Posts Tagged ‘social-media’

A Better Solution to Measure the Real Traffic to Your Blog?

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

The blogosphere is quite excited with the fact that Twitter is directing a lot of traffic to blogs & websites. But no one has been able to conclusively measure that traffic. Fred Wilson, struggled to interpret the data  from Google Analytics and measure exactly how much traffic came from Twitter. Meanwhile Danny Sullivian, ran his own experiment by tweeting a short link containing a tracking code and seeing how much bit.ly reported against Google Analytics report and his own server logs. The results seemed quite good but the experiment itself was not yet perfect. Bit.ly’s link counting is inherently flawed as I’ve explained in my previous blog.

It is somewhat surprising to me that after having Google Analytics for so long all of us are still struggling to measure correctly a specific channel of traffic to our site. As I have been working with several email marketing tools these last fews a simple solution struck me. I was quite struck by the simplicity of the solution and was wondered anyone has thought of it before? I’d urge readers (not you mom) including Danny and Fred try out this little experiment on their blog and see if they can quantify the exact amount of traffic coming in through Twitter (or bit.ly).

The Solution

Nearly all email marketing service providers and products such as AWeber, Campaign Monitor or MailChimp use a simple method to track how many people have opened their mails. Since JavaScript is not allowed inside the mail content, a Google Analytics kind of solution is definitely not possible. What they do is they embed a tiny (1×1 px) transparent image in the mail. When the mail is opened in an email client and the image is loaded, the server gets a GET request for that image and immediately knows that someone has opened the email.

On the same lines, for this blog post I have included an image in this blog post. But instead of directly storing the url of that image, I have first shortened it using bit.ly. When this blog is loaded on your browser, even if JavaScript is disabled, that image will be loaded, and hence bit.ly will register the count. Search bots, Twitter clients and browser plugins are not going to be interested in my image. So clearly the number of views reported by bit.ly for that image (and not for the blog’s permalink which I tweeted) will be a correct estimation of the number of humans who have clicked on the shortened link in Twitter. This will be smaller than what bit.ly would have recorded for the blog itself, and bigger than what Google Analytics will report if this blog is viewed in a phone which has JavaScript disabled.

Conclusion

This blog does not get a lot of traffic (yet), so the numbers may not make good sense. But if high traffic bloggers such as Danny or Fred Wilson use this little experiment on their blog, it would be worth seeing what the results are like.

This should also give Bit.ly some ideas on how to accurately measure link views and discard the requestes for only a link lookup. The solution may be involved as the user would have to embed a shortened link to a tracking image, but it should be ok if the user is really motivatedand wants to measure his traffic. Or better still, similar to Google Analytics, ask users to embed a small piece of code in the blog entry that they want to track. This code can be as generic as follows

<img src="http://bit.ly/mayanks/tracking/image">

When the browser makes a request for this image as part of loading the blog entry, the HTTP_REFERER should identify the permalink of the blog entry for which the request is being made. Just increment the counter for that permalink and you are done. I’d love to hear from others who have tried something along these lines and the results you see if you try this image embedding with a bit.ly link.

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Link Tracking – (lies, damn lies &) Statistics?

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

The last couple of months have shown a shift in Internet traffic – from being search engine (read Google) directed to social media driven. I believe, the main reason for this is what Fred Wilson calls the Power of Passed Links. That is, I click more often on the links that my friends tweet in Twitter or share on Facebook than on those I find by searching.  Fred has seen this dramatic shift on his own website. Earlier TechCrunch presented a similar observation and was quick to embrace a personalized short domain name (tcrn.ch).

In a recent article titled “How Twitter Might Send Far More Traffic Than You Think“, Search Engine Land, compares the statistics provided by Bit.ly and Google Analytics and is awed by the difference. My own sense is that before all of us get rolling on this Social Media Optimization (SMO) effort, it would help to take a hard look at how link statistics are gathered and tracked by tools such as Bit.ly.

Simply put link tracking tools store the number of times a short link has been looked up. When such tools first emerged they captured imagination of a lot of people as potentially a simple replacement for Google Analytics.  However, the statistics provided by link tracker function in tools such as Bit.ly can be very misleading.

Since only the link look-up is counted by link trackers, all search engine and Twitter crawlers that de-reference a short link get counted erroneously as look-ups. Most of the newer Twitter clients de-reference a short url, and show the target domain name, complete url or the title in the tweet message. Which effectively means that the moment you publish a Bit.ly link on Twitter, it’s link count could potentially shoot up to as many followers as you have, even if none of them actually clicked through the link.

In my view, this is one of the biggest challenge that Bit.ly and others of its ilk will face to present an actual view’ed link as against merely looked-up link.

In the near future, I anticipate that more people will use their own short domain names and their own url shortening service to protect their brands.  Pure play URL shortening services are bound to get commoditized. For pioneers such as Bit.ly to retain their market share, it is critical that they evolve to provide vanity shortening services and emerge to be the analytics tool of choice for SMO by providing ever more accurate viewed statistics as against looked-up statistics.

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Will Twitter fly for B2B marketing ?

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Every marketing person around the world is thinking of using the magical 140 characters , that is a Twitter feed, to achieve his objectives.While Dell can get a pulse beat of what their customers are thinking, about a new product, Pizza Hut is making news with the announcement that they’re hiring a summer “twintern“, or Twitter intern, to start on June 1st as reported in this article. However, like any other social media, when it comes to marketing to other businesses, Twitter is still behind B2C marketing.

Though blogs are where majority of B2B marketing discussions take place, there is enough evidence to show that the discussions are slowly but definitely shifting to Twitter. B2B marketers have to invest time and resources to manage Twitter. How do you justify this in the the current financial climate with shrinking marketing budgets? Marketers don’t know if customers are engaging socially and if so, does it convert into a purchase decision making? It is this lack of measurability of ROI that makes the decision ‘ To Tweet or not to Tweet” particularly harassing for a B2B marketer.

For those sitting on the fence regarding this, forget the hype,  focus on what you know about good marketing and communications regardless of the channel, and look at Twitter through that lens.