms so that you can start understanding the terminology as you do more research.

Internet Advertising Glossary

Above the Fold
A phrase used to describe all of the information visible on a page without scrolling down.

Ad Network
A company that works with multiple advertisers and to match them with smaller publishers. They offer a great deal of value in connecting independent publishers with large companies. Usually they have built automated systems to make it easy for advertisers to screen potential ad placements, and for publishers to leverage a mass audience to connect with large income opportunities.

Ad Rotation
The process of rotating ads in a single spot on a web page. This can be tracked and adjusted to give more impressions to better performing or more important advertisers.

Ad Server
A software program installed on your hosting company’s web server that delivers, regulates, tracks and sometimes automatically optimizes advertisements on your site. They can also be set up so that advertisers can have access to their own statistics and can upload new ads on their own.

Creative
An ad industry slang term for the actual ad that is seen by a site visitor – used as a noun, rather than an adjective. “Can you send me the creative for this ad campaign?”, meaning the actual banner, or the text used in the ad.

CPM
Cost Per Impression – An advertiser pays a certain amount of money per 1000 ad impressions.

CPC
Cost Per Click – An advertiser pays a certain amount of money for every ad click.

CPA
Cost Per Acquisition or Action – An advertiser pays for every sale or lead that was generated from their web site. Also generally known as PPL (Pay Per Lead) and PPS (Pay Per Sale)

CR
Conversion Rate (or Ratio) – The difference between how many times an ad was clicked or viewed vs. how many times that click or view actually turned into a sale, a lead, or a desired action (like a subscription).

CTR
Click-Through Ratio – The difference between how many times an ad was viewed vs. how many times an ad was clicked.

Geotargeting
Serving ads to only a certain geographic area or population segment

Interstitial
This is a somewhat intrusive but highly effect ad format, in which a full page advertisement is loaded in between two pages of content.

PPC
Pay Per Click – Usually refers to search engine advertising, the sponsored links that appear when you do a search. These advertisers pay for each click they get.

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