Friday, January 25, 2013

Don't Follow Your Analytics

When I launched a few weeks ago, the very first day's stats blew my mind. They were so good, in fact, that I stayed glued to them for the majority of the morning, then into the afternoon, and then later into the evening. I stayed up late that night, just so I could hit refresh on my browser a few more times before hitting the sack.

Google Analytics is a great tool, and if you're a website proprietor, chances are you use it as well. Unfortunately, gluing your face to a computer screen to monitor your site stats' every move is an amateur mistake.

The day after the Sylvanna website launched, the site stats dipped to more normal levels, and the day after that they went down some more. This wasn't exactly disheartening because the numbers were still pretty high, but to some people out there, it might have been. To understand why we shouldn't follow our site stats like hawks, we need to delve into what we're really trying to analyze within them, and more to the point, we need to identify what launching our creative endeavors online will garner us in terms of success.

As I said -- analytics are a good thing and a great tool to gauge your audience's interest in your product. But there are a few problems with just counting numbers:

The tribe versus the casual reader: As I've said before, your tribe is your most important entity. Whether it's a dedicated group of a dozen people or a rabid cluster of thousands, your real fans are what count -- not the number of one glance and they're gone, types. You should have ways of ascertaining the interest of your core tribe beyond analytics, and be able to tell if those fans specifically, are getting their needs met. If you get a few more along the way, that's great, but a dropoff in casual readers isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it should be expected.

The inspired reader versus the  glancer: If you're a writer, then your most obvious successes come when people honestly read your stuff. Tell me: would you care more if someone stopped you on the street to have a lengthy discussion about how much he loved the plot of your first book, or would you prefer the attention of people who might come up to you at a book signing, having never heard of you or your work, asking to get a copy signed just so they can say they met you? I know which I'd choose. Casual readers don't take the ownership you and your dedicated tribe does, in what you write. They are the most likely people to stick with you into the future, and the best bets for spreading the word about how wonderful your stories are, to the rest of the world.

In the land of Internet-based writing, hits are good, but readers are even better. Don't focus on your analytics as much as you focus on treating your core audience well. It is the core you are trying to grow, not the mildly-interested passer-by merely sneaking a peek at the next big thing.

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