Sunday, June 3, 2012

Do You Rate? Measure Book Promotion Success

How's your book promotion going? Here are four free, but not painless, tools that claim to help you quantify your results:

1)  Klout
A Web site that clams to measure your influence across social media. Ha!

2) Alexa
A Web site that tells you how your site traffic compares to other sites, including Google, Amazon, and Facebook.Very depressing.

3) Web Analytics
Web sites that measure traffic to your Web site or blog. Worthwhile if you pick the right tool. (Note: your Web site may already include a tool for this. I am mentioning two widely-recognized tools that have been around for a while: Google Analytics and Statcounter.)

Getting Started

Installing these tools can get geeky and test your reserves of patience and persistence. With that in mind, you need the right mindset, which means the right outfit.

 Previously, writers dressed like this:

 Now, we're supposed to dress like this:

The Tools
Full Disclosure: I was an executive editor at PC World magazine and for seven years. So, I know a little about computers, already own a propeller hat -- and still had problems I wouldn't wish on anyone. 

So, if you're in a hurry and don't want to deal with a lot of nonsense or a new wardrobe, skip down the #3 below, install Statcounter, and be done with it. Otherwise, if you have time to waste, want to familiarize yourself with other popular tools, or you just feel like hating yourself, continue at your own risk.

1) Klout

A literary agent once mentioned something about Klout scores, so I signed up for an account. This multi-step process is supposed to be straight forward: you fill out a profile, click options to connect your accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Youtube, Blogger and other social media. Then Klout calculates your online influence.

This all worked as advertised except for one little problem: When I tried to add my Facebook Author fan page, Klout refused and generated an inscrutable error message. Not being a patient person, I opened a second Klout account and tried again. Klout appeared to accept my fan page, but claimed Twitter, Linked in, Google etc. were connected to another account, so Kout wouldn't add them to the new account. I went into each of my social media sites and disconnected it from Klout. (Not as hard as it sounds.)

But this didn't appease Klout and the site generated an error that suggested I contact tech support. So, I did. The next day I got a message that made no sense. Basically, it was the equivalent of me telling my car mechanic that my brakes weren't working, him working on the car, and saying, "All set: we installed new windshield wipers."

This back and forth with Klout continued for several days: I said the equivalent of: "My car won't start." And received messages: "Yes, we understand, we installed a new floor mat."

Each note from Klout tech support included emoticons for "how was our answer" followed by a smile, a frown, or a grimace. I decided to wait a few more days before clicking the grimace.

Another day passed with no response from Klout tech support. And another. And another. I Tweeted about the problem and listed the number of days without a response from tech support. I figured maybe Klout, the experts on online influence, would notice. They didn't. I posted a note every day for four days. Apparently, my Klout score of 25 was too low to warrant a response.

I went back to all the emails from tech-support asking "how are we doing" and I clicked the grimaces. Still no response. After a week of no responses, I canceled my Klout accounts.

Then one night I got a note from the same tech support guy: "Please clear your cache. And by the way, we're not compatible with Facebook Fan pages."

In other words: He'd repaired the lock on my glove compartment. Klout still wasn't working.

Mysteriously, two weeks later, my account was working.

Then the problem came back. I contacted tech support again. (I kept my old e-mails, so I was able to contact the same person who fixed it the first time.) This time, he fixed it after a couple of days.

Verdict: Was this worth all the aggravation? For most people probably not.

For more dissenting opinions on Klout, including how it can ruin your life, see my piece on Online Book Marketing: Klout

2) Alexa
This site is for the big boys. If your site receives less than 1,000 visitors a month, it's probably not worth the aggravation. The site claims to show all the sites that are linking your site. When I checked it, it appeared to have omitted several sites I knew linked to me.

Also, set up involves adding code to the bowels of your Web site or blog. After several attempts, I got it to work.

Verdict: Is this worth the aggravation? For most smaller author sites or blogs, probably not.

For more details on Alexa, see my piece on Online Book Marketing: Alexa

2) Web Analytics: Google Analytics and Statcounter
For my money, these tools are the most useful for writers. The tools tell you:
- how much traffic you're getting. (you can track your progress and determine which types of content are best for your audience.)
- which pages are generating the most traffic. (For these pages, you may want to add links to other pages on your site to increase traffic.)
- where traffic is coming from/what links or keywords visitors are using to find your site.

 For best results, these tools want you to add a piece of code to each page on your site. For blogs, this is easy -- you add the code to the layout, footer, or some other component that appears on every page. For a regular Web site, you have to go in and manually add the code to each page -- or just the most important pages.

I've been using this tool for years. It is has a clean simple interface and excellent tech support. I'd highly recommend it.

Google Analytics:
This was a tech-support horror show. I installed the code as instructed in my Blogger blog, which is owned by Google, so it was a breeze

Later I compared my Google Analytics traffic to Statcounter. I had similar numbers of visitors, but twice the number of page views. Wow! No wonder, Google Analytics is so popular!

But I knew something was wrong and after a week of double scores, I couldn't look myself in the mirror in the morning. I searched all over Google Analytics to find tech support. This was a long and convoluted process and eventually I found an email address for tech support*

Then then the back and forth began. The tech support people sent me messages suggesting I go into the bowels of Blogger and make code changes. Unfortunately, Blogger wouldn't allow me to make those kinds of changes. More unfortunate still, the Google Adwords tech support folks were not familiar with Blogger, which is owned by Google. Over the course of another week, I received unhelpful messages like this instructing me to make code changes that Blogger wouldn't allow me to make.

After several weeks of this, I finally gave up. If I ever need to show Google Analytics numbers -- because this is considered the standard by some experts -- I'll use the visitor stats, but not page views.

*Tip: If you can't find a tech support email address, sign up for a Google Adwords account, then you should have access to a tech support email address.

For more online book marketing tips, see Bad Advice for Writers