Why Authors Should Bother with Analytics
I'm going to make a wild generalization. Authors don't like analytics.
I know, not all of us, I mean, I'm the perfect outlier. But for the most part, when I start talking about tracking marketing efforts with writer friends, they glaze over, nod a lot and disappear into the back of their minds where their work in progress lives.
So before you do that, let me give you three quick examples of want analytics can do for authors. All screen grabs are from my own platforms (which are only a few months old so stop judging, you judgy judgers).
A Few Assumptions:
- You are following the widespread advice to build your author platform.
- You have a website, you use social media and you have an email list.
- You plan to publish and allow people to purchase your writing.
- You can add Google Analytics to your website. (Free tool!)
1. Analytic Will Guide Your Strategy
So... why do you have a website? Why are you spending time on Instagram or trying to build an email list? Well it's all part of your platform building strategy, right? Oh... no strategy? Analytics can help.
Think of the different audiences that your platform is serving. Other authors to build connections? Potential readers that might buy your book? Agents or publishers to see that you are a legitimate presence, worthy of representation? There are probably quite a few audiences and reasons for what you are doing.
For each one of those main reasons, you must be sure you have a way to track if that goal has been successful through a specific website action.
I like to organize my thoughts like this:
For each one of those main reasons, you must be sure you have a way to track if that goal has been successful, a specific website action. You might find some gapping holes. No link to buy your book? Add it. No way to contact you? Add it.
By prioritizing the 'why' of what you're doing, you've just developed a strategy. Congratulations!
2. Analytics Will Save You Time (and Money)
Think of your website as the hub of all of this activity. If you drive people back to your site from external sources, you can try to guide them to accomplish your goals.
Using a tool like Google Analytics, you can set up goals (more to come on how to specifically do this in a future post, but if you're fired up, Google has great tutorials). A Google Analytics Goal is just you telling the software, "hey, this is the most important thing on my site, give me special reports about it."
Reports like this one:
In this report, you can see which Source / Medium (how your users got to your website) are the most productive towards each of your goals (in this case, Newsletter Sign Up). You can see that Instagram has driven the best traffic to my site for both volume and conversions. It would make sense for me to invest more time in Instagram because it seems I'm finding a good audience there.
*Of course, as I said, this is a new site and I do not have a lot of traffic or conversions yet. I am not yet sending an eNewsletter. But I think it's easy to see how this could expand and with more data, you could make some really good decisions about how to best spend your time.
3. Analytics Will Help You Connect
Are you still reading? I didn't turn you off with the transactional nature of this post so far? Analytics can feel cold and inauthentic at times, I get that. But it also can help you understand which content on your site is really connecting with people so you can focus your future content to connect better with readers.
A report like this one will tell you which pages of your site have the most traffic and which pages users are spending the most time on:
What can I learn from this? Most people visiting my site are interested in my work in progress, Half Tree. I can connect with my website visitors more by posting more about the work I'm doing and maybe even post a few more excerpts.
I can also use events (with some custom set up) to track how far users are scrolling on pages. Event Label below represents the percentage of the page a user scrolled.
Analytics doesn't have to be complicated or scary. Be sure you've added Google Analytics to your website, you've thought through why you're doing what you're doing and how you could track it.
Even if you're small, like me, it's great to have these things in place so you can feel confident that you're using your precious time efficiently!
PS. I've worked in digital analytics for about 15 years now (when did that happen!?) in a lot of different industries but most recently in higher education. I've set up analytics for some of the best names in higher ed (Notre Dame, Stanford, Texas A&M, American University, The University of Iowa, Northwestern) as well as a Fortune 500, several start ups and a television station. My hope is I can add some value to the writer's community by sharing some tips here.
I plan to post more specifics on:
- setting up tracking using Google Tag Manager
- social media analytics
- using tracking URLs to define source and mediums
- using Google Data Studio to produce reports
- tracking advertising
- free tools to get you started
Please let me know in the comments if this has been helpful and what you'd like to see more of, but of course, I'll be tracking it as well!