You’ve pulled a 14-hour shift on the desk. You’re dog-tired. But as you walk out of the newspaper office, you know that thousands of people will pick up the paper from their lawns tomorrow morning and see your story.
Fast-forward to our brave new online world. You hit the publish button, and your story instantly goes out to the entire known universe. How can you know how many people are reading your story, or if anyone is reading your work at all?
Good news: There are easy ways to find out, and they don’t cost you anything.
Sign up for Google Analytics, a free service that lets webmasters and bloggers monitor their online traffic. It doesn’t just tell you how many “page views” you’re getting; it also tells you how people find your site (search engines vs. links from other sites), how long they’re staying before moving on, what links they’re clicking on and, to some degree, where they live. It works by giving you a snippet of HTML code you insert into the header of your Web page or blog. Even if you don’t know any HTML, Google offers directions to walk you through the process. (Caveat: It doesn’t work with WordPress blogs, which have their own internal traffic-counting feature.)
BE A (WEB) MASTER
Use Google Webmaster Tools, which can tell you more about how people are accessing your content. For instance, it tells me how many folks have subscribed to my newsroom’s RSS feeds. It was a bit harder for me to install on our site than Google Analytics, but again, Google has online instructions.
MONITOR THE SOCIAL WEB
Online traffic isn’t the only way to monitor what kind of reach your work is having. Two cool sites that track your site’s appearances in social media are Samepoint and Social Mention; they’ll show you where your stuff is being mentioned or linked-to around the social Web. For instance, I’ve been looking at them recently to see who’s blogging/Tweeting/Facebooking about a story we published. (I heard about these tools at a session held by Amy Webb of Webbmedia Group at the Online News Association conference in October.)
Bloggers can also monitor their “authority rating” on Technorati.com, based on how many other blogs and sites are linking to their material. Sign up for a free Technorati account and then “claim” your blog so it’s associated with your username.