Monday, July 13, 2009

Google Analytics: Mapping to improve the future of This Young Economist

When I wrote my first blog post on April 17th, I didn't know what to expect from writing a blog. Mostly, I was just trying it out to see if it was for me. Since that first post, blogging has been a great hobby; it is a wonderful outlet for generating and discussing ideas.

My experience with blogging has also surprised me regarding the depth of the tools available on the Internet. More than two months in, I am still learning about the tools that I can use to promote my blog. There's a lot more to blogging than just putting your ideas on the screen: presenting your ideas and pitching those ideas to an interested audience takes creativity, connections and some innovative technology.

This post is about a key piece of that useful technology: Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a free service provided by Google that records and organizes detailed information about your website's Internet traffic. It is especially useful for bloggers.

For example, Analytics tells me which posts have been viewed the most, which posts have been viewed for the longest period of time, and which websites are linking to me. I could not obtain this information directly from my audience, and this is exactly the information I need to improve my blog.

Analytics helps me recognize good posts after I write them, and more importantly, it helps me recognize what topics or posts have been abject failures. This allows me to respond with better content and a better presentation of my ideas. And, I can avoid subjecting you to boring or tedious articles.

That's Analytics in a nutshell, but it's hard to know what Analytics does without seeing what the tools do. In this post and some future posts, I'll showcase some of Analytics' cool features. Today, I'd like to show you a history of this blog as told through the Map Overlay feature.

This Young Economist: Two months of Maps
Although I started the blog on April 17th, I didn't discover Google Analytics until May 6th. Therefore, the data I have only dates back to May 6th. Have you ever wondered about who reads my blog? You probably wonder less than I do, but here's a map that tells the geographic distribution of people who read by blog between May 6th and May 16th (a day when I wrote the article, To Save Tigers, Eat Them?):

After 10 days of Analytics and a month of blogging, I had only managed to hit a smattering of the states; None in the south, none in the northeast and only Nevada in the southwest. I had been viewing this information, but I didn't know what to do with it. I really only know people in Montana and Illinois. Therefore, you can see where my biggest following is.

Slowly and surely, my blog started churning out interesting topics -- topics that appealed to a broader audience. If you look at the posts throughout the rest of May, I had one post stolen (Companies I Love: Apple), one post has become popular with search engines (Saving a Wet Cell Phone) and one post was all the rave on The Windy Citizen (Companies Tony Loves: The Windy Citizen). How did that map look by the end of May?

It looks a lot better. My blog was starting to gain some traction; the map was filling in. Although my blog had made progress, eleven states were still unaware of my blog.

All the while, I kept learning about ways to promote my blog. I started following other blogs, which have been a great source ideas. I even joined some social networks like Twitter to help promote my ideas. And, of course, I sent my local stories to The Windy Citizen, which is a great outlet for my posts on Chicago.

After another 25 days, where does the blog stand?

Compared to where I began, the map looks great. But, people in four states are still missing out on This Young Economist fun: These are Delaware, Wyoming, Arkansas and Lousinana. Someday soon, I hope my ideas reach these places. For now, I promise to keep writing on interesting topics. If you agree that what I have to say is interesting, I'm glad you came along for the ride. With the right tools and the right mindset, there are even better things to come.

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