Because my husband is a professor at this here big local university, and because I have befriended lots of other professors at said university, and because I am a giver, I oftentimes do things FOR THE CHILDREN (meaning the children who are old enough to smoke, drink, have orgies, and lie to my husband about why they couldn’t finish that assignment, dude, because they were, like, so close, but then this THING happened and he understands, right?) in the name of academia.
Like, sometimes I go into a class and give a guest lecture. I enjoy having young people stare at me like I have six heads, apparently. You know they’re thinking I am too impossibly OLD and ORDINARY to have anything useful to tell them. Not that this stops me. I’m totally in it for the free lunch I usually get out of the deal. (Here, let us stop and give silent thanks that the Faculty Eatery finally closed. The lunches from there were not so much payment as payBACK, only I’m not sure what I did wrong.)
Anyway, one of the other things I’ve done is allow a friend and professor who teaches social media stuff give a classful of students access to my Google Analytics.
For those of you unfamiliar with Google Analytics, it’s a way to look at site statistics, like who visits from where and for how long. It allows you to drill down several levels and create segmentation of various data, and I have absolutely no idea what that sentence actually means.
Actually, I have no idea what most of Google Analytics means. I installed it a few years ago because someone I was working with wanted some specific information about my site demographics. I, myself, don’t really use it. I mean, if I wanted to, I suppose I could. Entire business strategies are leveraged on the data from Google Analytics! It’s Important Stuff!
Only I mostly don’t care.
The thing about this site is that it’s not my business. It’s just my personal site. And the thing about Want Not is that I don’t really care who visits from where; I care about the nickels and dimes I make on affiliate sales, which are easily measurable from the sorts of reports that the various affiliate programs I belong to are only too happy to generate for me.
In short, I never look at Google Analytics. And if I did, I’m not sure what sort of conclusions I would draw from it.
But the students, man. The students are there to LEARN. And ANALYZE. And PLAN. Part of their assignment, once they’ve been let loose in my modest statistics, is to generate a report not just about my readership and traffic, but to include suggestions on how to improve my sites and generate more visibility and loyalty.
When the assignments are finished and graded, I get a copy of the whole darn packet, as a thank-you for letting them poke around in my numbers. I think next year I may just ask for a nice bottle of wine, instead, but whatever. The reports are always… interesting.
To be clear, I’m not saying the students are doing anything wrong; in fact, they’re doing exactly what they’ve been asked to do, and they’re thinking about things according to principles they’re studying, and DID I MENTION THE EARNEST PART? I have been running this site for five and a half years, and Want Not for over three years, but the suggestions they have for me on how to EXPAND MY BUSINESS are always the very best part of this exercise. Because they are SO SMART.
For example, my bounce rate is quite high here, and even higher on Want Not. So they always offer lots of suggestions on how to lower that (so as to keep people on the site, adding to my traffic). On this site I have a cadre of loyal readers who come and read the day’s new post and then leave, because, um, they’ve already read the other posts. And on Want Not I’ve usually linked off to some deal that they then go check out. So to bounce here on Woulda is expected, and to bounce on Want Not is actually THE POINT, so the many suggestions to decrease my bounce rate always make me giggle a little.
Common suggestions to increase time people spend on either site include: add pictures, make my page more “catchy” (I am not catchy! I lack catch!), make my purpose more clear (my purpose is to confuse you; can you hear me now?), and—this year’s absolute favorite—write more stories about my dog. Because apparently Licorice is the only damn thing keeping this place going, lately.
The students are generally split down the middle on the issue of audience; half of them conclude that only mothers read me (on both sites) and that I should become MORE mother-oriented (extremely popular: suggesting I redesign my site to be a clone of The Pioneer Woman, which is a great idea from a business perspective because there’s no doubt her traffic trumps mine, but turning myself into Ree seems problematic on several levels, starting with I’M NOT HER), and the other half want me to write less about my children and offer everything from job tips to college seniors to sightseeing advice to those new to Georgia.
Everyone is very concerned about my decreased traffic on the weekends, and they all want me to fix that by posting more and/or saving the really juicy stuff for Saturdays. If my websites and I existed in a vacuum that would be an EXCELLENT idea, but as it took me several years to get to where I didn’t feel like I had to work seven days a week, I tend to just skip over this part. Tra la la….
In the “reaching” category we have the earnest student who wants me to increase my Asian readership by addressing topics of special interest to Asian mothers. I have nothing against Asians (love me some Asians, man), but not being Asian, myself, I am… not entirely sure how (or why) I should be doing this.
Several reports suggest I create a specific section for regular posts on How To Be A Better Mother, which THANK GOODNESS, THAT wouldn’t be polarizing at all AND I’m so glad someone finally realizes I’m the world’s leading authority on How To Do It Right! HA! Actually, this led me to conclude that those students never read either of my sites. I hope they didn’t fail the assignment, but I do sort of hope the professor laughed at them. (Also, I hope they’re using birth control. Because if any of my writing appears to them to be about how to be a better mother, the future of this country is doomed. DOOMED, I TELL YOU.)
In conclusion, my stats appear to indicate that Dood, I’m doing it wrong, and I sincerely apologize. I will get RIGHT ON revising both sites in accordance with my new business plan.
Just as soon as Licorice finishes writing it for me.