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Interview by Christina Milanowski
I recently had a chance to sit down with Jeff Sauer (@Jeffalytics) to pick his brain aboutall things blogging, Google Analytics and, well, Jeffalytics. We’re so excited he’s on this year’s stellar line-up of Minnesota Blog Conference speakers! Read on to learn more about Jeff and catch him on October 12 in his noon breakout session.
1) Jeff, can you tell me more about your blogging background?
I started blogging as a college student, before I knew what a blog was. As a budding programmer, I created my own content management system for posting stupid thoughts on the Web and named it “random thoughts.” This started in the year 2000 at jeffsauer.com and has continued sporadically ever since. In addition to that site I have created somewhere around 100 WordPress sites for friends, family and clients and taught many others how to get started in blogging. My current focus is on two blogs: 1) Jeffalytics.com, where I share in-depth digital marketing research and case studies, and 2) Jeffsetter.com, where I talk about my travel experiences, how to earn points and miles and how to use points and miles for inexpensive travel. My next goal is to never be involved with another website with the name Jeff in it.
2) What do you plan on divulging in your #MNBlogCon talk about, “Using Google Analytics to become a better blogger?”
Most bloggers are either scared to look at their analytics reports or don’t go beyond looking at the number of visits their site receives. Heck, some bloggers don’t even use Google Analytics to measure what is happening on their site! They are in the minority, as 75 percent of all websites use Google Analytics to track website activity. My talk aims to empower bloggers to dive deep into the robust Web analytics offerings from Google and use this information to become a better blogger. Attendees will gain a better understanding on how they are faring with search engines, what content performs best, and how many people perform positive actions upon visiting their sites (e.g. How often goals are achieved).
I will also share a wealth of resources for making yourself more efficient with Google Analytics, share pro tips that are normally only reserved for advanced users, and give insight into how analytics may play a role in the future success of his or her blog. The key to future success is deeply rooted in your past performance. Using GA to inform future content choices is a key aspect of being a better blogger.
3) Many blog platforms already have analytics built in – what’s the best use of Google Analytics that supplements the most common blog metrics already accessible to them?
Most blog “stats” platforms are focused on page views. I view “stats” as an entirely different level of consciousness as Google Analytics. Stats can be used to build a report, but analytics can be used to tell a story. As bloggers, we surely understand the importance of telling stories, so it is best to ditch the surface level stats programs and move on to something more powerful. The stats built into blog platforms don’t show you the big picture and don’t even come close to allowing you to tell a story. They are focused on the “what,” whereas Google Analytics allows you to understand the “why.”
4) What is a metric from GA that most bloggers and website owner don’t know about, but should?
While there are many metrics in GA that are probably under-utilized by bloggers, I think that the most important thing to configure right away is tracking goals in GA. All bloggers should ask themselves the question “what is the purpose of this website” and then configure goals in Google Analytics to track how often your visitors are achieving that purpose. Once you start tracking goals in Google Analytics, every other report becomes much more useful.
5) What do you think are qualities of a GOOD blog or, conversely, a BAD blog?
A good blog is one that connects with loyal readers and provides a consistently engaging experience to visitors. A beautifully designed blog may not resonate with anyone, whereas the ugliest blog in the world may get hundreds of comments per post. I have found that the most successful blogs are not an island, but rather a participant in a larger ecosystem of like-minded people. Finding a niche is important for blogs and keeping posts on target with that niche are vital to building a loyal following. Sticking to a consistent schedule is also very important. This is the reason why I decided to separate my writing into multiple blogs, so that I can connect with each audience individually. Unfortunately, sometimes that has come at the expense of posting consistently.
6) Based on your background in search marketing at Three Deep Marketing, what do you bloggers need to know about drawing visitors through search engines?
While achieving large amounts of organic search traffic to websites is becoming more difficult as competition heats up and Google updates its algorithm, blogs are very well equipped for future search engine success by nature of what they represent. Blogs naturally produce content that is high quality, user focused and has strong engagement with visitors. Google is looking to connect searchers with the best possible result and well-written blogs with strong social media signals will perform well into the future. Try to write your posts in the language that people use in conversation and you will do increasingly well in keyword searches.
7) Recently there’s been a lot of chatter about what makes a great blog headline or email subject line (e.g. use numbers, personality, action words). What’s your two cents on the topic?
I seem to notice certain elements in blog post headlines that keep on showing up over and over again. List posts are extremely popular, but often over used. Conclusive words (like Ultimate, Complete, Definitive) often make posts sound formidable, but are now becoming a cliché as well. If you write a post that is 1,000 words, it is likely not definitive. That is, unless you are writing about how to tie your shoes. An amazing tool that I have been using lately to generate titles is the content idea generator by Portent out of Seattle. Simply enter your topic and you will receive more thought provoking post titles than you will know what to do with.
8) What was online and marketing like or defined as when you started your business, and what has it morphed into today?
When I first started in the business, the online marketing industry was not even 10 years old. While there were ample opportunities to make money online, there was an inherent immaturity in the industry. That immaturity came from both young entrepreneurs diving into the online world with minimal experience, as well as too little time for the industry to begin to mature.
Today the online marketing industry has just started to get out of adolescence and enter into young adulthood. That means we are becoming more mature every year, but we still have a lot of room to grow. As a business owner, it’s all about bringing our company into maturity by improving our processes for doing work while maintaining flexibility to adjust to an ever-changing world. It is the mature companies that will last the longest in the end.
About the interviewer:
Christina Milanowski is a blogger at MaccaPR and serves as social media director and account supervisor at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency. She serves on the planning committee for #MNBlogCon.
Interview by Christina Milanowski
I’m pleased to introduce you to Kate Selner (@KateNTheKitchen), long-time local blogger at Kate in the Kitchen. Kate will be speaking alongside Ed Kohler, Kate Arends and Aaron Wahlstrom in a panel session that kicks off this year’s Minnesota Blog Conference. Read on to learn more about this Midwest faith-driven nature girl whostrives to tell stories that matter – with a fork in hand!
1. Kate, what do you plan on divulging in your #MNBlogCon “How I got started blogging” talk?
I hope it’s a good exchange of questions and answers that’s casual and wholly organic in nature. I hope that we all can share what inspired us to begin this journey and, really, what’s held us together and kept us going.
2. Can you tell us a little more about the beginnings of your blog, why did you start it and what have been your biggest ah-ha moments as a food and lifestyle blogger in Minnesota?
I had just left the 18-month culinary arts program at St. Paul College in the Spring of 2006, where I’d immersed myself in food daily, with 20 other people who were just as driven and excited about food as I was. We cooked, talked, explored, ate and argued over food, a discourse that I embraced and enjoyed and when it ended, I had no outlet for that passion. I needed that outlet to talk about food, as well as for the enormous desire to use my writing skills. A blog was a perfect option.
3. Who are your peers in the blogosphere, and how do you stay connected?
The best part about the rise of the food community in the Twin Cities is the ability to find the deep friendships that come from the sharing of good food together, and I love the relationships I’ve built through this means. Staying connected is easy with social media, but the friendships that have moved beyond 140 characters and in to my life, that have sat at my table and clinked a glass with me over a good meal, or sat down in a restaurant and shared life, a plate of food and a glass of wine, those are the ones I value for the sharing of information, the exchange of ideas and plans and the sheer love that comes with enjoying a good meal with each other. Food is the common denominator in all of it. What’s better than that? When a friendship forms around that, with mutual support and admiration, it’s even better.
4. What’s your favorite Kate in the Kitchen blog post of all time and why?
I’ve been blogging for seven years, and have written over a thousand blog posts in that time. Every time I change my site design, I eliminate more posts that have become irrelevant. Is there a favorite? Was there ever a favorite? It’s hard to say. The posts where I open my heart and share what’s in there, the ones that evoke the sense of unity over a shared feeling or expectation, that show me I’m not alone in trying to blog authentically and true to who I am, those are the posts that I’m most proud of, the ones that I feel good about writing. My goal with my blog is to connect to others. When a post does that, it resonates deep with me, and reminds me of why I blog in the first place.
5. Conversely, what’s been your most popular post of all time – and why do you think Internet readers loved it so much?
I wrote a post back in 2007 about the health benefits of bananas that was featured on the Reuters international news site of Health and Wellness. “Banana Facts, Jack,” was posted, re-posted and linked in dozens of different ways. The post contained so much factual information about how good bananas are for you, and that made it travel far, and fast.
A second post, that was picked up by The Kitchn website was a post I wrote about baking an egg inside a baked potato shell. At the time, “Inspirational Eggs,” contained some of the best photos I’d taken as a food blogger, which, with the simple point and shoot camera I used then, was saying a lot. It generated multiple days of astronomical hits on my blog, and was linked to for more than a month afterwards. It was just a simple experiment that I did, a delicious idea that was culled by a very well-know site. It was pretty unique and I think that’s why people enjoyed it so much.
5. How do you interact with brands and companies, and what’s your opinion on sponsored posts?
I will not do any sponsored post on products that I wouldn’t use in my own kitchen and I decline way more offers that I ever accept. I research products before even accepting samples offered, and if I can’t, I won’t accept them. I want to know that a product isn’t made with a bunch of chemicals and additives, that it contains pure ingredients and will be a good food to eat. When you see a product review on my blog, it’s because I believe it’s a good thing, has value for the consumer and merit as a product.
6. What do you like to do in your spare time and, most importantly, what’s your favorite food
I read incessantly in my spare time. I love knowing what people are talking about with regards to food; I love seeing how people are changing what they eat and how it’s made. I love to read history, too, especially anything on natural history. I read literary magazines and magazines that provoke thought and share remedies for healthy living in the mind and body. I exercise regularly too, love to garden, spend time at my lake home and with good friends. I’m crazy about my two cats as well.
And my favorite foods change with the seasons, so right now I love tomatoes from my garden. In a month, the root vegetable love will take over. I eat mostly plant-based foods, with a little meat, raised humanely.
7. What have you learned along the way about yourself?
Writing a blog is an act of self-promotion, without a doubt. You need to have a pretty high opinion of yourself to sit down and share it with the world like we do, as there’s a lot of ego involved. It’s a snapshot into someone else’s life, and it makes me examine what I’m doing within my life so that I feel it’s as authentic as possible. It’s pretty easy to share only certain aspects of yourself online, as no one can really know what’s real and what isn’t; the community I’ve found because of it has given me a deeper appreciation of knowing and understanding the person behind the scenes, both in myself and in others. I don’t over-share, but what you see on my blog is the real me. That’s very important to me.
8. What’s your advice to the new, mid-level or established blogger?
At any level of blogging, be true and authentic to who you are and write from the heart. Be willing to share the triumphs and the trials, the good and bad, the messes and weaknesses, and don’t hide behind some perceived notion of perfection, or what you think should be posted on your blog. Don’t follow the herd. Ever. Don’t ever mimic the style of others. Find your own voice, create your own style, make your own niche and write what you want. Be consistent, but allow for natural changes through the years, a progression to what you are truly passionate about.
Christina Milanowski is a blogger at MaccaPR and serves as social media director and account supervisor at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency. She serves on the planning committee for #MNBlogCon. Stay tuned for more speaker interview posts!
Announcing the 2013 #mnblogcon Schedule!
For the last three years, some of the best and most prolific Minnesota bloggers have spoken at the MN Blogger Conference.
Lee Odden, Kate Hopper, Julio Ojeda-Zapata, Patrick Rhone, Lauren Melcher, Erik Hare, Mykl Roventine, David Erickson, James Lilkes, and Nancy Lyons, just to name a few.
We’re proud to announce today the topic and speaking line-up for the 2013 MN Blogger Conference, which will be held on Sat., Oct. 12 at Concordia University:
“How I got started blogging” – Ed Kohler (@edkohler), Kate Selner (@katenthekitchen), Kate Arends, and Aaron; moderator: Paul DeBettignies (@mnheadhunter) (OPENING KEYNOTE)
“Bringing out your passion in your blog” – Sara Lien, Zhenya Hutson (@beingzhenya), Jennifer Prod (@jenniferprod); moderator: Amanda Ingle (@amandaingle)
“I’ll Tumblr for you” – Nora Pulmort (@noraborealis)
“How to grow your blog via community, e-newsletter and search” – John Bonnes (@twinsgeek), James Svoboda (@realicity), Emma Wilhelm (@emmasota); moderator: Alex Haider (@alexhaider)
“Legal issues and blogging” – Anna Berend (@motherlylaw)
“Using Google Analytics to become a better blogger” – Jeff Sauer (@jeffsauer)
“A Non-Designers Guide to WordPress” – Mykl Roventine (@myklroventine)
“How to mobilize your Blogging” – Curt Prins (@curtprins)
“How to Blog for a Living” – Sven Schneider (@gentsgazette)
“The Future of Blogging” – Greg Swan (@gregswan), Blois Olson (@bloisolson), David Brauer @dbrauer); moderator: Julio Ojeda-Zapata (@ojezap) (CLOSING KEYNOTE)
Registration for the 2013 MN Blogger Conference will begin this Thursday, Sept. 12, at 9 a.m. Follow @mnblogcon for all the latest information.
Tickets typically go fast, so be sure to be following along at 9 a.m. on Thursday. If you miss your chance then, no worries. We’ll be offering up two more rounds of tickets on Monday, Sept. 16 and Wed., Sept. 18, too.
Hope to see you on Oct. 12 at the 2013 MN Blogger Conference!
Want to present to more than 150 fellow bloggers from across the great state of Minnesota on Oct. 12 at Concordia University in St. Paul? Here’s your chance!
Were looking for three speakers who can speak to topics that are relevant to the beginner and advanced blogger.
We’re giving you two weeks to put together your best proposal. Here’s what we need from you:
Send an email with your idea for a session, including suggested title and short description to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Include 3 bullets that highlight what you hope bloggers will learn as a result of your session.
Include relevant speaker experience you may have (not a requirement, but ideally, would like to see bloggers with some speaking experience).
Finally, include a short bio and head shot/photo with your note.
We’ll take submissions through Friday, Aug. 30. After we’ve received all the submissions, the #mnblogcon planning team will cull through them to select the three lucky winners (who will then be notified by email).
Good luck! Looking forward to seeing some great ideas from our wonderful Minnesota bloggers!
2013 Minnesota Blogger Conference to be held Oct. 12 at Concordia University
Exciting news—the 2013 Minnesota Blogger Conference will be held Saturday, Oct. 12 at Concordia University!
The conference, now in its fourth year, is a one-day meeting for Minnesota bloggers from all walks of life—and all types of sectors. Lifestyle bloggers. Food bloggers. Political bloggers. Sports bloggers. Tech bloggers. They’ll all show up on Oct. 12 to talk all things blogging.
This will be our first year hosting the event at Concordia University (@concordiastpaul on the Twitters). We had previously held the event at Allina Health Headquarters, and CoCo (a co-working venue) in St. Paul.
Designed as an event where bloggers can network and learn more about the art of blogging, the Minnesota Blogger Conference (#mnblogcon and @mnblogcon on Twitter) typically draws between 150-200 bloggers each year. Once again, as in prior years, we are hoping to keep the event FREE of charge!
Previous speakers at the event include a who’s who of Minnesota bloggers, including:
And many, many others
More information, including a schedule and details about the event, will be shared soon. We’ll also be soliciting three speakers for this year’s event—so be looking for that opportunity early next week.
For now we’re hoping you’ll circle Oct. 12 on your calendars!