Everyday Solutions – Website Analytics

Published on Feb 27, 2014   //  Business Topics, Did You Know, Marketing Tips, Social Media, Web Development

Welcome to BlueFur’s blog series: Everyday Solutions! This series focuses on quick and easy solutions for common problems experienced by website owners.

If your website’s goal is to help you earn money or attention of some kind, it is imperative to know how many people are visiting your site. And not only how many people are visiting your site but how many are returning visitors, where they are coming from, how they are getting to your website, and so on.

That’s what analytics solutions do for you; they give you information about your visitors that, with a bit of time and analysis, you can act on. Any analytics solution will also help you figure out what promotional methods are working, and which aren’t, ensuring you don’t waste time and money on whatever isn’t working.

So how do you set up an analytics solution? Chances are your host offers something basic like AWstats or Logaholic. These are great for getting started with some basic stats like number of hits (web pages viewed), unique visitors, time of day, and so on. They cannot, however, give you insight about how visitors are interacting with your site.

The behemoth in this space is certainly Google Analytics. Google acquired a well-known solution called Urchin back in April 2005, which eventually became Google Analytics. It is very powerful and has a decent learning curve for the more advanced reports, but generally it’s easy to use and integrate into your site thanks to CMS plugins.

That’s great, but Google Analytics can also slow down your site. Since it has to load code from Google’s servers, Analytics is often the culprit of slower load times. You also lose a bit of a control over your data, and even if you can export it it’s not likely to be useful in other solutions.

Mixpanel is a hosted solution that, while fairly new, has been very well received so far. They have a free tier for sites up to 25,000 data points/events, and the costs quickly go up from there. If you’re aiming to be the next Airbnb or OpenTable though, it might be worth the cost.

Clicky is another hosted solution that focuses on two features: real-time statistics and heatmaps. Real-time is self-explanatory. Heatmaps refers to tracking how your customers interact with your site on a page-by-page basis, giving you insight into where your users click, how often, where their mouse (and likely their eyes) focus, and so on. It’s also much easier to drill down into a single user’s actions, giving you deeper insight if you know how to use it. There is a free tier available as well.

heatmap_example

Example heatmap from Open Web Analytics.

Alternatively you can host your own analytics solution. For a long time Mint was the best alternative to Google Analytics. It has a one-time cost of $30 but you can see the money is well used to develop features and an interface that is very easy to use.

Piwik is a free, open source solution that gives you a lot of the power of Google Analytics and is very popular. The dashboard is entirely customizable, one instance can give you access to the stats for all the sites you’re tracking, and it gives you the vast majority of the stats you’ll need. It isn’t as helpful for e-commerce, but more than good enough for most sites.

Lastly, Open Web Analytics is in many ways a self-hosted, Google Analytics clone. It also features heatmaps, mouse tracking, and even some caching capabilities. If you adore Google Analytics but want to maintain full control over your data, and get access to some of the premium features without all the hassle, OWA is worth a look.

Suffice to say that many options are available, whether you want to offload the tracking to a third-party or maintain control over it. Happy testing and picking!

Everyday Solutions – Social Media Feather

Published on Jan 30, 2014   //  Did You Know, Marketing Tips, Social Media, WordPress

Welcome to BlueFur’s blog series: Everyday Solutions! This series focuses on quick and easy solutions for common problems experienced by website owners.

Whether you’re designing your first website, or redesigning your existing website, you have likely come to the realization that you need to make sure you take advantage of the exposure that social networks can give you, and want to make it extremely easy for your visitors to tweet, Like, +1, upvote, or share your content. You also understand that it’s important to make sure your visitors know where to find your brand on social networks. So what do you do?

Social Media Feather is a plugin that integrates with any WordPress theme to make it super easy for customers to follow your brand, while also giving them the tools to share your content with their networks. Some of the key features include:

  • Support for all the most popular social networks in Canada
  • Multiple skins available so that it feels like a natural part of your website
  • Support for high resolution displays, like Apple’s Retina technology
  • Full control over which social networks are enabled

With a quick copy and paste of a shortcode, you have enabled social sharing on your website. And you can easily show which social networks you’re on with a widget containing the logos of each, with links directly to your profile.

It doesn’t get much easier than that, especially if you’re using a WordPress theme that doesn’t include any social media features. There are other, similar plugins available, but we find Social Media Feather the easiest to use for website owners that need both the sharing and profile awareness pieces of this puzzle.

Everyday Solutions – Disqus

Published on Nov 20, 2013   //  Business Topics, Did You Know, Discussion, Marketing Tips, Social Media, WordPress

Welcome to BlueFur’s new blog series: Everyday Solutions! This monthly series will focus on quick and easy solutions for common problems experienced by website owners.

Whether you have a personal or corporate blog, there are two things that really matter: engagement and spam.

One is something you want to increase (engagement), and the other is something no one wants (spam). While many content management systems (CMS) come with a built-in comments feature, or built-in spam reduction capabilities, no CMS includes the measures to achieve the right balance of high engagement with low (or no) spam.

The solution to this problem is actually authenticated comments. Your visitors still have the opportunity to use pseudonyms, which many people value, but those hoping to boost their own profile get a very easy way to authenticate themselves and use their real names.

What is this magical tool that can help solve your conundrum? None other than Disqus.

Disqus solves the issues above by doing a few things:

  • Allowing your visitors to register for their own Disqus account, which is also usable on thousands of popular sites like Bloomberg, the London Free Press, and MobileSyrup.
  • Allow your visitors to comment using their Facebook, Google+, or Twitter account which makes it much easier for them to engage, instead of registering for an account only for your website.
  • Disqus lets users choose a pseudonym, allowing them to comment while also protecting their identity, thus increasing engagement.
  • To cut down on spam, you can require visitors to log in to an account of some kind, whether it’s a Disqus, Facebook, Google+, or Twitter account. This means spambots have no way to access your website’s default commenting system, almost entirely eliminating spam as a potential issue.

We won’t talk about them here, but Disqus also gives you ways to monetize your content, promote your content, and automatically adapts its discussion system for mobile devices. You want your visitors to easily interact with your site no matter where they are, don’t you?

One great thing about Disqus is that they offer a slew of integration options, including native plugins for popular content management systems and platforms like Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress. Disqus can also update the comments in real-time, allowing discussions to flow fluidly, which can increase the amount of time people spend on your website.

There are other, similar solutions to Disqus, which we’ll take a look at another time. For now, just know that the default commenting systems can easily be replaced with something far more dynamic that can solve some real issues your for blog!

Marketing 101: White Papers and Infographics

Published on Sep 29, 2011   //  Marketing Tips

Marketing can be a very complicated process, especially when your customers know that they are on the receiving end of the advertising. In the modern age of the Internet, fewer people want to be sold on something and more people want to be informed. That’s why while you still want press releases and killer product pages, you also need something more.

That’s why it can be a great idea to invest in creating a stellar white paper or infographic. This works almost like passive marketing, because it helps to establish you (or your company) as an expert in your field. You are providing the audience with useful or interesting information, and then they see that you are the source. This adds value and credibility to your brand.

In the case of infographics, good ones will oftentimes get picked up by popular blogs that report on your niche, whether it is related to automobiles, Internet marketing, the wedding industry, or any number of other areas. This again works as “free” advertising for your company, since your logo or brand name is attached to that infographic.

Best of all, you don’t really need to produce the infographic yourself. There are many freelancers on the Internet who are available to complete the entire process for you, including the background research, layout, typography, and more. Outsource to these professionals, have your name attached to the project as the official sponsor, and enjoy the passive brand awareness building.

Marketing 101: Pre-Roll or Interstitial

Published on Sep 22, 2011   //  Marketing Tips

There are more and more advertising opportunities on the Internet with each passing day. You can purchase advertising directly from a number of websites, just as you can advertise on Facebook and Twitter too. YouTube is another intriguing channel to consider.

There are two prominent video-based ad placements that could prove to be valuable parts of your overall marketing campaign. First, there is the pre-roll. Many popular videos on YouTube allow for a “pre-roll” video that is played before the main video. Some of these can be skipped after a few seconds, while others must be played through in their entirety.

The other big option is direct advertising with the content creators themselves. They can then promote your product or service in the middle of their own videos. You can see the Netflix interstitial in most of the newer videos from Epic Meal Time, for instance.

The question of which option is more effective is a tricky one. The pre-roll is played right away, but sometimes can be skipped. The interstitial can also be skipped by the very nature of fast-forwarding through that section. And both can be perceived as an annoyance by some viewers. What do you think? Which ad placement is more effective?

Marketing 101: “Up To… And More”

Published on Sep 15, 2011   //  Marketing Tips

Semantics and rhetoric play integral parts of any marketing campaign, not surprisingly, so you’ll find that the careful choice of words is incredibly important in all your advertising and web copy.

Recently, I came across a “promise” from a certain corporate consulting business that really didn’t promise anything. The wording on the front page of the website read: “We guarantee we will increase your sales by up to 300% or more in the first month.”

That sounds like a bold claim, but think about what they are really saying. Your sales can be increased by up to 300%, which means it could be low as 0%. Your sales can also be increased by more than 300%, according to this claim. In effect, the guarantee is saying that your sales could increase by any amount between negative infinity and positive infinity, a promise that promises nothing.

Is this deceptive? Perhaps, but it goes to show you that careful wording of any and all of your marketing copy can not only attract new customers, but also protect you in case you don’t achieve the results that are desired.

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