Saturday, September 20, 2008

What are Metrics?

Metrics means measurements, or the tools used to make them.

If you have a webcomic, what do you want to measure, and what tools are best?

You want to measure these for sure:
  • Visitors to your site ("traffic")
  • Direct visitors to your site (your most valuable visitors because they return)
  • Search engine traffic to your site
At no point are a day's metrics of particular importance. What matters are trends from month to month, or better, over several months. Emotionally, you'll feel like celebrating a heavy traffic day, and a slow day may make you feel low, but it's the trends that matter.

The above metrics are, I believe, best measured with Google Analytics. It's free, it's reliable and it comes with tons of goodies.

You still need to analyze your data, and though Google does a good job of presenting it, let's review.

  • Visitor traffic is your highest number, but it is swollen by ad campaigns or getting a lot of hits on a site like Stumble Upon. High visitor traffic is nice, because the more you have, the more likely there will be more of them who will return regularly.
  • Direct traffic might typically be a third of your traffic. Those are your loyal fans, and you want that number to rise significantly every month. You can graph it by making a graph here.
  • Search Engine traffic will include plenty of people who found you by error while looking for something similar. You do want to watch the search queries people enter because you might discover some good words to use on your site. Those are a topic for another discussion.
Search engine traffic is not to be confused with search engine results, which is what turns up when you Google a certain phrase. That's another topic for later, as is search engine optimization.

The origins of your traffic is of great interest. To locate your overall traffic report, click CONTENTS on the far left screen, and ENTRANCE SOURCE in the middle right in blue. You'll get the top ten, which you can expand to 500. One of my reports tells me that so far this month, my top three are a comic I put ads on, direct traffic, and Stumble Upon, following a burst of Stumble hits the other day. Then come a lot of comics where I have ads and gradually more where they have linked to me. By the end, I have 240 sources, but based on volume of traffic referred, most of the action is from my top 60.

Clicking TRAFFIC SOURCE (top left) tells me I have about 32% direct traffic. This article I wrote tells you have to measure trends in your direct traffic.

We now have insights into where people are coming from, and how many there are. By following the instructions in the direct traffic article link above, you can get the most meaningful metric of your progress that I have found: change in steady visitors over time.

If you want some comparisons, Li'l Nyet grew in direct traffic by about 650% last quarter (through August 1). Scratchin Post grew by about 427%. I'm happy with those numbers.

Do note that I have been running a heavy ad campaign for Nyet since early July, and a lesser one for Scratchin Post. My Stumbles haven't been enough to make a difference, and I have left behind low value traffic from previous experiments like EntreCard.

It looks like this blog is going to focus mostly on making your webcomic -- and mine -- successful, so there will be lots more articles in digestible size to come. Veterans will find some review, but they can help by sharing their own discoveries.

Keep hitting me with tough questions and I'll answer all that I can.


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