Friday, November 7, 2008

New GA Tool Tells You Your Readers, not just Visitors

A cartoonist, calculating readership, yesterday.

Just a few weeks ago I posted a useful column that no one read, because Scott Kurtz was busy hurling insults at me in the adjacent posting, and Scott's lighthearted dismembering of other human beings is always more entertaining than learning how to develop your site so you can compete with him. Heck, I was over there myself.

The topic of the widely skipped post was how to bypass the limitations of Google Analytics to calculate how much of your traffic actually reads your comic. Everyone can all exhale, because the test has been cancelled. Google has just released a beta enhancement of GA that includes ways to play with your reports to pull visitors into different categories for closer study.

I know many people rely on the simple and obvious repeat visitor pie chart for their reader info, but I don't like to fudge things, and developed the more complicated method described two weeks ago because it squeezes out certain inaccuracies to give you a better number.

I haven't used the new Google tool enough to know what it's doing and how, or even give a little tutorial. But I did check it against my method and although only a few days of data were different, it came very close to my method, with a lot less work. I'd say we can turn reader count over to Google, the same way I turned my Passport, wallet and car keys over to their nice rep who was in my neighborhood, greeting customers this afternoon.

I'd like to pen a how-to, because it's not the simplest tool they've offered, but I'm hoping some tech blogger will beat me to it and I can link to it. Besides, this would be the third Google tutorial assignment that's landed on my desk this week, and though I for one salute our silicon 0verlords, that's a little much.

The new tool is called Custom Reporting, a name they snatched from my hands outside the patent office, where I had dawdled, pondering which font to use with my new blog name. You'll find it in the left column of your GA home page, at about the same height as your main graph.

You might want to keep in mind that those of us playing with the "reader" measure, via GA or anywhere, generally consider 1 visit/week during the month a real reader for a comic that updates once a week or less, and 2 visits/week for more frequent updaters. You can use lower numbers if you want to, but it will make comparisons slightly harder. I like the numbers above, because I'd rather know I have 50 readers than think I have 70.

I'm especially interested in hearing about discovered tutorials and readers' opinions on the data they develop with the new tool, which, by the way, does other things, including mailing your Amazon Wish List to anyone with Gmail and making it look like an accident. Any surprises?

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