Why Didn’t I install Google Analytics Sooner?

There is one very simple reason why I have taken so long to install better statistics on my blog – working out what to do when you first start blogging can be overwhelming!

When I first set up this blog, I did google the topic which gave me lots of articles on all the different options I could use; including the advantages and disadvantages of each. But it was too much information. I just wanted to be shown – what to do, why to do and how to do it!

So I went with Sitemeter – which has been okay for my wiki but hopeless for my blog because it only provides me statistics on number of visitors and no other details (my blog does not support the javascript required to track important information like referring sites, pages viewed).

Thankfully, Darren (Problogger) rescued me by making me dig into my blog’s statistics this week for Day 11 task for 31 Days to Build a Better Blog – and I have now installed Google Analytics. It does have lots of features that are initially overwhelming – so here is my quick guide to help you understand why you should use Google Analytics and how can use it to get information which will help you be more effective!

WARNING – Google Analytics does provide much better statistics but it does takes 24 hours to display the statistics – so if I want to know what is happening on my site today I have to wait until tomorrow to check. Sitemeter displays the statistics in real time – if I have a sudden surge in traffic I know about it immediately.

Selecting a Date Range

This lets you see an overview of what has been happening at your site over a period of time, and you can compare it with a previous date range.

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Digging Deeper into Your Statistics

Google Analytics has so many options for you to look at – and different bloggers will be interested in different statistics depending of what they need to learn from their statistics.

Take the time to check out each option – and drill down into specifics (e.g. referring sites, top content) – to start to get a feel for what it all means to you.

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When you look into each option in more specific detail e.g. Traffic Source > Referring Sites you will be provided with greater detail. Make sure when you do this to keep an eye on Bounce rate (The percentage of single-page visits i.e. visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page. The lower the percentage the better – as it means they are reading more of your content!)

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Make sure you view your data in different views – because you will learn different information from each view!!! The option to change views is located about Bounce Rate.

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When you change to different views look out for the drop down boxes as they let you change the data type you are analysing!

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Check out referring sites!

How visitors locates my sites is important because it tells me how much traffic is coming from this source, how interested visitors being referred from these sites are interested in the topics I write on and occasionally I also learn great information from the referring site.

At the moment – twitter is my highest referring source – which is of no surprise to me as I believe twitter is moving blogging to a new phase!

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If I do not recognise the referring article I will often go and check it out.

The following image shows how an article on Google Reader Blog is linking to my site – it was automatically inserted in their article because I linked to this article when I complained about SlideShares being removed in Google Reader. And people are actually following this link to my site ROFL.

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Check out Top Content

Remember to keep an eye on Top content – it will tell you what people like to read and what may be attracting them to your site. Interestingly enough my post on UMPCs has the highest traffic – probably because it is one of the first in depth posts written on their use in education.

GETTING MORE OUT OF GOOGLE ANALYTICS

There is no way I can cover all the great information you can gain from using Google Analytics – there is just too much (apologies for the long post!). But I do recommend you watch Beth‘s video on Using Google Analytics! – she has some great tips (thanks to Michele for putting me onto this!).

What your blog looks like in different Feed Readers

blogreaderYesterday I showed you how your post looks to your subscribers when it is viewed through Google Reader and explained why it is important to subscribe to your own feed so you know what your posts look like to your readers. Today I decided to do a road test of the main online feed readers to show you how different readers can impact of how your post looks!

I tested, what I believe, based on checking various sources, are the top online feed readers (the order below does not indicate their popularity): –

Strictly speaking Netvibes and MyYahoo are both personalised homepages, similar to a Google Personalized Homepage however I have tested them as they are included by many sources as top feed readers for 2007.

Here is what I learnt from my Road test:feedburner.jpg

1. Not all the feed readers were actually able to locate the blog feeds

Regardless of if I used the feed from the blog or used the “Add to” from their FeedBurner feed it was not always possible to subscribe to a blog with some feed readers (MyYahoo could not locate any blog feeds, and Newsgator was able to locate Michelle but no one else’s blog feed I tested).

2. Personalised homepages, like NetVibes and MyYahoo, are not for serious blog readers.netview.jpg

Each blog’s feed is added as separate feeds on your personalised page. This method is ok if you subscribe to only a few blogs, but if you are a serious blog reader – you would not use them. Image shows how posts look using NetVibes

3. Google Reader, Bloglines and Netvibes are all very easy to use.

No need for me to consult an instruction guide. These readers will also automatically locate the feed for your site using your URL i.e. no need to locate the feed for the site all you do is add the blog URL and the reader finds it.

4. SlideShare PowerPoints are not displaying in most of the top readers

The only reader that displayed the Slideshare was NetVibes when you click on the link to view the expanded post. For everyone, like myself, that loves Slideshare, this is a real issue. I have sent an email to Slideshare asking for assistance. But in the meantime I suggest you let people know that there is a slideshare in your post and insert the URL to your slideshare.

5. Adding a FeedBurner feed to your blog looks like a good idea

As readers are subscribing to blogs using different readers, it is a good idea to use FeedBurner. However I do need to do more research into why some readers are having trouble subscribing to blogs.

My favourite Feed Reader

Google Reader remains my favourite reader because I use a Google Reader gadget that brings all posts from every blog (in order of date) onto my personalised Google homepage. This makes it quick and easy to read the latest posts. It is also quickly becoming popular with other serious blog readers – who are changing from Bloglines to Google Reader for these same reasons.

31 Day Challenge Update

Readers and bloggers are now both able to win in our Chocolate Challenge – read how you could win chocolate! Welcome all new bloggers that have joined us – I will update my list of participants tonight!

What does your blog looks like to your subscribers?

Have you taken the time to check how your blog looks to your subscribers? No! Do it – you may have a rude shock!

This is how I read your blog – through my Google Reader Gadget on my Personalised Google page. Your post needs to look good here not on your blog!

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When I see Read more! I normally do not read more – hence frequently don’t bother reading your post. With the number of blogs I read I just don’t have time!

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If you are really unlucky – your formatting (e.g. paragraphs, bullet points) is lost – dramatically affecting the appeal of your post.

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Look what happens to slides from Slideshare! This looks like a blank post when in reality there is a SlideShare here. Unless you let me know there is a great Slideshare here that I need to look at I will not realise that I need to go to your blog!

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If you have a podcast site you should also do the same. It was not until I put the feed of my podcast site through iTunes that I realise several of my episodes would not download in iTunes. Why because the name of the episode must be less than 64 characters (with spaces) .

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Thanks Gary for all your help and taking the time to give us assistance – and explain what is happening and why – when feeds go through feed aggregator – we do appreciate it. And thanks Tama it looks like I do need the Any key.

If you liked this post I suggest you check out my post on What Your Blog Looks like in Different Feed Readers!

31 Day Chocolate Challenge Update

My task for Day 7 is to Plan a Week’s Worth of Blogging Posts. Yes I am an impulsive blogger however take to time to read Darren’s post to see why it is worth planning your posts.

What would you like me to post on?

Do you have any suggestions on topics you would like to learn more about? Is there are series you are interested in me putting together? I am open to suggestions!

Why you should use Gmail and Google Talk!

When I first started using Gmail and Google Talk, I have to admit I was not really fussed about either. I mean really I already had two email accounts (work and home) – and who needs another account? Have been using Skype for years and love it why would I want to change? Besides I hated the fact that the emails and Google Talk collapsed on top of each other (oops to all those people I sent the wrong chat message to).

Well that has all changed for one reason!

SEARCH!!

Google in their wisdom has given us the one feature with the applications that makes them stand out from the opposition. The ability to search our mail or chat history and locate emails/chat that contain a particular word.

No longer do I need to remember who said what and on which day because all I need to do is enter the search term and it does all the work for me. And it searches in both my chat and email records so I do not have to switch between them.

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Definitely a fickle consumer because Skype and Outlook used to be my preferred options; but this SEARCH feature has changed all this. Google this SEARCH feature is what you should be promoting on your sign up for Gmail account page!

Sign up for a Gmail account today! Then download and install Google Talk!

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Sign into Google Talk with your gmail address and password.

Set up your iGoogle Homepage and add gmail gadget so that you can easily access your gmail account. While you are at it add a Google Reader gadget as well.

ENJOY!

Addictions and which ones can you really give up?

I don’t smoke, don’t drink (at least there is some one that can drive) but I do have some serious addictions. To list a few of my addictions, I am a:

  1. Googleholic – based on responses this week to my Can you go a day without Google this may be actually a normal phenomenon and not an issue?
  2. Cocaholic – I am serious addicted the soft drink Coca-Cola
  3. Chocaholic – although I now believe research has shown that eating chocolates is good for one’s health. They say eating in moderation is the key – is that one 250 gram block or two?
  4. Online-aholic – There is a strong belief by my friends and family that I spend too much time online. You know you must be an online-aholic when it is your online friends that are telling you this.
  5. Workaholic – There is no denying this addiction – and this is a bad addiction! Unfortunately I have an obsessive personality (as you can see from above) but from my point of view I am not too bad; you should meet my sister.

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Curing an Addiction

This week I have decided to cure (yet again for the hundredth time) my addiction to Coca-cola. So far so good – no headaches yet. BTW you may be wondering how bad an addiction to coke can be – lets see – when you wake up in the morning, every drink during the day and when you go to sleep.

Some however may not be so happy with me giving up coke – because as a result of my rant the other week – not only did they change the Pepsi-Max bottles in the vending machine back to coke but they have now installed a coke fridge in that canteen so that I can buy a coke if the machine breakdown. Now you may be wondering whether this all came about as a result of my ranting – yes it did. Our canteen is run by our Hospitality training section, I know the manager of this Department well, so I sent him an email saying I was a bit upset (he is based on another site). I hope he sees the funny side of this?

What are your addictions and are you as brave as me to face giving one up?

Googleless and Googleholics

googleholic.jpgWhile I was unable to participate (see reasons) in the “A Day without Google (Tuesday June 12th)” it has been interesting to observe how others have gone in this challenge (check out responses on AltSearchEngine post “A Day without Google” – love the fact that people from lots of different nationalities got involved in this challenge – I hope there will be more responses over the next two days as people report back on what they discovered).

Well I am happy to report that my friend Frances passed the challenge of going without Google for a day – and I congratulate her for being able to do something that I could not do. I really enjoyed reading her post on how her Gooogleless day went.

Here is an extract of some of her post:

I found it interesting to try different search engine and did find the information I was looking for in my searches, but also had to make a conscious effort not to use Google for finding information. I think that we have been using Google for so long now it has just become a way of life. I do find myself talking about “googling things” and have even said this to my students”.

“I may continue to use some of these alternatives if Google doesn’t return what I want and when helping my daughter with school projects, they may help to return different results to what her class mates or teachers will get!”

It does not appear at the moment, from her experience or feedback on “A Day without Google” that there is an Alternative search engine that stands out, maybe this will change as more people submit their feedback. Perhaps David Berkowitz is correct when he says “I might as well take it as a vacation day. The top 5 are the top 5 for a reason” (5 top refers to Google, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, or Ask).

I love how Frances finishes her post with “I am a Googleholic and I don’t care” 🙂

Looks like we may have to organise:

“I am a Googleholic and I don’t care” self help group

Judging from the comments on my post on “Can you go without Google for a Day” we should not have trouble with getting members!

Can you go without Google for a day?

This morning I read Richard MacManus (from Read/Write/Web) post on This Tuesay: A Day without Google. The idea of going without Google this Tuedsay was originally purposed by AltSearchEngines who asks “everyone to go one day (6 am – midnight), this Tuesday (June 12th), without using one of the major search engines; Google, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, or Ask.”

Here are my thoughts on me going without Google for a day:

Logical side – Foragar.jpg

Definitely an interesting concept and worth giving a go – the scientific part of me says testing out a range of search engines for the day instead of using Google sounds like a good idea. Especially when AltSearchEngines points out there are lots of alternative search engines that may give better search results. Photo by Daby.

Then if you take into account the concept originally came from Larry Dignan post I’m getting separated from Google partly because “Google is just creeping me out lately with all this Big Brotherish stuff like StreetView. Now Google isn’t evil, but I’m still wary”. I have had friends make similar comments about their concerns relating to Google Street View.

Emotional side – Against

Google is an important part of my day. I use on a daily basis my personalised Google Homepage, Google Talk (to communicate with friends), Google Reader (for subscribing to blogs) and Gmail. The search function of Google is only a minor part of how I use Google. Photo by Photonut (Mr Dave’s).

Outcome

Normally the logical scientific part of me would win and I would give it a try. This is not the case here – the emotional side has won. Companies like Google have worked very hard on the personalised aspect of their applications that it does make Google hard to give up. I obviously should have added the emotional nature of the consumer to my post on the Fickleness of Consumers and its implications.

How about my friends try going without Google for a Day and let me know which search engines you liked? Can you go without Google for a Day?

Does Google Trends reveal world’s downfall?

The great thing about subscribing to lots of people’s blogs is you find out the latest news on topics that interest you, often as the news is happening. Last night I read the Chris’s Crucial Thought post on Google Trends reveals world’s downfall.

What amazed me was yet again here was another Google product that I did not know about. Last week I bought Google.pedia – so I grab my book and check out what they said about Google Trends. Was really interesting reading.

Then I went to Google Trends and searched for the new Hot Trends information. Was absolutely stuck. Could not see the Hot Trends information (it was late and I must have been tired as it was right there in front of my face). But I did have fun googling information on Google Trends and Hot Trends.

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Basically in simple terms Google Trends analyzes a portion of Google web searches to compute how many searches have been done for the terms you enter relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time which is then graphed. Look at my results for search terms of e-learning, mobile learning and Web 2.0.

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What I liked about Google Trends is it gives you an indication of changes in search terms with time. Have a look what happens when you enter the terms blog, wiki, podcast.

When you go to Google Trends below the search area you will see Hot Trends. This lists the top 100 search trends for the day and is updated several times daily. Probably a point to note is that not everyone is going to be happy as Hot Trends is currently based on USA searches (for those not happy lets just remember this is a new feature and it is in test phase). Also like any statistic you do need to examine the information closely because what you think it is reflecting may not be what it really is reflecting.

So had a good laugh this morning to note after having a sleep over night that Google Hot Trends is currently in number 26 position in their Hot Trends ranking. I assume it may be higher in its rankings tomorrow as more people talk about it. Also good news for Google Trends because as people talk about Hot Trends people become aware of Google Trends (as I did).

So does Google Trends reveal the World’s downfall – mmmmm – based on the fact that Hot Trends relates to USA searches? Well, we can not say it represents the World trends.

Thanks to Chris’s Crucial Thought for letting me know about this latest Trend.

i + Google = iGoogle = I’m not happy!

Yesterday I thought I had gone slightly crazy because suddenly my Google had an i and became iGoogle. Honestly to me you just can not do this! You just can not play with my Google logo (even if you own it) because I love my Google and have come to expect to see my Google everyday.

So are you seeing iGoogle? Well, you won’t be seeing it if you have not personalised your Google homepage! And if you have not personalised your homepage you are definitely missing out of lots of great benefits. Having a personalized homepage is a great way to place all of the information important to you on the Internet in one place – for example on my personalised Google homepage I have my deli.cio.us feed, my google reader feed, my gmail feed, News feed, world clock and more! And have also added a theme – which changes with the time of day.

So why the name change! Well Google wants to let us know that it is increasing its effort on personalisation. Google has added seven new templates that all you to make your own gadget and share it with your friends. For example you can easily create a gadget that you shares with your friends (which also changes everyday):

  • a series of photos
  • a gift which messages
  • what you are up today

With the most popular widgets (called Gadgets by Google) being widgets that are easily created, shared (social) and are personal (it is your baby’s due date, your website or your blog, your videos, your playlist) then it would look like a good move by Google.

I strongly suggest that you check out the screencast tour of iGoogle by Molly McDonald (demogirl). It is an excellent video that shows you what being able to make your own gadgets means to you. Also shows the great benefits of having your own personalised Google homepage. After watching it I suggest you also read Google’s Personalization Push: iGoogle, Localization, Gadget Maker.

🙁 Check out what my personalised Google Homepage looks like below (notice the iGoogle – click here to get the i in your Google while I don’t like (at the moment) having the i I cannot live without my personalised google homepage:

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PS I know this is a me thing when it comes to my personal items. At work they removed my normal phone and replaced it with a VOIP phone. The new VOIP phone looks so different from the traditional phone that it took me a few months to accept the change (I kept insisting they give me a Garfield to improve the look of the phone!) I still have not received my free Garfield yet! Thanks Philip for sending me the news article altering me to reasons for iGoogle .

You say widgets, I say gadgets….we might as well call the whole thing off!

The pressure is on – two on my friends – Evil Sue and Frances – have both got into blogging at the same time…which I am really pleased about…:( but it’s like double trouble.

As Evil Sue post grab my attention first lets start with her. She ended her first post with “Good Sue said to use the easier blogger. But buggar that, what she can do, I can do better! Muwhahahahahah – bring it on!” Honestly at this point, I had thought she had finally lost it because “Girlfriend you are not even in the competition!“:) (If you have been following Sue and my exploits on my podcast site you will be aware that we are a bit competitive! – in a nice way).

So Evil Sue, over the past few days, has been struggling to learning how to use her edublog blog (I did warn her!) and is feeling very old at 34 as she realised the world has changed while her head was buried in work! However she has risen to the challenge and posted an excellent read on “Widgets, Widgets, Widgets” which made me investigate widgets more.

Poor Evil Sue, like most of us, is struggling to keep up-to-date with all this web terminology and widgets is a classic example. In simple terms widgets are mini web applications that you can put onto your website (i.e. blog, wiki, homepage). For example, the feed from my del.icio.us account in my sidebar is a widget. The following pictures are examples of widgets you can get for your site from Widgetbox (unfortunately I am unable to install any at the moment as most run on javascript and it has been disabled on WordPress blogs at the moment due to security issues – however these widgets will embed okay within wikis).

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What makes matters confusing is that there are alternative names for Widgets (Other terms used to describe a Web Widget include Gadget, Badge, Module, Capsule, Snippet, Mini and Flake). Google is a classic example of this, they call their widgets gadgets, when you add stuff to your personalized Google homepage Google says you are adding gadgets. While as an end user, a names does not mean much to us (we just want to put cool things on our site that will interest people that visit our site), for a developer gadgets and widgets imply two different types of applications.

If you want to enhance your website then I suggest you check out the great selection of widgets at Widgetbox, with so many to choose from there is no way you will not fail to bling up your site. Interesting post on the Widgetbox Blog about what make a widget popular – social (built around what you want to share with your friends); personalized (it is your baby’s due date, your website or your blog, your videos, your playlist); simple and catchy.

From my point of view, the only problem with widgets, is I can not always embed the one I want in an edublog blog. Check out my cool animated glitter art on my wiki. So I have had to go with glitter words here instead!

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While Evil Sue has an issue with the idea of a “widget week” because she is feeling overwhelm by all this technology. I think what a cool idea! I think it is time we all started blinging up our sites with cool widgets! Frances I will talk about in my next post (sorry Frances but this post is already too long!)