Google’s Analytics Evangelist, Avinash Kaushik, tells magazine publishers why most sites “suck” and what kind of thinking is required to fix them
Avinash Kaushik is one of my favorite speakers. I first heard him several years ago at a SiPA conference and have been following his blog ever since.
People pay for free content
Kaushik, author of Web Analytics, an Hour a Day started his session by reminding the audience that people pay for free content, which is a much-needed message to spread to an industry that’s been, for the most part, giving away subscriptions at way-too-low price points in favor of the easier, more profitable ad dollar.
In this economy, magazine publishers need to rethink their content strategy and determine what their readers really do value, and what they are willing to pay for.
The entire contents of Kaushik’s book was a compilation of the posts in is his blog, proving that publishers can make money on free content.
Be rid of faith-based initiatives
Kaushik warned never to apply faith-based mental models online, as online marketing is not a faith-based initiative. There is more data online than God intended. There is more data than anyone really needs, but it’s still never enough.
A publisher shouldn’t care that their site had 1 million visitors last month. The real question is: how much money did the site generate?
HITS (How Idiots Track Success)
Hits used to be, and perhaps still is for some publishers, a method used to track the number of times users visit and/or click on a webpage. In Kaushik’s mind, the number is completely useless.
More important is click-stream data, which has become a lot more sophisticated over the years and can leave you with metrics that are much more actionable.
“What you should measure is quality,” said Kaushik. For example, bounce rate. If your bounce rate is 70%, that means 7 out of 10 visitors didn’t even give you a click. All they’ve told you is “I came, I puked, I left.”
The “selfish lover” strategy
He really did have some great quotes. This one referred to sites that only think of themselves, and don’t care about the other person in the web relationship: the user.
He showed a screenshot of Parents.com, where he blacked-out all the advertising, the navigation and the subscription offers and was left only with this tiny little block of content.
This is not the way to attract and keep an audience. Your users show up for the content – give them more of what they need.
No one-night stands
Visitor recency is an important metric. He noted that 67% of users who visited Time.com on a day recently were there less than 0 days ago. It shows that people come again and again on the same day.
It’s an amazing measure of success. But if 67% visited the site 15-30 days ago, then Time.com should be considering getting out of daily publishing.
Feed the “beast”
Where do you have content and what are people actually consuming? Measure this and give them what they want. This is a simple concept, sure, but it’s often overlooked. Many publishers don’t measure outcomes as well as they should.
For example, Kaushik’s blog has goals around content. He’s actually set up funnel goals in Google Analytics around his blog posts where he’s been able to quantify the value of each post, which for him result in speaking gigs.
It’s all about quantified economic value.
Don’t let the HIPPOS decide
Kaushik said that websites suck because they are created by Hippos (highest paid person’s opinion). He acknowledged that there is a hippo inside every one of us, but it’s important to remember that the one gift you get from the web is the ability to be proven wrong, fast. Learn to be wrong. Quickly.
You can start an experiment in 6 ½ minutes
Newsweek.com vs. Time.com
In doing some pre-conference research, Kaushik noted that there is way too much going on at Newsweek.com. A user would get lost trying to decide what to do there. Time.com, on the other hand, is very clear. He reminded us again, don’t let your hippos figure out how to connect with your customers.
Competitive intelligence is the best thing EVER
He thinks competitive intelligence is the best thing ever. He noted that most searches happen in the long tail.
For example, someone does a search for “Bertoli”, the pasta sauce.
If you’re Martha Stewart, shouldn’t you be buying that keyword via pay-per-click and writing a nifty ad that says something like “Canned sauce is lame. Let Martha teach you how to make it from scratch.” He suggested that Martha should be buying ads around the term Bertoli.
It’s all about showing up at the point of relevance.
Don’t make this fatally flawed assumption
A fatally flawed assumption he hears again and again from traditional media is that print and web audiences are the same. This is SO WRONG.
Don’t guess at these things. Use data. With free tools like Google Analytics, there just aren’t any excuses to be in the dark.
He left us with this: “Advertising, subscription sales, these things aren’t going to save you. But loyal customers will.”
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