The role of web analytics in setting useful metrics for a site has been discussed in-depth in any number of places, but this is far from the only useful function that web analytic practices can offer. As in any field, a little thinking outside the box can offer extensive rewards to the creative researcher. Perhaps most usefully, creative cultivation of web analytics can help conquer blogger’s block and help a good writer come up with some unique angles for content they thought they had peaked out on.
First, of course, there are keywords. Analyzing keyword trends is an important part of any attempt to create an optimized site. There are some people who can get away with ignoring this because they write gripping enough topics, but by and large a good site will make at least a few genuflections in the direction of keyword-oriented content.
If stuck without a good topic idea, a blogger can easily hop over to Google’s AdWords or any other publicly accessible keyword-evaluating site and put in words relating to the topic the blog tends to cover. Once about 10 high-ranking keywords are identified, he can pick the best ones and build a solid article around them, using the trends others are talking about as inspiration.
On the other hand, some keywords are particularly unwieldy, and are only useful for their broad relation to a topic. Take a blog focused on popular vacation destinations: If the main keyword that comes up is “places to eat on vacation,” that’s a bit of a bulky keyword to try to optimize around. However, creating a series of posts on “places to eat” with subtitles appropriate to each entry could be just the ticket to taking advantage of that keyword without shoehorning it in. Remember, titles are part of a good optimization effort as well as the body of the text.
Next, a blogger should focus on analyzing his own blog’s performance and trends. By the time it’s generating significant traffic, the blog’s analytics should show that certain topics are producing more hits and page views than others. This is a bellwether that should nudge the attentive blogger into writing toward those trends. After all, the audience drives the success of any brand, be it blog or book.
However, there is a lot to be said for remaining true to one’s creative vision. Bloggers generally start writing because they’re passionate and informed about a particular topic. Looking at the page views and tailoring content is important, but it should not extend so far as to compromise or completely change the message of the blog. People still enjoy the unexpected from time to time, so if a particular topic takes a writer’s fancy, it should be written. As always, the key is to strike a balance between integrity to vision and attention to readers.
Now, new content is vital to any production, but there is something to be said for a look back at the classics. Older content is what initially drew readers to a blog in the first place, and it can remain topical over time. There are a number of techniques for refreshing older content, each of which has its own advantages.
The first is the straightforward reposting: A year or two after an old post, put it back up on the front page with a small addendum or introduction explaining why it’s relevant again. This is particularly popular with political blogs that make major predictions that end up coming true, but it can also apply to any other blog. A cooking site might post the same classic holiday recipes once a year, or an educationally minded one might post a major article to remind people of a specific message.
Alternatively, there’s the linkback and update approach. A new post is made with a link to the old post. The new post goes into brand new content that refers back to the older post, raising views on both pages and increasing the sense of relevance over time. This approach also can cement the overall message of a blog in reader’s minds quite handily.
Then, of course, there is the retraction or redaction. Our content is like our lives, both growing and changing as we gain more experience and, hopefully, wisdom. Sometimes we write something that makes a great deal of sense at the time, but makes less sense as the years go by.
In cases such as these, the linkback or reposting strategy can be modified to include a bit of commentary explaining how one’s views have changed, what new information is available and the reasons for the adjustment. This kind of honesty takes a lot of courage; shows great respect for readers and can often create a lively commentary thread.
Speaking of commentary, this is also a great way to refresh older posts. A blogger can go to the oldest threads, find the ones with the best views – say the top five – and ask the readers to rank them in a voting contest. The best one will be reposted with new commentary. This is a clever way to get more readers to look at older posts, and give some old content new and exciting life at the same time.