Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Goals to Help Your Morale and Polish Your Webcomic

I was talking with J. Gray, who does 2nd Shift Comic, and also writes Arcana, and we disclosed that yes, we are both the type who look at our analytics every day. We also talked about how the results can boost your mood or slice you into throbbing gristle, if you are low on mental fortitude.

J. was talking about goals for 2nd Shift. Reasonable ones, like increasing traffic to a certain level.

I'm a fan of goals you can set and accomplish, because they help you see the overall flow of your progress, and help you feel encouraged. We do better work when we're encouraged.

For many of us, the most obvious goals are traffic, but traffic fluctuates a lot and accurate readings require lots of analytics on every page.

Whether you set actual goals, or simply work on items below, I'd like to offer some areas to measure your progress besides traffic:

- Number of consecutive on-time updates;
- Looking at your direct traffic report, and setting a goal for the coming month for an increase. Directs are your most important, loyal readers, who have bookmarked you for return;
- Installing Google Analytics on all your pages, and setting up goals using the funnel tool;
- Installing Webmaster Tools on all your pages (the code, specifically);
- Using Webmaster Tools to check for errors, with a goal of zero;
- Using Webmaster Tools to check for complete meta tags and/or title tags. Title tags are very important to optimize your site;
- Submitting a site map to Google;
- Setting a goal for how many search terms besides your site name will bring your site up in search results. If you publish a werewolf comic, you certainly want that to be a successful search term for you;
- Using Webmaster Tools to count your back links, and setting goals for improvement;
- You could start submitting your comic to webcomics blogs. I don't do a ton a reviews, but I frequently get sheepish and pleading letters requesting a review. You're all forgiven, but do it this way instead: Write a short note about you and your comic, include the link, and say that while you understand bloggers receive many requests for reviews, you would appreciate being considered. That way we know we don't have to write you a letter telling you not to be disappointed if it isn't reviewed. Myself, I like to acknowledge receiving it, put it on the list, and see what happens. Your goal could be a submission a week until you run out of bloggers, but one a months is better, because if someone reviews you, you'll want to let it simmer before approaching others.
- Think of search terms you'd like to turn up on, and see if you do. Keep going backward until you find yourself or it becomes apparent you are not there. Then, think about what optimization steps you could take to get yourself there, or whether, based on your findings, it is unrealistic. Loads more on this stuff at PsychedelicTreehouse.
- Comics aren't read by search engines, so you want your page title included via your HTML title tags. You also want to think about what text besides your comic you want on your page. Think about the poor crawler: there's a huge image on the page, usually unlabeled, and stuff like links, ads, perhaps a meandering little blog. You want you essential identification words worked in near the top of the page and you want to work one into every blog post you can, gracefully. This isn't a very good goal because ideally you'll always be tinkering, but if you don't have title tags in order, you certainly need to get a caption on your comic: (Above) Captain Eggplant #43 by Chester Periwinkle. Remember: it must be a font. Google doesn't do handwriting or art lettering.

Before this turns into an SEO column, I'll stop, because I'm sure you get the idea. While the review doesn't hurt, I really want you drive home the simplest points, especially about monitoring Direct Traffic.

Before closing, I want to extend a huge thank you to Tom Truszkowski, creator of the groovy science fiction humor comic Station V3, for alerting me to a serious error in yesterday's post (now fixed). Tom has already built a healthy circulation, but it would not surprise me if his is a "break out" comic in the coming year, as more people discover the great color choices, wild cartoony art and reliable humor.